How To Use Visualization for Memorization

By OptiLingo

Most people associate memorization with flashcards and hours spent staring at a dull book. This may be what a lot of people do, but these methods do not lend themselves to easy memorization.

In Part 1, we looked at some actions you can take to break memorization down into chunks that you can more easily manage. In Part 2, we are going to show you how visualization can help you more easily memorize words and grammatical concepts.

The Key Is in Active Memorization

The traditional means of memorizing are largely passive. That is why it seems to take forever for you to commit things to memory – you’re basically pouring the information into your brain and hoping it stays without any further assistance. While this can work if you do it often enough, it is incredibly inefficient.

In contrast, active memorization makes you process what you have learned, then organizes and structures it in a way that makes sense to you. Essentially, you are paraphrasing what you are learning so that it fits into your brain in a way that you can more readily access it.

Paraphrasing information can be done in many ways. Here are a few suggestions for ways to paraphrase what you are learning.

  • Write it down in your own words as a summary.
  • Create a cheat sheet that you can refer to as needed; the cheat sheet can be whatever structure you find the most helpful to review.
  • Explain it to someone else. This is best done with another person since they can tell you if it makes sense, but you can also explain things to your dog or cat if you don’t have a person handy.
  • Create a mental image of it. Visualization is key for committing things to memory. The visual can be of an object, a chart, a web, or even a map.
  • Create a story and narrate the concepts. This can be very short, but make it memorable for the best results.

Find Other Sources

One of the most frustrating things about learning another language is that you are stuck with a book (at least in the beginning). If you use a book that is poorly written, you are going to have a very difficult time learning anything. Find another source and see if you can more easily understand the concepts the way that book presents them.

Even if you like the book or material you are using, find a couple of alternatives. By looking at the language from several different angles, it is more likely to leave a more lasting impression on your memory.

The following are some easily accessible sources that can enhance what you learn:

  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • Reddit

You will want to take what you learn with a grain of salt, but they give you some relatively reliable information since all of them use experts to update the information.

Creating a Visual and a Story

People are visual and emotional by nature. When you have a mental image of something, it creates emotions (even if they are rather tepid emotions), enough that what you saw is more likely to stick with you. It is why you are much more likely to remember a face but not a name.

Visualization can go beyond just what you see with your eyes – it includes the images your brain conjures while you think. One of the best ways to visualize something is through storytelling. If you are presented with a novel and a dictionary, you already know which one is going to leave a lasting impression.

All of the best methods of instructing students focus on visualization and storytelling because students learn faster and retain more.

The problem is that not everyone is creative. It’s ok, you don’t have to be. Here are a few things you can do to make your stories more memorable.

  • Create characters who are caricatures or exaggerations. When you are learning about colors, visualize characters who wear clothing that are obnoxiously obvious about the colors. When you exaggerate, your mind will hold the image better with what you are learning.
  • Create a story around a concept. Make the stories crazy and strange so that you can remember exactly what you wanted to remember. This is particularly easy when you are memorizing verbs.
  • Create analogies for the concepts. By equating the ideas to things that you know, your mind will latch on to the new ideas.

It will take a bit of getting used to these methods because you haven’t been taught to do this. However, it won’t take long before it is second nature, just like picking up a book and trying to memorize its contents. The difference is that it is both more enjoyable and more efficient when you put ideas into stories.


Prioritize What You Memorize

Not everything you study is of equal value. Of course, you cannot neglect the stuff you don’t like, but you can prioritize your learning in a way that makes it more natural for you to memorize.

If you already know something well, don’t start with it every study session. You already know it. Move on to the new stuff and start committing that to memory. It will make you feel less secure about what you know, but that is a good thing. Starting with what you do know gives you the wrong impression that you know the language well. The truth is you don’t. You just feel better because you know a small part of it.

These three tips will help you to better prioritize your memorization.

  1. Don’t study things you already know well and with which you feel comfortable.
  2. Spend more time with things that make you uncomfortable. It means you don’t know them and should be spending more time on them.
  3. Occasionally pull both the familiar and new material together to ensure you retain what you learned while pushing yourself into new territory.

Take Care of Yourself

This is something you are told in every other aspect of your life. Sorry to nag you here, but it is just as essential for your memory as it is for everything else you do.

To properly take care of yourself, you will need to manage several other aspects of your life.

  • Diet – You need to eat well to improve your memory. This means taking in few carbs (bread, candy, sugar, rice, noodles, etc.) and eat more protein, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Hydrate – Drink water over the course of the day to keep your body hydrated.
  • Sleep – Everyone’s body is different. Know what amount of sleep is right for you, then ensure you get it every night
  • Exercise – This is as easy as making sure you walk 10,000 steps a day. You can easily achieve that by parking further from the store, walking instead of driving, and moving around while you study.
  • UV Exposure – For all of the bad press it has gotten, there are actually some positive benefits to UV light. A little bit of exposure to the sun’s rays can help you perform better.
  • Stress – Learn what parts of your life cause you the most stress, then work to minimize it.
  • Productivity – Everyone has bad habits – you need to make sure that yours are not undermining your ability to be productive. Be aware of what your bad habits are and slowly work to eliminate them, especially if they are making you less efficient when you are trying to learn.