It is advisable that you read the first part, in order to learn the basic concepts of memory-systems, and then proceed to the second part.
Techniques of Mnemonics #1
As mentioned in part #1 we will start learning how to picture abstractions in our head. Using the “Substitute Word Concept” we will try to learn all US states in alphabetical order. This is because when you hear something intangible, you substitute that word with some other tangible word you remember, or the to be memorized word reminds you of. For example every time I hear the word “wise”, it reminds me of my grandfather, so I associate it with him…
Substituting the words with similarly sounding tangible words could be,
Minnesota – mini soda
Mississippi – Mrs. sip
Maryland – Mary landing
Massachusetts – Mass of people who chew and sit
As you improve your imagination you will improve your capacity to memorize, and as you improve your memory you will improve your imagination.
According to Aristotle, humans can only think because they are able to construct images in their mind (inner eye), and this (image construction) is what is taught by those who invent memory systems.
But nonetheless, only trying to find a substitute word stimulates your memory a great deal, because you are actively thinking about it – this forces you to concentrate and to remember better. With the concept gained above we will now try and remember all 50 states of the USA in alphabetical order.
Always remember that your link should be original, otherwise you won’t be able to memorize the list:
These are the 50 states of the USA; I will start with the first ten:
Alabama like in Albania (I come originally from here, so I will remember it pretty well). In Albania there still is nothing (“hala ska” – is Albanian and means there still isn’t, and it sounds almost as Alaska), but I still go to the Ari zone (which means Bear zone in Albanian), to play with my Arkani (dog pokemon), and after that I ride on a horse (“kali” is horse in Albanian), to attend the Color festival, which will connect or cut the relation with Greg Delawie (the US ambassador to Kosovo), but I will give him a Flower (the word Florida means flower) and invite him to join me on a trip to Georgia (in the caucasian mountains).
I did the links while I was writing the article, because always remember, the first substitute word which comes in your mind will be the best! So, as mentioned, try to create your own links and learn the first 10; go them through your head, once or twice, and start with remembering the other 10, until you reach the end.
What did you come up with? Share it in the comments. Having trouble? Ask us for help!
Complicated words, appointments etc.
After you’ve learned and practiced the link system and the substitute word concept, you may start and try to remember, for example, a list with complicated words…
Chess player Harry Pillsbury was able to memorize 30 words, or phrases, list after having it read to him only once. Here is one of the lists, and It would be a good practice to memorize them for you:
Antiphlogistine, periosteum, takadiastase, plasmon, threlkeld, streptococcus, staphylococcus, micrococcus, plasmodium, Mississippi, freiheit, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, athletics, no war, Etchenberg, American, Russian, philosophy, Piet Potgeleter’s Rost, salmagundi, oomisillecootsi, Schlecter’s Neck, Manyinzama, theosophy, catechism, Madjescomalops.
For the word antiphlogistine you might use the substitute word system (I have no idea what it means, so…), like for example, anti-palestine; for words like athletic, freiheit (german for freedom) you can easily use the link system without substituting words.
As for appointments, you may link the event, or the one with whom you have the appointment with a certain item, or hour, or action. You want to go to a friend to play football (soccer), after that you have to go buy some bread, start the link and see yourself kicking bread instead of a ball, and so on. Go through this list before you go, the way to your friend and then finally after you played your game…
The same principle can be applied to a shopping list.
We’ve mentioned speeches and how the old orators held them in the previous part. Now we will examine how that all really worked, and how we can apply it.
Imagine you have a speech and you are preparing it. Remember, a speech is best learned thought for thought and not word for word. First a word for word speech sounds memorized, as if the words you say are not yours. Consisting from a sequence of thoughts, now we will show you how you remember this sequence best.
First you should write down your speech, its ideas, and what you want to talk about in each particular idea. You read it through once, and then choose for each specific thought a key word which represents it best. You take each Key Word and create a link with the other Key Words, deriving from e sequence of thought a sequence of words, only that each word will remind you of each thought. If you have to speak something about Huitzilíhuitl (an Aztec emperor the name means Hummingbird Feather) then you definitively have to use the Substitute Word Concept first; Huitzilihuitl (I used “hujts ili hujt” – hu(j) is a stick in my native language, ili is Slavic for “or”, hujts is like a plural and anglicization of the word, whereas hujt is the plural of hu(j) – “sticks or sticks”), he established the Tlatocan (Plato can – just make P – T when you speak), during his reign he industrialized cotton production (imagine Plato weaving cotton clothes), he waged war on Texcoco (Texas in a Coconut – plato selling his clothes in Texas) and died.
In the next part we will discuss on how to apply our technique on foreign or domestic vocabulary, and how to remember names.
