How the Ancient Greeks Can Help You Learn a Language

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A long time ago….in a far away land….people were memorizing and performing ENTIRE books. Books with up to 300,000 words in them.

People would gather around these magical story tellers and hear about Achilles, Medusa, or Paris of Troy.

And the performers told these epic stories….by memory!

So, what does this have to do with learning a language?

A lot.

Fast forward to present day. Memory Olympians are eagerly memorizing thousands of digits of Pi.

Guess what they use?

Mnemonic devices that date back from, you guessed it, Ancient Greece!

"An entire ice rink filled with frozen urine"

Mnemonic Devices

Their most powerful tools? Memory palaces and imagery.

They would connect disgusting, interesting, or shocking images in their minds to the fact they needed to learn.

How do I do that?

The method is simple.

Take a word or a fact you want to memorize, and place that object in a location in your mind. For example, say you want to memorize the presidents in order:

  1. Imagine a place you commonly go. Your house is a good start.
  2. Place the object in the mind version of your house.
  3. Relate that object to something crazy, gross, or silly.

In our example we are going to imagine George Washington sneezing and out of his nose comes a giant one made of boogers.

Gross but effective.

Then you open your front door and walk into your home.

Just inside the door is president Adams.

He has just gotten done writing Adams, #2 in sharpie on his forehead.

So how can this help me learn a language?

Let’s learn the Spanish word for ice.

The word is “hielo”, and it is pronounced like the English word “yellow.”

So to memorize this word let’s think of someone freezing their urine into ice cubes. Yellow, ice. Or Hielo = Ice.

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Yummy, right?

Better yet, an entire ice rink filled with frozen urine.

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The crazier the image the more likely it is to stick in your mind.

We simply create the image in our mind, and reinforce it every so often to make sure we really remember it.

If we apply this method to learning a language, we can learn much easier and for longer periods of time.

So get looking at your list of vocabulary and discovering the craziest possible mnemonics.

Happy Learning!