New member: S. Carolina, USA


Greetings! My name is Calvin. I was first exposed to memory systems in the work of Harry Lorayne. I used them in school many years ago (am now retired), but was inconsistent in doing so.

I am interested in foreign languages, but have had most difficulty in choosing substitute words for vocab building, particularly with abstract words/concepts. Would always appreciate advice in this area.

I appreciate the range of discussion re memory topics found here. Thanks for all the input!

(Josh Cohen) #2

Welcome to the site! :slight_smile:

If you post some examples of words you’re having trouble with in the Language Learning section, we could help brainstorm ideas for remembering them.


Thanks! I’ll keep that option in mind.


As in finding synonyms for target language words in the target language or remembering the translation for different words in the target language, that are synonyms in the source language?

I assume that’s what you mean by substitute words

…unless you mean images to substitute the target language word in a mnemonic, as in: Spanish for apple manzana - A man sees Ana. She’s his girlfriend… he got her an apple for Valentine’s Day. Not an image I’d used, but something along those lines…

Bonjour - bon is good and “jour” sounds a bit like shoe and in the morning you put on shoes to go to work. Bonsoir - evening with matching bon and “soir” sounds like sore (muscles) at the end of the day.


Actually, the second examples are what I mean by “substitute words.” Lorayne suggests that there is some word (or words) in English that can approximate the sound of the vocab word in the target language and can be pictured in the mind as a key to the target word’s meaning. Then over time, as the vocab word is used, the need for the suggestive image disappears. My difficulty is in finding a “picture” to use for an abstract concept that also has an English word reminder. It is Lorayne’s contention that our imaginations grow less flexible as we age, given that we concentrate on the “here and now” to the exclusion of thinking of what is not of immediate use. He says practice will over time loosen up the imagination - guess maybe I need to practice more!


Got a couple of examples maybe? What’s the target language you’re looking at? In competitions you’d memorize abstract words by using concrete stand-ins that are easier to picture…


The target language is German. I studied it in college & spent time in Germany with the Army. I have a decent grasp of grammar & syntax, but vocab can be difficult to increase. A couple of examples: die Urkunde - chart or certificate; beharren - to persist. I can picture a certificate, but how do I relate that to the word “Urkunde?” “Persist” seems to me to be somewhat abstract to imagine as a picture; so also for “beharren.” There’s the same issue with verb phrases - sich gewoehnen an + the accusative case - to get used to something. Related German words can help, but not always, for one has to remember them as well.


If you want to go the picture route make it two words “Ur” and “Kunde”. Then use “Uhr” instead of “Ur” as it sounds exactly the same… now you got a customer (Kunde) buying an expensive watch (Uhr), the kind that usually comes with a certificate.

Taking the historical route via the Magna Carta (Libertatum) aka “the Great Charter of the Liberties,” which is called “große Urkunde der Freiheiten” in German. This one to also get “chart” encoded in the translation.

Well, you could weasel your way out by using persistieren instead of beharren, but they’re equally bad… the former is lawyer German (using the pretentious Latin form) and the latter is pretty archaic. A more common expression would be fortbestehen (as in fortfahren: to continue) in a sense of “continuing to (take a) stand”.

Going the picture route, I’d use behaart (having hair) with “aa” instead of “rr” and some guy’s wive/girlfriend insisting/persisting (bestehen/beharren) on him shaving his hairy back.

“Und was ist mit meinem Gewohnheitsrecht? Ich geh da, ich wohn da, ich heiz da. Gehwohnheizrecht!” ~ Otto - Der Außerfriesische (Trailer)

From a German comedy in which the main character asks about his customary law (i.e., unofficial law) which exists where:

  1. a certain legal practice is observed and
  2. the relevant actors consider it to be law

…claiming (with regards to his apartment): I go there, I live there, I heat there… go-live-heat (geh-wohn-heiz sounds like Gewohnheits-) law.

Also have a look here… the Duden is the German standard dictionary. Helps with etymology, etc:öhnen%20an


Great - thanks for these suggestions! I hadn’t given much thought to the way of splitting words into component parts. Thanks also for the reference to the Duden, which I’m not familiar with. Guess it’s up to me now to implement your ideas! Appreciate the help!