Memory Tricks

Lately I have been cramming in the vocabulary.  I was out of town visiting family over Easter and didn’t have the opportunity to really study the way I wanted to, but I at least managed to get my Anki and Memrise vocabulary done every day.

This has set me thinking about memory tricks.

What do you do when you get a vocabulary word that just won’t stick in your head?

You come up with a trick to help you.

For example:  the word 現金 (cash) just would not stick in my head.  現金 is pronounced げんきん which looks an awful lot like げんき (health), so I came up with the phrase “Cash makes you healthy” and the word stuck in my head after that.  After awhile, I won’t need the memory device because the word will stick on its own.

This is a lot like the Heisg method for learning the Kanji, by the way.  You come up with sentences or stories to make the Kanji stick in your head.

This leads me to the idea of a memory palace.

I had to go to the store this morning to by dog food, milk, cereal, jambalaya mix, smoked sausage and yogurt.  Instead of writing that down (because I was too lazy to look for a pen because I wanted to exercise my brain) I made up a story containing those items.  The trick with the story is to make it as ridiculous as possible, because that helps it stick.  So:

A Cajun pirate went into a restaurant which was run by giant dogs.  There were even big bags of dog food hung up on the walls as decoration.  The pirate ordered a bowl of cereal and milk, but the dogs, seeing that he was a Cajun, gave him a bowl of jambalaya and milk instead.  This made the pirate angry, so he grabbed a big smoked sausage and began to use it like a sword and fight the dog.  The fight ended when the dog tripped over its paws and fell into a big bowl of yogurt.

The story is completely absurd and highly visual.  I could easily picture it in my mind, and, twenty minutes later, when I needed to recall the list of items, the story was right there, and I remembered everything that I was supposed to get.

How do you tell what is a good memory trick?

If it works for you, it’s good.

Here’s another example: 難しい (difficult)

In the Heisig method, the various Kanji characters are assigned meanings.  難 have been given the names “scarecrow” and “turkey”.  So, can a scarecrow scare away turkeys?  That would be very difficult.  Otherwise it would be called a scareturkey, not a scarecrow.

How about another example: 集る (gather)

Here we have the “turkey” Kanji on top of the “tree” Kanji, so you just form an image of a bunch of turkeys that have gathered in the top of a tree.  Make the picture as ludicrous as possible so it will stick.

Another way to make things stick is to use stories that involve things are places that you see every day.  Use buildings that you know, for example, to form the pictures.

Use all the memory tricks you need, realizing that you will discard them later.  I first leanred 難しい using the “scareturkey” image above, but now, when I see it, I just recognize it without using the story at all.

If you have a good memory trick, feel free to share it.

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