The word itself doesn’t make much sense at first – if you translate Eselsbrücke literally, it means “Donkey Bridge” – and that probably doesn’t really ring a bell.
The closest English equivalent – “mnemonic” – isn’t really a piece of cake either. So let me explain.
An Eselsbrücke is usually a short and easily memorable line that is connected to something you want to remember.
It can start as easy as using it to remember the colours of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
If you just cant get the order right in your head, you can remember the following: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.” Each first letter of each word is also the first letter of the colour.
The word Eselsbrücke is actually connected to a literal donkey bridge. Donkeys are quite hydrophobic and don’t even want to cross small rivers, because they can’t see the ground due to the reflecting water surface.
Back in the day, it was common to build bridges for them to cross said streams.
Connected to that, a figurative Eselsbrücke is a bypass that, even though it might mean a higher effort, makes it easier for you to reach a goal.
An Eselsbrücke can have many forms, and some students even make some sort of a game of it. They try to think of as many Eselsbrücken as possible, as well as making them as fun as possible.
This is all fun and games until you need an Eselsbrücke to remind yourself of another Eselsbrücke.
The YouTube channel simpleclub explains some typical 'Eselsbrücken' in German.
Here are some Examples for German Eselsbrücken and their English equivalent:
To remember the planets in the right order:
Mein Vater Erklärt Mir Jeden Sonntag Unseren Nachthimmel.
My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos
To remember cardinal points:
Nie Ohne Seife Waschen
Naughty Elephants Spray Water
To remember the strings of a guitar EADGHE/EADGBE:
Eine Alte Dame Ging Hering Essen.
Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie