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Backward recall & remembering noun genders

The value of the keyword mnemonic is mainly in forward recall — that is, in the example from the last week’s article, you learned that “carta” meant “letter” (“a cart full of letters”). 

When you see the word “carta”, the keyword mnemonic will help you remember that it means “letter”. But if you are asked for the Spanish for “letter”, how helpful will the keyword mnemonic be then?

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A study that looked at this question found that the keyword mnemonic was no worse for backward recall than the other strategies they employed. 

On the other hand, it was no better, either — and this despite being superior for forward recall (remembering the English when given, for example, the Spanish). 

The failure of the method was not due to any difficulty in recalling the keyword itself. The English meaning and the keyword are tied together in the mnemonic image, so it’s not surprising that remembering the keyword given with the English word was as high as remembering the English word given with the keyword.

But the problem is that generating the unfamiliar Spanish word from the keyword is much harder than remembering the familiar keyword from the Spanish.

Using The Keyword Mnemonic To Remember Gender

One other aspect of vocabulary learning for many languages is that of gender. 

The keyword mnemonic has successfully been used to remember the gender of nouns, by incorporating a gender tag in the image. 

This may be as simple as including a man or a woman (or some particular object, when the language also contains a neutral gender), or you could use some other code — for example, if learning German, you could use the image of a deer for the masculine gender, and so on.

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