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Dec 17, 2005
How to... Learn a Foreign Language

Systems Needed:
  • Link Method
  • Roman Room Mnemon
Using the Tools:
Foreign languages are the ideal subject area for the use of memory techniques. Learning vocabulary is often a matter of associating a meaningless collection of syllables with a word in your own language.


Traditionally people have associated these words by repetition - by saying the word in their own language and the foreign language time and time and time and time again. You can improve on this tedious way of learning by using three good techniques:

1. Using Mnemonics to link words

This is a simple extension of the link method described in 7.1.1. Here you are using images to link a word in your own language with a word in a foreign language.


For example, in learning English/French vocabulary:
  • English: rug/carpet - French: tapis - imagine an ornate oriental carpet with a tap as the central design woven in chrome thread
  • English: grumpy - French: grognon - a grumpy man groaning with irritation
  • English: to tease - French: taquiner - a woman teasing her husband as she takes in the washing.
This technique was formalized by Dr. Michael Gruneberg, and is known as the 'LinkWord' technique. He has produced language books (an example is German by Association) in many language pairs to help students acquire the basic vocabulary needed to get by in the language (usually about 1000 words). It is claimed that using this technique this basic vocabulary can be learned in just 10 hours.

2. The Town Language Mnemonic
This is a very elegant, effective mnemonic that fuses a sophisticated variant of the Roman Room system with the system described above.


This depends on the fact that the basic vocabulary of a language relates to everyday things: things that you can usually find in a city, town or village. To use the technique, choose a town that you are very familiar with. Use objects within that place as the cues to recall the images that link to foreign words.

Nouns in the town:
Nouns should be associated to the most relevant locations: for example, the image coding the foreign word for book could be associated with a book on a shelf in the library. You could associate the word for bread with an image of a loaf in a baker's shop. Words for vegetables could be associated with parts of a display outside a greengrocer's. Perhaps there is a farm just outside the town that allows all the animal name associations to be made.


Adjectives in the park:
Adjectives can be associated with a garden or park within the town: words such as green, smelly, bright, small, cold, etc. can be easily related to objects in a park. Perhaps there is a pond there, or a small wood, or perhaps people with different characteristics are walking around.

Verbs in the sports center

Verbs can most easily be associated with a sports center or playing field. This allows us all the associations of lifting, running, walking, hitting, eating, swimming, driving, etc.


Remembering Genders
In a language where gender is important, a very good method of remembering this is to divide your town into two main zones. In one zone you code information on masculine gender nouns, while in the other zone you code information on feminine nouns. Where the language has a neutral gender, then use three zones. You can separate these areas with busy roads, rivers, etc. To fix the gender of a noun, simply associate its image with a place in the correct part of town. This makes remembering genders easy!

Many Languages, many towns

Another elegant spin-off of the technique comes when learning several languages: normally this can cause confusion. With the town mnemonic, all you need do is choose a different city, town or village for each language to be learned. Ideally this might be in the relevant country. Practically, however, you might just decide to use a local town with the appropriate foreign flavor.

3. The hundred most common words
Tony Buzan, in his book 'Using your Memory', points out that just 100 words comprise 50% of all words used in conversation in a language. Learning this core 100 words gets you a long way towards being able to speak in that language, albeit at a basic level. The 100 basic words used in conversation are shown below:


1. A,an2. After3. Again4. All5. Almost
6. Also7. Always8. And9. Because10. Before
11. Big12. But13. (I) can14. (I) come15. Either/or
16. (I) find17. First18. For19. Friend20. From
21. (I) go22. Good23. Good-bye24. Happy25. (I) have
26. He27. Hello28. Here29. How30. I
31. (I) am32. If33. In34. (I) know35. Last
36. (I) like37. Little38. (I) love39. (I) make40. Many
41. One42. More43. Most44. Much45. My
46. New47. No48. Not49. Now50. Of
51. Often52. On53. One54. Only55. Or
56. Other57. Our58. Out59. Over60. People
61. Place62. Please63. Same64. (I) see65. She
66. So67. Some68. Sometimes69. Still70. Such
71. (I) tell72. Thank you73. That74. The75. Their
76. Them77. Then78. There is79. They80. Thing
81. (I) think82. This83. Time84. To85. Under
86. Up87. Us88. (I) use89. Very90. We
91. What92. When93. Where94. Which95. Who
96. Why97. With98. Yes99. You100. Your

