Sunday, November 04, 2018

No substitute for hard work

This is one of a series of posts on memorization of text; in particular in relation to trying out a new technique. 

Getting the first part of Ephesians chapter 3 under my belt took longer than I expected. When I came to join it to the rest of the chapter - which I’d learned some years ago - it was initially a bit messy getting back into it. However, after a couple of run-throughs, and checking the original text to see how my memory of it compared, it came back to mind without much difficulty.

This is pretty normal when I haven’t thought about a particular text for some time. I’ve now moved on to complete the rest of chapter 4. Again I’d learned the first half some years ago, and never completed the rest.

I’m using the newish method I’ve described in previous blogs. First, I do a read-through of the passage several times. Then I write out the initial letters, and aim to remember what I’ve just read through using only those letters. This comes reasonably easily, but I have to be aware that this is just being stored in the short term memory; it’s not yet at the point where it will stay if I leave it alone for a day.

Next day I’ll reinforce what I’ve learned, still keeping the initial letters as a check. What I find about using this as part of the system, is that it ensures that the words I remember are accurate, and that I don’t forget small words - or substitute other small words for them - or swap phrases around. That’s always been an issue in the past that’s taken some overcoming.  So the initial letters aspect is an improvement on what I’ve done previously.

But on its own, it’s not enough. The hard work of actually learning the material still has to be done, and this will take work over several days until it’s starting to hold. And then of course, I’ll need to keep coming back to – while lying in bed for instance, or at another part of the day.

In other words, there’s no easy method for long-term memorization.

I mentioned substitution above. What always intrigues me is the way the brain readily substitutes other words for the original ones. It’s often only when you check against the written text that you realise this is the case.

The brain has a remarkable capacity for doing this. I first noticed it, I think, with songs. When a word would go missing at the vital moment the brain would comfortably substitute a word that fitted neatly - often with the right number of syllables - and made good sense. The new word would be similar in meaning to the original.

This is a quite extraordinary feat on the part of the already extraordinary brain. Knowing that it’s not going to find the correct word in time, it brings up a synonym. Without missing a beat. How amazing is that?

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