All single A1 and A2 level courses 25% off! Use the code START.

What is the mind palace and how to use it while learning with SuperMemo?

Palacio, fot. Dorian Mongel



Are you interested in creative ways to learn foreign languages? If so, you’ll like one of the mnemonic techniques, called the mind palace. Find out how to use it and combine its possibilities with our courses.

Introduction

When learning languages, we sometimes wonder what to do to make memorization even easier, especially if we are just taking the first steps in a given language. The SuperMemo method is based on repetitions planned by a special algorithm, which suggests the moment and material to be repeated, based on, among others, your progress in the course. You can further facilitate memorization, for example by engaging various senses in the learning process. Today, we will introduce you to one of the methods that make memorization easier and show you how to use it together with the SuperMemo application.

What is mnemonic technique?

The term “mnemonic” comes from the Greek language, in which mneme means “memory”. So, the name itself suggests that we will be dealing with ways to memorize information and recall it when needed.

Thanks to various mnemonic techniques, memorization should be easier and faster than with other methods. These techniques often rely on rhymes, associations, and humorous elements – all to make the information stay in memory as long as possible.

Interestingly, the roots of mnemonic techniques date back to the 6th century BC. Renowned ancient creators and philosophers, such as Simonides, Cicero, and Aristotle, devoted attention to memory and memorization issues.

Mind Palace – Basics of Mnemonics

So, what is the mind palace, also known as the method of loci or memory palace method? It is an elaborate mnemonic technique that takes advantage of our spatial memory. This means that the key to this method is the visualization of a specific space with as many details and smaller locations as possible, such as: a family home, a street with shops, a royal palace, and others.

After imagining a given space, we can divide the information from a larger topic into smaller parts, which we assign in our memory to a specific location, for example, the bedside table next to the bed in the bedroom or the table located in the dining room. Then, when we need to recall specific information, we will imagine our memory palace and find the place where we “stored” it. We can even imagine the exact path that needs to be taken to reach the point we chose with the information placed there.

To enhance our memory ability, we can use additional properties of our memory, beyond just spatial memorization, such as connecting information with sound, color, or scent.

The memory palace not only allows for good memorization of information but also the order in which that information should be recalled – this is particularly helpful, for example, when preparing a speech that we want to deliver from memory. By establishing specific paths from one piece of information to another in our palace, it will be much easier for us to recall the sequence of arguments that we intend to present in the speech.

Initially, it will be easiest to use the imagination of a place we know very well, visit it every day, and know all its nooks and crannies. However, over time, as we gain experience in this method and need additional spaces, for example, for other segments of knowledge, we can try to imagine fictional places.

Mind Palace Method in Culture

The mind palace, due to its interesting and elaborate form, often appears in various cultural texts. Here are a few examples:

  • TV Series Sherlock (2010) – In this production, the main character, Sherlock Holmes, frequently uses the mind palace method, thanks to which he recalls memories and facts necessary to solve detective puzzles. His mind works significantly faster than the rest of society on a daily basis, and entering the palace allows him to slow down for a moment and connect facts hidden in various memory locations.
  • TV Series The Mentalist (2008) – In this series, besides the mind palace, many other mnemonic techniques appear, used by the protagonist – Patrick Jane, who collaborates with the police on criminal cases.
  • Books Hannibal (1999) and Hannibal Rising (2006) – In the novels by Thomas Harris, one of the most recognizable serial killers – Hannibal Lecter – takes center stage. In both works, the writer provided us with a detailed description of the mind palace used by Lecter. His space is based on the rules provided by the ancients – Simonides and Cicero. Hannibal’s palace itself has a form similar to a museum with long corridors and marble floors.
  • Video Game Twin Mirror (2020) – Sam Higgs, the main character whom we control in the game, uses the mind palace to return to memories from many years ago. Thanks to this, he collects clues that can help him solve the mystery of his friend’s death.

Mind Palace and Language Learning with SuperMemo

The mind palace technique can be a great support for learning foreign languages, especially at the initial stages of learning a new language when we do not yet have a network of associations with its words. Thanks to this method, we can group vocabulary into smaller thematic sets and easily build associations that will help us remember new information for a longer time.

How to combine using the mind palace with SuperMemo courses?

There can be many ways – just as there are many options in creating a memory palace. However, if you are starting to learn a new foreign language from scratch, you can take advantage of the advice presented by Tim Doner in his TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNmf-G81Irs&ab_channel=TEDxTalks. He discusses examples of how he used the mind palace and other mnemonics to learn languages. Thanks to these methods, the man has learned to speak in over twenty languages!

A good additional solution may also be placing more difficult words learned on a given day in your mind palace, so that after some time, during repetitions, you can more easily recall them from memory through associations with specific locations in our imagined space.

Many people find idioms difficult to learn – mainly because they cannot be translated literally. In our mind palace, we can place entire scenes representing idioms, making it easier for us to remember them. Remember! The stranger and more humorous your associations, the more likely you are to remember information for a longer time.