Memory palace for words?

I've read about this method and its variants, called "memory palace", and I wonder how it works.
I understand how it works for sequential notions, like the horoscope, where you put each sign in order following a defined path inside a memory palace.
I understand how it works for things like kanji, where each memory palace is an onyomi.
But I've read about people who use it to learn L2 words. How does it work?

Let's suppose that I want to learn the word 自転車 (just a random example).
The first step is to build a mnemonics for the word:

JI - jim morrison
TEN - a teenage mutant ninja turtle
SHA - shakira

I visualize jim morrison, a teenage mutan ninja turtle and shakira trying to ride the same little bycicle together.
This helps me when I read or hear the word "ji-ten-sha" because the mnemonics came to mind.
So, no need to put the mnemonic anywhere in order to remember it.

But what if I want to do this production style? Could this "memory palace" help me someway?

I've read that some people do this:

they put the mnemonic inside a place, for example if the memory place is my house, I put the bycicle mnemonic in my house's corridor.
I see how this could help if I follow the path mentally, I open my door, I enter the corridor and there it is that bycicle with ji, ten, and sha trying to ride it.

But how could this help when I'm talking and I need to say "bycicle" in Japanese and I don't remember how to say it?
Obviously if I can recall that I put "bycicle" in my corridor, I can recall all the scene, but then why not use a simple mnemonic? What sense does it have to put it in a particular place?

Or this just doesn' work well with words?
There are a number of techniques. If you do movie method or a variant of kanji palace where each onyomi is a movie or room (that you populate with keyword/kanji/elements), you can then go a step further and have one unique object represent that yomi. For example, SHI for me is Star Wars (SHI is your sister), I can then use Leia in any story to remember a word that has SHI in it be it Kunyomi or Onyomi. Another way of doing Yomi characters is use Heisig's Kunyomi mnemonic chart from RTK 2 which can work with Onyomi as well if needed.

What that means for words is put them in thematic locations in your palace, use the Yomi characters in those locations that are doing something with the word.
so in order to review it i still need to walk the memory place?
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I consider memory palaces to be completely inappropriate for vocabulary. Unless you want to learn just a few basic phrases and like, a hundred words for your next trip, memory palace neither gives you the speed or capacity you need. I've learnt over 10,000 words in my time and I still encounter unfamiliar words all day. You simply do not have enough memory palaces.

I'd be interested to see if memory palace knowledge can transfer into automaticity. But my instinct is that it can't, which is a problem for language learning too. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong on the point.

I think a memory palace could be suitable for kanji, maybe, but again, I worry about the movement to automaticity there.
So as far as I understand the concept, let say you have 50 or so syllables with the kana, you only need 50 or so different references to cover any word or expression you want...the only thing that changes is the story you make with those ref?
I do not recommend it. It's just not efficient. I recommend a lot of reading and listening and learning the words in context...
Not a memory palace expert, but I agree with NinKenDo that memory palaces aren't the best way to learn vocab, and I think you're somewhat misunderstanding them. The point is to use walking through your palace as a means of tying together disparate pieces of information. It's more than simply imagining your mnemonic in a place. For example, in memory contests they have to memorize long strings of numbers and they do this by assigning mnemonics to groups of 2/3 digits, like you did with bicycle, and then placing those in the memory palace in such a way that walking through it shows the order. It's not used to strengthen just a single mnemonic.

For the most part we don't want to memorize vocabulary as part of a list so the method doesn't seem very applicabl, but I think you could use it if you wanted to learn the words relating to a particular thing. e.g. If you wanted to know how to refer to all the parts of your bike and how they all fit together a memory palace might be well suited for that.

There's a Youtuber I follow called Med School Insider and he recommends just using Anki for simple memorization, visual/word mnemonics for slightly more difficult tasks and reserving memory palaces for complicated concepts that don't fit well in to Anki. I think vocab fits in to mostly the first, and sometimes the second category.
Edited: 2017-06-01, 1:13 am
For vocab learning, you do need some mneumonic for any words you have a tough time on meaning or reading (if you have RTK under your belt this could make things easier).

