Friday, January 13, 2006

Some memory techniques

I promised to tell you about how I learned something in Chinese that I'll never forget. It may give you a good idea about how to remember difficult words in English, it's not about learning Chinese! My wife's nephew is actually learning Chinese and when we were visiting in the Summer he showed me his Chinese learning CD-ROM. One exercise involved listening to a sentence and repeating it into a microphone. The computer would tell you if your pronunciation was correct. Now I don't believe for one second that a computer can judge a person's accent - when I try the exercise with the English programs we have at work, I never manage to persuade the computer that my accent is correct. And I'm English, for goodness' sake! Computers obviously aren't trained to recognise my Birmingham accent.

But this exercise proved to be useful for another, unrelated reason. By trying to get the correct pronunciation, I must have repeated the sentence at least thirty times. And after a short while, I realised that it sounded a little like an English word, a vulgar one at that, "bullshitter", which is slang for a person who tells lots of lies or exagerations (mythomane).

So now I have two good ways of remembering the sentences, one, repetition and two, a mnemonic link. This will work for you in English. If you repeat something often enough, you will remember it. And if you can relate it to something you already know, even better. There's a joke website that states that "ail ou radis?" sounds like "are you ready?" in English. Although this site is just for fun, the principles are really effective.
This is the the link:


So learning can be fun, even if repetition is the best way to remember new words.

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