Teach Tricky Words with Mnemonics

Recommend Tactilingo


Would you believe that my students love encountering difficult words in French?

No, they’re not gluttons for punishment…. They’re just excited about getting to use mnemonics, a learning technique that helps information retention or retrieval in the human memory by associating words with images, sounds or stories. Besides it being a great tool for remembering tricky words, mnemonics are really fun and engaging.

Here’s how it works. 

Step one:

I ask them to share with their neighbors what comes to mind (keywords) when they see or hear their new tricky words? I tell them that there are no right or wrong answers. Keywords often differ from one person to the next. 

Once they’ve shared with one person, I ask them to share with the class if they like. I write their keywords on the board and then encourage them to choose the ones that resonate with them. 

Here are some examples: 

Example #1 – cheval > (sounds like) Chevy

Example #2 – piscine > (sounds like) piss in

Example #3 – maison > (sounds like) maze on

Example #4 – fromage> (sounds like) fro (as in afro) Madge (from the Simpsons)

Step two:

Students then link their keywords with the meanings of their new words in the form of an image or a story. The more outrageous the better. It’s crucial that they take the time to close their eyes and picture the associations. 

Here are some examples:

Example #1

cheval > (sounds like) Chevy 

+ (meaning)  horse 

= Imagine a horse in the back of a Chevy Truck


Example #2

piscine > (sounds like) piss in

+ (meaning) swimming pool 

= Imagine a little kid standing in a pool and the water gradually turning yellow 


Example #3

maison > (sounds like) maze on

+ (meaning) house

= Imagine a maze on the roof of a huge house


Example #4

fromage > (sounds like) fro (as in afro) Madge (from the Simpsons) 

+ (meaning) cheese

= Imagine a huge chunk of cheese on Madge Simpson’s afro.


Mnemonics are a great way of kick-starting students’ short-term memories; however, without practice and repetition chances are their recall will suffer.


This is where Tactilingo comes in. With our multisensory games, students get to practice as much as they need to until they’ve truly understood the meanings and sounds of their new words, ensuring long-term retention, which in turn boosts confidence and communication. 

So, give Tactilingo a try and engage your students.

If you want to learn how to teach genders using mnemonics and Tactilingo, check out my blog Do you teach a sexy language?

Monique Poirier has taught FSL and ESL for over 30+ wonderful years in classroom and homeschool settings, to elementary, middle, high school and adult students. Check her out on LinkedIn.

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