If you recall how to make pictures and associate them with your information, you can use this to remember vocabulary. This works and teaches you how to learn a language.
Remembering objects is simple. You just create a picture that illustrates the word but include the object in your picture. For example, the artichoke is a thistle that can be a food before it blooms. First, go online to see a picture. It looks like a flower that has not bloomed yet. So, picture in the bloom a piece of artwork being squeezed. The art is choking because the bloom of the artichoke is squeezing it so tight. The next time you see an artichoke, you will picture the artwork. Then the next time you hear the word ‘artichoke,’ you will picture the bloom with the picture. Then add to the picture that it eats the art. Then you will remember that it is a food.
Sometimes you need to remember specific categories within categories. For example, a sycamore tree. Imagine the tree with its white bark. Other trees surround it, and they all look sick because they are losing their leaves, and the leaves are green (not like fall). Yet the sycamore tree is losing its bark as well as its leaves. So, it is sicker than the others (sick more).
Then there are words that are more about concepts than objects. If you ever studied for a college or graduate school entrance exam, you may have encountered the word ‘plethora.’ It means a large or excessive amount (plenty) of something. If you know your Greek Mythology, Thor was a strong god who had a hammer. Imagine a group of items; there are a few of them. Then Thor comes and starts banging his hammer. Every time he bangs, the objects multiply. So now there are plenty (Ple) of items, and they become more plentiful when Thor banks a hammer. Ple = Plenty; Thor = the god; aa = hammer.
How about words that are concepts and do not lend themselves at all to picturing? If you read my other articles, you know what to do—create a picture where there was none.
Let’s create a picture using the word ‘punctual.’ Punctual means on time. First, we think of punk. If being of the generation that enjoyed punk rock in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you could imagine yourself asking for one of their autographs. They give it to you quickly and write fast. Or you could think of punk as wood that has fungus growing on it. (Nobody said your pictures have to be pretty. You might remember it better if you get a disgusted feeling.) The wood races to the saw that will chop it up quickly.
Let’s take a word where you can create a funny association. Lugubrious. It means sounding sad. Imagine two big lugs in an Uber where you are the passenger. They tell you their sad tale, and you Lug in an Uber. There are two of them, us. They tell you their sad story.
Sometimes you can use the way words sound to create the picture and create a picture that connects the two meanings. For example, a brook is a small stream. It also means to tolerate. Imagine a brook running through some woods. There are two figures of the number 8. The smaller one is off to the side of the brook, and the larger one is in the water. The brook runs through it. So the brook has the taller 8, tolerate.
Here are a few more words that you can try and make associations:
voluptuous – relating to sensual pleasure.
incorrigible – not able to be corrected or disciplined.
tangible – able to be touched.
feasible – possible or easy to do.
pernicious – having a harmful effect.
reprehensive – deserving of rebuke or punishment.
moot – subject to debate, inconclusive.
So now you have some words and their definitions. Try just saying it over and over, which is a rote memory. Then try making an association with your imagination. Notice which works better.
You might have made an association and still misused the word or the definition. For example, suppose you thought of a gerbil sitting on a beach and getting a tan for tangible. You then thought that tangible means something about gerbils or rodents. The problem is that you did not make the association of touch. If that happens, you could imagine you pet the gerbil getting a tan so you will remember that it means touch.
How did you do? If you missed some, just go back and make the association stronger. If you did well, you are well on your way to learning any vocabulary you need.
It stands to reason that if you mastered this with English vocabulary, you can use the tool to master vocabulary in any language. Let’s try some Spanish words:
Zapato – Shoe – Imagine you are looking for the pot (I mean a pot, not the drug). You then find it when it jumps out of your shoe. Remember that the pictures that you make should be bizarre and not something that could happen in real life. Naturally, most pots are too small to fit inside shoes.
Caramba – Darn it. Imagine you are playing basketball. A giant bug keeps blocking your shots so that they carom off the net instead of going in for a score. Carom and bug.
Sole – Sun – Imagine the sole of your shoe is up in the sky, shining.
Casa – House – Just imagine that your house grows and grows until it becomes a castle. Metamorphosis and action such as this are good for the visualizations.
Amigo – Friend – Imagine having a fight with your best friend and saying, “Ahh, I go. I have to go.” This might sound too real because it could happen. But then, imagine you do not walk away; you just vanish into thin air.
Now let’s learn some Italian vocabulary:
Pollo – Chicken – Think of chickens playing polo instead of people.
Gatto – Cat – Imagine someone grabbing a cat out of thin air. They say, “I got a cat.”
Here are some French words:
Livre – Book – Imagine sitting and reading a piece of liver.
Main – Hand – Imagine your hand on top of the head of a horse or lion. Your hand is in place of its mane. Or you can imagine a map of the United States. In the far northeast corner is your hand instead of the state of Maine.
Chair – Chaise – Imagine a chair in your home has legs, and it is chasing you.
Col De Sac – Some people use this French word as part of everyday English vocabulary. On many suburban streets, the street ends with a circular widening of the street, and three or four houses are around it. Imagine that circle is a sack with ice around it.
Here are some Japanese words:
Mune (pronounced Mooneh) – Chest – Imagine that a chest in your home is a giant ten-thousand-dollar bill. This will work better than just thinking ‘treasure chest.’ That is too common. Remember, the pictures have to be strange enough that they can’t happen in real life.
To (pronounced toe) – Door – Imagine your door is actually a gigantic tow the size of a door.
Jootan (pronounced you tan) – ? – Imagine going to the beach and getting a tan. Only instead of sand, there is carpet.
You can use this method to remember any word in any language. Suppose you are learning more than one language, and you need to discriminate which words are in which language. For example, Pollo chicken could easily be mistaken for Polish instead of Italian. It helps to create symbols for each language.
Imagine the chickens practicing for their polo match. They have a kicking exercise to get their legs ready for the match. Kicking would be a symbol for Italy because it looks like a boot on the map. Here are some more samples you can create:
Spain – A fleet of ships like the Spanish Armada.
England – A giant clock like Big Ben.
France – The Eiffel Tower.
Japan – A fan.
You can use these symbols or any ones that make sense to you. If something makes more sense to you, then you will probably remember more proficiently if you use it instead of the examples given.
Studies have shown that pre-schoolers and grade school age children learn the language more easily than older people. This is because of the concept of fast mapping. Children go through a phase from around age three to nine where their brains pick up facts and information more naturally than at any other time in their life.
This does not mean that you can’t learn a language and vocabulary. The techniques in this article can help you learn any vocabulary quickly. Children also have not had their imaginations programmed out of them because, in school, we are mostly taught to think linearly. You can redevelop your imagination and learn anything.
The most important thing with learning language is to include everything you need in the picture. If your picture includes something to trigger a memory of the word and something to picture the definition, you can learn how to memorize words and how to memorize definitions.