But with anki review and just reading/watching, your constant recall and exposure to the word should help hammer it into your brain. At this point the mneumonic will fall away, or at least fall out of use. Some words take longer than others, or may need another mneumonic before they stick.

And remember that you get exposure in context, so that can help you with grabbing the meaning in the wild (think of 兄弟 vs 巨大 when spoken)
Edited: 2017-06-01, 7:40 am
Understood! So as I suspected and as you confirmed it's a tecnique used for sequential notions and you need to walk the memory place in order to review/recall them in order, so it makes little sense to use them with random words.

Thank you all for the answers!
I wouldn't say it's strictly sequential. I know that some memory experts are able to use the spatial metaphor more freely. But those are only really the experts, for most people it's a sequential thing. I would also still say that, even a more free-roam palace technique is unsuitable for anything beyond a set of canned phrases.
Ok, after some months of experimentation I want to add something to the topic.
It's true that nothing beats a lot of exposure, and in the end you will always need a lot of exposure for a word to become automatic. No matter how many tricks you use, SRS included. If you want a word to become second nature exactly as it happens for words in you L1, you definitely need a lot of exposure.

This said, there are obviously things which help a word to become automatic faster. I find memory palaces help a lot in this. In those months I've tried even with relatively uncommon words, words which I've encountered for the first time, and memory palaces helped enormously in making them stick.

Unfortunately the method itself is so hard, at least for me, that it's very difficult to use in practice.
As NinKenDo said, there aren't simply enough memory palaces and even if there were enough, you still need to think about it in order to find them, you need to practice them, you need to find good loci inside of them.

This method is great to memorize passages of texts because you put the text in the palace following a path, which helps you recall the text sequentially. But I don't find it appropriate for random words.

A variation which I find very useful instead is to use scenes from movies. The ideal scenario is if the scene is related to the word you want to remember. If you watch a lot of movies and tv series you won't have any trouble in finding them.

I've found that the ideal scene where to put your mnemonic is composed of a "space" + a "character".

Good examples are:
LOST -> Charlie + Yellow plane
GAME OF THRONES -> Cersei and Jaime + Tower
THE WALKING DEAD -> Rick + Telephone Room
THE WALKING DEAD -> Carol + Cowntry House
THE WALKING DEAD -> Merle + Rooftop
TITANIC -> Jack and Rose + Inside car
SCOOP -> Scarlet Johansson + Pool
LEON -> Natalie Portman + Bed

and so on...

The hard part is to find good scenes related to the word or phrase you want to learn.
For example, where do I put a word like 税制?
The good thing is that the more effort you put into finding a good scene, the more your brain will think that the word is worth to remember xD For example in the end I didn't find any scene where to put zeisei, but I ended up remembering it anyway as a byprocess of trying to find an appropriate scene xD

I say it again, this is by no means a substitute to exposure, but I would lie if I say that I don't find it useful from time to time.
I'm re-reading kino no tabi and I wanted to remember the word 清流, I put it inside the scene of The walking dead where Carol tries to fix the well outside the prison fences. I put it inside Anki too, though asd but it's easier to recall now.
Vocabulary acquisition is the single biggest hurdle in learning a language.

My suggestion:  whatever method you use, focus on lists of the most frequently used words.
I missed this before, but there is linguist who sells courses explaining the entirety of a languages grammar. These courses are designed to be used in conjunction with a memory palace. He has a separate course ($16 a month) on memory techniques. In it he explains mnemonics, memory palaces, ways to centuple existing palaces and what not. This could easily be applied to vocabulary. The basic gist of it is to use a 2d construct, like a quincunx, and then to map that into a 3d space.
Edited: 2018-02-02, 6:36 am
I don't use memory palace, as it's too much work, but I do use lots of mnemonics, and would be lost without them.
I have successfully used memory palaces to remember vocab, kanji, and names.
I most frequently use them for memorizing speeches.

