“Learning how to learn! Is it really that simple? Am I just doing it wrong all the time? Is there a kind of a secret formula with which language learning is as simple as brushing my teeth?”
I guess you will be surprised, but yes, there is! And at the end of this series, you will know exactly how to learn something with that secret formula.
In today’s episode we will talk about “learning how to learn”.
Having found a book online, called “Moonwalking with Einstein“, written by Joshua Foer, I did not realized what I was holding in my hands. I was just looking for a random book in English for improving my language skills through reading, so I have picked this one up because of its fancy cover, to be honest.
Realizing immediatly after a view pages, that this book is just simply put “amazing”. I read the book again, directly after finishing.
So what is this book all about, and why is this helping us to learn a language. In this book, the author describes his way to become a U.S. Memory Champion in just one year. Letting this alone being an awesome story already, you can also find out how he did it.
Therefore, I highly recommend you to read this book! Because it seems like, you can learn how to learn!
“Now we are talking about the right stuff! Go on!”
Remembering something you have “learned” before, can be quite useful in every way of life. Being at school, university or at work. Being on the race track or in a new city. If you can use the potential of your brain in a much better way, you will make things easier and more efficient. Believe me!
So how do we remember?
Simply put, you create a connection in your mind, that, depending on the depths of it, will have an influence on the way you will remember that thing you try to chisel into your mind.
Bad connection with your phone = No mobile service!
Bad connection with what you are learning = No remembering!
It is that easy!
The goal is, to make a good connection! But what is a good connection?
Betting everything you have on just one tiny little and weak horse could be a success, or a miserable day at the horse race track. Therefore, as every money manager will tell you, diversification is key! Instead of investing everything you have just on one asset, you should diversify, and get as many different assets as possible into your portfolio.
So do not just read something, or listen to something, or write something down, but instead, use as many assets as possible.
What are those assets?
Listening, reading, writing, feelings, places, sounds, magic, extraterrestrial stuff, reverse the law of physics, fun, sex, dirty words, violence, music, history, knowledge you already have, words you already know, colors, your imagination and so on and so on and so on!
How to learn words – the engineers approach!
You want to learn a new word, let’s take a word we should not know in our life’s. “procrastination” Do you notice, that this contrast in the centence is already helping you to learn it?
Step 1: What does the word mean? Procrastination means “aufschieben” in German. That means, doing more pleasurable things instead of less pleasurable tasks you should do.
Step 2: Having an engineers mind, the first step is to look at the big picture and try to separate it into smaller units. You are looking for words inside the word, you already know. If I look at the word, I see the following:
pro + crasti + nation
Instead of one long word, I just have three small ones now. The first one, I already now! “pro” is the shortcut for professional in my mind. And the last one, “nation” that is clear as well.
Step 3: What do I do with the parts I do not know? In this example, the part that is still unknown is “crasti”. Well, it seems like the first thing that comes to mind, is “Krusty” the clown from “The Simpsons”. Ok, now we have all the parts of the word.
Step 4: THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! – Your story, your connection!”
Now we need to make the connection between the word in English, the word in a language you already know, for example German and the meaning of it.
So, I have a professional clown, talking to the nation about not doing important tasks right now. Well, it seems like I am familiar with this kind of situation already. Because this situation is not only happening at work all the time but in politics as well 🙂 Trying to survive with this blog for longer than one single week without getting blocked and because of obvious reasons, that Donald Trump is not a professional, we will not go as far as trying make Krusty losing his middle hair while talking to the nation about why we should have started with the building process of the wall one year ago. So here is the “Work example”!
My story would go something like this:
Notice: The following paragraph was edited before publishing, due to too many unappropriated words and descriptions. 🙂
My boss is a real professional! Most of the time, but today, he has been a real jerk. Can you imagine, his hair dresser messed it up completely yesterday, so he was yelling at us about the important tasks no one is really doing for month, while he was actually looking like Krusty the clown from “The Simpsons”. We had our nationwide meeting today in the office and he was just complaining all the time, while walking up and down the stage in the big conference room, like Hitler when he was speaking to his nation.
As you can see in this example, the sky is the limit. The more things you include, the better the story gets! And the better the story gets, the better you will remember it. It is that simple! If you do not like risk, then diversify! Use everything you got! And you will see, that this makes so much fun!!!
The right strategy
As you have seen already, the right strategy is the key to success!
