Friday, June 5, 2015

Raining milk in the memory palace

I thought that maybe for at least a few posts that I might return to topics related to the reason I started this blog -- namely, the business of learning French, at which I've proven remarkably inept. Why this should be so is anybody's guess (Je suis idiot is mine), but I did have a little success, and did learn some techniques along the way, so let's dwell on the positive for moment.

One technique which I discovered during my quest to memorize French vocabulary is called the "memory palace." In Flirting with French I discuss the fascinating origin of the term (too lengthy to go into here), but the way it works is that you place the object or word in a room (or if you're a king, a palace) but represented by a vivid visual image that will remind you of that word. So if you have a list of objects for the grocery store -- bread, milk, chicken, and potatoes -- which is one more item than I can memorize, you place memorable images of those items in a room or rooms, which you picture yourself walking through. So, to memorize this list, I picture myself coming home from work, and as I pass the mailbox a chicken pokes his head out and clucks. As I approach the house it starts raining milk, so I dash inside, only to slip on the potatoes that are covering the kitchen floor, and as I lay there the oven door flies open and a loaf of bread pops out. (This is particularly vivid use of the technique -- all the action isn't the norm, but I find it helps.)

So that's my list, converted to a little tableau. When I get to the store I picture myself coming home from work, and the rest follows (we hope). Memory experts have used this technique to memorize hundreds of objects, or,say, the order of cards in a deck. It's effective because the mind is better at remembering images than at remembering words. But how can it help you with a language? To help you to remember, not to bring home the bread, but that "bread" is le pain? Ah, that's a topic for another day, but give it some thought -- you may come up with the answer yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Just finished your book. Laughed out loud a lot. Any unusual hints for learning the grammer?


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