Tag Archives: memory

392. What are the most essential skills of a good foreign language learner?

This episode is full of what I hope will be more useful insight and advice on how to learn English as an adult so that you don’t end up sounding like a robot, because you’re learning English or at least maintaining your English and it’s a long-term process, there are right and wrong ways of doing it and I want to support you along the way. The main aim of this podcast is to help you stay on track as you continue to develop your English, trying to find new ways and improving the old ways so that you get a grip on this language.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]
This episode represents not just my ideas but also the thoughts, conclusions and recommendations of plenty of other linguists and polyglots who certainly should know what they’re talking about because they’ve either studied the process of language acquisition or they’ve learned multiple languages themselves. Contained in this episode is a distillation of lots of experiences, research and common knowledge about language learning, including my own thoughts and practical tips which I’ve picked up after 15 years of teaching English as a foreign language. I hope this will be a motivating, inspiring and interesting episode for you to listen to as part of your English learning journey. So, let’s go.

Quora www.quora.com

Do you know about a website called Quora? Quora.com

It’s a good website where people post all kinds of thoughtful questions and then other users chip in with answers.

The answers are then read and upvoted by members of the community, which helps the best information to be presented to everyone.

The result is that you get a selection of some of the best advice and information from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

It’s not a new concept. It’s been done before by Yahoo, Reddit and so on. But it seems that Quora is used by slightly more serious people and as a result the content on Quora is pretty reliable and intelligent.

You can sign up and choose what types of topic you’re interested in. I selected “Language learning” and came across this post. In fact I often get emails from Quora with interesting language learning questions and answers and they’re very interesting to read.

I also selected a bunch of other options, but I now can’t remember what they are – but I think they were pretty random ones, like I think I selected questions about gun control, science and technology. As a result, along with the language learning questions I also get sent some pretty bizarre Q&As about things like “Can you get shot in the head and survive?” and “What’s the worst bear attack in human history?” and “What happens to you when you die?” – all of which, I admit, I find fascinating too! Perhaps I’ll make podcast episodes about them too one day.

But this one is not about bears and stuff, no it’s about learning languages, and the question we’re looking at here is:

“What are the most essential skills of a good foreign language learner?”

www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-essential-skills-of-a-good-foreign-language-learner 

There are about 12 answers from different people.

This is perfect for an episode for LEP because I don’t need to prepare anything – I can just read through the different answers and make comments along the way.

OK, so here goes!

Anthony Lauder’s Presentation at the 2013 Polyglot Conference

Here’s that great presentation by Anthony Lauder at the 2013 Polyglot Conference. It has a slightly slow start, with a couple of technical difficulties (and I found it slightly offputting that he was presenting in shorts and flip flops but I suppose that shouldnt’ matter) but it really gets going after a few minutes. It’s very amusing and has some truly great insights into how to learn languages.

Mnemonic Dictionary

“libel” – www.mnemonicdictionary.com/?word=libel

lep-mug-painting

385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 1)

This episode is about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. I’m talking about a very common phenomenon in English learning called the intermediate plateau. It usually happens at an intermediate level. I wonder if this applies to you? I would love to read your thoughts so please do write in the comment section.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Jim’s Music

234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

Jim’s music on Soundcloud

Jim’s music on Bandcamp

Mailing List, etc

Subscribe to the mailing list to get a link to the page for each episode sent to your inbox.

LEP Anecdote Comp is almost closed. It closes today. Any entries I get after midnight today (CET) won’t count, and remember you only have 5 minutes. I’ll upload an episode v soon about that to tell you what’s going to happen next, and you’ll be able to listen and vote for your favourites.

So now, let’s talk about the intermediate plateau and how to push your English to new levels even if you feel like your progress has stalled.

Transcription / improvisation

Breaking the Intermediate Plateau

What is the intermediate plateau?  Why does that happen and how can you get out of it? Generally, how do you keep making progress with your English?

People often get stuck at an intermediate level. They feel their English is not improving as fast as before. In fact it feels like you can’t progress further and your learning is blocked. It’s very frustrating.

This applies to moving from intermediate to a higher level, but much of it can be applied to making progress at a higher level too.

What is intermediate?

Moving from intermediate to advanced is a tricky phase and it often takes longer than moving from elementary to intermediate. It’s harder to make the distinction between intermediate and advanced than it is to make a distinction between intermediate and elementary.

