Mnemonics are a great tool in which you can use to learn a language. They greatly enhance the speed in which you can learn, increase the rate of retention when learning vocabulary and, they make learning a lot more interesting. Mnemonics have helped immensely in my learning process. I tried writing out verbs and their conjugations before for hours and hours but it wouldn’t stick. Once I started using Mnems. My retention and recall went way up.

Now I will explain how to use them to learn a language:


The first thing that you have to do is to choose a location that is really large, like a park or a even a city. Make sure that you know this place in considerable detail and can picture yourself walking around in it. For Portuguese I am using a large park in Toronto because I know it really well and it is large enough for my purposes. Ideally you also want a location that can easily be divided into 3 sections or more. Can you describe 10 things in that place? What about 100? 200? If you take a minute and think about it, I bet you can remember at least over 200 things. Your brain soaks up certain information like what types of things are located where.

For example, imagine you walk in to a new friend’s house for the very first time. You sit and chat with them in their living room for 5 minutes and then you leave. After you leave I bet you would be able to recall about 50 different things that were in that room and better yet you would do all this using barely any effort. The coffee stain on the couch, the statue of Marilyn Monroe, the bust of Elvis, etc. I am so optimistic that this would happen because it happens every day, to us all. Our brain records information constantly. Most of it is not important so we discard it. Our brains are very good at remembering things. We just have to understand how it remembers. The use of mnemonics makes abstract words and concepts into a real life thing that you brain links to numerous other departments in your brain.


Ok so you have chosen a location. Now cut-out sections of your chosen place into three parts. For Portuguese I am using the park for verbs and the street that run along the park on the north and south sides for the two types of nouns. (If you are learning a language with more than two types of nouns simply make another division).


What we want to do is create a mnemonic for each noun you want to remember. (Use Mnemonic tip# 1 to help create effective images). Now for me, one of the most difficult parts of learning nouns is remembering the gender associated with it. Mnemonics makes this easier by placing the nouns of each respective gender in the same location so that once you picture the image you automatically know the gender without having to try and decipher it from grammar rules. In the location I am using I simple place all mnemonics I have for female nouns on the street running along the north end of the park and the street on the south for the masculine nouns.

Let me describe what I mean with an example. For the Portuguese noun “o partido”, which means political party, I have a picture in my head of Steven Harper parting the hair on Paul Martins head. Now if you think this mnemonic is ridiculous that is ok. Read Mnemonic tip # for more information on making images that will work for you. So now I have already decided that the street on the south side of the park will be used for my masculine nouns and so now I will place this bizarre image on this street for later recall. For feminine nouns I simply place the images I create on the street north of my park.


Now for the hard part: verbs. We don’t have to worry about gender here so I am going to place all my verb images in the park itself. I simply follow the same rules for making my mnemonic images as I do with nouns. Simple enough but then comes the conjugations. What I do for these is I make a dynamic image that has lots of different parts. What you need to do is make a dynamic mnemonic with several different parts. Your basic mnemonic will be for the infinitive of the verb. Then there will be like different “scenes” that happen which will be used for the conjugations.
For example, with the Portuguese verb “Ir”, which means to go, I have one of my friends in a specific place in my park. Her EAR is hurting and is telling my other friend she has TO GO to the hospital. So when I hear or read Ir I picture my friend with a sore ear saying she has to go to the hospital. There is my image for what the infinite means. Now for the conjugations. For Eu (I) my friend is saying that “I have to VO-te first. Edu you are what I’m trying to remember. Then for voce (you) I have her telling someone else “vou is Vy-ing for my attention”. Voce Vais is the conjugation. And then so on for the rest of the conjugtions. For other tenses like future or past I just make more additions to the same mnemonic. personally for Past I use the same mnem I have for the present but the main figure as a baby and for the future as a senior. Or sometimes I just make a new mnem because I have already learned and stored the present tense in my long term memory. There are several different ways of reciting your mnems that I discuss in this post.

By doing what I described above you can learn new vocabulary quickly and in a fun way. I used to tediously write out verbs and nouns I wanted to remember and basically trying to just jam the material in my brain but I would take forever and it was not fun. Using mnemonics is a lot better because you can practice whenever you want. You don’t need to have a list of vocabulary to refresh your memory. For me I chose a location that I would love to spend time in and I made my mnemonics with people that I like and always made the images positive. So when I practice whatever language I’m just walking through the park in my mind where I have all my friends and family. It sounds kind of corny but it is kind of nice because you are learning a new language while walking through one of your favourite places with your favourite people. It is great especially if you are far from your home or from familiar things.