In the last article, you learned how to peg information so you know what number order the information is. This week, I thought it would be good to have more practice in creating the pictures. Mastering this imaginative skill will be a big help to memorize anything.
If you have ever watched children playing, it may have struck you how creative they can be. They make up names for each other, not always compliments but creative. They create stories and act them out through make-believe. There is no filter on what they can create.
The problem with this is that it gets programmed out in school. If a child says something funny and imaginative, the teacher tells them: “Stop acting like a five-year-old and do your math!” Most children then learn that imagination is not important.
There is a way to reprogram yourself back so that you have an imagination. First, use all your senses when you imagine something. Imagine what it looks like, how it sounds, what it would feel like if you touched it, if there’s a scent, and if there is a taste. Imagine it!
The second step is to imagine an exaggeration or diminution. If you imagine a hot dog, imagine it is six feet long, or imagine a car that you could hold in the palm of your hand.
The third step is to imagine an action in your picture. Imagine the giant hot dog growing out of the window of the small car.
Let’s now apply this to some things. Here is a list of vocabulary words and their meanings (first, we will memorize a list of words in English; after we learn English Vocabulary, we will memorize some Spanish Vocabulary):
Nimrod – 1) An inept person; 2) A skilled hunter. Imagine a rod that can jump around and get out of the way of any obstacles; thus, it is nimble. This person is trying to pick it up, but it keeps jumping away, so the person is inept. Then the rod picks up a gun and shoots the inept person.
Martinet – A strict disciplinarian, particularly in the armed forces. Think of the red planet Mars. Mars has arms and hands and holds a net made of tin. There are a bunch of little soldiers, and he beats them with the tin net.
Bulkhead – A wall dividing different rooms or compartments in a ship or plane. Imagine the inside of a shop. There is a giant head between them. For action, imagine workmen installing the bulky head.
Miter – A tall hat worn by bishops. Imagine a man in priestly garbs with dust mites flying around his head. The hat traps them.
Weasel – A cunning or deceitful person. Imagine a sinister-looking person with a cough wearing.
From these examples, notice that you use senses to observe or hear something. Then you exaggerate size or number, such as the size of the head for bulkhead, and the rod for nimrod. Then you have action in each one of the pictures.
Metaphor – A figure of speech where something relates to another. For example, he took off in the car like his tail was on fire. Imagine a giant number 4 about your size. It has a hand growing out of the line in the number that points to you; you shake the hand. Consequentially, you met a four. Now imagine inside the triangle of the four a man is making a speech and says he took off like his tail was on fire.
Capo – A clamp fastened across strings of a guitar to fine-tune it. Imagine a cape grabbing onto the strings of a guitar.
Balmacaan – A loose overcoat. Imagine a cane that you rub with lip balm. Then you wear the cane over your shirt, and it hangs loose.
Morsel – A small piece of food, a mouthful. You go to the store and get a small sample of food from one of the tables where they sample food. You like it and nod your head in approval. Another piece jumps off the table. It grows a face and grows to your size. It points to the table and says, “There is more than they will sell you.” Then it shrinks to a small size again.
Plethora – A large amount of something. Imagine your favorite food or anything sitting on a table. You see a plus sign (Plus = Pleth); then it multiplies by a huge amount.
These methods are generally more effective than saying the word or definition over and over again. When you create the associations, it is an elaborative rehearsal. But when you say the word and the definition over and over, that is a rote rehearsal. Yet when you combine rote and elaborative rehearsals, it makes the methods even more effective.
Rote rehearsal also assumes you will not mispronounce the word or use the wrong word. For example, if you say morsel, a small part of food, a few times, you will remember that it is morsel and not more.
You can learn Spanish using the same technique:
El Nino – The little boy. Many of us have heard of the weather phenomenon called El Nino. It is when the equatorial Pacific Ocean has warm temperatures, and it makes it affect worldwide weather. Its name after a little boy or the Christ Child. We can use a picture association in reverse. Imagine a giant baby next to the globe, blowing his hot air on the Pacific Ocean.
La Nina – A small girl. Most Spanish verbs that describe people have masculine and feminine tenses. Like El Nino, this is another weather phenomenon. It is when the Pacific Ocean around the Equator gets cold. Imagine a baby girl next to the globe, blowing icicles on the Pacific Ocean. This distinction helps you to distinguish between boy and girl.
Zapato – Shoe. Imagine a giant shoe with the ports (zapat) coming out one end and letter o’s flying out the other. Your foot into even pieces like a pie and eating it. On the other side of your mouth, you eat letter l’s.
Dog – el Perro or la Perro, depending on the dog’s gender. If you remember that el is masculine, you will remember that for every word that has a masculine or feminine connotation. For Perro, imagine a dog that when it barks, pears and o’s come out of its mouth.
Hasta Luego – Goodbye. Imagine your legs or the legs of someone saying goodbye (leg = luego). They are in a hurry, so they are saying goodbye hastily (hasty = hasta).
Ay Carrumba – Imagine a person turning into a crumb (I crumb). The crumb then does the rumba dance to try and shake off the crumb and become a person again. They curse while they dance.
La Mano – Hand. This one combines masculine Spanish. It has an ‘o’ at the end. It has the feminine ‘la.’ Okay, so with every language, there are exceptions to rules. Think of a man singing ‘la la la,’ and he has hands coming out all over his body.
Llover – Rain. This one may be easy. Imagine lovers in the rain. But you need to make it unusual so the lovers are in the rain that rains l’s to remember the double l.
El Barco – Ship. This is an easy one. Imagine a ship barking like a dog.
You have now used your imagination to memorize ten English words and ten Spanish words. Some of them were easy to create a picture association, and some were harder. You had to stretch your imagination for some of them. Yet you can do this to memorize the word and meaning of any word in any language.
Like the English, to memorize the Spanish words, it works the best when you combine techniques. You combine elaborative rehearsal with rote rehearsal. If you combine the creativity of the pictures with senses, exaggeration and movement with the rote rehearsal, which is reciting the words over and over again (i.e., combining the two techniques), you will memorize faster than you may have thought possible.
What are some of the other benefits of using your imagination to memorize? One benefit is efficiency. Vocabulary is not something that you memorize for its own sake. You memorize vocabulary to read and know the words; you can write better when you have a larger vocabulary. Some studies have shown that employees who move up to leadership positions are the ones with the largest vocabularies.
These memory techniques help you learn. Students who use them can get good grades while spending one-half to one-third of the time that other students take to study. Then they have a more varied college experience because they need less study time.
I do not imply that memory skills are the only skills you need to fare well in your studies and in your life. You need to think creatively too. But memory is the foundation because when you memorize, you get knowledge, and that is the cornerstone of all other types of thinking.