CEFR B1 descriptions

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

CEFR C1 descriptions

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

How do you know if you’re at the intermediate plateau? How do you know if your learning is at a plateau in general (not just at intermediate level)?

We’re talking about 2 things – what your level is, and the progress you’re not making.

How do you know if you’re intermediate?

Take a test, use the criteria for the CEFR, consult your teacher. (See links to tests below)

ExamEnglish www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Dialang dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

How do you know if you’ve reached a plateau – probably at intermediate level?

You started with a low level of English and have made some effort to pull yourself up to a functional intermediate level. Perhaps you studied, maybe you have lived in an English speaking environment in which you were forced to learn the language.

You can basically express yourself and get by in most situations, but when you’re under stress or when it’s a new situation your English crumbles.

Or perhaps you have a jagged profile – you might be good at one area, but other areas are really weak. E.g. you might be good at reading and writing but your spoken English is a disaster. Or perhaps you’re great at oral communication but you can’t write full sentences, can’t spell etc.

You can talk, laugh and have fun in English when you’re with fellow non-native speakers, but as soon as you’re with a group of natives, you suddenly feel lost and don’t understand the humour.

If you really concentrate and focus you can watch a film or TV in English and understand most of it – especially with English subtitles, but if you go to the cinema full of native speakers and watch a comedy film or something you realise how little you understand because everyone else is laughing but you’re just sitting there. You assume that everyone’s a bit stupid or that they have no taste. In fact, you just don’t understand the jokes.

Why do people hit an intermediate plateau?

You can basically survive with an intermediate level of English. In fact, you can get by with about 3000 words whereas the average native speaker is able to use about 20,000. This is the difference between a basic operational intermediate level of English and a fully rounded vocabulary of a native speaker.

Suspected learning curve. You expect learning to be linear. When you start you learn rapidly, the curve is steep. When you have got through the early stages and you can basically express yourself and understand others. It’s harder to see progress. Your progress becomes more shallow and there’s less stress involved.

People expect the learning to continue in a straight line of progress, but they don’t realise that it goes up and down.

The actual learning curve is more like a bell, and it involves many ups and downs too.

The more of a language you learn, the less there is to learn. It’s a process of diminishing returns.

Comfort zone.

Goals and study habits are not well defined. Often the first goal is just to get out of that painful confusion you experience at the start. When you hit intermediate your goals need to be more achievable and specific. Then you need to match them with an organised study plan.

How to break through the intermediate plateau and continue making progress

There’s no magic formula or single way to do it. It comes down to attitude, time and practice.

The study methods you used to get to intermediate might need to change.

Merely ‘getting by’ in the language is not enough any more. You need to explore, push it further, test yourself and increase the challenge.

Follow just one subject in a lot of depth

You want to develop a more advanced level of vocabulary and grammar, especially the vocab but there is so much of it! How can you cover it all? Instead of just scraping the surface of a few topics, try going into loads of depth in just one or two topics.

Following a subject you’re fascinated in will take you down a rabbit hole of English and you will learn a great deal of more complex language on the way. It’s hard to learn all the English of everything, so focus on one specific thing and let that be your entry point to advanced English.

This means finding loads of information on this single topic you’re interested in – reading articles and books about it, finding podcasts and videos about it, video documentaries on youtube and so on. For example, right now I’m reading about The Beatles in French and it’s much better than just reading stuff I don’t care about and it keeps me interested.

Learn how to talk and write about your specialist subject too. Learning one thing in a lot of detail is more achievable than trying to learn the vocabulary of everything. You will learn tons of vocabulary about the subject but also you’ll learn the kind of English you need to construct and understand complex and in-depth ideas – so, not just technical terms but also complex sentences, grammatical forms and linking devices.

Challenge

One of the reasons you made so much progress before was that everything was a challenge. You met a lot of resistance. It was frustrating but you pushed through. Now there is less resistance but don’t stop pushing. Challenge yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone, teach the language to someone else – or at least prepare yourself as if you’re going to teach, find your weaknesses and push them. Don’t give up. Jump in at the deep end and try to swim.

Habit

Honestly – how many of you are going to do all these things? Not many of you. You’ll probably listen and agree but not take action. Right there – that’s where the difference is between progress and not progress. Choose to do even a couple of these things and you’ll be on the right path. Just make a few little changes and do them regularly and it should become part of your habit. Build habits into your life.