(Extract reproduced from Use Your Memory by Tony Buzan with the permission of BBC Worldwide Limited, © Tony Buzan)

The three approaches to learning foreign languages shown here can be very effective. They help to point out:
  • the most important words to learn
  • show how to link words in your own language to words in a foreign language, and
  • show how to structure recall of the language through use of the town mnemonic
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 3:16pm
Dec 17, 2005
Using Aide Memoires

How to Use the Tool:

An Aide Memoire (Memory aid) is a structured list of points or headings that should be considered when solving a particular problem. It tends to be specific to the type of problem being faced.


A good aide memoire can be a very powerful planning tool, as it will contain a great deal of the experience of the people who developed it. If you use a good aide memoire effectively, you can be reasonably confident that you will have considered all relevant factors. Often this makes the difference between carrying out a task effectively and making a mess of it, particularly when you are under pressure.

Aide Memoires are routinely used in areas as diverse as computer systems analysis, construction of financial proposals and military planning.

Developing an Aide Memoire
If you are solving a common problem, then a good aide memoire may already exist for it. If you cannot find a good pre-prepared one, then you may have to develop it for yourself. This is worthwhile where you need to plan a number of similar jobs.

Developing an aide memoire is an iterative process: first you start by producing what you think is a definitive list of points or headings that should be considered. Use this to plan the job. After the job is complete, review the list, and see if there are any additional points that should be included. Every time an unforeseen problem arises on a project, ask yourself whether you need to prompt yourself on it on your list.


As your aide memoire improves, so will the quality of your planning.


Business Analysts use a number of different aide memoires for designing computer software. The one used depends on the size and type of job being executed. An example of a simple one is shown below. This is used during preparation of a specification to ensure that relevant factors are considered.

Customer Requirements:
  • Stated Requirement and Purpose of Enhancement
  • Special Requirements
Project Analysis:
  • Volumes of Data and Processing Time
  • Technical Risks and Feasibility
  • Implications: Hardware, Supporting software, etc.
  • System-specific considerations
  • Project Stages
Project Implementation
  • Detailed Design
  • Quality Assurance/Test Plan
  • Documentation
  • Training
  • Installation
  • Follow Up Work
The analyst will run through this list of headings while preparing a specification to ensure that he or she has considered all aspects of a problem. Where headings are not relevant they are ignored. By using and developing the aide memoire, the analyst can be reasonably confident that all appropriate project stages have been taken into consideration. This ensures that a fair price is charged for work done.

Key points:

An aide memoire is a standard list of points or headings that show what you should consider while you are planning to solve a problem. By using an aide memoire you ensure that you do not forget important factors.


Aide memoires should be improved continuously. If you find that have not included an important point, then update the list appropriately. This ensures that the next time you use the aide memoire you will remember to think about the point. This will improve the quality and depth of future planning that you carry out.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 2:58pm
Dec 17, 2005
Figure 1: Part of an Example Mind Map

Using Mind Maps*
Remember Structured Information
* "Mind Map" is a trademark of the Buzan Organization

How to Use the Tool:
Mind Maps are not formally mnemonics. They do, however, help you to lay out the structure of a topic as a clear 'shape' that you can remember easily. By seeing this shape in your mind, you can prompt yourself to remember the information coded within it.

This becomes even easier if you have coded this information using striking images. See the introduction to this chapter to see how to make information as memorable as possible.

Mind Maps
A Powerful Approach to Note Taking

Mind Map" is a trade mark of the Buzan Organization

How to Use Tool:

Mind Maps are very important techniques for improving the way you take notes. By using Mind Maps you show the structure of the subject and linkages between points, as well as the raw facts contained in normal notes. Mind Maps hold information in a format that your mind will find easy to remember and quick to review.


Mind Maps abandon the list format of conventional note taking. They do this in favor of a two-dimensional structure. A good Mind Map shows the 'shape' of the subject, the relative importance of individual points and the way in which one fact relates to other.

Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily. If you find out more information after you have drawn the main Mind Map, then you can easily integrate it with little disruption.


Mind Maps are also useful for:

  • summarizing information
  • consolidating information from different research sources
  • thinking through complex problems, and
  • presenting information that shows the overall structure of your subject
Mind Maps are also very quick to review, as it is easy to refresh information in your mind just by glancing at one.


Mind Maps can also be effective mnemonics. Remembering the shape and structure of a Mind Map can provide the cues necessary to remember the information within it. They engage much more of the brain in the process of assimilating and connecting facts than conventional notes.


Drawing Basic Mind Maps
This site was researched and planned using Mind Maps. They are too large to publish here, however part of one is shown below. This shows research into time management skills:
To make notes on a subject using a Mind Map, draw it in the following way:

  1. Write the title of the subject in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it. This is shown by the circle marked 1 in the figure 1.
  2. For the major subject subheadings, draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with the subheadings. These are shown by the lines marked 2 in figure 1.
  3. If you have another level of information belonging to the subheadings above, draw these and link them to the subheading lines. These are shown by the lines marked 3 in figure 1.
  4. Finally, for individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them. These are shown by the lines marked 4 in figure 1.
As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately.

A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Sub-topics and facts will branch off these, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You do not need to worry about the structure produced, as this will evolve of its own accord.


Note that the idea of 'levels' in Figure 1 is only used to help show how the Mind Map was created. All we are showing is that major headings radiate from the center, with lower level headings and facts branching off from the higher level headings.


While drawing Mind Maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools like MindGenius improve the process by helping to you to produce high quality Concept Maps, which can easily be edited and redrafted.


Improving your Mind Maps
Your Mind Maps are your own property: once you understand how to make notes in the Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions to take them further. The following suggestions may help to increase the effectiveness of your Mind Maps:
  • Use single words or simple phrases for information: Most words in normal writing are padding, as they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read. In your own Mind Maps, single strong words and meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.
  • Print words: Joined up or indistinct writing can be more difficult to read.
  • Use color to separate different ideas:
    This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also helps you to visualize of the Mind Map for recall. Color also helps to show the organization of the subject.
  • Use symbols and images:
    Where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words.
  • Using cross-linkages:
    Information in one part of the Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw in lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject affects another.
Key points:
Mind Maps provide an extremely effective method of taking notes. They show not only facts, but also the overall structure of a subject and the relative importance of individual parts of it. Mind Maps help you to associate ideas and make connections that might not otherwise make.

If you do any form of research or note taking, try experimenting with Mind Maps. You will find them surprisingly effective.

We strongly recommend MindGenius as a useful computer-aided mind mapping tool. Using a tool like MindGenius helps you produce professional quality mind maps that you can adapt and update without extensive redrafting, and save and print many times over.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 1:53pm
Dec 17, 2005
The Major System
- Remembering Very Long Numbers   
How to Use the Tool:

The Major Memory System is one of the most powerful memory systems available. It takes a lot of time to master, but once learned is very powerful. The technique often forms the basis of some of the extraordinary, almost magical, memory feats performed by stage magicians and memory performers.


The system works by converting number sequences into nouns, nouns into images, and linking images into sequences. These sequences can be very complex and detailed.


The building blocks of the system are the association of the numbers below with the following consonant sounds:
0 - s, z, soft-c - remember as 'z is first letter of zero'
1 - d, t, th - remember as letters with 1 downstroke
2 - n - remember as having 2 downstrokes
3 - m - has three downstrokes
4 - r - imagine a 4 and an R glued together back-to-back
5 - L - imagine the 5 propped up against a book end (L)
6 - j, sh, soft-ch, dg, soft-g - g is 6 rotated 180 degrees.
7 - k, hard-ch, hard-c, hard-g, ng - imagine K as two 7s rotated and glued together
8 - f, v - imagine the bottom loop of the 8 as an eFfluent
pipe discharging waste (letter image of F in
alphabet system)
9 - p, b - b as 9 rotated 180 degrees.

These associations need to be learned thoroughly before going further with the technique.

