A Perfect Recall Rate: Case Study #1 – Report #1

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case-studies-50_Welcome to the first ever Smart Language Learner case study report.

I’m doing a case study on the Udemy video course: How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of any Language. It’s all about using memory palaces to learn foreign vocabulary.

For more info check out my introductory post of the case study:

http://www.smartlanguagelearner.com/case-study-1-announcement/ 

Note: the links to the course are affiliate links, which means that, should you purchase, I’ll receive a commission(at no additional cost to you). I’m still in the process of experimenting with this product, so far it looks very good but I can’t give my full recommendation yet. I need to spend more time using the course, first. Only the best language-learning tools will eventually get my recommendation.

News flash!

I have decided against reporting weekly.

Why?

I think it’s better to report only when I have something interesting to share. If there’s nothing new to say, why post the same stuff I posted a week earlier?

That would be a bit disrespectful to you, my reader. So while all that may mean a new report every two weeks, it could just as easily mean a new one every three days! It depends…

Okay, with that out-of-the-way, let’s dive into the specifics of this case study report.

stopwatchTime

This report is about the first week of April. From the 1st to the 7th.

In this first week, I managed to squeeze in four 40-minute sessions. My aim was to have four or five of those sessions, so I’m satisfied.

Apart from the first session, where I had to revisit some course lessons, I spent all of the time on either creating mnemonic images (within the memory palaces), or rehearsing the memory palaces.

How did I do?

Let’s continue with the …

Results

30 newly learned (mostly advanced) Spanish Words.

On average, I learned about 7 new words in each session.

Just did a check, and was able to recall all 30 words quite easily, which means a 100% recall rate. (I do expect this to drop, though, as I learn more and more words with this method)

Just a few words did take a little longer to recall. For them, there’s always the option to change the images and make them more memorable.

plus-smallThe Positive

On the positive side, two things stand out.

The first one, is the impressive recall rate. No, we’re not talking about 5000 words, but I’m just a beginner and already capable of producing recall rates like this.

Secondly, maybe fueled by my early successes, it’s great fun to actually create these memory palaces!

To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking forward to doing all this. I don’t consider myself a good visualizer and it looked like a lot of work.

But right from the first session, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s more like play. As a bonus, you get motivated when you notice you’re remembering much more than you thought you would.

The origins of this method may be old, to me it feels like a novelty. It’s interesting. Even my wife was listening attentively when I explained her the method. She used some of the principles to help my step daughter remember the names of the major muscles of the human body. She scored a 95(out of a 100)!

I see lots of potential in this method. Not just for Language Learning, but for a range of other stuff. You could use it to remember boring stuff that otherwise just wouldn’t stick. And what about important life lessons that you always seem to forget just when you need them? Take a daily walk through the memory palace of your life’s wisdom!

One of the great things about the method is that you can remember in sequence. I can drum up the 30 words in the exact sequence I learned them!

The Negativemin-small

Negative may be a bit of a heavy word here, but there are definitely some questions left.

In the very first session I had to substitute a word for another because I was stuck on how to create a mnemonic image for it. I’m sure it had a lot to do with a lack of confidence in my ability to create good mnemonic images. I found out later that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Just use what comes naturally to your mind.

To be honest, I don’t consider it an issue anymore.

What I do consider a potential problem is the speed of implementation. If I get more experienced in using this method, does it get faster to create the mnemonic images?

Yes, it’s entertaining to make them. But is it an efficient way of spending your precious language-learning time?

Maybe I’m just slow at it, and you would be faster, but on average I was able to learn about 7 words in 40 minutes. So far, with a perfect recall rate. But 7 words in 40 minutes, is that good or bad?

I’ve always learned words without recording their success rate, so it’s hard to say for now. Maybe future case studies on other vocabulary methods will shine light on this.

Some things to remember: You can try to learn 50 words in 40 minutes with rote learning but you’d probably forget 49 and you’d have no method to re-remember them. And that’s where this course really shines. Forgot a word? Just take a walk through your memory palaces and you’ll likely find it!

The Future

All in all, it’s still early days. There’s quite some time left for this case study. Things can change. One thing is for sure: This is a valid memorization method and it’s fun to use.

If you’re already convinced by my experiences, you can buy the course here.

There’s still time to join me so we can do this case study together. However, as I said earlier, note that I can’t give the course my full recommendation yet. But … so far, so good.

I will be back to report soon. We’ll see if the impressive first results hold up.

Also, keep an eye out for the next Ask the Experts post. I hope to finish it in the coming week!

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Comments

  1. Hi Noel,
    This method sounds like what every language student was looking for. I kid you not.
    I would be more than happy to be able to remember 7 new words in each session!!
    I don’t think I have ever been able to reach this goal. I wish I could do that. My memory is quite bad.
    Anyway, I would like to know more about what you exactly did in order to build this so called memory palace. I mean the first steps.
    It would be kind of you if you reported a little example.
    Thank you, Luke.

