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Author Topic: Memory
TommySama
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One thing I've heard whispers about my whole life - and that has always intrigued me, is the idea of tricks you can learn to help you remember things.

I'm taking Spanish 3 right now and frankly, I know maybe like 100 spanish words. Does anyone here know of any good tricks to memorize words?

This area has always been my weakest point intellectually. I have trouble with specific words for some reason, but no trouble with concepts and ... stuff (see?)

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KnightEnder
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Word associtation is a trick I've always heard of and sometimes use. Think of something outrageous to do with that word and connect them in your mind. Like poyo in spanish is chicken so picture a giant chicken eating your teacher or something.

Another is acronyms or whatever, like for the planets My Very Eager Mother, for Mercury Venus Earth and Mars...etc.

My problem with languages and I speak quite a bit of Spanish being in Texas, is things like. "Thanks for "seeing" me, on such short notice."

Translates literaly into "Thanks for looking at me on such short notice."

So, you have to think of what "seeing" really means and come up for the word for "meeting" me. Or "giving me and audience" on such short notice. Drives me crazy.

I had the hardest time finding the Spanish word for y'all. "Ustedes", you plural.

Best Spanish phrases:

Como se deci in Espanol (and then say the word in Enlish?

Means: How do you say in Spanish?

And: Habla despacio, por favor.

Means: Speak slowly, please.

Or: No comprende.

Means: I don't comprehend. I don't understand.

Those are right up there with: Donde esta la bano? And; Tengo hambre, por favor.

If you want I'll tell you some words "never" to say, and that will probably get your ass kicked?

Cuanto questa para tu hermosa? (How much for your sister?) [Wink]

When I was young once two TexMex women in line behind me at the grocery store said I was muy guapo (handsome). (Ah to be young and handsome again.) I turned as I left and said "Thank you very much, ladies. You both are very pretty (bonita), too."

They turned red and giggled uncontrolably. It was great. [Smile]

KE

[ September 20, 2006, 04:48 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Cytania
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Hi Tommy, some things are easier to memorise than others. Typical real world people related things are easier to remember than abstract numerical things. In order to memorise a string of numbers (say playing cards) you assign each value a character, so maybe the two of clubs is Charlie Chaplin (these associations are the hard bit and need to be rehearsed over and over again). You then take a very familiar journey like going down to school from the family home and place the characters at various points. This makes the dumb values highly memorable but like anything in life it only gets easy with practise.

Unfortunately languages don't tend to work with this kind of trick. With languages the more you surround yourself with them the better. When I was last in France I got pretty decent but I didn't have to fumble for the words they were written everywhere around me.

Try renting plenty of spanish language movies. Even when you watch them with english subtitles I find the rhythmns and pitch of spanish gets absorbed. Better still try watching a movie with subtitles and then without.

Oh and comic books can be good. The French have a great many never seen in English known as 'bande designee' that are brilliant.

PS. Beware subtitling that abbreviates and cleans up what is actually being said. Once you get jist of slang you start to spot all sorts of liberties. Oh yes learning rude words is a great way to master a language ;-)

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cperry
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Another idea, Tommy, is to learn words in sensible groups. All your school words together. All your animal words together. All your food words together. Etc. Although you may have already done that.

Also, when i was taking Spanish, all those years ago, my teacher got frustrated because I wanted to see the words and figure them out phonetically, when she was promoting the "new" approach to language instruction, which is what kids do when they learn new words -- hear them and imitate them. But my approach worked for ME, even if it wasn't what the latest literature in language instruction recommended (or at least it seems to have worked: I won the foreign language award at my school for the 2 years I took Spanish). So figure out how to use your mental strengths, which you obviously do have, and apply them to SPanish.

Another thought: one of the things that we managed to do in school, and I've since seen kids do, although I'm not sure how common it is, was to talk to each other in Spanish as much as possible. Even if it was to throw one SPanish word into an English sentence. But every time we added more words, we played with them (which is what little kids do when they repeat words over and over until you want to scream, "shut up never say that word again!" at them).

Finally, you might consider something like a Rosetta Stone language program. It might help you embed in your brain what your teachers have been trying to impress upon you.

Good luck.

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kenmeer livermaile
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We know that memory is biased toward relevance. We remember things that have meaning. Raw data itself tends to dissolve (except in th minds of people with unique memories.)

Ancient mnemonics understood this and emphasized associating the thing t remember with something that shares meaning in some way. The meaning needn't be 'meaningful', i.e., 'serious'.

Silly puns work very well.

But if the strings of 'associative mnemonic tags' are relevant to each other, then a very powerful mnemonic recall/filing sysem can be achieved with relative ease.