Exposure

Exposure to some comprehensible input combined with some stuff on the verge of what you don’t understand. Some stuff that’s fairly easy to follow, and some stuff that’s hard to follow. So, that means listening to podcasts like this in which you understand quite a lot, but you’re also challenged sometimes, but it also means reading and listening to content designed for native speakers. Get an audiobook, get some real books, listen to BBC radio, subscribe to some podcasts for native speakers (listen for some recommendations soon).

236. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 1)

237. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 2)

Vocabulary & Mnemonics

Keep an organised notebook for vocabulary and use some mnemonic techniques. They’re proven to work again and again, but how many of us use them?

Listen to an old episode of my podcast called Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English.

Basically, the trick with remembering vocabulary is to a) link the new memory to an existing memory and b) make new memories visual, vivid and attached to a space that you know in the real world. This sounds a bit strange, but it’s proven to work. If you can attach a new word to an existing word somehow, perhaps with a very vivid picture in your mind perhaps connected to a space you know, like your house, then memories will stick like glue.

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

Part 2 coming soon…

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

How to improve your memory and learn English more effectively with memory techniques & mnemonics.

Download Episode  Small Donate Button

The following is a transcript of this episode of the podcast.
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. Today, we are going to take a journey into the palace of the mind! We are going to venture into the deepest parts of your brain, and in the process we’re going to clean it up, brighten it up, sweep out the cobwebs and make it a much more effective place for learning and remembering English. Have a glass of water, take a deep breath and get ready for a brain upgrade because this episode of the podcast is all about memory, mnemonics and learning English!

Recently I’ve been doing a series of mini podcast episodes called “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. It’s quite a popular series, which is great. Lots of people have been listening to it, and I’m updating it every day. You can find a link to the episodes on my webpage audioboo.fm/LukeThompson. I’m hoping to do 365 phrasal verbs this year, that’s one a day, which may be a little ambitious but we’ll see. 365, that’s a large number of phrases for me to teach, but also a large number for you to remember. You might be thinking – this is great Luke. 365 phrasal verbs, all explained by you with examples and transcripts, but how am I going to remember them all? Well, you don’t have to remember all of them, but you definitely can. Your brain is an amazing thing. It’s capable of remembering massive amounts of information. It’s just a question of how you get the information in there.

English has one of the largest vocabularies of any language in the world, which is quite an overwhelming prospect for those of you who are trying to learn all of those words, even just a portion of them – like the commonly used ones. But it’s not just the words, it’s the phrases, the idioms, the spelling, the rules of grammar. It’s a challenge, but you can do it. The question is: How? Well, let’s look into it.

In this episode we’ll be looking at ways to improve your memory and some specific mnemonic devices for remembering English vocabulary and spelling. So strap in, this is going to be a useful one. With the methods in this episode, you’ll be able to remember massive amounts of vocabulary, and you’ll be able to remember the spelling for loads of difficult-to-write English words. There’s also a transcript for this which you can read at www.teacherluke.wordpress.com. You’re welcome.

The techniques I talk about here are well-known methods, used by lots of people including some of the most famous brains in the world. The illusionist Derren Brown is an example. He’s famous for being able to remember vast sequences of information, and uses this technique in his magic shows. Then, there’s the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes. I know he’s not a real person, but in the modern TV adaptation called “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, he uses a mnemonic device known as a  mind palace in order to remember all kinds of information, which allows him to solve deeply complex criminal cases. You can create your own mind palace too, or just use memory techniques to help your remember names of people at a party, business contacts, telephone numbers, lists of phrasal verbs or the way English words and spelled and pronounced. We’ll be looking at all these things in this episode.

These are tried and tested techniques and I invite you to try them for yourself, even if you’ve never considered the idea of improving your memory. They’re a lot of fun and surprisingly useful, and you don’t need to try very hard to just play along. I don’t want to go on about it too much, but if you just listen – it’ll be quite entertaining, but you’ll get the most benefit from actually trying these things yourself, and if you do that – if you try to apply the memory techniques in this episode, it could transform your English learning in a really exciting way.

You might need a pen and paper, so you can join in with some activities. Don’t forget you can read everything I’m saying by visiting teacherluke.wordpress.com.

