Mnemonics are powerful tools for language learners. These mental shortcuts, often crafted as vibrant, imaginative scenes, are instrumental in assisting learners to internalize and recall challenging vocabulary. But even for the seasoned linguist, crafting the perfect mnemonic can sometimes be a Sisyphean task. Enter the realm of artificial intelligence, and the potential it holds for revolutionizing the art of mnemonic creation.
It's worth noting, however, that not all AIs are created equal, especially when it comes to producing usable mnemonics. We have to craft a clear and detailed prompt in order to get good results. If you go to an AI model like Chat GPT and just say, “Give me mnemonics for the following words…” – you’re not going to get good results. Here is a prompt you can use to generate decent mnemonic ideas:
Mnemonics are easy to remember images that stand in the place of new information that is difficult to remember. When learning a foreign language, we can use mnemonics to help us remember new vocabulary and content. Mnemonics must follow certain rules:
1) They must be things
2) They must be visual and vivid in nature
3) They may use either the spelling of the foreign language word, or the sound of that word as the basis of an association.
Let me provide some examples. The French word for one is **un**. For this, we can use the spelling and think of the United Nations as a mnemonic. The Arabic word for dog is **kalb** – we can use **kelp** as a mnemonic based on the sound. The Italian word for raspberry is **lampone** – we can use a lamp post as a mnemonic for this Italian word.
Based on these parameters, please create 3 mnemonic ideas for each of the following words in LANGUAGE:
You would, of course, then replace LANGUAGE with the language you’re looking to create mnemonics for. Be aware, however, that you’re not always going to get good results, and while this prompt is a starting point, you can continue to feed the AI examples of your own mnemonics to teach it how to create mnemonics that work for you particularly.
Also, while Chat GPT-3 showed promise, it's the advancements in Chat GPT-4 that truly shine in mnemonic crafting. Chat GPT4 is, unfortunately, only available in the premium version of Chat GPT at this time. While there's a cost associated with such precision, the investment can pay dividends in accelerated language learning if you’re really committed to using mnemonics and want some help taking away the burden of generating ideas, particularly when you’re stuck.
Let’s look at the examples Chat GPT4 churned out for some mnemonics to learn Spanish words for fruit:
- Froot Loops: Visualize a bowl of Froot Loops.
- Fruit Hat: Imagine a colorful hat made of various fruits.
- Free-toot: Visualize a fruit that sounds a horn whenever it's free.
la manzana (apple)
- Mansion: A giant apple-shaped mansion.
- Man's Ana: A man named Ana holding a giant apple.
- Man's Hand: A hand holding an apple.
la naranja (orange)
- Narnia: A wardrobe from Narnia made of bright oranges.
- Nar-row Ninja: A ninja throwing oranges like they're ninja stars.
- Narwhal: A narwhal with an orange for a horn.
el plátano (banana)
- Plane-toe: A plane with bananas for wings.
- Plate-and-O: A plate with a banana shaped like the letter 'O'.
- Play-tune-O: A banana as a musical instrument playing tunes.
la fresa (strawberry)
- Fresh, eh?: A strawberry with a Canadian maple leaf.
- Free-say: A strawberry that speaks whenever it's set free.
- Fry-sea: Imagine frying a strawberry by the sea.
la frambuesa (raspberry)
- Frame-Boo-Say: A spooky photo frame with a raspberry.
- Framed-buzz: A raspberry framed with buzzing bees.
- Fro-am-Bus: A frozen raspberry getting off a bus.
la uva (grape)
- Lava: A volcano spewing grape lava.
- You've-a: A hand presenting you with a bunch of grapes.
- Luv-A: A heart made of grapes.
el limón (lemon)
- Limo-on: A limousine that's bright yellow.
- Lee-moon: A moon made of lemons.
- Limb-on: A tree limb with lemons hanging from it.
la pera (pear)
- Pair-a: Dancers dancing in the shape of pears.
- Pier-a: A pier made of giant pears.
- Peer-arrow: An arrow pointing to a pear.
- el melocotón (peach)
- Mellow-coat-on: A relaxed coat made of peaches.
- Melo (as in Carmelo Anthony) Cuts-One: NBA player Melo cutting a peach.
- Melo-tone: A peach making a melodic tone.
While some of these mnemonics are unusable, others are genuinely useful and creative. Most are also things I would not have thought of myself.
In this modern age, as linguists and language enthusiasts, we're uniquely positioned to merge age-old mnemonic techniques with cutting-edge AI technology. By doing so, we not only optimize our learning process but also push the boundaries of what's achievable in the realm of language acquisition.