    • Noel van Vliet says:

      Hi Luke,

      Yes, so far, I have to say that I’m impressed. But we’ll have to see what happens later down the road when I have more words to remember.

      As I explain in my previous post, the method consists of just a few essential steps:

      Creating the locations of the memory palaces (preferably a real location you know well)
      Creating stations in each memory palace (location)
      Creating and placing mnemonic images, representing the words you want to learn, in the stations
      Verifying that the images are working
      Rehearsing your memory palaces by imaginarily “walking” through them

      To get the exact details, I think it’s best to either buy the course or contact the creator. I don’t think it’s right for me to put it all out here.

      The creator is Anthony Metivier and can be reached here. He seems like a great guy and is always happy to help. Don’t hesitate to contact him.

      All the best,
      Noel

      • Hi Noel,
        Of course, I didn’t expect you to provide and explain each and every details of this fantastic method to me. As you said” I spent all of the time on either creating mnemonic images (within the memory palaces), or rehearsing the memory palaces.”
        and
        “She used some of the principles to help my step daughter remember the names of the major muscles of the human body.”,
        I would have liked to know what your own palace is made of, some examples of your stations in particular, etc.
        You know, a simple illustrative example can be much better than thousands of words. I know that it might sound ironic as we are talking about remembering new words 🙂
        Cheer, Luke

        • Noel van Vliet says:

          Luke,

          My memory palaces are based on locations that I know well. For example, one of them is the center of the town I’m living in.

          I also have a supermarket, bars, houses and a school. They each represent a letter of the alphabet.

          The stations are places within those locations. I try to create a natural path through those locations taking into account the important principle of not crossing your own path.

          For each station, I create a mnemonic image representing a word.

          I will try to give you an example but keep in mind that sometimes I use Dutch (my native language) words to decipher them.

          For the Spanish word cabestrillo, which means sling, I see a “CAT”, with a “BES”(Dutch for berry) with a “3” on it. So now I have Ca(t)+bes+three or ca-bes-tri(it sounds like t(h)ree in both Dutch and Spanish), then suddenly a rapper appears and says “YO!”.

          So now we have cabestrillo. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but it works greatly. Sure, you could argue that we have “caTbestrillo” instead, but really after saying the word a few times you know the T shouldn’t be included. If the image isn’t working you can do something with the T so you know it shouldn’t be included (like having the rapper wear a shirt with “-T” on it, or something)

          Now we’ve figured out the word, we still don’t know what the word means. So I see the rapper breaking a paw of the cat and then the cat suddenly wears a sling.

          I know it looks complicated but recalling an image(if it’s working well) is a matter of seconds. It looks like a lot of work, but it’s actually really entertaining to create them. You have to use what comes to your mind naturally. The more ridiculous, the better.

          When you have, let’s say, 10 words (less is fine, too) in a memory palace, you can then take an imaginary trip through it, passing by all stations as you go remembering the words one by one.

          Hope that helps!
          Noel

          • Thank you Noel! That’s what I call an useful reply 🙂
            Let’s see if I got it right.

            1) Get the word that you want to memorize;
            2) make an image from it (you can use your own language), no matter how strange it might appear. The stranger it sounds, the better;
            3) the image must “carry” also the meaning of the word;
            4) Put the image into a location of the memory palace…but,

            Each location is a “letter” (A, B, C), isn’t it?
            Do you put the image into the location C (cabestrillo, target language) or S (Sling)?

            Greetings, Luke

          • Noel van Vliet says:

            You’re welcome, Luke.

            Number one and two of your assumptions are correct. For number three: as a guide, it’s best that the image conveys the word (how you say it – the sound) and the action in the image the meaning. Now this isn’t always possible and even in the example I gave you it isn’t 100% true, but you should aim for it to keep things clear. It helps when you try to remember the word.

            Yes, each location (memory palace) represents a letter of the alphabet of your target language. However, with some languages or if you’re learning hundreds and hundreds of words you can create a memory palace for the first two or more letters. For example, in Spanish you may want to create a memory palace for words that start with “ac”: aceptar, acabar, acá etc.

            Hope that helps!
            Noel

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I’m in…just working my way through the first few lectures!

    It’s ironic I was looking into this course when I stumbled upon your first post and have been following the last week or so. I’ll be using it initially for French vocabulary and am hopeful.

    • Noel van Vliet says:

      That’s great to hear, Jacqueline! Thanks for your support.

      Are you an intermediate learner of French? Or a beginner? I think it’s easier if you’re at the intermediate level. Because that’s where you’re already familiar with word patterns and the sound of the words, so you don’t have to create such elaborate images. Although, I have no experience using the method as a beginning learner of a language, I would imagine that it’s harder.

      Thanks for your comment, and please share your results with us!

      Noel

      • Jacqueline says:

        Thanks Noel!

        I’ve been learning off and on for years and probably sit at the lower intermediate level – a little all over the board really. I’m hoping to change that and make some leaps in my studies.

