A New Memory Method?
Bill Long 1/20/12
With Less Familiar Languages
As my own 60th birthday present to myself (a birthday to be celebrated later this year), I decided I would like to do extensive memorization and then recitation of classic poetry in multiple languages. After all, I am committed to densely packed language as key to understanding the essence of both intimate and useful communication; I thought I would both gather up the shards of scattered memorized texts from the past, add to them, enhance the number of languages I have traditionally memorized in and then put it all together to see what cumulative symphonic effect it has on my thought, communication and writing. I am heavily engaged in such tasks now and, when combined with my Chinese study and other work, it takes a good deal of time.
The "Issue" or Problem
When I have, in the past, memorized texts in languages with which I have a fairly great degree of familiarity, I have just done it "raw" so to speak, that is, just mastered the text, content, plowed through, recalled, and enjoyed. I used few or no mnemonic devices. This works as a very fine method for me in at least seven or eight languages. Yet, I find as I am committing Job 3 to memory (Hebrew text) that another method, beloved by mnemonists from classical days to the present, obtrudes. The classical authors called it the method of "loci," or constructing a series of stories based on "places" that you are looking at. Each detail in the place can be associated with a sound or idea, and then recalled perfectly. I, who know Biblical Hebrew only somewhat well, find that a combination of actual "raw" memorization of the text, combined with "stories" that I construct derived from the sound of the syllables, is yielding rich results. The process is very slow, but the images are firm, the stories are fun to construct and, so far, my ability to recall them is nearly inerrant. In the rest of the essay I will illustrate this for Job 3:23.
The Hebrew text goes something like this:
"legeber asher darko nistarah vayasek eloha baado"
Or, in English, it is "or for the man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in..." It continues a question originally posed in 3:20.
So, how would you memorize such a verse? Of course, the key is really to know all languages in the world, so that the "flow" of memorization is simply like memorizing nursery rhymes or other texts in your native language. But I am not fluent all languages, nor in Biblical Hebrew. I decided I wanted to make one story out of the entire verse, which is probably more useful than constructing a new story out of every syllable. I decided to construct a little story about the bad season that the Minnesota Timberwolves Center Darko Milicic is having this year (hence my story turns around the third word "darko"--lit. "his way.."). Thus, I did the following:
Lageber--it means "for the hero/strong man/man." I kept it without change since the word in Hebrew is familiar to me, as is:
Asher, which means "who." So, I have "lageber asher." No problem. But because I am going to be complaining a bit about the miserable performance of Darko, who is playing more like a woman than a man, I remember it is "la" at the beginning--drawing upon the feminine pronoun of romance languages. So it is a "girly man hero" so to speak, who is...and then the next word is:
Darko. No comment needed.
Nistarah was harder. I had to read the entire line to begin to construct the second part of the narrative. Maybe I should give it all here, and then break down the individual words. The way the rest of the "story" worked was: (he) "needs to stand erect (but even if he) goes to a sec (dry) Aloha (state), (he might be) baadoooo.." Now let's take it apart.
Nistarah consists of "nee(ds to) sta(nd) ere(ct)" in the post. That is, he needs to stand tall there, be more aggressive, more assertive, more dominant. He "ni sta rah." Of course, you have to modify a sound or two but that can easily be done.
Vayasek. Here I draw upon the Romance languages to say that this means "to go" --vaya and then "dry" as in "sec.." But it is connected with the next word:
Eloha. In Hebrew this has to do with God's activity. But all we need to do is to change the "E" to an "A" and we have the Aloha State. So, even if Darko went to a dry Hawaii--and this is a contradiction in terms, probably, I might have a worry that he would still be
Baado. That is, I don't think he might perform. So, I am tyring to express my hope that he will still have a good season, but I think that even if he went to a venue that doesn't really exist in the world he might not be too good.
It takes time and some imagination to do this. Indeed, it is a relatively slow process. Let me take you to 3:24 and 3:25 and see how it can actually be productive of knowledge...