How to master a foreign language

How to master a foreign language

Consider that for some reason you decide to learn a new language. Now there could be a number of good reasons why you might want to do such a thing. Maybe you are interested in a particular country or culture, and believe that learning the local dialect will aid your understanding of the people. Or (which is more likely) maybe you are just someone who is planning a holiday abroad, and doesn't want to be constantly embarrassed because you have to spend minutes at a time flicking through a phrase book whenever you need to know the price of an item in a shop, or a drink in the bar.


Well whatever your reason for wanting to learn a new language, this section of the site promises to outline a system that with a little practice (and I do mean a little), will enable you to master the basics of any given language that you choose, in as short a period of time as 10 days. Yes that's what I said – just 10 days.

Before outlining the details of this system, I would just like to mention that if you were to use conventional techniques in order to master a new language, then you would probably be expected to spend between 1-3 years before you would be considered to be truly proficient in that language. The method that I shall now outline requires no such unnecessary time wasting.

The method

The first step is to transform a foreign word into a form that is immediately understandable, and thus memorable. For example, let us take the Spanish word for head 'cabeza.' Now at first glance this word might appear (at least to someone who is unfamiliar with the Spanish language), to be nothing more than a random collection of syllables. As a result of this, it is difficult to visualise. Just like a random series of numbers to someone who is unfamiliar with the peg system.

So if you wanted to commit this particular word to your long-term memory, in a way that will make it easy to recall, then the first thing that you would need to do, would be to transform it into a form that you can immediately visualise.

You could accomplish this task by simply breaking down the word 'cabeza' into the three distinct sounds, cab-beez-a. Now I feel sure that most people will have little difficulty in visualising a cab, or a bee, or even a bale of hay!

So the first step is complete. You have succeeded in transforming a seemingly meaningless collection of syllables, into three meaningful words. The next thing that is required, is for you to link these words together, in the manner that I described in how to link together memories, then to link all of those words to the English word 'head.'

To do this you could try visualising a large New York taxicab, filled with giant bees. Add to that image, an enormous head sticking out from the taxi's sunroof. Perched on top of which, is a huge bale of hay.

Close your eyes and really try to visualise this image. If you do this, then you should find that you will have absolutely no difficulty remembering that the Spanish word for head is cab-bees-hay, 'cabeza.'

Taxi cab

The above method may seem like a bit of a long-winded way to commit to memory foreign language vocabulary, but with just a little practice (and time), you should find that you will develop the ability to break down or transform a foreign word into an image (or group of images). Then to link together these images in your minds eye, in only a few short seconds.

In fact after using this system for a while, you may even find images beginning to form in your mind as soon as you hear a new foreign word, together with its English counterpart. Perhaps at this point I should offer you a few examples, to help you to understand more clearly how this system operates.


The Spanish word for murder is 'muerto.' Now try to think about how you might go about making a vivid (and thus memorable) image in your mind, out of this particular word.

Start by breaking the word down into its basic sounds. These are moo-hurt-toe. Now all three of these sounds are easy to visualise, as they are in fact words themselves. The next thing that you need to do, is to link the three words that you have created, to the English word 'murder.'

To accomplish this, you could imagine a cow with a hurt toe, being brutally murdered. Silly I know (and more than a little gruesome), but if you close your eyes and really try to visualise the above image, then you should find that it is difficult to forget. Especially if you fill the image with colour and sound.

Another example could be the French word for bread – 'pan.' Now this is an incredibly simple word to visualise. All that you really to do in order to remember this word, is to imagine a large pan, with a piece of French bread for a handle. Or alternatively, you could try imagining a pan pilled high with French bread. Really attempt to see this image and I assure you that the word pan and the word bread, will forever remain linked together in your memory.

The Spanish word for house – 'casa,' may be committed to memory by transforming it into the English word case. To do this you could try imagining yourself living in an enormous case, complete with windows and a door.
See yourself on the doorstep, placing your key in the lock, with passers by looking at your home with shocked expressions pasted on their faces. Again this is another memorable image. Which should be easy to remember.

case mnemonic

The French word for garden – 'jardin,' may be memorised by visualising a lovely green garden. In this garden you could imagine that there is a seven-foot glass jar, with a distraught looking James Dean imprisoned inside of it, angrily thumping his arms against the glass. Jar-Dean 'jardin.' A ridiculous image yes, but also a memorable one.

The main thing to remember is to make your link images as ridiculous, colourful, loud, and as all round vivid as you possibly can. You see by doing this, you will create a deeper impression in your memory. In effect, what you will be doing, will be not just filing a memory away in your mental library, but building huge neon signposts that point straight to it.

One possible method for memorising the French word for wine – 'van,' would be to visualise a large van, which is crammed full to bursting point with crates of the finest wine.

Tiempo is the Spanish word for time. In order for you to memorise this word, you might try imagining a clock (representing time), which has hanging from its centre – a long, brightly coloured tie. Protruding from the seam of which, is a long wooden pole. Tie-hem-pole, 'tiempo.' This image should be easy to recollect.

For my final example, I have chosen the Spanish word for face – 'cara.' This word is easily committed to memory, by simply imagining someone's face (maybe even your own), with the wreck of a car imbedded in the centre of it. Disgusting I know, but memorable.

Remember that it is the vividness, together with the absurdity of an image that makes it memorable. That is why most conventional textbooks are so hard to digest.

You should find that if you apply the above system to say ten words or phrases of your chosen language a day, for a period of approximately ten days or so before you travel to the country concerned, then you will know enough of that particular language, to be able to get by quite adequately.

It is simply a matter of picking the words that you are most likely to use on your trip. For example you will probably need to ask for directions, or order food and drinks in a bar or restaurant.

Now if you feel that you would like to test the effectiveness of the system that I have just outlined a little more thoroughly. Then you should be pleased to find that I have listed a selection of vocabulary from the French language.

If you spend a little time on the below list of vocabulary, then you should be pleasantly surprised at just how quickly you will learn the basics of this language.

The key vocabulary of the French language

English   French
one –         un
two –         deux
three –         trios
four –         quatre
five –         cinq
six –         six
seven –         sept
eight –         huit
nine –         neuf
ten –         dix
sunday –         dimanche
monday –         lundi
tuesday –         mardi
wednesday –         mercredi
thursday –         jeudi
friday –         vendredi
saturday –         samedi
spring –         le printemps
Summer –         l'ete
Autumn –         l'autumne
winter –         l'hiver
january –         janvier
february –         fevrier
march –         mars
april –         avril
may –         mai
june –         juin
july –         juillet
august –         aout
september –         septembre
october –         octobre
november –         novembre
december –         decembre
hello –         bonjour
good evening –         bonsoir
goodbye –         au revoir
please –         s'il vous plait
thank you –         merci
time –         temps
before –         avant
after –         apres
now –         maintenant
then –         alors
here –         ici
there –         il ya
where –         ou
what –         que
when –         quand
why –         pourquoi
how –         comment
over –         pardessus
under –         sous
on –         sur
in –         dans
me –         moi
you –         tu
he –         il
she –         elle
we –         nous
they –         ils, elles
them –         les
more –         plus
many –         beaucoup
most –         la plupart
much –         beacoup
good –         bien
like –         j'aime
big –         grand
little –         petit
of –         de
for –         por
from –         de
with –         con

Finally in this section, I would just like to make the point that if you do wish to learn a new language, then you must try to remember to review regularly the link images that you create.

This maintains both their strength and their effectiveness. For even memories that have been created by using the link method do degrade over time. They don't degrade as quickly as normal memories do, but they do degrade. So please try to review them regularly!

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