In previous articles I touched on the subject of mindfulness and memory tricks to remember English vocabulary. With this article I will be combining the two to show how you can easily remember even complex English vocabulary. What follows below are two examples of memory techniques which have been used for hundreds of years. When we simply look at words on the page, or repeat them to ourselves over and over we will fail to remember the words when we need them. What we need to do is use active memory which is visual and will help us to remember vocabulary in half the time.


My memory lane


Every other day I walk to my local gym. To practice mindfulness I have memorised the street names leading to the gym. I am going to single out a few streets to help with this exercise. The six streets I am going to use are the following: 'Newton Road', 'Norwood Avenue', 'Rowan Avenue', 'Tarnway', 'Laburnum Road', and 'Kings Avenue'.


I'm going to describe how I memorised each street name and then use a single street to show how vocabulary can be easily memorised.


Okay, so for 'Newton Road', I remembered I once had a karate teacher whose last name was 'Newton'. Where the street sign is at the top of the road there is a large bush. Using visual memory, I imagined my old karate teacher kicking and punching the bush.


For 'Norwood Avenue', I took the word 'Norwood' and thought of something which sounded similar. I came up with 'gnawing wood'. So, for Norwood Avenue I imagined a man standing there gnawing on a piece of wood. It sounds grim, but it did help me to remember the street name.


I remembered 'Rowan Avenue' by visualising the comedy actor Rowan Atkinson playing his character 'Mr Bean' jumping on top of the street name. 'Tarnway' was a difficult one, but I thought the street name sounded rather like the name of a ship. So, I imagined a large ship coming out of the street with the name 'Tarnway' on its side.


'Laburnum Road' was also a difficult one to remember. I imagined people there who hated the 'LA Times' so much that they would burn copies of it in the road. I thought 'Kings Avenue' was an easy one and just imagined some kings standing together at the top of the street drinking wine.


By visualising scenes in your mind, it is possible to trick the brain into thinking it has actually seen these things. That is why the memory sticks around and is not easily forgotten.


Layering in vocabulary


Okay, so we've memorised some street names and what can we do with them now? If we take 'Rowan Avenue', you'll remember I used the British comedian known as Rowan Atkinson. We are going to associate other words with the visualisation we have.


We could imagine Rowan Atkinson dancing and shouting out English words which are associated with comedy: fun, laugh, smile, happy, giggle, joke, cheerful, amusing, hysterical, ridiculous, television, movie and many other words.


Once we have layered that into the visualisation we could also use it to remember clothing. Rowan Atkinson's most famous character is 'Mr Bean'. The character is known for his clothing and we could associate these words with the character: socks, shoes, trousers, belt, shirt, tie, waistcoat, jacket, watch and so on.


With just one street name, we have the ability to memorise mote than twenty words and there's no end to the number of streets we could use. All you have to do is memorise a short walk.


My Memory Palace


You don't have to create an entire palace in your mind for this technique to work. Once again this technique has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is extremely effective as it concentrates on a place which is very familiar to you.


If we take your bedroom, you probably know every square inch of that room don't you? What's more if you close your eyes it is easy for you to imagine the room in great detail: the drawer handle that's broken, the floorboard which is a little loose, and the paint which is fading etc.

You can take a list of vocabulary items and place them, in your mind, throughout your bedroom. Once again this tricks your mind into thinking you have actually seen those items. This means the memory will form and remain in your memory palace. As an example, I will give a list of ten items and show how I use my memory palace to remember them. The items and people are:


A bottle of whisky 

A gold watch

A large red suitcase

A green and gold scarf

The Chinese actress 'Zhang Ziyi' A textbook on Mandarin
A rusty washing machine

An orange and an apple

A yellow snake

A gold and platinum box


You'll notice some interesting colours in the above list. This is to make the items stand out more and this will make them easier to remember. Here is how I would memorise the list using visual memory:


I'm standing in my bedroom, and I feel thirsty. I open the top drawer on my bedside table. In the top drawer is a bottle of whisky. While taking out the bottle, I hear something ticking. I open the bottom drawer and see a beautiful gold watch. I put the watch on and realise I am late for my trip to China. Under the bed in the room is a large red suitcase which I take out.


When I open the suitcase I find a green and gold scarf inside it. Someone in the room calls out my name and I realise it is Zhang Ziyi. She tells me not to forget my Mandarin textbook. I decide to wash some clothes for the trip. When I open my wardrobe I find a rusty washing machine I can use. On my desk in the room I see an orange and apple which I decide to drop into my suitcase.


From a chest of drawers I can hear a hissing sound, and a yellow snake climbs out of a drawer. I can't have a snake running around in my bedroom, so I look for something to put it in and find a gorgeous gold and platinum box which I lock the snake in.


There's no end to the number of rooms you can use in your mind. You will have to practice with this technique, but the number of words you can quickly remember with this trick is staggering. Try giving it a go, and please let me know how many words you were able to remember.


Hero image by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash