For example, to remember that carta means letter in Spanish, the word 'cart' could be used as a keyword. An image of a letter lying in a cart is then imagined, allowing the learner to derive the meaning from the mental image (more on this technique here).
The use of such mnemonics has generated interest among teachers but is still a subject of debate among researchers - are they mere tricks which are quickly forgotten, or can they genuinely improve memory performance?
|Image by Jack_Snell|
However, Gruneberg (1998) rejects their criticism of the technique. He argues that their research prevented immediate rehearsal of items. According to his own findings where immediate rehearsal was permitted, then the keyword technique resulted in superior recall. And this is more similar to what language students will tend to do in real life.
Gruneberg, M.M. (1998). A commentary on criticism of the keyword method of learning foreign languages. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 12(5), 529-532.
Thomas, M.H. and Wang, A.Y. (1996). Learning by the keyword mnemonic: looking for long-term benefits. Journal of Experimental Psychology - Applied, 2(4), 330-342.