Memory

Why is language learning so tedious and strenuous? Because it consists primarily of two hateful tasks: memorizing and recalling from memory. Every “learn a language in 30 days” technique is really an attempt to make memorizing easier. Chances are, one of your least favorite tasks in schools was memorization. But there’s no escaping memorization if you want to speak another language. The reason you speak English is because you have thousands of words memorized and you can recall them (usually) without any hesitation. One of the biggest mistakes I make in language learning is filling my time with a bunch of exercises and drills that don’t require me to actually memorize anything.

My friend gave me the idea of writing out a short (5 minutes or so) Bible lesson, translating it into Chinese and reciting it to people. Best rule I’ve found: if you got to memorize, pick something you’re at least entertained by or interested in (I memorized 10 jokes in Chinese yesterday – completely corny ones, too). So I wrote out a half a page on the wise man building on the rock and his less-wise fellow-contractor. And I tried my hardest to translate it.

I waited until my language school teacher tore it apart, though, before I tried to memorize it. I didn’t do TOO bad, I guess. There was one sentence I only left out a modal particle! (don’t ask, you don’t want to know) My biggest mistake?

I wrote, “Jesus also said if a man listen his teaching just follows, he like a build house on rock top wise man the same.” Instead of: “Jesus also said if a man listen his teaching and according to His words goes does, just like a wise man on rock top build his house the same.” Hard to believe something like these principles of word order CAN be memorized. The best way to learn grammar is to put the right way into your head (memorization) so many times that the wrong way SOUNDS wrong to you, even when it’s coming out of your mouth.

So, I’ve got about 3/4 of this thing memorized, and I’m gonna try to finish it up before my language school teacher gets here in an hour and change. She’s not a Christian, so she doesn’t really understand all this. My first sentence in this talk was, “In the Bible, Jesus says our life is like a house.” She looked at me like I was crazy, or way worse at Chinese than she thought! If you’re interested in learning a language, start memorizing. There’s a lot you won’t learn well until you get to a native speaking country, but you can start memorizing TODAY.

Bingren: Daifu, wo de jiyili zai gaosu sangshi, qing nin gei wo zhizhi bing ba!
Daifu: Name ni de zhe zhong bing you duo chang shijian le?
Bingren: Shenme bing???

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