Language Learning and Memory Palaces

Some musings from Buenos Aires.

I’m doing very well. My jet lag is gone, I have settled into a steady routine of 18 hours of fasting a day, working out, and trying to study as much as I can. I am identifying bad habits in myself. Not that I did not already know about them. :-)

I have discovered that learning about how to learn is a really good thing, but it has led me down a bit of a rabbit hole. I found a website called which I find to be extremely useful.

My bad habit here is that if I spend time learning about how to learn languages in the methodologies, then it allows me to not actually do the language studying that needs to be done :-). And yet at the same time I feel I’m doing something productive.

The learning how to learn courses pointed me in the direction of memorization techniques. I tried some of them (the memory journey) and I was amazed at how well using images and visualizations of places worked when trying to memorize something relatively simple.


However, what I didn’t really get, was how one uses memorization techniques when you are trying to learn a language. Because a language is a gestalt of an enormous number of different structures. Nouns, verbs, articles, prepositions, verb tenses, vocabulary, etc. And when you want to say something, I couldn’t see how you would use these simple memorization techniques to be able to utter a sentence fluidly.

But the website with a gentleman called Aaron Ralby, really nailed it. There are two keys to learning languages. The first is a comprehensive ‘map’ of the language (which he has). And the second is larger and more complex structures for memory such as memory palaces and complex structures called quincunxes that can reside inside memory palaces. Then one uses these larger memory structures to store the ‘map’ of the language.

The map of the language is the breakdown of the various components of the language. For Spanish, I have identified 12 ‘palaces’, one for each component. Then one identifies ‘zones’ inside each palace for sections of the components of the language.

The 12 Main Components that form the map of the Spanish Language

The 12 Main Components that form the map of the Spanish Language

Example for Spanish: Nouns are one of the major components; Within that component, you have nouns which are masculine, feminine, neuter or both, singular, plural, etc. I think you get the idea. So I use my apartment for Nouns. The kitchen for feminine nouns, the living room for masculine nouns, and so on. As of today, I have done the highest level visual map. Next step is to populate my apartment (in my head) with the noun related data.

I am sniffing around this methodology. I just identified my 12 main palaces today. It will take a lot of work. But I can’t say that I’m afraid of work, so I’m not sure exactly what is stopping me from getting started. But I promise that by the time I write my next article I will have tried to use this methodology and I will report on it. I should have at least done nouns by that time.

As their (Linguisticator) tech support says, they are a young company, and I can see that they definitely need to refine their website and their teaching videos, but that should not detract in any way, shape, or form from the fact that the information in the videos are extraordinarily useful.

I think my Spanish has improved though, in spite of the 4 month hiatus in Asia. It hasn’t taken me very long to get back into the swing of things and I now notice that when I listen to the TV, or when I’m having conversations with people (and I actually have had a number of conversations now that go beyond ‘I want a cup of coffee’) that I can now understand close to 30 to 50% of what I hear being spoken. Which is always been my biggest issue with Spanish. So, I will struggle on, I am attacking Spanish on several fronts, and it seems to be working, albeit slowly.

However, as Aaron said, the best way is to go slow, quickly. Meaning no matter what I do, work on stuff every single day, and then at the end of whatever period you’re looking at, you can look back and be surprised at how much you accomplished.


For those who follow events in Thailand, I see that HRH must’ve come to a meeting of minds and pocketbook with Chan Ocha to denounce the princess from running for public office (which shut down her run in a heartbeat). And unfortunately, I think that the princess running for Prime Minister might’ve been one of the best things that happened for Thailand politically for a long time. Of course, that moron is going to do whatever Chan Ocha tells him. After all, what strong man has ever voluntarily given up control of a country he is looting? Makes me so angry. But talk about something I have no control over.

Interesting study out from the Pew Research Center that says that the people who are the most outspoken generally seem to be the least informed about the subject that there being outspoken on. Does it remind anybody of various people on the world stage …? Trump?  Maduro? Brexiteers? Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Putin?

There is certainly no shortage of ill-informed, egomaniacal, moronic people and tribes today. Do any of these parties have any understanding of economics whatsoever? I think the answer is ‘not’!

When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!
— Whathisface .. March 2018 (so how's that going for the world 1 year later?)

Loneliness is definitely different than being alone. Isn’t there a song with that title? And I struggle constantly with this. I like being alone, but I am lonely. And the lonely part does lead me to do some egregiously silly things. Ah well. Hopefully when I grow up, I’ll do better.


I have noticed recently that when I eat, if I’m not careful about quantity (especially if there are carbs or sugar involved) that it acts like a sleeping pill. I’m monitoring this closely. I’m not sure exactly why I have started being affected like this. Am I fasting too much? Unfortunately it isn’t as easy to go get blood tests like it is in Thailand. I have to go see a doctor and get a note for it. How stupid!

Listened to a podcast from the Knowledge Project. Interview with Atul Gawande. Really interesting guy. Podcast was nice to listen to. Three things I heard in the podcast that are worth pondering on.

1.      For 99.99% of human history we have been governed by ignorance.

2.      What does it mean to be good at what we do?

3.      We have a high propensity and forgiveness for mistakes when we don’t know what the right answer.