Starting to use the Major System
The system operates on a number of levels, depending on the amount of time you are prepared to devote to learning the system.

The first level, which involves coding single digit numbers into small words, functions almost as a poor relation of the number/rhyme system. It is at higher levels that you can unleash the real power of the system. You should, however, learn to use this first level before moving on.

The trick with converting numbers into words is to use only the consonants that code information within the word, while using vowels to pad the consonants out with meaning. If you do have to use other consonants to make up a word, use only those that do not code for numbers - i.e. h, q, w, x, and y.

At the first level we code each number into a short noun. This is made up of the consonant coding for the number, and vowels that turn the consonant into a word. On a sheet of paper, write the numbers 0 to 9, and apply these rules to create your own memory words. Some examples are shown below:

0 - saw
1 - toe
2 - neigh
3 - ma
4 - ray
5 - law
6 - jaw
7 - key
8 - fee
9 - pie

You can use these words in association much like the other peg technique memory words.

Moving to the second level
Similar rules apply to creating a standard word from two numbers. It is best not to try to use a single number word as a root, as this can confuse the image.

Write down the numbers 01 to 99, and apply the rules to create memory words for yourself.

A few examples are shown below:
09 - z, p - zap
17 - t, ch - tech
23 - n, m - name
36 - m, sh - mesh
41 - r,s - rose
52 - l, n - line
64 - ch, r - chair
75 - k, l - keel
89 - f, p - fop
98 - b, f - beef

Taking the Major System Further
Just using double number words may be enough to make this a sufficiently powerful mnemonic for you. Alternatively you may decide to use triple number words, using the same construction rules as double number words.

Examples are:
182 - d, v, n - Devon
304 - m, s, r - miser
400 - r, c, s - races
651 - j, l, d - jellied
801 - f, z, d - fazed

Even though you can construct words from first principles each time, at this level of complexity it may be worth writing them down to make them easier to remember. You can then run through them many times to strengthen the link in your mind between the numbers and the associated words. This will help you to remember the appropriate word faster.

Using Words to Remember Long Numbers
Once you have come up with words and images to link to your numbers, you can start to apply the technique to remember, for example, long numbers. A good way of doing this is to associate Major System words with stops on a journey (see 7.1.5).

The number Pi is 3.14159265359 (to 11 decimal places). Using the major system and the journey system (see example) together, I can remember this as:
  • Passing my Ma (3) by the front door of my house
  • Seeing that someone has dared (1,4,1) to sleep under the rose bush in the garden
  • Someone has tied a loop (5,9) of yellow ribbon onto the steering wheel of my car
  • I see a poster with a photo of a steaming pile of sausages and mashed potato, with the title 'glorious nosh' (2,7) at the end of the road
  • A lama (5,3) is grazing on grass outside the garage forecourt
  • Another loop (5,9) of yellow ribbon has been tied around the railway bridge. This is getting strange!
Key points:
The major memory system works by linking numbers to consonants, and then by linking these into words. By using the images these words create, and linking them together with the journey system, large amounts of information can be accurately memorized.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 1:33pm
Dec 17, 2005
The Roman Room System
Remembering Grouped Information

How to Use the Tool:
The Roman Room technique is an ancient and effective way of remembering information where its structure is not important. As an example, it serves as the basis of one of the powerful mnemonic systems used to learn languages.


To use the technique, imagine a room that you know, such as your sitting room, bedroom, office or classroom. Within the room are objects. Associate images representing the information you want to remember with the objects in the room. To recall information, simply take a tour around the room in your mind, visualizing the known objects and their associated images.

The technique can be expanded by going into more detail, and keying information to be remembered to smaller objects. Alternatively you can open doors from your room into other rooms and use the objects in them as well. As you need them, you can build extensions to your rooms in your imagination, and fill them with objects that would logically be there.


You can use other rooms to store other categories of information.


There is no need to restrict this information to rooms: you could use a landscape or a town you know well, and populate it with memory images.


See the introduction to this chapter for information on how to enhance the images used for this technique.


For example, I can use my sitting room as a basis for the technique. In this room I have the following objects:

table, lamp, sofa, large bookcase, small bookcase, CD rack, tape racks, stereo system, telephone, television, video, chair, mirror, black & white photographs, etc.


