What a fascinating thread! Things have structures in my mind, but I’d never associated that with synaesthesia (months of the year, seasons and so forth) - I’d always assumed I must have had a jigsaw or similar as a child where they were laid out in that pattern and just remembered it like that. (In fact, I think that’s probably the situation, in my own case.)

But how interesting to read about how others perceive these things!

(Look at this! All my replies in one post! :star:)

Could be linked of course, @sarapeacock, but it’s actually called spatial sequence synesthesia and it’s one of the most common forms! It helps me remember words, for example, as they’re placed around a room. ‘Moron’ is by the door, ‘hoffi’ is next to ‘moyn’ by a table, and ‘gwybod’ is upstairs with ‘cysgu’ and ‘gofio’. The months and weeks look like a Monopoly board, moving counter clockwise. This also helps when learning the days of the week in a different language, as I can sort of place them where they belong.

@henddraig I don’t react much to speech, but if the words were pronounced differently I would probably have different associations, yes!

@ianblandford There’s a Facebook group called ‘Spatial Sequence Synesthesia’ where some people have posted how they see things like the weeks and the months and the alphabet, if you’d be interested in that :smile:

@Toffidil I have what they call mirror > touch, which some people claim don’t actually exist, but it means that I feel on my body what I see other people experience. Like if someone’s being stomped on the foot, or licked by a cat, splashed water on, I literally feel it on my body as well. Don’t know how that would relate to languages, but it is really interesting! :blush:

And @Mererid, that’s always a pain to me when I teach as well; trying to explain to people how to connect and remember words when it doesn’t make any sense to them.


I’ve never heard of that before, but it sounds interesting – and useful!

And it reminds me of the “memory palace” method of rememberthing things that I had heard about – I wonder whether the inventor has spatial sequence synaesthesia (consciously or not) and so this method works naturally for them, and they assume it would work equally well for everyone?

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Makes you wonder how many teachers might have synesthesia. A chemistry teacher at school tried to create a link between a chemical concept and counting wheels on cars. This has stuck in my memory because it seemed such a bizaare and confusing way to describe something - the analogy/link made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever and still doesn’t. On the other hand he may have just been having a bad day.

I got into an interesting conversation with my partner regarding this.

He’s not got very far with SSiW and has nothing like what I experience with numbers and tenses.

However, it turns out he does for cooking. I’ve always marveled at his ability to make a feast out of some random left overs.

I wonder if there is any correlation between this and someones skills?


Ooh, fun thread! I have a mild version of this, I reckon. I don’t actually see any colours, like a friend of mine swears he does, but I have fairly strong colour associations for letters of the alphabet, and words can definitely “feel” appropriate for their meanings or not depending on this. Plus I sometimes find it easier to confuse similarly-coloured words. I have a friend who I know by a different name, but professionally she goes by the name Sophie, which clearly starts with white/transparent followed by bright yellow, and I find this weird because she has black hair :slight_smile:

I do some spatial stuff with numbers too, like some of you have described. I’m not very good at mental arithmetic, but when I do it, I definitely visualise a number line stretching diagonally (closer to me on the left, further away on the right), with waypoints every ten (or power of ten). When doing something like, say, 62 - 15, I kind of visualise the 15 “suspended” from a point two above the 60, the 5 decomposes into 2+3 and I feel the bottom end “hanging” three below the 50…

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I wonder if this can explain the phenomenon of words sometimes “sticking” on first meeting, and others not, which I and seemingly many other learners have experienced?

Well my experience of Maths teachers at grammar school was that none of them had the least idea (or had no interest in) getting across mathematical ideas to people who didn’t “get it” first time. I was interested in maths, but was not a natural mathematician, and found a lot of the advanced stuff just painfully difficult, and I needed time to absorb it. Possibly this sort of teacher had some kind of synaesthetic relationship with mathematical concepts, and simply could not imagine how other people might not. (Or of course, they might just have been bad teachers).

In contrast, I found 3 teachers / tutors outside of the school setting to have much more patience, and who took the time to get the concepts across, whether you “got it” first time or not. (One was in an evening class, one was at a Polytechnic, and one was in an FE day-release class; I suppose they were all people used to treating people more like adults than the average school teacher of that generation).



When you see threads like this, you can appreciate what a hard task teachers have. We all have such different ways of assembling information and seeing the world - how you could cater for everyone in say a class of 20-30 teenagers I have no idea and I suspect the moment someone doesn’t get it, they’ll either be staring out of the window or throwing their pens and rubbers everywhere. Personally, I was not a good pupil at all.

As for words that stick on first meeting - that’s the holy grail. You sort of feel, if you can do it once, what was the trick and I might be able to do it again. Memrise style visual associations, don’t do it for me. There are a few words I’ve come across via memrise, where I can remember the word and the picture, but not the meaning - I just looked up ymddiheuro again, for the 1000th time, but I can picture a superhero with the word and it doesn’t help - maybe typing this will eventually make it stick, but I doubt it.

Edit: Since posting this one - I have found the etymology and origins for the word I mentioned above to create a story and now I reckon it might eventually stick, because I have loads of interesting links now - that’s my usual trick for myself, but it takes a while for each unstickable new word to do that. - I now have a link to Ymddiheuro and aur and adornments of gold to make my repentance.

I think that might be an interesting and potentially fruitful line of enquiry (if there’s anyone reading this thread while they try to think of possible subjects for their PhD)… :sunny:

Oooh, this makes me think of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series (fun fact: he’s the other person in the drawing I have as my icon)! He has what he calls a "mind palace. What if he has synaesthesia! Mind blown.

@Toffidil I am probably one of those teachers coming up with links that don’t make sense to anyone else. And then I get really annoyed because come on; it makes so much sense! I suppose it’d be a good thing to find out why it makes sense. Because it’s logical or because the colours of the words match?

@ianblandford I mean it’s usually a lot more fun doing something that comes easy for you, and if it’s fun you’ll want to do it a lot, and if you do it a lot you get better at it. A lot of talented musicians have synaesthesia that helps them compose. But then again a lot of talented musicians also don’t have it.

I love hearing about this, @Kinetic! What sequences look like to other people! And the name thing makes so much sense to me. I feel your pain! :sweat_smile:


I was thinking more though, of words which seemed to stick of their own accord, with no effort on my part, which makes me think it’s something about the word itself, and not anything I have done.

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When you mentioned PhD, were you thinking of the news article on the BBC this week about the competition idea between common words like Cat and Dog. It was about research by a PhD student in Bangor doing exactly what you suggest.

No, hadn’t seen that, but it sounds fun… :sunny:

this one:

There’s a read more link at the bottom. Sounds like early days with this research mind you.

Oh and I am below average in my average word count according to - only 27,300 English words in my vocabulary apparently