Japanese mnemonics

Posted on October 23, 2006 | Posted by evankirby

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As promised, here is a longer post on using mnemonics to study Japanese.
As we mentioned previously, it's quite easy to come up with mnemonics for Japanese because the number of sounds is limited. We're going to look at two types of mnemonics here:
1) Relating Japanese words to similar-sounding English words
2) Learning Japanese homonyms (words with the same sound) together

Before we start, there are a couple of other sites that include some useful mnemonics to help you remember a few Japanese words. It's all kind of random, but it's good to look at what other people use to help you in coming up with ideas of your own. Here are the sites:
1. Edochan's famous mnemonics - very whimsical and fun
2. Blog on Japanese mnemonics - exactly what we will talk about today!

First of all, what are mnemonics? Basically, a mnemonic is a trick or shortcut that you use to help you remember something. For example, many people use "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" to remember the order of compass points, which must upset the fine folks at Post Cereals no end. This is a prime example of a mnemonic - it's easier to remember a sentence of words that follow grammatically from each other than to remember four unconnected nouns, and the order of words in that sentence gives you the order of the directions.

An example of a mnemonic to memorize the Japanese word 揺らす (yurasu, to shake something) would be the English phrase "shake your ass" (because "your ass" sounds a lot like "yurasu").

Because this is already an English phrase, those words are already related in your mind. It is far far easier to remember related information together than to remember unrelated information together. When you make a mnemonic, you are just using the already-present links between things in your head to convey new information - sort of a mental shortcut.
Some things to keep in mind when thinking of mnemonics:

1. Your brain remembers suprising or shocking things better than everyday things.
In remembering words, people often try to think of a short scene that encompasses the meaning of that word (like in the mnemonics blog link above). When you do this, make sure that the scene you come up with is something out of the ordinary.

2. Your brain is very good at filling in missing information

If you can get most of the way to remembering a word, your brain will fill in the gaps to complete it for you. For example, if someone asks you "what's the English name for a word that comes from a sound?", you might not be able to think of the answer right away. But if you're given the first letter of the answer, "o", your chances improve greatly.
In the same way, if you can think of a mnemonic that gets you close to the sound of the Japanese word you want to remember, most times your brain will make the necessary final corrections for you to spit out the word itself.

3. Other people's mnemonics don't work as well as your own.

This is doubly true of stories used to remember a word. Anything you come up with yourself, that uses people and images you know intimately, will be much easier for you to remember than something another person made up. So, all the examples here and on other blogs linked should only be taken as that, examples to give you an idea of how to go about making your own mnemonics.

4. They really do work!
We can't emphasize enough how useful a tool mnemonics are. If you just sit down and try to memorize 10 words from flashcards by looking at English (or a picture, etc.), you will spend longer and have a far lower degree of recall than if you make up a story or image for each word first.

5. Keep them short.
The simpler a mnemonic is, the easier it is to remember the mnemonic itself.


Finally, some examples:
1) Relating Japanese words to similar-sounding English words

はさみ (hasami, scissors)
Mnemonic hook: Sammy Sosa
Picture yourself coming home. You open your door, and Sammy Sosa is in your living room, cutting paper dolls with a pair of giant scissors. In your best Southern accent, you say "hi, Sammy!", and he waves his scissors back at you.

Since we've got ourselves a theme, here's one more:
操作 (sousa, operation/operating)
Mnemonic hook: Sammy Sosa
You see a crane swinging around wildly. you ask the guy beside you, "who's operating that crane?" He says, "Sosa", and you see it's Sammy Sosa behind the wheel!

絡む (karamu, to become tangled)
Mnemonic hook: caramel
Imagine your body being covered in twisted strands of melted caramel toffee, so sticky that you can't get out.


2) Learning Japanese homonyms (words with the same sound) together

柿 (persimmon), 垣 (fence), 牡蠣 (oyster), 花器 (vase), 夏季 (summer), 下記 (below)
All these words are pronounced "kaki"! So, it's easy to think of a sentence that connects them all:
A persimmon and oyster in a vase on a fence in summer, all in a picture that's written below! Just remembering this strange picture can give you 6 new words!

橋 (bridge), 箸 (chopsticks), 端 (edge), 梯 (ladder)
All these words are pronounced "hashi". So, something like this would help you remember them:
A ladder made out of chopsticks, at the edge of a bridge.

Try it yourself: look up all the words with a certain sound in the dictionary, and link them all together!
Using mnemonics well gives your brain the start it needs to memorize new vocabulary. We recommend it for your Japanese study!
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Comments

Posted by PeachClover | November 26, 2006 | 08:23:50

Bunbun Has a few!

heya(room)
imagine hair all over the room.

Okiru(to get up)
every time an anime character gets up, he says "ok".

ahiru(duck)
imagine a duck as a hero.

sakana(fish)
imagine a sack on a fish.

chiizu(map)
imagine chizliing out a map.

ochiru(to fall)
when you fall you say OUCH!

miru(to see)
imagine seeing yourself in the mirror.

nobiru(to extend)
Imagine you are at a bar and you order a drink, the tender slings it to you now: "if you don't extend your arm you get no beer" (because it's on the floor ;p )

Some thoughts on how to make your own:
these examples are mine and may not work for you, but I'll explain them to help anyone who's looking for unique words to make mnemonics.

niru(to resemble)
this sounds like "near" so I associate it as "to resemble is to be near in appearance" it's not the perfect use of the word, which maybe difficult for some, but sillyness helps make an association.

kanjiru(to feel)
this one only works if you associate kanji (the writing) with "expression of emotion) so for me, it's an instant click, but if you atleast know what kanji are then this phrase might ring a bell, "Kanji make me feel very angry."

Shinjiru(to believe)
being an anime junky, I've noticed if the characters find theirselves in shinjyuku weird stuff happens. And if someone tells you supernatural stuff is happening there, you better believe it. so I associate this word with a city.

mochiiru(to use)
this one is my favorite and most naughty. In Monster Farm, Genki's monster is called Mochi, and I have read many fanfics about them doing the naughty, so "Genki uses mochi, in bed."

Posted by Term papers | January 25, 2010 | 20:05:56

As You mentioned previously, it's quite easy to come up with mnemonics for Japanese because the number of sounds is limited. You're going to look at two types of mnemonics here:
1) Relating Japanese words to similar-sounding English words
2) Learning Japanese homonyms (words with the same sound) together.

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