        I have to admit my first go at a memory palace has not gone so well. I don’t know if maybe the words I picked are causing me the difficulty and will try some others. Have you found a particular group of words to be easier (eg. nouns vs verbs, vs adj…etc)?

        I really like the idea of memory palaces so am hopeful I will sort this out and be able to make it work for me.

        I’m excited to follow your results too.

        Jacqueline

        • Noel van Vliet says:

          Jaqcueline,

          I don’t know how you set up your earlier memory palaces, but my impression is that they must be well structured. This course should help you doing that.

          No I haven’t yet found a particular group of words easier. I would think verbs are easier because they easily convey an action, and thus, the meaning of the word. But I just counted and found relatively few verbs among my words. Just 14 of the 60 memorized words, so far. I do have quite some adjectives, which are often derived from a verb.

          One thing that was bothering me at the start of it all was a lack of confidence in my ability to do it right. Sort of a perfectionism. Just make the images with what comes up in your mind. You can always change them later if they don’t work.

          Thanks
          Noel

  3. Thanks again Noel. I think I got it.
    What I’m trying to figure out now is whether the method is worth the time that you must spend in order to build your own memory palace. Moreover, at beginning, it might take a lot of time to find out what sort of “building” work well for you.
    The video lessons are all in English that is just my target language. I mean, I might miss some important details since I’m still not very good at listening English..even though I listened to the first free lesson, and it really doesn’t seem so difficult to understand.
    Finally, what I’m most afraid is to see my palace “razed to ground” because I put too many words into it or I was not be able to build it properly.
    AnywayI think I will continue following your process of experimenting before making a decision.
    I hope I’ve made myself understood.
    Cheer, Luke

    • Noel van Vliet says:

      Luke,

      Yes, setting up the memory palaces does take some time, but once done, you can use them for many words.

      You shouldn’t worry too much about the locations of the memory palaces. Just use places you know well, like your house, houses of family members or friends, shopping centers or streets preferably linked to the first letter of the words you plan to place there. For example, in a memory palace of a street that’s called “Baker Street”, you only place words that start with B.

      It may feel a bit awkward creating the memory palaces at first. I thought I had made mistakes, but they’re working just fine. There’s a certain perfectionism that bothers us at times. Your memory palaces doesn’t have to be perfect, just make sure you follow a natural path, don’t cross your own path and make the images memorable.

      I think this method is definitely worth your time. Whether this is the case for learning 1000’s of words, is another matter. I don’t know yet (maybe an idea for a future case study). But even so, it would be still be an excellent method for remembering a few hundred words words or so that you keep forgetting.

      About the videos: in Firefox (maybe in other browsers as well) you can slow down the video/audio speed. It should make it easier to understand.

      Thank you!
      Noel

      • “it would be still be an excellent method for remembering a few hundred words words or so that you keep forgetting.”

        I admit that I hadn’t considered that. Excellent idea, Noel!
        In fact there are a few words that I keep forgetting, which makes me feel angry. I’ll try to build a small..hut to test it. 🙂
        Thank you, Noel. I think it’s all for now.
        See you next, Luke

  4. If I get more experienced in using this method, does it get faster to create the mnemonic images?
    ————-
    This is an old post… but I wanted to share couple of ideas for any one reading this.
    1. Its not as much of an experience issue in getting faster.. Yes experience helps. But what helps is having a belief either in yourself (I can remember things easily) or in the system.
    2. For improving speed. Time Yourself.
    Take a stop watch and put a small deadline – ” I’ll spend 10 seconds on creating the mnemonic image and then another 10 seconds to attach the meaning.”
    The more you deliberate in finding the perfect mnemonic, harder it becomes.
    like in your example
    cabestrillo. – You think Cabs + Trill (star trek) + o (Trill is saying ow, ow ow… with arm in sling in a Cab ride)

    Even though I like Anthony Meteiver’s course, he is still underestimating the power of mnemonics. You don’t necessarily need to create ridiculous stories or images for mnemonics.
    Mnemonics are powerful because of 2 simple things
    1. Images 2. Connection between images.

    That’s how our brain memorize naturally… You can even memorize it with boring images…

    So if you time yourself… and with a vocab list, it’d be pretty easy to memorize 50 words a day or something.

    The best thing about mnemonic based memorization is longevity of your memory.
    In rote memorization, you have to do it months on end… but with mnemonics… once you reach a certain threshold… all you need to do is just flick thru your images once in a while and it’ll be refreshed in manner of seconds (that’s how fast you can go through your contents in mnemonics)

    Heres’ a test you can try…
    Take 25 new words… Create memory palaces and then memorize them…
    Repeat and recall 2-3 times the whole list (Do all of this in one sitting)…
    Then set a reminder, say 30 days from today for you to test the recall of the 25 vocab list.

    Go through the list on day 31 and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised how high your recall is…

    My Recall after 40 days was 90%… with boring images…

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