Vocabulary with 'memory palace' techniques

Curious if anyone has had good success by using any of the memory palace approaches that are available. I personally find that it is helping me increase the amount of vocab, but I’m not certain if these ‘multiple steps’ with remembering words or phrases will be as useful in conversation scenarios - when you need fluid access to words.

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The way I see memory techniques, whether it be simple mnemonics as used by wanikani, or memory palace, or any other, they’re extremely useful but only serve a purpose in the first stages of acquisition of a given material.
When you learn a large volume of new vocab for example, there is not a single technique that will allow it to be fluid from the get go. But there are techniques that will allow you to learn a much larger volume with ease and without having to, say, repeat them 40 times in a hour just for them to stick in short term memory. This is what mnemonics and the like do for you. They give you the opportunity to put new items in your short term memory easily by associating them to to things that are already familiar and creating striking stories. But this is just the first step of “knowing” something.
Down the line it’s through repetition and repetition and repetition over time that you will know a word. It’ll be a “reflex” eventually, and whether you used a mnemonic in the first place or not is completely irrelevant at this point.
So I wouldn’t worry too much about things not flowing naturally at first. That’s just a normal phase of acquiring a given material. But if down the line, months from now, you need to retrace a mnemonic to remember a simple word learned today, it simply means you didn’t get exposed to it enough.
Mnemonics only serve as shortcuts for first stages learning. For fluidity and deep acquisition you still need repeted exposure and use throughout time ! :slight_smile:


the way i understand memory palaces, they basically help you remember things by creating extra context for that memory. in particular if you’ve got a strong spatial memory that would work very well

the mnemonics of WK serve the same purpose, they create extra context to help remember items. but with language, the goal ought to be to get to a place where one can recall the word directly, without resorting to an mnemonic. by using the words frequently, we can reinforce them in our memory, and access them without doing the detour of whatever extra context we use (mnemonics, memory palace, etc.). the SRS gives us this repetition

building a memory palace for kanji does seem a bit elaborate to me. but in the end, whatever works for you is good ^^


There have been a few threads on using Memory Palace or Memory Palace like techniques for learning readings. Here’s the one I started back in 2019. Several others are referenced in it.

For me, I’ve been using a Person/Action setup for learning readings quite successfully, rather than the WK mnemonics. I found the WK mnemonics to have too many edge cases and misleads (see that thread if you want more info). I don’t know that that counts as the full “Memory Palace” since it seems to mean a lot of different things, but it works well for me.

I think any memory technique is only going to get you so far with language learning. There is, in my mind a difference between “remembering” and “knowing”, if you know what I mean. “Remembering” using any memory technique is just not going to cut it in a conversation, for sure. It’s just too slow. But “remembering” is a great first step that becomes “knowing” with time and practice. It’s a scaffold on which to build. It’s training wheels.

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As mentioned so far, whatever memory technique you use will get you to the point of recall. To get to the point of instant recall, the SRS will help quite a bit but there’s no substitute for actual reading and speaking.

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When you sleep, your brain orders memories by probing your neurons with different signals and you experience this as dreaming. Your decisions in response to the otherwordly context while you dream help the mind to process what are true and false outcomes for input.

Eventually, you will dream about your memory palace. And, not having the context of being asked a question, you will find the input/output to be complete nonsense. At such a point, your brain will almost immediately discard all of the associated connections as irrelevant to reality, you yourself will decide that while you’re asleep and for good obvious reason. When this happens, it is important for you to have already associated the vocabulary with your true experience of reality, memories which you will agree with the truth of even while you are sleeping, and thus they will “crystalize” to be present until your death.

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but I’m not certain if these ‘multiple steps’ with remembering words or phrases will be as useful in conversation scenarios - when you need fluid access to words.

your guess is correct, it won’t be.

automatic, intuitive usage of words can’t come from something like a memory palace because those kinds of techniques are not directly connected to the kinds of context that you will encounter and use the words in conversation - they’re more like temporary placeholders.

the only way to foster the kind of intuitive vocab knowledge that allows you to use it swiftly and correctly in conversation is reading and listening to native material. there, you will encounter the words in meaningful, real-life contexts which your brain will associate them with and be able to recall instantly in the relevant situations :relaxed:

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