In an attempt to improve memory in general I’ve taken up learning 50 or so French words a day. I’m using a French frequency dictionary as I think Tim Ferris and others have said, learning a foreign language can be tackled by learning the most frequently used words. I think the 2,000 most frequently used words in a language account for Ferris’ 95% comprehension. He then states that to get to 98% would take an additional 10 years or so of study.
My aim here isn’t really so much to become fluent in French as it is to develop out a taxonomy that I can access quickly for general memorization. So I’m learning the first 2,000 most frequently used French words as a bit of an experiment. I’m also learning their actual order as well, so for example it’s not enough for me to know that “celui” means “that” or “him”, I also need to know that it’s the 45th most frequently used word in the French language.
I’m borrowing from the major system for pegging, and then using the linkword system for actual word/definition association. Using/learning two systems simultaneously takes a lot of focus and I kept thinking my head was going to explode yesterday, but I was able to learn the first 50 fine and also each word’s place in that list. I tested myself this morning and was able to recall all 50 in order easily.
50 words a day for a few weeks should be fine, but I’m already seeing an improvement in my speed from yesterday, so I’m assuming that I may be able to jump to 100 words a day in not too long. The linkword system is pretty powerful, it just takes a lot of focus to lock words in, especially words like “le”, “un”, or “y” because unlike nouns/verbs there’s no real obvious image to associate with them.
I did end up developing a mnemonic system for letters as suggested by Josh Cohen, but I found it much too complex for learning foreign words. It works great for learning strings of random letters.