Let me give you a run-down of the systems I’m going to talk about here:

1. Firstly I’ll talk about some advice for learning English more effectively, based on mnemonic devices. I’ll give you a summary of what I’ve learned from reading about this subject.

2. Then I’ll outline some specific systems for remembering lists of things such as a shopping list, people’s names, the order of adjectives in English, or lists of vocabulary.

3. Then, we’ll go through some specific mnemonics for remembering English spelling, which can help you to improve your spelling massively.

Just to explain, a mnemonic is a method of remembering something. It’s a memorising technique. Mnemonic has slightly weird spelling. It’s spelled M-N-E-M-O-N-I-C but the first M is silent. So that’s pronounced “NEMONIC”. There is a mnemonic device for learning the spelling for the ‘mnemonics’. It goes like this Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage. The first letters of the first words in that phrase all spell “mnemonics”. Say it again… Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage. Again, you can read that on the webpage, and you can check out words like insufficient (not enough), cerebral (of the brain) and storage (where things are stored, or kept.

I’ve discovered while reading about this subject that the key aspect of mnemonics seems to be that you have to push the thing you’re trying to remember deep into your mind, and make links to things you already remember well. The more personal the the connection to that word, the more likely you are to remember it. How do we do it? This means creating an image in your head and making it as vivid and clear as possible, attaching some kind of narrative or story to it or connecting it to an already existing deep memory. I guess this is because in your brain there are electrical pathways – the brain is like an electrical system. Each electrical pathway is a connection to that word. It’s a way for your brain to access that particular bit of information. So, the more electrical pathways, or connections you have to something in your brain, the more likely are to be able to access that thing later, and remember it.

How does this relate to learning English? Let’s see if you this confirms that you are already learning in the right way, or if there are some new approaches that you can pick up.

First, you should really engage with the learning process. Don’t let information just go in one ear and come out the other. It has to go deeply into the brain. So, as a learner, you need to put yourself and your personality right into it, and become an active member of your class (if you’re studying in a class) with a sense of independent responsibility for your own learning. Remember that the stuff you’re studying (like vocab or grammar) is not just abstract information but something that involves you in a very personal and specific way.

So we’re talking about personalising new words. Think of examples or definitions of new vocabulary in a way that is meaningful specifically to you or your life. Put yourself into the examples of vocabulary you use. Imagine that you’re living these words and phrases somehow. Picture yourself acting it out. If I teach you a phrase like “to doze off”, meaning to go to sleep, just imagine a time when you’re really tired and can hardly keep your eyes open, even though you want to stay awake. Then imagine yourself reacting to that by saying “oh god I keep dozing off!”. Imagine people you know in your examples of new grammar or vocabulary. Vividly picture something familiar to you when you’re trying to remember the words. Bring the language to life in your own head. Create stories with the new language. Involve you, your friends or family in those stories, and make them really vivid, colourful and dramatic – like my Pink Gorilla story for example. Make your own pink gorilla story and aim to include lots of new language in it.

When you’re trying to practice using new grammar or vocabulary, don’t just make a random sentence. Make a sentence which you really feel or really mean. Obviously, this is not always possible – for example if you’re doing an exam practice exercise in a book or if you just have to play with the grammatical structure of a phrase quickly – in that case you might have to just dash off a quick sentence with the phrase in it, for structural purposes. But at some point you should aim to use the phrase to express something meaningful and personal to you.

This works for teachers as well. When explaining new words, try to give vivid examples. Bring the expression to life. The more vivid and colourful, the better. If you can, try to attach some personal element to it. Put yourself into the example perhaps. If you need to use the 3rd person, pick a real person, like a famous person or someone in the class, rather than just a name. I know it’s not always possible to think up these vivid examples, or you can’t always share personal details, but just remember – the more lively and vivid the example, the easier it is for the students to internalise. It also might encourage them to personalise the language enthusiastically too, when it’s their turn to use the language.

New words can be quite abstract, so try making them familiar by attaching them to things you already know. For example, maybe the English word looks like a word in your language, or perhaps it reminds you of somebody’s name. You can then associate the English word with that name, and it sticks in your mind more effectively. For example, the Japanese word for apple is ‘ringo’. I always remember this because Ringo is one of the Beatles and the Beatles’ record label is called Apple, so now I think of an apple, and I think of The Beatles, and Ringo. This method is common sense really, but we often just don’t apply these techniques to remembering things as much as we could. Instead we just try to cram information into our head, without doing it in a meaningful way, and as a result we just fail to remember things.

