Problem with IPA

I have to memorize the IPA alphabet in 4 days.However,I haven’t got any idea on how to do it. Which memory technique can I use?and in which way?

Have you seen this post?

There is an Anki deck and video there.

From a quick look at the chart, I wonder if you could create a memory palace for the columns:

  1. bilabial
  2. labiodental
  3. linguo-labial
  4. etc.

Each of those locations would be the starting point of another memory journey (or peg list) to handle the rows. Each of the sub-journeys could have 14 locations (or pegs), some of them empty.

So the first column (bilabial), might be something like:

  • nasal -- m̥ m -- it's kind of intuitive, if you think about it. What is the nasal sound (sound only comes through the nose) that involves both lips ("m")
  • stop -- p b -- it's intuitive here as well. What are the sounds that stop the flow of air and involve both lips? (p and b)
  • etc.

The first location in each sub journey (or peg list) would always be a nose (nasal). The second would always be a stop sign (stop), etc.

I haven’t done it but am just brainstorming here. If what I wrote doesn’t make sense, I could write out the idea in more detail.

Your idea make sense,but i will be grateful if you could write out your idea in more detail!
Thank you for the idea!

Hi Lupanisky,

I memorized the IPA in a couple of days. I did it for language learning so this might not be what you’re after. Anyhow, here is how I did it.

First choose your language.
It’s important to note that the sounds that IPA refer to are not so specific as to be universal. What I mean is, for any given symbol, say /i/, it might sound different in French vs. Russian. Also some sounds don’t exist in some languages. E.g. the Welsh /ɬ/ has no equivalent in English. Life is short, skip whatever you don’t need to memorize.

So, you ought to decide on a target language for IPA (e.g. American English or French). For this post, I’ll use French & English.

Second, self-test & memorize.

  1. Make flash cards in Anki (or buy them) that have IPA symbols and sounds in your target language.
    • Making the cards yourself is actually better for your memory because it's more active learning than passive
    • Make cards that quiz both front-to-back and back-to-front.
    • Front side: "What did you hear?" then drag and drop an MP3 of that sound.
    • Back side: IPA symbol
    • Get list of IPA symbols off Wikipedia here. Click on any symbol to get to that symbols page, then download the MP3s. E.g. /y/ has a page, and in the little right panel there is a listen section. You can download that audio file for your deck.
  2. Make a table with six columns: IPA Symbol, Example word, English approximation, Linking image, Loci, Difficult?
    • Using Excel is okay, but doing it on paper will help you remember better.
  3. Go through the cards thrice. There are ~50 symbols, so that makes 100 cards, on each pass You can do this in about 30-60 min.
    • On the first pass, go very slowly, and create a linking image to each IPA symbol. Take for example, the British received pronunciationur_bird_rp.gif I imagine that the symbol morphs into a "British" turkey with rounded glasses. He says "I'm a b-EH-d, I'm a t-EH-key" in a posh accent.
    • Write down your mnemonics in your table.
    • On the second & third passes, go at a regular speed. Mark (on your table) which symbols were hard, and which linking images were "fuzzy". Take time to re-visualize the "harder" linking images at the end of each pass. Imagine more details to make the most difficult symbols more crazy/sexy/memorable.
  4. Create a memory journey or palace with ~ 50 loci (for your symbols) using method of Loci. Organize the journey in to sections and subsections.
    • Decide on a structure. For example, in French we have consonants, non-native consonants, semivowels, oral vowels, nasal vowels and suprasegmentals. That makes 6 types of sounds.
    • Decide on a mnemonic for the structure. You could put each section in a different palace or imagine different room weather e.g. it's snowing in the consonants rooms.
  5. Place each linked images in your palace.
    • Use the images from step 2.
    • For example, if I'm using my house. I would put the first item (in French) /b/ at the front door. /b/ is the sound in bon-bons (which means candy or sweets). I imagine a pile of sweets raining from the sky and blocking my front door.
    • Note your loci on your table.
    • (Optional) Add a flash card that says "Queue to rehearse your IPA palace."
  6. Rehearse your palace - mentally walk through it
    • If you're new to MOL visualizing the walk through while glancing at a table of your loci will help.
  7. On subsequent days, run through your palace mentally, then quiz yourself with Anki
  8. (Optional) if you have trouble hearing the difference between two or three symbols. Make an Anki card that asks you "Which one did you hear?" That shows both symbols put only playing one audio clip.
  9. (Optional) Make image-cloze cards (cards that hide part of an image) to test your memory of the various IPA charts like the vowel chart.

That’s it. I wrote a lot of detail, but none of that needs to be perfect—just get started and try it out. The night before your test try to get an extra hour of sleep. On your test day, mentally jog through the palace before you start.

Let us know how it goes.

1 Like

Thank you for this explanation!!