The art of memory dates back to antiquity. In those times speakers, bards and poets used memory systems to avoid forgetting their text. Simonides (500 B.C.) is known as the father of the art of trained memory, although memory techniques can be identified from parchments thousands of years earlier.
In those times, the orators used a technique which might be called “loci” (to remember it easier link it to the word location – this is what it means). How this worked is, every thought of their speech they linked to a place in their house. The introduction was linked with the front door, after that the speaker opened his door, and entered the foyer, and so he was able to remember every part of his speech with astonishing accuracy.
There are three basic learning skills:
- Search for information
- Memorize the information
- Apply the information
We will take care of the second step. Also, we might have noticed that memory is based on associations. For example people are less likely to remember the shape of Russia, or the Netherlands than the shape of Italy (which most people remember due to its similar shoe shape). Mount Fujiyama’s height of 12,365 feet is memorized by people because they associate it with the months and days in a year (a year has 12 months and 365 days). The five great lakes are memorized by the acronym homes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
So, the general rule is that In order to remember any new piece of information it must be associated to something you already know or remember. First, we will concentrate on learning tangible items, and we will also add a four word phrase to our remember rule. The phrase we will add is – In order to remember any new piece of information it must be associated to something you already know or remember In Some Ridiculous Way. Normally we associate subconsciously, and so we even don’t realize that step, but with this way we will train our mind to picture thoughts and concepts into our head, and by that start associating consciously.
Now we will learn to remember the first word list (not a long one, 10 words only):
Picture in your mind an airplane (the first word is the most difficult to remember), there is still no chance to use our method.
But now remember the word tree after airplane. Here you can make your first ridiculous association. You could imagine a tree flying, or as I did, the airplane parked at the top of the tree. And consider always, you have to picture in your mind that damn airplane parked on the tree, otherwise it doesn’t function. If it sounds difficult, remember that you have seen pictures all your life. Try not to think of an elephant; don’t picture that elephant in your mind! What happened? It became impossible not to see an elephant.
Your next word is envelope, you might imagine the tree swimming on the envelope, or you are trying to seal a tree into an envelope. You could take our suggestions to remember this word list, but by taking our version of imagination you will lose some of your Original Awareness.
So, the next word is earring. For example the swimming tree’s envelope(boat) is docked on the port through an earring on its sides.
The next word is bucket, I imagined a bucket holding the rope which held the earring to the port.
The next word is sing, imagine the bucket starting singing a seaman’s song, simultaneously pulling the envelope to the port.
The next word is basketball, imagine the bucket singing and thousands of tiny basketballs coming through his mouth, jumping all over the place.
The next word is salami, imagine the bucket dribbling with salamis.
The next word is star, imagine the bucket throwing the salamis to score 3 points, but the salamis bouncing towards the sky and shining like stars.
The next word is nose, imagine the stars not being celestial bodies but shining noses of some people you may know (or the nose of the bucket).
Now let’s try and remember the list together, as always the first word is the hardest because you didn’t associate it with anything, to remind you it was airplane… what did the airplane do? It landed on a giant tree… which was swimming on an envelope… which was docked through an earring to the port… the rope was held by a sailor bucket… which was singing a seaman’s song… while singing basketballs came out of the buckets mouth… which converted to salamis and the bucket dribbled with them… when he threw for the three points the salami bounced off to the sky shining like a star… but the star was actually the shining nose of the bucket.
Try this also backwards thinking of nose… and continuing.
To train this skill you might come up with your own words, or with help of some online sites like:
You could play with a friend, but make sure he/she writes down (whether on his/her phone or on a paper) the words he/she says to you, because he/she won’t remember them as you will.
What you’ve learned so far is only a tiny part of the link system of memory. If you associate properly one item will lead you to the next, and naturally the memorizing becomes even more effective if you have to use that certain word list, or sequence. A speech is a sequence of thoughts, a formula a sequence of components, any number with more than two digits is a sequence (we still haven’t learned to see numbers, but later on you will learn how to use the link to long-digit numbers).
If you had problems making your pictures ridiculous here are some general tips on how to do that:
- Substitution like for example seeing a flying tree rather than an airplane.
- Out of proportion like for example a gigantic tree, or even a tiny airplane.
- Exaggeration like in thousands or millions of an item, like the basketballs.
- Action try to get things in your mind to do something like the bucket sang and dribbled.
Children have no great problems in creating ridiculous pictures in their minds, but as time passes as adults they have more difficulty in doing this. According to a research done by the department of basic and visual science at the Southern California College of Optometry, when you actually see something an electrical pulse reaches your brain. Also they discovered that there is not much physiological difference between the electrical signals that are activated by the mind’s eye and the ones that are activated by the eye itself (after all seeing is done through your brain, the eye is only the instrument to send the impulse).
I suggest that you make word lists and show off for yourself, and for your friends, the point of this is that you will gain confidence and you will see that the system works!