I may want to remember a list of World War I war poets:

Rupert Brooke, G.K. Chesterton, Walter de la Mare, Robert Graves, Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W.B. Yates


I could visualize walking through my front door. Within this image, someone has painted a picture on it showing a scene from the Battle of the Somme. In the center of the picture is a man sitting in a trench writing in a dirty exercise book.


I walk into the sitting room, and look at the table. On the top is RUPERT the Bear sitting in a small BROOK (we do not need to worry about where the water goes in our imagination!) This codes for Rupert Brooke.


Someone seems to have done some moving: a CHEST has been left on the sofa. Some jeans (Alphabet system: G=Jeans) are hanging out of one drawer, and some cake has been left on the top (K=Cake). This codes for G K Chesterton.


The lamp has a small statuette of a brick WALL over which a female horse (MARE) is about to jumping. This codes for Walter de la Mare.



Key points:
The Roman Room technique is similar to the Journey method. It works by pegging images coding for information to known things, in this case to objects in a room.

The Roman Room technique is most effective for storing lists of unlinked information, while the journey method is better for storing lists of ordered items.

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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 12:20pm
Dec 17, 2005
The Journey System
Remembering Long Lists

How to Use the Tool:
The journey method is a powerful, flexible and effective mnemonic based around the idea of remembering landmarks on a well-known journey. It combines the narrative flow of the Link Method and the structure and order of the Peg Systems into one very powerful system.

You use the Journey Method by associating information with landmarks on a journey that you know well. This could, for example, be your journey to work in the morning; the route you use to get to the front door when you get up; the route to visit your parents; or a tour around a holiday destination. Once you are familiar with the technique you may be able to create imaginary journeys that fix in your mind, and apply these.

To use this technique most effectively, it is often best to prepare the journey beforehand. In this way the landmarks are clear in your mind before you try to commit information to them. One of the ways of doing this is to write down all the landmarks that you can recall in order on a piece of paper. This allows you to fix these landmarks as the significant ones to be used in your mnemonic, separating them from others that you may notice as you get to know the route even better.

To remember a list of items, whether these are people, experiments, events or objects, all you need do is associate these things with the landmarks or stops on your journey.


This is an extremely effective method of remembering long lists of information. With a sufficiently long journey you could, for example, remember elements on the periodic table, lists of Kings and Presidents, geographical information, or the order of cards in a shuffled pack.

The system is extremely flexible: all you need do to remember many items is to remember a longer journey with more landmarks. To remember a short list, only use part of the route!

One advantage of this technique is that you can use it to work both backwards and forwards, and start anywhere within the route to retrieve information.

You can use the technique well with other mnemonics. This can be done either by building complex coding images at the stops on a journey, or by linking to other mnemonics at each stop. You could start other journeys at each landmark. Alternatively, you may use a peg system to organize lists of journeys, etc.

See the introduction to this section for information on how to enhance the images used for this technique.


You may, as a simple example, want to remember something mundane like this shopping list:

Coffee, salad, vegetables, bread, kitchen paper, fish, chicken breasts, pork chops, soup, fruit, bath tub cleaner.

You could associate this list with a journey to a supermarket. Mnemonic images could be:

  1. Front door: spilt coffee grains on the doormat
  2. Rose bush in front garden: growing lettuce leaves and tomatoes around the roses
  3. Car: with potatoes, onions and cauliflower on the driver's seat
  4. End of the road: an arch of French bread over the road
  5. Past garage: with its sign wrapped in kitchen roll
  6. Under railway bridge: from which haddock and cod are dangling by their tails
  7. Traffic lights: chickens squawking and flapping on top of lights
  8. Past church: in front of which a pig is doing karate, breaking boards
  9. Under office block: with a soup slick underneath: my car tires send up jets of tomato soup as I drive through it
  10. Past car park: with apples and oranges tumbling from the top level
  11. Supermarket car park: a filthy bath tub is parked in the space next to my car!
Key points:

The journey method is a powerful, effective method of remembering lists of information, by imagining images and events at stops on a journey.