It works with names as well. I have to remember lots of names in my classes. At the moment at university I have over 200 names to remember. Sometimes the only way I can do it is to make an association to something. For example, I had a Saudi student once called Faisa. It can be difficult for me to remember Arabic names, because they’re quite foreign to me. We don’t have many Arabic names in English. So, Faisa was quite a difficult one to remember at first, and it’s important to remember names in class because referring to someone by their name helps get their attention, but it’s also a nice way to establish rapport with that person. So, Faisa – F-A-S-I-A. In English, we have a similar sounding word, which is ‘phaser’, spelled p-h-a-s-e-r. A phaser is a kind of laser-gun, like the guns they have in Star Trek. “Set phasers to stun!” for example.  I imagine the old Star Trek TV series, in which they used these laser guns, with cheesy special effects and sounds. In the classic 1960s version of Star Trek which I used to watch on TV during the 80s and 90s there was always a scene in which Spock and James T Kirk went to an alien planet, and they took their phasers with them. So, I just imagined my student Faisa, in Star Trek, beaming down onto an alien planet (England?) with her phaser set to stun. It didn’t take long – just that image of Faisa in Star Trek, with a phaser, maybe shooting an alien. I didn’t tell her this. She had no idea she was in Star Trek, but it helped me to remember her name. This could work for anybody, at a party for example – when you’re introduced to someone, as soon as you get their name, make a point of connecting that name to something you know well. For example, if the person’s name is John – imagine him with John Lennon, or imagine him wearing John Lennon glasses, walking across Abbey Road. JOHN. Perhaps you have another friend called John. Imagine the new John and the other John together, perhaps having a fight – like Street Fighter 2. John vs John. “Round 1 – fight!!! Hello John, hello John! PERFECT… John, wins….” You won’t forget it. Do that with everyone at the party, or everyone at the business conference. You’ll remember their names, and you’ll have fun doing it. Just remember not to tell them. For example, if you get drunk a bit later, don’t go up to John and say “Hey John! How’s John Lennon?? How are all the other Beatles. When’s the new album coming out?? JOHN! I love you John… ” Don’t do that.

Sometimes it works against me though. I have a student called Charles, and to me he looks just like Roger Federer, the tennis player. Sometimes I call him Roger by mistake, and he has no idea why I keep calling him Roger. I haven’t explained that I think he looks like Roger Federer, and that’s because he doesn’t look enough like Federer for everyone else to agree with me. They’d probably just think I was weird, and I’m supposed to be a professor, y’know. Anyway, there’s just something Federer-ish about this student. So, I mistakenly call him Roger sometimes, even though his name is Charles. What I need to do is imagine Federer meeting Prince Charles, and perhaps being knighted by Prince Charles for being such a great tennis player. Roger Federer and Prince Charles. – that should help. You might think that remembering all these connections is more complex than remembering the individual words or names themselves, but it’s not true. We’re just making connections to things that already exist in our heads. The more connections there are, the more likely you are to remember the words. Words that exist with no connections at all, are just lost in space, in your brain. Disconnected and missing. Words like to hang out with other words. They’re all connected in some way. It’s worth remembering that, and people often draw mind-maps to create visual representations of the connections between words. This is a good vocabulary learning strategy.

Also, it can help people to learn new words when they find out the origin of those words. There are lots of TEDed videos which explain the origins of many words. You can find TEDed’s youtube channel online. Again, go to my page and I’ll give you a link. Here is the link to the TEDed YouTube channel: ed.ted.com/series/mysteries-of-vernacular

