Memory Palace Update

A post to follow-up on my progress regarding my Spanish language study and the use of memory palaces.

I found the language structure delineated on the LINGUISTICATOR website to be excellent. And I would heartily recommend that site for anybody that is interested in studying any of the languages that they have on that site, Spanish, French, Turkish, Russian, and Arabic. I think that if you take the core courses which include linguistics, memorization techniques, and language structure it will be extremely helpful. Being able to download their PDF files for each section of the language makes a great reference.

The way the memory palace, at least for a language structure, works, is as follows (my interpretationat least):

There are 11 major categories in the language structure.Turkish,

Mapping Language Categories ==> Addresses

Mapping Language Categories ==> Addresses

What I have done is assigned 11 different physical locations/addresses within the city of Buenos Aires one for each of the major areas of the language structure. These are all places in the city that I know well and visualize in my mind’s eye very easily.


Then, within each address, I set up different zones for each of the major subsections of that individual portion of the language structure. For example, in my memory palace I assign nouns to the first apartment I lived in in BA. I attach here a list of the subsections for nouns (From Linguisticator).

Then, each subsection gets assigned to a ‘ZONE’ inside the address. A zone inside an address could be a room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room etc. For the list of Noun areas, there will be five (5) required zones for the five sub-sections (I - V).

Then inside that zone I assigned locations for the individual items inside the subsections of the category.

By the way … this is not meant to be an exhaustively detailed treatise on any portion of Spanish. If anyone has any questions on details I’ll be happy to fill in if you email me. I just wanted to give an overview of what I’ve been doing.

As the amount of information for the language categories is quite large, I use a structure called a QUINCUNX (developed by Aaron Ralby - Linguisticator) for storage.

The building block of a QUINCUNX - a rectangle with 5 circles, each circle is a ‘holding’ area

The building block of a QUINCUNX - a rectangle with 5 circles, each circle is a ‘holding’ area

A Magical QUINCUNX (100 item holding places) - MACUNX

A Magical QUINCUNX (100 item holding places) - MACUNX

Explanation: A Quincunx - this is a virtual structure that he created that allows one to place numerous items for memorization into one small “thing” that will occupy a small area within a zone/location. Then you place 5 of them together into a Macunx (Magical Quincunx – His names not mine). As you can see, by simple multiplication, a single macunx allows you to store up to about 100 items and you can have as many macunxes as you need.

I think of them as picture frames that I place on locations inside the zone.

I might place a picture of a macunx on the pillow of the bed in the bedroom for example. That macunx will contain the sub-section of all nouns for people and animals that are always masculine (63 items).

One places an item in the top left corner circle of the top left quincunx and attaches a visual image of some type to it, then the next item in the next circle, etc. Maybe use a story of some sort to connect one image to the next. E.g. The angel rides on the antelope, which is looking at the donkey, while the donkey goes to bite the ass of the ostrich sticking its head in the sand, and when the ostrich pulls its head out it sees the baby … etc. And of course, I’m using the Spanish words angél, antílope, asno, avestruz, bébe, etc.

This sounds like a lot of work. And in some ways, it is. But I can see that it works. I spent about 15 minutes trying to set up the storyline for the 65 or so items in this list of always masculine nouns, and within the first hour I had memorized about 90% of it. A week later, I still could run through the list in my head, about 75%. The interesting thing even is even when I couldn’t remember the entire story line of the entire list, any time I was tested on one of the nouns in that list I immediately remembered what classification it fell into.

The idea is to revisit the list every week or so just for a few minutes to confirm it is completely retained.

A sample of the first images I created for the long list to the right

A sample of the first images I created for the long list to the right

A QUINCUNX (25 item holding places)

A QUINCUNX (25 item holding places)

List of always masculine nouns to memorize Section II(b)

List of always masculine nouns to memorize Section II(b)

I am currently in the beginning of trying to memorize verb conjugations using a memory palace structure. I played with this quite a bit and I finally created a diagram in Microsoft PowerPoint that seems to work for me. He does say not to draw stuff out on paper, to do it in the mind, but I found being able to at least create a structure that I could look at first seems to help me. So, I am now trying to work on populating this in my head with 54 fully conjugated verbs. These are all the regular verbs in Spanish plus 51 irregular verbs that between them show all the irregular conjugation variations. And there are 16 tenses for each verb. A lot of patterns and repetition though. So the three diagrams below are what I have to memorize for each of the 54 verbs.


Above I show the diagrams that I created. And what goes into which place. As you can see if you compare these diagrams to that of the original macunx, I have modified it a little bit to suit what it is that I’m trying to memorize. I reiterate, the structure that he proposes is a foundation. One must customize it and work with it so that it suits you personally and nobody else.

Below that I have an actual sample for the verb Ser. Partial only as I was starting to get writer’s cramp, but you can see the pattern. Each corner of a triangle is 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person. And the triangle on the top is SINGULAR, that on the bottom, PLURAL.

Ser - Partial Sample-large.jpg

it is clear to me that doing this memorization for the structure of an entire language is something that will take me quite some time. And honestly, I don’t know how successful I will be. I am going to pursue it diligently but we’ll see.

The three main comments I have on this methodology are:

1. The simple act of going through the process required to populate the memory palace is an excellent memorization tool. I find myself remembering stuff now far more easily than I could before.

2. And I can also see that once you have committed a memory palace structure to memory the act of going to an address (Main Section of the language)  and the room (Sub-section of the Main Section) and a picture frame (individual items) in my mind happens far more quickly than it takes me the time to say it.

3. My difficulty is being imaginative enough to come up with images and story lines. But once I have … it works really well.

So, would you use this method if you wanted to have enough basic Spanish to be able to talk to a taxi and ask for a beer and ordering a restaurant? Probably not. But if you are serious about trying to learn a language and want to really understand the basic structure and memorize the foundation for that language, then I have to think that this is an avenue well worth exploring.

I’ve been continuing my regular conversational classes as well and my teacher says I would be a beginning level advanced student currently. So I think by the end of the year it should be ok.

If anybody wishes the documents I created above - happy to email them to you if you ask.