Chemical Education Today
Letters Multilingual Mnemonics for the Periodic Table Lili bebía Barrilitos… (Lili used to drink Barrilitos1…) What does this have to do with chemistry? It is the beginning of a useful mnemonic that can make a difference in a young chemist’s life. Memorizing the names, symbols, and exact horizontal and vertical positions of the elements in the periodic table can be easily mastered by anyone with the aid of mnemonics. Excellent mnemonics for the main groups (1), and a rather complicated mnemonic for the first 105 elements have been published (2). We felt that mnemonics for periods also have merit for general chemistry and especially organic chemistry students, as organic molecules are composed of elements found primarily in the second and third periods. At the University of Texas at El Paso, with a predominantly Hispanic student body and many foreign-born faculty, it is natural to think internationally about teaching. Therefore, we present mnemonics in three languages. At first, we offer our opening mnemonic for the second period, followed by a rather poetic mnemonic for the third period, in Spanish:2 Lili bebía Barrilitos cada noche ó frío Nescafé. (Every evening Lili used to drink Barrilitos or cold Nescafe.) Navega mágicamente alejándose sin pensar, sueña claramente Argentina.
Natascha mag Alois, sie putzt seine klobigen Arbeitsschuhe.
(Natascha likes Alois, she cleans his clunky work shoes.)
We hope that these mnemonics, and especially the idea of the use of multilingual ones, will be an educational tool for instructors in helping current and future science students at all levels to remember the particularly important second and third rows of the periodic table. Notes 1. Barrilitos is the trade name for a popular Mexican soft drink available in different flavors. 2. These mnemonics originated in fall 2006 at the University of Texas at El Paso in Organic Chemistry 1, when the students were asked to submit mnemonics in Spanish. The best mnemonics were selected, and their authors were awarded with an educational prize. These two students (D. A. L. and S. S. R.) are also coauthors of this letter. 3. Similar to note 2, these mnemonics came from the students who took Organic Chemistry 1 at the University of Hawaii in the spring 2006. The two winners ( J. R. H. and G. R. S.) were awarded with an educational prize and are coauthors of this letter. 4. In 1984, Professor Wolfgang A. Herrmann taught these or similar mnemonics to the first semester inorganic chemistry students at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The corresponding author of this letter (K. M.) was an undergraduate student in Professor Herrmann’s class at that time.
([He/she] sails magically away, without thinking, clearly dreaming of Argentina.)
Next, our corresponding English mnemonics for the second and third periods are:3
1. Chambers, Timothy; Arab, Jennifer. J. Chem. Educ. 2006, 83, 1761.
Little Ben became Charlie’s number one fighting
2. Covey, Winton. J. Chem. Educ. 1988, 65, 1089.
Native magpies always sit peacefully searching clear areas.
Jaclyn R. Hara and Gordon R. Stanger
Lastly, we present mnemonics for the same periods in German.4 This is particularly challenging for the elements carbon and chlorine as the German language has few words beginning with the letter “c”. Therefore, both mnemonics contain a word beginning with the letter “k” as a close substitute. Liebe Berta, bitte komme nicht ohne frische Nektarinen.
(Dear Berta, please don’t come without fresh nectarines.)
Department of Chemistry University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI 96822 Denisse A. Leony, Sandra S. Renteria, Alejandro Carrillo, and Katja Michael* Department of Chemistry University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, TX 79968 *[email protected]
1918 Journal of Chemical Education • Vol. 84 No. 12 December 2007 • www.JCE.DivCHED.org