Mnemonics for 1,000 most common English words


I’m about to try and learn German, but to help me out I was looking for a peg system for the most common 1,000 English words.

For instance, I saw a chart (but lost the bookmark), that said:

I = Hand

So when learning the German ‘ich’ I can remember an itchy hand, because in my peg a human hand means “I.”

Now, I know i’m not going to need the system for words such as ‘I,’ but I can foresee it being very useful for other words in the 1,000 word list.


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Just learn the words without any Peg-Systems ! Repeat the words until they stuck. Go to Barbara Oklay and Terence Sejnowski “LEARNING HOW TO LEARN”. I myself learn Japanese and I am very successful. However, the kanji must wait a little bit longer.

I may be completely misunderstanding, so only take from this what suits you, if anything. I wouldn’t use a peg system but memory palaces. I am learning French and Chinese - I use memory palaces for both, but in very different structures. French is closer, so I’ll talk about that.

I use rooms as palaces just putting everything that is there in the room. The bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, garden and the streets I walk to the shops and the things in the shops. It doesn’t matter that the vocabulary overlaps other things I have in those palaces. My brain has no trouble just extracting what it wants. I use the fruit shop and supermarkets for products - in gender zones as suggested by Dominic O’Brien. Feminine fruit and veg in the fruit shop, masculine in the supermarket along with all masculine products. Other feminine stuff in another supermarket. I use my body for body things.

I have another memory palace for adjectives and another for adverbs and I do those in alphabetical order. Then I have memory palaces for verbs, keeping the different types of verbs (regular -er for example) in different palaces.

I don’t set up the palaces with the locations in them. I chose real spaces and then add locations as suits me. So I use very big spaces, mostly on walks I do around town. Health and French at the same time!

Plus I use characters. I have a female and a male toy bear who I associate with masculine or feminine objects which aren’t in the gender zones, such as in the rooms of the house. You could use any male and female character and add in a third for neuter.

Hope something there might be of interest.



Thanks Lynne,

That was a very comprehensive and thorough response.

I meant in terms of taking my own native language and developing mnemonics for components of my native language that I can use as a peg to structure learning multiple languages at one time, or at least to speed up and optimize the rate of learning in a foreign language.

I think what you have outlined is an excellent system though, and will try to incorporate aspects of it in my own system.

I decided that a mnemonic peg system for my own language is perhaps a little bit unnecessary, especially for concrete nouns and certain adjectives, especially considering we can identify them on sight.

Instead, I am just going to learn a frequency list of, say 2,000 words, then learn 2,000 sentences, and then use memorised role play to rehearse and retrieve words and sentences.


That’s a very interesting approach, Rimbaud. I don’t think that I fully understand. I can see something like that working for a similar language, say French, but not for a language which is structured so very differently, like Chinese. But that could be because I don’t really understand what you mean. All the best with it and I look forward to updates.