As the journeys used are distinct in location and form, one list remembered using this technique is easy to distinguish from other lists.

To use this technique you need to invest some time in preparing journeys clearly in your mind. This investment pays off many times over by the application of the technique.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 12:11pm
Dec 17, 2005
The Alphabet Technique
Remembering Middle Length Lists

How to Use the Tool:

The Alphabet system is a peg memory technique similar to, but more sophisticated than, the Number/Rhyme system. It is a good method for remembering longer lists of items in a specific order, in such a way that you can tell if items are missing.


It works by associating images representing letters of the alphabet with images you create for the things to be remembered.


When you are creating images for the letters of the alphabet, create images phonetically, so that the sound of the first syllable of the word is the name of the letter. For example, you might represent the letter 'k' with the word 'cake'.

Tony Buzan in his book '
Use Your Perfect Memory' suggests using a system for creating vivid images that you can reconstruct if you forget them. He suggests taking the phonetic letter sound as the first consonant, and then, for the rest of the consonants in the word, using the first letters in alphabetical order that make a memorable word. For example for the letter 'S' (root 'Es') we would first see if any strong images presented themselves when we tried to create a word starting with 'EsA', 'EsB', 'EsC', 'EsD', 'EsE', etc.).

This approach has the advantage of producing an image that you can reconstruct if you forget it. You might, however, judge that this is an unnecessary complication of a relatively simple system. In any case it is best to select the strongest image that comes to mind and stick with it.


One image scheme is shown below:

A - Ace of spades
B - Bee
C - Sea
D - Diesel engine
E - Eel
F - Effluent
G - Jeans
H - H-Bomb, itch
I - Eye
J - Jade
K - Cake
L - Elephant
M - Empty
N - Entrance
O - Oboe
P - Pea
Q - Queue
R - Ark
S - Eskimo
T - Teapot
U - Unicycle
V - Vehicle
W - WC
X - X-Ray
Y - Wire
Z - Zulu


If you find that these images do not attract you or stick in your mind, then change them for something more meaningful to you.


Once you have firmly visualised these images and have linked them to their root letters, you can associate them with information to be remembered.

See the introduction to this chapter to see how you can improve these pictures to help them stay clearly in your mind. Once you have mastered this technique you can multiply the it using the images described in the article on Expanding Memory Systems (see 7.2).

Continuing our mnemonic example of the names of philosophers, we will use the example of remembering a list of modern thinkers:

A - Ace - Freud - a crisp ACE being pulled out of a FRying pan (FRiED)
B - Bee - Chomsky - a BEE stinging a CHiMp and flying off into the SKY
C - Sea - Genette - a GENerator being lifted in a NET out of the SEA
D - Diesel - Derrida - a DaRing RIDer surfing on top of a DIESEL train
E - Eagle - Foucault - Bruce Lee fighting off an attacking EAGLE with kung FU
F - Effluent- Joyce - environmentalists JOYfully finding a plant by an EFFLUENT pipe
G - Jeans - Nietzche - a holey pair of JEANS with a kNEe showing through
H - H-Bomb - Kafka - a grey civil service CAFe being blown up by an H-Bomb etc.


Key points:

The Alphabet Technique links the items to be remembered with images of the letters A - Z. This allows you to remember a medium length list in the correct order. By pegging the items to be remembered to letters of the alphabet you know if you have forgotten items, and know the cues to use to trigger their recall.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 11:59am
Dec 17, 2005
The Number/Rhyme Mnemonic
- Remembering Simple Ordered Lists


How to Use the Tool:

The Number/Rhyme technique is a very simple way of remembering lists in order.

It is an example of a peg system - a system where information is 'pegged' to a known sequence (here the numbers one to ten). By doing this you ensure that you do not forget any facts, as gaps in information are immediately obvious. It also makes remembering images easier as you always know part of the mnemonic images.

At a simple level you can use it to remember things such as a list of English Kings or American Presidents in their precise order. At a more advanced level it can be used, for example, to code lists of experiments to be recalled in a science exam.

The technique works by helping you to build up pictures in your mind, in which you represent numbers by things that rhyme with the number. You can then link these pictures to images of the things to be remembered.