At different moments in my language learning journey they have been useful in different ways.
When I was a beginner everything was going in one ear and out the other.
I used a memory palace from my Japanese study room, out the door, down the stairs, to the conbini, and off to the station, to remember maybe 30 common verbs, and their conjugation type...
I can still remember the swan putting on the sunglasses to clean the car on the street.. car care, ka-ke-ru (sungarusu wo)..
Just having this solid mass of words safe in my brain was a comfort to me that helped give me confidence to do all the real life input and output that it took to make these 'automatic'.
I can't say the same for flashcards.

Later I remembered about 90 names of students in kanji. Both the names and Kanji being unknown to me prior.

While they can be time consuming, I find it enjoyable to make and use them, and it gets quicker with practice.
It's really up to the individual I think. If you can make it work for you, there's really no memory task you can't do with location based memory and visual mnemonics. But as people have said above. You actually have to recall and actively use things for them to progress beyond just memorization. It's not like your actually building your vocabulary, your just building a vocabulary study tool inside your brain..

The difference between just making an image and making images in places is, If you forget something you can see the hole where it should be, and you can find the ends of the sequence before and after it to help remember it.
If you just remember a bunch of images then its easy to forget that you remembered something.

With locations you can relax and study with your eyes shut.
m8719705030 you're right about this, and I would like to use memory palaces more, but the problem is that I don't go out much, I live in a small town (village? lol ) and I don't have enough real places to use. This is why I tried to use movies instead.
Yeah, Anki by itself it's not of much help alone, I use it just like another source of exposure. Something that I want to experiment with is add the "palace" inside Anki and review them from palace to word.
For example,

front: HOUSE OF CARDS > Frank and Russo + THAT scene inside the car (I'm avoiding possible spoilers here lol)

back: 税制 (Frank and Peter Russo are discussing about USA tassation system)
Another possibility for using flash cards, is to put the place, or scene on the front and the mnemonic on the back, not the word.
So front,
HOUSE OF CARDS that scene.

Frank and Peter Russo are interpreted by erotic novelist Zane(zei) who is in trouble with the IRS. The call in the band weezer(sei, say it ain't so). The band members explain the steps of the system in turns to her.

If places are in short supply how about virtual places?
I remember bases i have made in rimworld, or levels from fps games, or the layout of the Pokemon map, all pretty well.
(2018-02-03, 9:57 pm)m8719705030 Wrote: Another possibility for using flash cards, is to put the place, or scene on the front and the mnemonic on the back, not the word.
So front,
HOUSE OF CARDS that scene.

Frank and Peter Russo are interpreted by erotic novelist Zane(zei) who is in trouble with the IRS. The call in the band weezer(sei, say it ain't so). The band members explain the steps of the system in turns to her.

If places are in short supply how about virtual places?
I remember bases i have made in rimworld, or levels from fps games, or the layout of the Pokemon map, all pretty well.

I'm not much of a gamer but I've played some games in the past. I think that I'll make some use of the Lineage 2 world. Thank for the idea!

What is rimworld? I'm watching some screenshots and it reminds me of Terraria. Is it something similar?
(2018-02-05, 6:38 pm)cophnia61 Wrote: I think that I'll make some use of the Lineage 2 world. Thank for the idea!
What is rimworld? I'm watching some screenshots and it reminds me of Terraria. Is it something similar?
Cool, try it and see how it works.

RimWorld is a sci-fi colony simulator.
Rimworld is like Terraria, except it's top down, not side scrolling, and its sci-fi themed not fantasy, and you play as a bunch of npcs, not one player character, and there is lots of different resources and manufacture systems, not just player crafting, and your npcs need food and warmth to survive, and bad guys can break down your walls and murder everyone if you don't fight them off.
From a memory palace point of view they both would be useful, because you spend a lot of time focusing on making spaces, and their layout, and relation to other things, and those spaces become meaningful and memorable through the little emergent stories that arise from the game as you spend time in them.
While I don't feel mnemonics are suitable for mass memorization of vocabulary, I use them for the much smaller number of words that I have trouble remembering. IOW, ones that become leeches in Anki. I don't think an occasional mnemonic to get around a mental block is a bad idea.