Study Idea – Read about How Languages and Your Memory Work

The inspiration for Anki, was the algorithm found originally in “Supermemo”:

and the link below is a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page for a preceding software called “Supermemo”. The developer of Anki and Supermemo cites many other interesting studies, books and the like, so it is worth fifteen minutes of your time:


First we need to draw a distinction between procedural learning and declarative learning. Procedural learning is used to (sic) acquiring a skill such as riding a bike or typing the keyboard. In procedural learning, we do not tell the brain exactly how it should perform. The brain provides “the answer” on its own by trial and error, while we only “approve or disapprove” of its performance. In declarative learning, as in memorizing a textbook, we tell the brain exactly what to learn, and expect it to encode information in memory. Procedural learning, by definition, is highly repetitive (you repeat the same moves again and again, only with a slightly improved precision). With declarative learning, we want to minimize the repetition. For those reasons we need to discuss the two types of learning separately.

Language learning is all about “declarative” and not “procedural”, in my opinion. I’m sure that is going to be a hot topic for debate, but I want you to think about it after you have read more about memorization methods.

Personally, I use several tricks that I learned at a young age, to memorize various things, like numbers, formulas, subject rules, etc. I read Harry Lorayne’s book “The Memory Book”, which he co-authored with one of my favorite basketball players at the time…I forget his name…kidding…Jerry Lucas, which is how I was introduced to visual memory systems, visual mnemonics, the loci method, number mnemonics, names, cards, foreign vocabulary, maps, etc. It is also important to physically write foreign words…

Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’

Let me give you a simple example of something I would do while using Duolingo. The first time I was asked the gender for “pomme” (apple), I guessed “le” because it seemed logical. Since this is wrong, I had to immediately stop and create an association of a visual image for “pomme” so that I never got it wrong again. I see a red apple (red and shades of red, like pink and purple, are for me, female gender memory aids), and then solidify it with the fact apple begins with “a” as in “la”. Done. Takes less than five seconds, and I will never miss it again. The strange part is that I am more confident of words I have missed than words I have correctly guessed genders for. Until I miss the gender in Duolingo French, and then take the five seconds I need to create some kind of visual association, I’m not 100% sure, which shows the power of deliberate thought.

In my wallet, I actually have a small piece of paper that reminds me of how to memorize numbers. Yes, it’s exactly the same letters to numbers as “The Memory Book” used, and is found on this blog post:

It looks like this:

memory card

Another video worth watching, once the above video convinces you of the power of mnemonics and memory techniques based on visualization:

Dr. Peter M. Vishton has a list that is very close to the one I use. My zero uses S or Z and his just S. My six uses soft g and j, while his uses sh, and ch. My seven uses K and G, and his uses O and K. Now can you think of a way to use mental triggers and visuals for language?

What about the Loci method he discusses, as he uses his childhood memory palace? Once you find the right method for coding, decoding, and associating information with visuals, your language learning will become easier.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s