Multilingualism as a memory technique?

I haven’t really seen a post on this and I have been quite curious.

Some of us know multiple languages fluently and can quickly cross translate between them.

As far as I am aware there are not any multilingual memory techniques or even explicitly stated multilingual observations. I have generally found that if I read a sentence as a translation, it seems to provide an improved understanding & memory albeit by only a few words. Memory techniques that employ language seem to similarly be easier for me in one language over the other, but it seems like there is a lot more that, one can do by employing more than one language.

So, this brings the questions

  • Has anyone else found any particular use to mixing languages for memory recall?
  • Does anyone have any ideas?
  • Does anyone think that this is pointless?

Feel free to expand on any points.


While attempting to parse language visually I was quite bothered by the fact that, it becomes difficult to distinguish whether I am just seeing the text and not processing it. I also realised in that regard that translating is an optimal solution to deal with that.


This post points to a few web resources…

Generally it boils down to constantly controlling multiple languages has an effect on executive function development. So much like learning all the taxi routes through London for The Knowledge has an impact on your hippocampus, languages or rather the “keeping them organized part” does have an impact on your prefrontal cortex.

Relate this to the general idea of storing images in memory palaces and you could argue that it will help you with the image portion of that (as opposed to the hippocampus that takes care of navigation).

Google “multilingual prefrontal control” for more…

Quick example, the 3rd word at the World Memory Championships in 2015 in Chengdu was “king”. I cannot tell you any of the other words for that event, but this one was along the lines of “yeah, if you give me a list that reads ‘one, two, three, … one hundred’ I can obviously memorize 100 words in half a minute.”

What I’m trying to say… the Chinese character for three is and if you “pin” that character down in that position, you’ll get , which is the character for king… I had the words in English by the way, but even with “roi” (French) or “König” (German) and what have you, I’d have used the Chinese image of pinning down a three. I guess being in Chengdu my brain was a bit more primed due to reading Chinese signs all over the hotel, the street signs, etc.

Here’s another example that is not as circumstantial…

…you see how the imagery is in two languages separately but also linked back together? You can’t really do that if you only know one language.

I don’t know what languages you are referring to, because that might definitely have something to do with that. But consider “his sister”… first English/French

In English you already know that the subject of the sentence has to be male. In French it’s always “sa sœur” (never “son”) because to pronoun refers to the object of the sentence and “sister” will always be feminine “her sister” (in a way).

But if you compare “His sister gave him a beer,” to “My sister gave me a beer”, whereas in the former you have in advantage in English, in the latter you cannot play the pronoun game in French. Saying “My sister” or “my brother” tells me nothing about you; however, in French those two would be “ma” and “mon”, respectively. Clearly an advantage here because I know already if the speaker is male or female.

Now compare that to German where it will be his/her just like in English, but unlike English also mein/meine like with the ma/mon in French instead of the my/my in English. Also a lot of the stuff in “Back to the future” that gives Marty a headache when Doc explains it to him, is simply called Future II in German and let’s you express things that are in the future (from this point in time) as things in the past from a second point in the future that is even further in the future than the first one.

Not if you already speak more than one language… I doubt people will go through the effort of learning a couple of extra languages to be able to use a memory technique though. :wink: