Mnemonic Devices

“Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.” – Austin O’Malley

Lastly, in order to learn these radicals, we’ll be using a number of really great “mnemonic devices” (i.e. memory tricks . . . though calling them “tricks” doesn’t do them justice—they’re quite good) to help you get these radicals (and kanji) into your long term memory. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to remember these for a really long time, almost with no effort at all. If you’ve spent a long time trying to memorize abstract things, you’ll know how hard this is. Here’s how we’ll be making kanji learning a lot more effective for you.

  1. Take advantage of “flashbulb” memory: Flashbulb memories are essentially this—think back to a very traumatic or shocking moment. Maybe it’s a disaster, maybe it’s the death of someone close to you, maybe it’s something completely different. For some reason, our brain remembers these things a lot more vividly than other memories. For example, I have a very clear memory of my first big earthquake. I had just put my shoes on, and opened the door to go to a violin sectional practice. A family friend was standing right outside, because he was going to drive me there. All of a sudden, everything started to shake, and I laughed while the family friend said “c’mon, c’mon, don’t just stand there, c’mon!” I can remember the trees, the sunlight, the sounds of the earth rumbling, and the expression on his face. In fact, I think I can almost remember the smell. This is what is called a “flashbulb memory,” because it’s just like taking a picture. Cheese!
  2. Make things ridiculous: The more ridiculous/scary/crazy something is, the better you will remember it. How often do you remember the ordinary? I know I don’t. We’ll come up with little stories that are absolutely wild, and you’ll find that you are remembering these kanji a lot better.
  3. Use Multiple Senses: You’ll have to use your imagination on this one—pretend that a particular kanji has a smell, or perhaps a feel. The more senses you use, the better and longer term your memory will be. They say that smell is one of the best ways to trigger a lost memory! Strangely enough, we’ll be using this to our advantage!
  4. Put together memorable stories: Using flashbulb memories, we’ll make up stories that are associated with each kanji. The stories will be ridiculous, use key words that will help you retrieve memories that will help you remember the pronunciation of the kanji, and more. The little stories will be very important, and utilize points 1-3 to help you remember them more easily.
  5. Practice: Kanji learning will be integrated into the Japanese grammar/lessons section of TextFugu as well, which means you’ll have the opportunity to practice what you’re learning and make these kanji second nature (rather than using the mnemonic devices for everything, which in the end will slow you down a bit if you rely on them completely).

You’ll be starting your radicals in Season 2 (that’s like right now, almost). First there’s a quick review (a very quick one, there’s not much to review) and the start of Season 2 Chapter 1 to get through. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to remember and learn the radicals. I can’t wait until you try it for yourself!

Anyways, let’s move on to the last chapter of this season. It’s a quickly—just read through and move on to Season 2, where you’ll get started (that was fast, yeah?!).

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