Music students learn the notative scale with helps like:

Every
Good
Boy
Does
Fine
(EGBDF)

and

All
Children
Eat
(ACE)

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Chael
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As others have said (quite well!), what works for you will depend on how you absorb. I absorb astonishingly well through text, so when I was taking Spanish, I learned by making lists of everything I had studied--just writing the words, and next to them their meaning. I'd come back to it later to do it again, to try to keep older words from falling out of my head. It also helped me to try to use the word(s) in context--to make up sentences, etc. The more grammar you have, the easier this becomes--and it has the added benefit of putting the words into a system, so you can mentally link to them later. Systems like Every Good Boy Does Fine have never worked for me (I'm a musician) because I have to go through that extra step to get the information I need every single time, which adds a latency period I'm not fond of. Maybe it would be different for you, though; I'm weird.

I would also quiz myself while walking to my car (my university had a parking system wherein we'd park out on Pluto), either reciting conjugations or trying to make up sentences, depending on what I was trying to get into my head at the time. That helped a lot, too--not just with memory, but with linguistic performance (a different area than linguistic competence, and harder!).

My advice here is colored by the fact that I'm a musician. I've noticed that we have a tendency to memorize in two ways: by A) isolating pieces of the whole and practicing them over and over again, and then B) by fitting these pieces gradually into the whole, so that they make sense. But it's the repetition that really does it for me. When I practice music, I put it into my physical memory; when I practice language, I put it into the back of my head--but the feel of the recall process is very much similar.

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TommySama
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Hey guys, thanks a lot, these are all really helpful. I was hoping somebody could elaborate a little on the technique cytania mentioned:

"In order to memorise a string of numbers (say playing cards) you assign each value a character, so maybe the two of clubs is Charlie Chaplin (these associations are the hard bit and need to be rehearsed over and over again). You then take a very familiar journey like going down to school from the family home and place the characters at various points. This makes the dumb values highly memorable but like anything in life it only gets easy with practise."

I'll try some of the other ones mentioned, this last one would be very interesting though.

Thanks again [Smile]

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Richard Dey
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I think forgetting is more important than remembering. Think of all the things you could have remembered -- and didn't; and how much room that's made in your brain for forgetting more unforgettable stuff.
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TommySama
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...
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canadian
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Brick walls help. So does enormous amounts of alcohol consumed on a regular basis.
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kenmeer livermaile
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""In order to memorise a string of numbers (say playing cards) you assign each value a character, so maybe the two of clubs is Charlie Chaplin (these associations are the hard bit and need to be rehearsed over and over again). You then take a very familiar journey like going down to school from the family home and place the characters at various points. This makes the dumb values highly memorable but like anything in life it only gets easy with practise.""

When possible, try to make the 'Charly Chaplins' relevant to each other. It then becomes a 'memonic composition' and, like a tune, something one remembers the way one hums a song.

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kenmeer livermaile
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can:

I tired that method. I'll never forget the night I plowed, blind-drunk, into that brick wall.

Doesn't work.

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Cytania
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Most memory techniques work by making dramatic image out of boring facts. It's getting the knack of making the associations that's the hard bit so maybe those two clubs look a little bit like Charlie Chaplin's moustache? But if that doesn't work for you search for what they do remind you of.

Ever met one of those sales reps at a convention who remembers you from two years ago and asks about the wife, the kids, the house upstate? They're using memory techniques.

When they first meet you they gleaned a few key facts and composed a picture. So if you're from upstate New York they imagine you up the Empire State holding a cot and maybe your kid is called Scott so they imagine a small scotsman in the cot and maybe your wife is Margaret so they imagine a big tub of margarine embracing you. Pretty weird picture huh? But they won't forget it.

Most of our ancestors used these techniques to remember lists. Traditional storytelling hooks into them as well. Many folk tales have a hero/heroine given three or four gifts (often for three of four good works) and later they meet matching obstacles that the gift neutralises. For one instance the storyteller memorises swan/twine/comb/thicket. Thus the story of our kind heroine who helps the swan caught up in twine (when her sisters passed it by) and is given a silver comb. Later when escaping from a witch a magical thicket is conjured up but she uses the swan's comb (which is of course magical) to part the thicket and continue her escape. All that from swan/twine/comb/thicket. Of course it helps that both good deed and obstacle involve entaglement. Check out a few folk stories and you'll see similar key combinations. Once memorised you can impress with 'spontaneous' story telling (campfire optional).

[ September 21, 2006, 05:10 AM: Message edited by: Cytania ]

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
I think forgetting is more important than remembering. Think of all the things you could have remembered -- and didn't; and how much room that's made in your brain for forgetting more unforgettable stuff.
Actually the human brain has a practically infinite capacity for memory. At least, no one has ever found a limit.
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rhymes with tequila
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The way that I learned Mandarin was by not memorizing word lists at all -- instead, I concentrated on:
1. reading essays/stories/articles
2. writing essays/stories/articles
3. a little bit of conversation every day
It took about a year to become conversational and reasonably literate: as a non-native speaker, I'll NEVER consider myself fluent. IMO, memorized vocabulary is easy to test but relatively pointless for actual communication. Reading and writing have the advantage of putting all of this vocabulary into the appropriate grammatical context, but at a slower pace than if you focus exclusively on conversation, allowing your brain time to process it before you need it for conversation.

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