All the great mnemonic specialists and other memory geniuses agree on one point: to have a good memory you need to create mental illustrations . If one has to remember information by force, one has to try to associate it with a familiar image. In the field of language learning, when we learn new phrases or acquire new vocabulary, it is important that we associate it with mental illustrations. An example: if I have to remember the English word sun (sun, in Spanish), I will have a better chance of remembering it if I associate this word with a mental representation of the sun.

However, it is often very useful to create our own images, since we can give them their own characteristics that will help us memorize them. A particularly effective mental illustration must have the following four characteristics: exaggeration, movement, unusual association, and emotional involvement.

1- Exaggeration

For a mental image to be of quality it has to be exaggerated, that is, it must have such dimensions and proportions that contravene the rules to which we are accustomed. If we want to memorize the English word foot (pie, in Spanish), we can imagine a man who has one foot bigger than the other – as a child, I loved to scribble that kind of pictures – and if, on the contrary, we want to learn the Italian word unghia (nail, in Spanish), let’s imagine a woman with fingernails that brush the ground. How to forget images like that!

2- Movement

That which moves stimulates our attention much more than the merely static; For this reason, it is the moving images that our brain fixes more easily and those that it retains for the longest time.

If we have to remember the Spanish word car, it is best if we imagine a moving car; Or, to remember the English word stone (stone, in Spanish), we can think of a stone that rolls indefinitely, that is, a rolling stone !

3- Unusual association

Groups of people and objects that we usually see as inseparable are part of the routine, and therefore, we tend to pay attention to them much less. On the contrary, a group of elements that we do not normally conceive together can surprise us and, therefore, our brain will deal with them in an active way. Imagine a naked man on a bench in the middle of everyone else, who is wearing a suit and tie. It is an unusual association and out of all logic in our minds. This is an enormously powerful kind of image.

Some examples to memorize words? To learn the English word book (book, in Spanish), think of a cat reading a book that is open between its paws! Or aliens with glasses if you want to remember the Italian word occhiali (glasses, in Spanish). Seriously, I advise you to give it a try and take it as a game. It can be so much fun!

4- Emotional involvement

It is almost impossible for us to forget those places that we associate with an experience that has marked us and that is linked to moments of sadness or happiness. We are often amazed at how we can remember insignificant details while passing thousands of times in front of a building on the way to work without ever noticing its color or the number of floors it has.

Emotions play an indispensable role when it comes to remembering; If at that time you were old enough to realize things, I am sure that you will remember in great detail the moment when you learned about the events of 9/11, and this is only because this event has a strong emotional component.

For this reason, every time I learn the word dog in a new language, for example cao in Portuguese, I associate that word with Laika, the dog I had when I was a child.

Note: Mental images will be much more effective if you imagine them yourself, since the more personal they are, the easier it will be to memorize them. In addition, the fact of having to look for a mental image is a task that also favors the memorization process.

5- Make up funny stories with words

I often use this method to memorize difficult words, and I do the same with “false friends” … I make up a little story from the term in question so that I can be sure that I will not forget it.

For example, I could never remember that retraite in French means retirement in Spanish. So I had to imagine a group of elderly people singing, shouting loudly with glasses of champagne and canapes to celebrate their retirement (that is, jubilant retirees, because jubilation in French means joy). Now, every time I think of the word retraite , I recall this scene full of joy and the first thing that comes to mind is these lucky retirees.

Another story of the same kind was told to me by an Italian friend who told me that he had made a tear in his suit when he was on the beach. Suddenly, I really saw him in a suit and tie walking on the beach at 40 degrees. This image helped me remember that swimsuit is said in Italian as a costume in French: costume . The more personal, wacky, grotesque, or even vulgar the image, the more effective it will be. Our imagination has no limits, so with every difficulty that comes our way, we can invent a funny anecdote that will be ours alone.

If you want to go deeper into this technique, I advise you to read another article that I have written that gives numerous concrete examples to apply this highly effective memorization technique well .


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