Memory matters

Ever feel like you have the memory of a goldfish?  You’re not alone.  untitled (7)However much Omega 3 we manage to squeeze into our diets we all need a little help remembering things from time to time.  Mnemonics, literally meaning memory techniques, are a way of helping us and are especially helpful for visual or kinaesthetic learners.

Acronyms are a very common mnemonic. Take for example the Great Lakes in America from the previous post, Erie, Michigan, Ontario, Huron and Superior.  That’s 5 names to try and remember.  However, by rearranging them, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior, their initial letters spell out HOMES, something your mind finds a lot easier to remember.

Other examples of common mnemonics: Naughty Elephants Squirt Water is a way children remember the points on a compass or Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain to remember the 7 colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).  Also, in English we use the rhyme ‘i before e, except after c’ because believe it or not spelling can be difficult for us too!

Mnemonics  can be helpful in language learning.  For instance I remember being taught the Spanish subjunctive at GCSE level with the acronym WEIRDO, each letter representing a use.  In French I remember learning the être verbs in the Passé composé with a picture of a house depicting the different verbs.  Others learnt the acronym DR and MRS VANDERTRAMP.

So how can you apply mnemonics to learning English as a foreign language?

  • To remember the basics: Add an ‘s’ in present simple for She, He and It.  Well to me that quite simply spells out SHIT.  I have no problem with that being written at the top of a page if it helps you remember to check for this simple spelling change.
  • The order of object questions: Many different quirky sayings can help remember Question word, Auxiliary verb, Subject, Verb (QASV). Ten-year-old Spanish students liked Qué Asco Salchichas Verdes, whereas some more demure pre-intermediate adults came up with Queen Anne Sells Violins.
  • A good one I’ve seen on for remembering the use of for and since: For is used for how long something went on for, whereas since states the starting point in time.

The possibilities are endless.  One thing to bear in mind is that everyone is different.  What works for one person might not work for you.  Nevertheless, there’s no harm in trying mnemonics as a strategy in committing items to your long term memory.


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