In this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, MMM practitioner Rose goes into detail about how she memorized the Hindi alphabet using the most potent memorization tool known to humanity: The Memory Palace.
Even if you don’t want to learn Hindi, you’ll learn a lot from this podcast, so be sure to tune-in.
And in case you prefer to read, here’s the …
Prose Version Of Rose’s Guest-Podcast!
I did it! I did it! I am so excited to learn Hindi! And I’m having a blast doing it! You’re right Anthony! You can learn an unknown and many-charactered alphabet in an hour and a half using the Magnetic Memory Method! For me it was actually an hour and 40 minutes for 48 distinct characters of the Hindi alphabet (There’s actually 60+ but I’ll get into that in a moment).
My name is Rose and I am on the edge of my seat, so to speak, with so much enthusiasm and ‘can’t wait to do more’ kind of energy. I am recording my initial experiences for you in case it is of some benefit to another person who’s thinking about learning this outrageous method. I hope any background noises from a roaring monsoon filled river and many singing birds outside my window here in the foothills of the Himalayas won’t interfere with hearing this.
To be clear I am able to start anywhere in the alphabet, go forward or backward, jump around, etc. I recognize and remember the symbols and stories and locations of where I ‘planted’ them; I can retrieve them quickly and it’s all vivid and hilarious. That is astounding!
Yet even more amazing, which to me is nothing short of a miracle, I thought I’d see how well I’d do at writing the symbols. I figured that would require more sessions of practicing, practicing, practicing. To my astonishment I was able to easily draw them all correctly just by remembering the image/ picture/story I had given it, and I did that in less than 5 minutes! I am truly blown away by this! Recognizing something visually and then taking pen to paper to draw it are two very different mindset applications.
I can understand why you would love to see more and more people using this astounding method!!! And I see what you mean when you say building Memory Palaces does a lot more than help memorize vocabulary, poetry, names, concepts or whatever. Once I started coming up with images it became easier, just as you say. It was as if the rusty cogs in the brain machine were getting oiled. But even better, I was having a blast coming up with more and more outrageous images and stories. Feeling more creative? Trusting my imagination and what it brings forth? Laughing out loud while memorizing a foreign language? Are you kidding? Wow! I’m 62 and I now know I can learn Hindi and have fun doing it. This should be taught in all schools!! Can you imagine kids being excited about learning?
So let me back up to how I arrived at this – The preparation required to even begin the actual memorizing part was enormous, but what a fantastic learning experience.
You recommend to just get started. Just do it and see how it unfolds. I figured if I waited to read everything you’ve written or listen to all the podcasts before actually doing anything, I’d never get around to doing anything. So I took your advice and your course and just dove in…. and nearly drowned….but your Excel spreadsheet idea was my life preserver. Here’s why.
The first thing was determining how many letters there are in the Hindi (Devanagari script) language. That was an adventure unto itself and my first challenge. Depending on which source I looked at there are 11-13 vowels and 33-40 consonants (I won’t get into all the whys and wherefores of this). So anywhere from 44- 53 distinct symbols. Add to this the fact that 10 of the 11 vowels have two forms, two distinctly different symbols depending on what positions it holds in a word. So you have to learn 10 more distinct symbols. Then there are many conjuncts but 6 have unique symbols that don’t look anything like their individual parts along with making a new sound. So those must be learned. Now we’re up to what number? I’ve lost count.
I’m saying all this just to point out how important it is to know where to begin, what you’re dealing with. I began with pencil and paper. I thought I knew how many stations I’d need, etc. Then I’d check one of my resources and there’d be another variation. Okay. Cross that out, start over. New piece of paper…..this happened several times. This is when I thought I was going to drown, going a little crazy, saying well, what the heck is the alphabet then? I just want to build a darn memory palace!!
Using your Excel spreadsheet idea (another learning curve for me) I was able to make changes and adjustments more easily. I also went out and purchased a 1,000 page Hindi to English dictionary (no English to Hindi in it!). This was a great investment. I figured the Oxford version should be reliable. It was actually a great exercise and very enjoyable (I can’t believe I’m saying that) to just flip through the pages and learn about the history of the script, how Oxford went about setting up the dictionary, how the letters are ordered and organized, and very importantly which letters had a lot of pages or just a few which would help me know what size memory palaces to build for each letter when it comes time for me to start memorizing actual words.
All of this preparation took several hours just to get to a complete ‘alphabet’ and how I was going to set up the memory palace. I may have belabored it more than I needed to, but it just wasn’t a straightforward alphabet. It was the best thing to do though. It helped me understand how the script is put together, what some of the nuances and exceptions are and I have a much better foundation to build upon. Now I see why your video on ‘Preparation and Predetermination’ is so valuable.
About memory palaces in general. I didn’t see how I would ever be able to come up with so many memory palaces as I’m a rather reclusive kind of person. But your suggestions of homes you’ve lived in, neighbors’ and relatives’ homes, neighborhoods, parks, schools, doctor’s offices, stores, streets, and on and on, got my mind rolling. So I just put the course on pause and took a long walk down memory lane starting from my childhood, thinking of all the places I had been. It was actually an interesting journey to see who and what popped up along the way, but I easily came up with over 100 potential memory palaces just from that one 15 minute effort. So I now know I can easily build on these. And you’re right, you do start paying attention to your surroundings and ventures out into the world more! Just last night I went to a local restaurant and looked at it from the perspective of using it as a memory palace. I just have to laugh.