So, in all these mnemonic devices, the words that come up a lot seem to be these ones: vivid, personal, funny and weird. So, when you’re linking a word to an image – make it vivid, personal, funny and weird. That’s how you really lodge the word deep in your brain. You could probably create a mnemonic to remember that! Vivid – meaning bright and clear, personal – meaning related to yourself or something you know personally, funny – just something that makes you laugh, and weird – something bizarre, out of the ordinary and strange. I’m just imagining The Simpsons, like Homer Simpson, just glowing! They’re vivid because they’re bright yellow and have big bulging eyes. They’re funny, obviously. At its best The Simpsons is one of the funniest shows on TV (in English – I’m not convinced it’s as funny in other languages, but in English it is generally hilarious sometimes). They’re personal because it’s about a family, we know them well, we’ve grown up watching them on TV. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. They’re weird – because they’re yellow, that’s strange. They only have 4 fingers, and the sense of humour in the show is pretty bizarre. Also, they’ve been on TV for 20 years and yet they’ve always stayed the same age. Bart has never grown up. That’s pretty weird. So, vivid, funny, personal and weird. Those are the key qualities for mnemonic images.

So, I’ve just given you some quick memory techniques for learning English, as they occurred to me, but let’s have a closer look at some specific tried and tested memory techniques and mnemonic devices.

Some specific memory systems

These might seem like pretty weird techniques, but as I said earlier, if you just listen to this you won’t get the full benefit. You’ll just enjoy listening to it as entertainment. So I invite you to try them for yourself, because only then will you realise just how effective these things are. It can make a huge difference to your life.

Let’s listen to a short presentation from The University of Western Sydney. This video is available on YouTube and also on my website. This video is about 5 minutes long and it clearly explains some mnemonic systems. The guy in the video speaks with an Australian accent. It’s not a strong one, but you might be able to notice the way he says some words, like numbers 1 – 9 for example.

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoYOb2sPnqA&w=500&h=281%5D

So, that’s Acronyms (a word – each letter represents something, eg. ROY GBIV), Acrostics (a sentence in which the first letter of each word spells out the thing you need to remember),  The Peg System (words represent numbers, and you can then create an image using those words), Image Mnemonics (I’ve talked about this with the John Lennon example), Chunking – grouping individual bits of info together to make them easier to remember (This helps with vocab because words are often grouped together – so you should not just remember a word, but remember a whole group or chunk of words – for example if that word is followed by a particular preposition or verb form), Mind Maps (we talked about this – but you can make your mind maps as personal as you like – create any kind of connection between words that will help you remember them)

At my university course, I have to remember some details of the assessment procedure. Students often ask me. For some reason, they can’t remember it themselves so they’re always asking me. They should remember, and I definitely have to remember. Basically the grading system was continual assessment which included lots of different criteria, like their development through the course, their English in a presentation, their attendance, absences and the way they took part in class. To be honest, it was hard to remember those 5 items, but I managed to group it together as “the 5 Ps” – progress, presentation, presence, punctuality and participation. Knowing that there were 5 things, and that they all began with a P, allowed me to quickly recall and summarise the assessment type, in the middle of a lesson.

Let’s consider the linking system. This can help you to remember lists of apparently unrelated items. It could be a list of nouns, or it could be a shopping list. I’ve taken this explanation from a book actually. It’s a really great book called “Tricks of the Mind” by Derren Brown, who, in my opinion, is one of the world’s best illusionists, and a bit of an expert into mind control techniques, hypnotism and mentalism. If you’re interested in the subject, I suggest you get a copy of Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown. He deals with the subject in a very common-sense and scientific way, without all the mysticism that often accompanies this subject. So, let’s try an experiment.

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhZcHoU-QR8&w=500&h=375%5D

Mind Palace
This is what Sherlock Holmes uses in the TV show. It’s an amazing idea – apparently you can remember massive amounts of information if you create your own memory palace. That’s a massive space, in your own head, where you keep memories. It works by making connections to a place you know really well. It could be your house, for example, or the route you take to work (if you know it well) or a part of a city that you know well, or your school building or something. You imagine you’re walking around this place, and in key spots you plant a vivid image of each thing you’re trying to remember. Then, all you need to do is imagine walking around the place, and you’ll be able to remember everything. Also, when you’re doing it you can say “Hold on, let me go into my mind palace” which sounds pretty cool – especially if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan.

Let’s hear Derren Brown explaining how he uses his mind palace.
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WPY3I8yTkY&w=500&h=281%5D

Spelling Mnemonics
I may have left the best until last here, because now we’re going to look at lots of common mnemonics for learning difficult spelling in English. Don’t forget you can read all this on my website, which is teacherluke.wordpress.com

Let’s get started. I’ve taken this list from Wikipedia, and added some of my own as well.

