Saturday, May 13, 2006

This is How You Remind Me

I first learned about mnemonic devices when I was 11 and in the hospital overnight after a tonsillectomy. (Now they practically do this surgery drive-thru-style.) The girls on "The Facts of Life" were cramming for their final exams. One of them, Natalie maybe, had to memorise the entire periodic table. Tootie (I think) suggested a mnemonic device.

For example, the period table symbol for gold is AU. Tootie delivered an easy way to remember this: "A, U, give me back my gold watch!" Both the smaller and the larger lessons lodged in my dazed brain that day. I've always been a successful student because I know how to study. I swear by flash cards and mnemonic devices.

Flashcards are fabulous because they break the material down into bite-sized pieces and force you to recall information when presented with a cue. Flashcards don't do anything to help you apply the facts and think logically, but they will at least help you come up with the right information.

I don't know when exactly I got into flashcards but they are my scholarly mainstay. Flashcards are playing an instrumental role in my learning Irish. Right now, the goal is to cram as much vocabulary into my little head as quickly as possible. I'm learning basic grammar principles as I go along, but in order to learn grammar, you need to have words.

It's easy enough to remember the words for physical things, because I can link the word for the item to a concrete mental image. I was having a much more difficult time with verbs and adjectives, so I've been employing mnemonic devices to help me.

Hat tip to Fence for her clever explanatory mouse-hover text that allow you to see the pronunciation and definition of Irish words. Pretty cunning indeed. I've borrowed the Fence-translation-system, so just place your mouse on the first letter of a word to see a small strip of text showing you the definition and pronunciation.

On with the mnemonics:

Beir. So, you're catching a bear, right? But here's the fun bit. Beir is one of the Irish language's 11 irregular verbs. Its past tense is rug. After you've caught the bear, you turn him into a rug.

Tabhair. Another irregular verb. I remember tabhair by thinking about bringing something to a scary, isolated tower. The past tense is thug. So I remember this by thinking that once I've gotten to the tower, its occupant is sad and lonely so I give him a hug.

Caillte and Caite. I was confusing these two words until I sorted out mental images for them. Caillte sounds like the name Kyle, so I picture a little blonde kid, lost in the big bad world. Caite sounds like the name Katya, so I picture an Eastern European woman, who, well, let's say she's been around the block a few times and a tough life has near about ground her down.

Ag dul. Everything's dull and boring here, better get going.

Ag caint. This one is easy enough for me to remember the definition, but I needed to link the pronunciation to something. So, it's ag caint like a pint.

Lán. I picture a nice full lawn of lush, green grass.

Folamh. It's one of life's little ironies that a world that sounds pretty close to "full of" actually means empty.

I'm making good progress in my Irish lesson. My teacher likes me because I actually study outside of class. He's used to giving grinds to students who are looking for extra help to pass an exam but don't do any work outside of the one hour they meet a week. I'm a girl with plans and I'm a type-A over-achiever, so of course I study outside of class.

The mnemonic devices really work. My vocabulary is coming on nicely and but I'm going to have to start working on decoding pronunciations on my own. Right now, I'm like a trained Irish monkey, I can deliver a phonetic pronunciation that I've memorised, but I am hard pressed to read something out loud that I've never seen before. All in good time, I'm sure, but I am anxious to get up and running with this language.


At 13 May 2006 at 08:35, Blogger Viola said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 13 May 2006 at 08:38, Blogger -Ann said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 13 May 2006 at 08:45, Blogger -Ann said...

Ah yes, no one can eat 50 eggs and no one can get a comment in so quickly. Except, perhaps a bot or a paid-traffic generator. So, deleted under suspicion. If you come back and I'm wrong, I'll restore the comment.

Sorry to be a jerk about it, but a girl's gotta have her standards.

At 13 May 2006 at 09:04, Blogger Arbusto said...

I can't use mnemonics. They just don't usually work for me. It's like trying to remember an additional element to the situation. I don't know but it usually ends up confusing me.

Flashcards, though, quality stuff.

Tabhair = thug? So you think of hug and not the thug who's going to beat you up in that isolated tower?

At 13 May 2006 at 22:37, Blogger Fence said...

I can already see the Donegal Irish influence :)

Mnemonic devices never worked for me either. I'd always end up thinking about something else totally random. Flashcards are good though, and my last year in college I started recording information and essays and listening to them while doing other stuff. Its a lazy way to study, but I'm lazy.

At 13 May 2006 at 23:51, Blogger -Ann said...

Arbusto - My learning style is highly visible. Once I map something to an image, I have it in my head. If I map it to a story, it's even more in my head. Although you're right - I am ordinarily seeing thugs and baddies in every shadow, I didn't think of a th-ug because I have to start thinking of that word as hug, since that's how it's said.

Fence - :) You should hear my teacher talk. He said leabhar in the last class in such a way that I couldn't even begin to give you a phonetic pronunciation.

Flashcards are pretty labour-intensive alright. I like your learning by audio-osmosis approach. Maybe I should pick up a couple of those Teach-Yourself-Irish tapes.

At 14 May 2006 at 01:30, Anonymous James said...

I'm a big fan of mnemonics and learning by association... it works so well in the long term. Edward De Bono says to make the assocation as exaggerated and outrageous as possible to obtain a more vivid and memorable image.

At 14 May 2006 at 03:29, Blogger Career Guy said...

Reminds me of the Dale Carnegie thing that Patrick went to. The teacher used a sort of lounge act magic to recall a list of random things that the students suggested. "one-run, two-shoe, three-tree, four-door" and so on. One-run means picture the thing sitting on the back of big horse running around a track. Two-shoe---picture the thing sitting in your shoe. Three-tree --picture the thing up in a tree. Four-door--it's behind the door to your bedroom. There's more--wanna hear it? I didn't think so.

Good for you on your Irish work. Soon you can spy on people in the street and they'll never know you understand them.

At 14 May 2006 at 18:46, Blogger Terri said...

Well I think it's just brilliant that you're learning Irish. And now I know what mnemonics are, so I guess I'm learning something too :)

At 14 May 2006 at 18:54, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

50 eggs- makes me think of Cool Hand Luke. Good movie and good post.

I find this kind of stuff to be very interesting.

At 15 May 2006 at 13:21, Blogger Fence said...

The problem with learning by listening is that it is very easy to switch off and ignore.

At 21 May 2006 at 13:50, Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

Where was this post when I was studying at college? I'd have walked the exams.

I think it helps if you are a visual thinker like I am.

Mega impressed with the Gaelige. Is learning Irish the new going out?

At 24 May 2006 at 19:22, Blogger -Ann said...

James - I agree with Edward. Outrageous and vivid images are the way to go.

Dad - I do remember that. And I'm sorry to disappoint you, but if I wanted to eavesdrop on non-English-language conversations in Dublin, I would be better off learning Polish or Chinese.

Terri - Glad you learned something, but will you use a mnemonic to remember it?

Jack - Funny enough, I've never seen Cool Hand Luke, but I know the egg thing is from Cool Hand Luke because of Reality Bites. I am so derivitive. :)

Fence - Yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of in-addition-to my other studying as opposed to instead-of. I listen to Radio na Gaeltact on a regular basis and it helps me get used to the sounds and I occasionally pick up words. But I'm not really learning as such.

Paige - I don't know. Is there some sort of learning Irish trend? I'm not usually very trendy. I do think that more emphasis is going to be placed on cultural things like Irish and the GAA as the country becomes more multi-cultural. It already seems to me like the interest in the GAA is way stronger than it was when I lived here in 1995.


Post a Comment

<< Home