Having caught a cold, you go to the family doctor, having broken your leg, you go to the hospital, and getting your Siamese twin removed from your side, you go to the world’s best doctor for this subject area.
If you want to learn something, there is not just one way of doing it. Therefore, you need to pick the right strategy first. You do not want to invest 10000€, two weeks of your time and a 22-hour flight to Honkong, just to visit the world’s best doctor on cutting twins apart, to tell them you cannot remember “procrastination”. This is not effective! And not working with your limited amount of time and probably money. Flipping it the other way around, just seeing the mainstream doctor is not the best idea for a complicated grammatic issue in the present perfect progressive you just cannot remember. So, pick the best strategy for your problem at hand.
Use the right strategy for the right problem!
“Just use the right strategy for the right problem, and you will be quick and efficient at the same time.“
Easier said than done! I know, but if you do not start, you will not finish. Remembering the blog #2 on the importance of starting? Other field of life, same approach! Just start it!
Finishing up this second episode we will talk about the so called “memory palace strategy”.
Memory Palace – Welcome home!
Lean back and close your eyes. Just imagine the room you are sitting in. Where is the door. How does it look? Is there a window? Is there a bed? Is there a table? Is there a picture?
One of the most common things in the world, that we have and do not really use, is our ability to remember places very easily. Remembering the hotel in Spain seven years ago? Where was the dining room? On the first or the second floor? And the pools? What was the shape of them? As you can see, you remember these places pretty damn good! And the memory palace strategy is just using this ability, you already have.
By connecting something you want to learn, with a place you already know by hearth, you can remember shopping lists, presidents or whatever in the right sequence.
You just start at the door with place number one and then go from one thing to the next, until you have 10 – 20 things in the room. Now you create the connection of the word you want to remember with this item, and that is it!!! So easy, but really powerful.
I have this calendar hanging on the wall as a picture in my room, it is the third icon, when starting to count from the door.
The third thing I want to remember on my shopping list are bananas.
The story goes like this.
“(British accent) Exciting times in the third round of today’s race. Driving out to its maximum potential, the Porsche 911 991.1 Cup is driving towards the third corner of the track! But what is that? Look Jimmy! It spins around!!! How could that happen? Let’s wait for the replay! Ladies and gentleman’s! I cannot believe this! What is that? A banana skin, Jeremy! It is a banana skin!!! Unbelievable stuff! What is going on today? Is that real racing or super Mario cart? We do not know!? But the lead is gone! Porsche lost their lead because of a banana skin!? I have not seen this in 40 years of racing, Jimmy! Yeah, me too.”
And here it is, I will not forget the bananas that cost Porsche the lead! Because I cannot forget this! It is simply put, too stupid to forget!
Include everything you got! Feelings, pictures, sounds, accents, fun and so on and so on, and finally, your story will become alive! And if it does, it will burn itself into your mind so deeply, that it will stick there forever!
Oh, and please remember! The crazier the whole story is, the more likely you are to remember it! So be fucking creative!!! Oh, and do not tell people that you use them for remembering fancy stuff, not everyone likes to be humilated, even though it is just in your mind.
Here an additional point for all the racers in the audience!
You guys have done a great job! It was a very good idea to learn all the race tracks around the world by hearth! So, what about learning something new today? Just take the “Nordschleife”. With 73 corners, 73 breaking points, 74 apexes, this will give you enough space for the emergency checklist of a complicated fighter jet, or at least the last 220 digits of pi?
Do you remember? The sky is the limit! You are your own limiter that holds your speed at 60 km/h! You limit yourself! So, open up your limiter –> mind, and use it! “But use it well!”
Learning how to learn! Get your tools together!
You need to find your own way of learning. How can you do that? Reading the book, I was telling you about? Could be a possibility! Creating your own strategies? Sounds even better! Learn how to learn and learning will become as easy as everything else you like to do! Make it a habit to learn!
Today we will start something new! You are getting homework!
Exercise 1: I want you to try to memorize at least 20 words with the new strategy I mentioned above. Because only while doing it, you realize if it is working for you, or not. And if it is not working for you? Just adapt it, until it is!
Exercise 2: Remember your next shopping list by using a memory palace. Cheating is not allowed and writing it down too simple!
Be fucking creative while using you mind and the world is yours!
On the next episode:
“Helpful language partners and where to find them”
See you next time!