Learning a new language sometimes implies a lot of memorizing: new words, grammar formulas, conjugations, exceptions. It can be pretty daunting at first, and that’s why I’m gonna introduce you (in case you still don’t know about it) to the magic and mysterious world of mnemonics.
Contrary to what you might think, mnemonics is not the name of a disease; it’s actually a term referring to memory or learning aids. It can be a rhyme, a visual map, an acronym or a phrase that reminds you of certain rules or words that are generally difficult to remember.
When I started learning German I needed to find a way to learn which prepositions go with accusative and dative or with both, and that’s when (thanks to a friend of mine) I first heard about Bufdog. A new dog breed? No. It was actually a list of prepositions that are always always always used with accusative in German:
Bufdog! That’s a memory aid in the form of an acronym. But there are many more types. Visual maps are also a mnemonic device, as well as associations in general. For example, if you want to learn how to spell the word ‘rhythm’ properly, instead of writing it down endless times, you can create a mnemonic sentence such as:
Rita Has Your Toe, Hurry up Moe.
The great thing about mnemonics is that they can be as personal (and as illogical) as you want; you can easily create your own in a way that actually says something to you. Languages are emotional pieces of knowledge, they’re not math. Normally you learn things faster when they are attached to a funny song, a funny moment, a weird situation, and when things are in context or associated to ideas that are relevant for you. What can be more emotional than a song? How about “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”? I bet that song has a version in almost every language. Well, use it in your favor, replace the original lyrics with those tricky prepositions that you want to learn but just can’t remember or with a short list of irregular verbs that are always conjugated in a specific way.
And last but not least, be creative and use your sense of humor to learn new words. For example let’s use the word tenedor (fork) in Spanish. Instead of writing a boring sentence like Yo como con el tenedor (I eat with the fork), you can write something weird like el tenedor tiene mal olor (the fork stinks/smells bad). It’s not only weird or uncommon but it also rhymes, which makes it perfect for memorizing. Do you want to know more techniques? Check out this page describing some interesting mnemonic techniques.