Characteristic sequence of letters

  • I always comes before E (but after C, E comes before I)

In most words like friend, field, piece,pierce, mischief, thief, tier, it is i which comes before e. But on some words with c just before the pair of e and i, like receive, perceive, e comes before i. This can be remembered by the following mnemonic,

I before E, except after C

But this is not always obeyed as in case of weird and weigh,weight,height,neighbor etc. and can be remembered by extending that mnemonic as given below

I before E, except after C
Or when sounded “A” as in neighbor, weigh and weight
Or when sounded like “eye” as in height
And “weird” is just weird

Another variant, which avoids confusion when the two letters represent different sounds instead of a single sound, as in atheist or being, runs

When it says ee
Put i before e
But not after c
  • Where ever there is a Q there is a U too

Most frequently u follows q. e.g.: Que, queen, question, quack, quark, quartz, quarry, quit, Pique, torque, macaque, exchequer. Hence the mnemonic:

Where ever there is a Q there is a U too (But this is violated by some words; see:List of English words containing Q not followed by U)
  • When two vowels go walking the first does the talking

For words like “oat” or “eat”, here the second letter a is silent and first letter o and e respectively are pronounced in the examples

Letters of specific syllables in a word

  • BELIEVE
Do not believe a lie.
  • SECRETARY
secretary must keep a secret
  • PRINCIPAL
The principal is your pal.
  • TEACHER
There is an ache in every teacher.
  • MEASUREMENT
Be sure of your measurements before you start work.
  • FRIEND
A friend is always there when the end comes.
Fri the end of your friend
When Friday ends, you go out with your friends.
  • SPECIAL
The CIA have special agents
  • BEAUTIFUL
Big Elephants Are Ugly
  • SLAUGHTER
Slaughter is laughter with an S at the beginning.
  • PIECES
Pieces of a pie
  • ASSUME
When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.
  • SEPARATE
Always smell a rat when you spell separate
There was a farmer named Sep and one day his wife saw a rat. She yelled, “Sep! A rat – E!!!”

Distinguishing between similar words

  • Difference between Advice & Advise, Practice & Practise, Licence & License etc.

Advice, Practice, Licence etc. (those with c) are nouns and Advise, Practise, License etc. are verbs.

One way of remembering this is that the word ‘noun’ comes before the word ‘verb’ in the dictionary; likewise ‘c’ comes before ‘s’, so the nouns are ‘practice,licence,advice’ and the verbs are ‘practise,license,advise’.
  • Here or Hear
We hear with our ear.
  • Complement and Compliment
complement adds something to make it enough
compliment puts you in the limelight
  • Principle and Principal
Your principal is your pal
A rule can be called a principle
  • Sculpture and Sculptor
A sculpture is a kind of picture
  • Stationary and stationery
Stationery contains er and so does paper; stationary (not moving) contains ar and so does car
A for “at rest”, e for envelope

First letter mnemonics of spelling

  • DIARRHOEA
Dashing IA Rush, Running Harder OElse Accident!
Dining IA Rough Restaurant: Hurry, Otherwise Expect Accidents!
Diarrhoea IA Really Runny Heap OEndless Amounts
  • ARITHMETIC
A Rat IThe House May Eat The Ice Cream
A Red Indian Thought HMight Eat Tulips IClass
  • NECESSARY
Not Every Cat Eats Sardines (Some Are Really Yummy)
Never Eat Crisps, Eat Salad Sandwiches, And Remain Young!
  • BECAUSE
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
Big Elephants Cause Accidents Under Small Elephants
Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Exits
Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Entrances
  • MNEMONICS
Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage
  • GEOGRAPHY
George’s Elderly Old Grandfather Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.
  • TOMORROW
Trails OMOld Red Rose Over Window
  • RHYTHM
Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move

So, there we are. The transcript ends here!
OH BY THE WAY – CAN YOU REMEMBER THE LIST OF WORDS IN THE MEMORY TEST? I BET YOU CAN!

Small Donate Button

Do you love this subject, and want more? Here’s a fascinating TED Talk about amazing feats of memory that anyone can do:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6PoUg7jXsA&w=500&h=281%5D
Oh, and here’s another one! This one is about mind mapping, which is particularly important in recording new vocabulary.
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMZCghZ1hB4&w=500&h=281%5D
memoryPODPIC