Hooked on Mnemonics: A New Way to Conquer Foreign Languages?

By Thomas, Amelia | The Christian Science Monitor, September 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Hooked on Mnemonics: A New Way to Conquer Foreign Languages?


Thomas, Amelia, The Christian Science Monitor


The British, as a nation, are notoriously linguaphobic, perhaps it's a vestige of the grand old days of the empire, where one could comfortably ask for "A spot more Earl Grey, old chap, and a Scotch egg," and be understood anywhere from Shanghai to Srinagar.

Thus it is that language education in British schools has traditionally been a sorry and uninspiring affair. One of only two languages my own school had on offer was Latin. Compelling if you're planning on spending a lot of your time with a selection of long- dead philosophers; not so useful if you've decided on backpacking around Chile. The other was French. France is one of Britain's closest neighbors, so French therefore was deemed necessary to comprehend in case they should decide to invade.

Five years of thrice-weekly instruction left me and my classmates able to say "What a funny hat/cat/tree/grandmother," ask for a strawberry ice cream, and seek directions to the nearest tourist information office. On trying out any of the above on waiters in Paris, however, we would invariably be met with stony stares, arched eyebrows and a derisive "Quoi?"

So when it comes to learning a new language as an adult, teeth- clenching memories of drafty classrooms, ancient textbooks, and endless verb declensions immediately spring to mind. Taking pleasure in exploring the intricacies of another tongue is hard to imagine. Unless, apparently, you stumble across the Linkword Method.

"Try it," a friend enthused recently, on my casual mention that I'd always wanted to learn Spanish. "You'll love it! It's so easy; one weekend, and by Monday morning, I was speaking Mandarin, easy peasy!"

Although skeptical, I was intrigued by the notion of reading my favorite authors - Borges, Vargas Llosa, Manuel Puig - in their original form; the ability to converse with old ladies on rattling local buses in Mexico; ordering tapas in Seville without pantomime; and all without the hard slog of conventional language learning.

Could it really be true?

On arriving at the Linkword website, I was met by thrilling proclamations, money-back guarantees, and a bevy of testimonials singing the praises of a simple system based on mnemonic devices, invented by one Dr. Michael M. Gruneberg - who, it says, "has spent a significant portion of his life studying human memory'. "The Linkword Method," it explains, "is based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers data attached to spatial, personal, or otherwise meaningful information than that occurring in meaningless sequences or basic repetition."

It claims that 300,000 people worldwide have used it successfully. Next comes a simple example: the Russian word for "juice" is "sok." Picture yourself, it instructs, drinking juice out of a sock. Hold the miniscenario in your mind's eye for 10 seconds. Et voila - the word is allegedly locked into your mind.

So far, so good. I click on the Spanish course options. Levels 1 to 4, promising "Beginner to Advanced Spanish," is on sale and available for instant download, for the grand sum of $79.99. I glance over at the stack of abandoned language tapes, CDs, and hefty textbooks on my bookshelf, testaments to my abandoned attempts to learn Hebrew, which I gave up when my 3-year-old son laughed at me, then asked a waiter for the check on my behalf. I take out my credit card, and order before I can change my mind.

Less than 10 minutes later, I'm staring at Level 1 Spanish, successfully installed on my desktop. I take a deep breath, suppressing a shudder, and sip nervously at a cappuccino. Here goes - again. I read the instructions carefully. Ten seconds, it seems, is the magical time frame required to install each new piece of vocabulary in your mind. Ten to 12 hours, it explains, should be enough to get a good grasp on hundreds of useful words. I recall my friend's apparent new fluency in Mandarin, and press on bravely. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Hooked on Mnemonics: A New Way to Conquer Foreign Languages?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.