The usual rhyming scheme is:

  1. Bun
  2. Shoe
  3. Tree
  4. Paw
  5. Hive
  6. Bricks
  7. Heaven
  8. Gate
  9. Line
  10. Hen
If you find that these images do not attract you or stick in your mind, then change them for something more meaningful.

Link these images to ones representing the things to be remembered. Often, the sillier the compound image, the more effectively you will remember it - see the introduction to this chapter to see how you can improve the image to help it stay clearly in your mind.


For example, you could remember a chronological list of ten Greek philosophers as:

  1. Parmenides - a BUN topped with grated yellow PARMEsan cheese
  2. Heraclitus - a SHOE worn by HERACLes (Greek Hercules) glowing with a bright LIghT
  3. Empedocles - A TREE from which the M-shaped McDonalds arches hang hooking up a bicycle PEDal
  4. Democritus - think of a PAW print on the voting form of a DEMOCRaTic election
  5. Protagoras - A bee HIVE being positively punched through (GORed?) by an atomic PROTon
  6. Socrates - BRICKS falling onto a SOCk (with a foot inside!) from a CRATe.
  7. Plato - A plate with angel's wings flapping around a white cloud
  8. Aristotle - a friend called hARRY clutching a bOTtLE of wine vaulting over a gate
  9. Zeno - A LINE of ZEN Buddhists meditating
  10. Epicurus - a HEN's egg being mixed into an EPIleptics's CURe.
Try either visualizing these images as suggested, or if you do not like them, come up with images of your own. Once you have done this, try writing down the names of the philosophers on a piece of paper. You should be able to do this by thinking of the number, then the part of the image associated with the number, and then the whole image. Finally you can decode the image to give you the name of the philosopher.

If the mnemonic has worked, you should not only recall the names of all the philosophers in the correct order, but should also be able to spot where you have left them out of the sequence. Try it - it's easier than it sounds.

You can use a peg system like this as a basis for knowledge in an entire area. The example above could form the basis for knowledge of ancient philosophy. You could now associate images representing the projects, systems and theories of each philosopher with the images coding the philosophers' names.

Key points:

The Number/Rhyme technique is a very effective method of remembering lists. It works by 'pegging' the things to be remembered to images rhyming with the numbers 0 - 9. By driving the associations with numbers you have a good starting point in reconstructing the images, you are aware if information is missing, and you can pick up and continue the sequence from anywhere within the list.

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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 11:45am
Dec 17, 2005
Memory Techniques - Introduction

These tools help you to improve your memory. They help you both to remember facts accurately and to remember the structure of information.

The tools are split into two sections. Firstly we will discuss the individual tools that you can use to remember information. Secondly we discuss how to use them in practice to remember peoples names, languages, exam information, etc.

As with other mind tools, the more practice you give yourself with these techniques, the more effective your use of them will be. This section contains many of the memory techniques used by stage memory performers. With enough practice and effort, you may be able to have a memory as good. Even if you do not have the time needed to develop this quality of memory, many of the techniques here are useful in everyday life.


'Mnemonic' is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are methods for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall. A very simple example is the '30 days hath September' rhyme. The basic principle of mnemonics is to use as many of the best functions of your brain as possible to store information.

Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. Our memories store all of these very effectively. Unfortunately information we have to remember is almost always presented in only one way - as words printed on a page. While language is one of the most important aspects of human evolution, it is only one of the many skills and resources available to our minds.

This chapter of Mind Tools will show you how to use all these resources.

Using Your Whole Mind To Remember
By coding language and numbers in striking images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. You can then easily recall these later.

You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:
  • Use positive, pleasant images. The brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images - these are easier to remember than drab ones
  • Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
  • Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
  • Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively
Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location
The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems.

Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.

Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:

  • placing things on top of each other
  • crashing things together
  • merging images together
  • wrapping them around each other
  • rotating them around each other or having them dancing together
  • linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling
As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it.

Location: gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in the town of Horsham and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location.

Our first memory techniques, the Link and Story Methods, show how effective these ideas can be. To read this, click "Next article" below. Other relevant destinations are shown in the "Where to go from here" list underneath.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 10:45am


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