Memorising Abstract words in another language

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#1 18 October, 2015 - 11:12
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Memorising Abstract words in another language


Hi Guys,

I know this is a common problem that people face when trying to memorise vocabulary for another language.

I struggled with linking abstract foreign words to their meaning, but I think I have solved my problem.

Instead of linking the foreign word to the meaning of the translation I am now linking the new foreign word to the English translation:
e.g. die Stelle is a pink bottle of Stella Artois beer with pink frills around the top (indicating gender, sorry this is very sexist) and lots of plaice fish jumping out of the bottle (for the English translation of place).

This might sound like a lot of work to recall but it only adds an extra split second on recall. I then seem to internalise the word much quicker after about 2 or 3 recalls and the meaning/ translation just comes almost instantly to mind.

I also find this method very enjoyable and stimulating as I really like creating the strange images in my mind, which probably helps with committing it to long term memory. I think I am a very visual memoriser in this respect!

I am certain others do this too but I just wanted to post what has helped me most.

What methods have you guys used to help with this issue?

24 October, 2015 - 05:11
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Instead of linking the foreign word to the meaning of the translation I am now linking the new foreign word to the English translation

How many translations are we talking about? I think you mean rather than linking the foreign word's sound to its English meaning (i.e. a translation), it sounds like you want to link it to the English word's sound. So, kugelschreiber could be a Freddy Krueger glove on Maria Shriver, shaking hands with Penn (of Penn and Teller) or something like that?

26 October, 2015 - 02:30
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Hi jwag That is pretty much it yes, I am aiming to get around 2000 but I am at about 300 at the moment. It might sound like it takes longer to recall but the mnemonic becomes redundant after a few recalls as the word seems to come to me naturally after that.

26 October, 2015 - 09:49
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I Completely agree with this method. It's what i'm doing in my language system. I was really disappointed when I realized I was restricted to objects or simple actions without it getting messy when i had to create elaborate stories to represent a abstract concept. I like things being very systematic and predictable. When I realized I could just skip the middle man, It blew my mind for a few days :P Even though you would think it's technically less efficient, it's way more palatable, and for me seems to be quicker. I'm new to all this stuff though, so there might be some reason other people don't use it.

26 October, 2015 - 08:59
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Hi Mr Purple,

Thats exactly how I felt too! I started realising quickly that most of the words in the frequency list I was learning were abstract and was finding it incredibly difficult to create a mnemonic, let alone recall it!

Maybe it has something to do with the way we process or organise information, I doubt it will be ideal for everyone but I personally find a systematic approach much easier to follow too.

16 November, 2015 - 04:09
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Instead of linking the foreign word to the meaning of the translation I am linking the foreign word to english translation.
Isn't that the same thing what's the difference, you didnt explain it well

16 November, 2015 - 11:00
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The first thing I would suggest is not to think of anything as being abstract. Just because it is, doesn't mean you have to ponder over it.

Take zerbrechlich in German, for example. "Fragile" is abstract on the one hand because just about anything can be fragile or pictured as fragile (like freeze-drying Schwarzenegger and flicking off his ears).

So to deal with this, I picked just one fragile thing. In this case, it was a vase and I placed it in Brecht's arms as he was being whipped by a licorice wielding zero dressed like Zorro.

Zer(o) + Brech(t) + (licor)ice = zerbrechlich

You can do the same with justice or anything you like. Simply refuse abstractions the right to be abstractions and they will bend to your will. ;)

For some reason, I'm not getting email notifications when new posts come in at the moment, but toss down 2-3 examples and send me the link to this thread in a PM and I can perhaps guide you a bit further if you need more help.

17 November, 2015 - 04:05
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@xxdimixx That is the exact same thing. Sorry I wasn't as succinct as you haha.

17 November, 2015 - 04:27
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I struggle more with words such as "because" that have no real physical applicability (to me).

An example with "because" is: A Bee with Claws drinking a huge Vile of poison (German: Weil).

I would normally embellish this more.

I find this is a way for me to create a memory hook which I can refer back to about 3 or 4 times, then I seem to not need the image and just remember because = weil / weil = because. Its a weird feeling as it feels like intuition or "just knowing", but I know it isn't. As I said before, recall when trying to remember the linked image is slower, but once you create those links you naturalise the translation very quickly and drop the mnemonic altogether.

Tip that works for me:
I sure I have read this elsewhere but I found that I need to ensure both "sides" of the mnemonic can be recalled individually and aren't dependant on the other, but DO interact with each other. E.g. The Mnemonic couldn't be a bee with claws that is vile and nasty, as I would struggle to recall "because" when I hear the word "weil". But it can be a "Bee with claws drinking a vile of poison" because when I think poison, i then think poison gets drunk by someone, and that links to the bee with claws. This is just me though and everyone is different.

I think I am more visually "literal" (if thats the right word), in that I get confused if something isn't visually specific enough.

Anyway I have waffled enough.

19 November, 2015 - 07:45
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I like the "weil" image. Very clever!

I think you'll find that it gets easier as you go along. In fact, you can become really very good and very fast. I'm studying Chinese now, which is to the Western eye and ear (or at least my eyes and ears) 148% abstract.

But in this case, the abstract is a strength and I've been delighted by the speed and ease with which the sounds and meanings can be memorized.

Stay tuned for how things go with the characters though ...

2 May, 2016 - 12:36
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Thanks man, this is what I have been looking for, and no one seems to talk about, the link has to work both ways. For while shadowing, L2, I can understand more and more and the images and story appears, you begin to get confidence and cocky. Then when it was time to talk, I couldn't repeat a sentence or half of what I heard, I would only see the English and no story in my mind to say it in the target language with the Link backwards. Thanks again.

10 May, 2016 - 16:04
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it's really cool that you figured this out, i just came up with this over the last couple of days XD. I’m learning Japanese and German at the same time. Usually it takes me a bit to learn vocabulary, but with a palace and this method i've been memorizing faster and faster. for example "Konna" in Japanese means "This kind", really abstract. But what i basically did was picture a traffic cone with a big 'A' on the front(to create its pronunciation) and linked it in my mind to "This kind" and voilà, after a couple of journey reviews it stuck more or less XD, since i just started out with Japanese.

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