Instructional Science

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 199-221

First online:

Teaching a large Russian language vocabulary by the mnemonic keyword method

  • Michael R. Raugh
  • , Richard D. Schupbach
  • , Richard C. Atkinson

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study evaluates the effectiveness of a mnemonic procedure, called the keyword method, for teaching a large Russian language vocabulary to college students. The method divides the study of a vocabulary item into two stages. The first stage requires the student to associate the spoken Russian word with an English word (the keyword) that sounds like some part of the foreign word; the second stage requires the student to form a mental image of the keyword “interacting” with the English translation. Thus, the keyword method can be described as a chain of two links connecting a foreign word to its English translation through the mediation of a keyword: the foreign word is linked to a keyword by a similarity in sound (acoustic link), and the keyword is linked to the English translation by a mental image (imagery link). A computer controlled curriculum using the keyword method served as a supplement to the second-year Russian language course at Stanford University. Students studied a large basic vocabulary over an 8 to 10-week period. Data obtained during the study and student reports indicate that the keyword method was highly effective.