I now understand why you are so specific in your guidelines such as beginning your first memory palace with one word or letter per room,. Well I didn’t do that because with an alphabet of 60+ distinct symbols I couldn’t grasp (at the time) how to do that with multiple memory palaces. I surely didn’t have a place I could recall well enough that had close to that many rooms. I also wanted to keep the alphabet in my current home, which is on the small side.
By the time I really understood why you said that I had gotten too far into the process to make such a drastic overhaul. But I got to learn from experience that my first memory palace had too many substations in each room (8 in each) and it required more thinking and remembering on my part, just as you say. In fact, each room had a different number in the beginning. I realized soon on that would be too much remembering. Does the guest bedroom have 4 substations or 6? How many substations do I have on the balcony? By putting the same number in each room I didn’t have to use my mind to remember how many for that room. Thanks to the flexibility of the spreadsheet I adjusted and made each room consistent. Yes, I found consistency is important.
You talk about setting certain rules or guidelines for yourself to minimize extra memorization. I found that helpful too. For example there are some symbols that have a 2nd version with a dot underneath. I made a rule that anytime the dot was part of a symbol there was a certain ‘thing’ it represented to the overall symbol. Or a rule that if I used a door as a substation it would only be the side when exiting the room, then I wouldn’t have to remember did I use the door in that room for a substation? Both the inside and outside? Or deciding not to use doors at all. Another example is in the bathroom- there are 4 different faucets. At first I designated them as substations before assigning images and stories. When I came to that location on my journey I realized I was getting too confused keeping the images and stories memorized correctly. I experienced the extra effort required to memorize using all 4 faucets. So I chose to use only one. It worked so much better. Yes, Minimize the extra stuff.
Now I see why you devote one of your course talks on the “Perils of Perfectionism”. I witnessed the tendency in me to want it ‘right’. But like you say there isn’t a ‘right’ way, it’s what works for the individual. As I’ve shared I made many changes along the way…a change to an image, a change in a story, a change to a station. I found as I went along certain things made more sense to my mind than what I may have originally come up with. And each step along the way more and more understanding and flow comes (just like you say!!) And so much fun!! Oh, and now I don’t live alone. My house is full of strange animals, funny people, and weird objects doing bizarre things.
By the way, Now I see why you say we must actually set aside the time to do memorization and recall because before you know it you’ll find your head on your pillow realizing the day somehow slipped by yet again without doing any vocabulary memorization. So setting a specific time, whatever that may be, is really vital.
This brings me to your recent survey asking people whether they would see benefit in having you provide images for students to use to help them memorize instead of coming up with their own associative-imagery. I SAY A RESOUNDING NO! Had I not taken the course and jumped in to do it I may have said yes, that sounds like a good idea. But the ‘yes’ most likely comes from the uncertainty people feel about starting. Because it’s such an ‘out of the box’ approach to learning/memorizing we ask ourselves if we’re really creative, if we have a good enough imagination, or an imagination at all, or doubt that we know enough places to designate as potential memory places. What if I don’t get it right? On and on…
Now that I’ve actually ‘done it’ (by making lots of blunders) I fully agree with you that the images coming from one’s own imagination will be the strongest and easiest to remember. The imagery you presented in the survey was surely interesting. But what if I don’t know who Ezra Pound is? Or I am not familiar with the Christian symbol for fish? Or the eels don’t look like eels to me? Then I’ll have to memorize even more than the alphabet letter these images are meant to represent. I agree with you, it’s more work.
It’s adding another layer that isn’t necessary. Our cultural and educational backgrounds, our life experiences, our emotional nature….all of these will contribute to our understanding or lack thereof of someone else’s images. I would say because of your unique background, extensive education and expansive life experiences you can draw on a vast number of images that I wouldn’t have a clue about or any connection with. You give examples of your images and stories in the course which I feel are enough to spark one’s own imagination. Maybe giving a few (just a few J) more graphic examples would be helpful just to let people see how far out there one can take it.
I say just start. Trust yourself. Trust the process. It may go slow in the beginning, but very quickly a door opens up into a whole new world and perhaps a whole new relationship with your mind. It’s like giving yourself permission to be inventive, creative, a little crazy. And who knows where that will lead! I wouldn’t give up the fun I’ve been having making up images and wild stories!
I’m also glad I didn’t listen to all the podcasts or read too much before building my first memory palace. There’s more than enough in your course already. All the other tips and suggestions from you and other experts in the field would only put too many ideas in my head and then I would be overwhelmed as to where to begin. I can always pursue those at a later time.
For me, the course stands on its own. It is so finely crafted, inclusive, easily paced with short enough segments. I never felt I had to stop in the middle of a section because it was too long. Taking notes was helpful along with the titles you used for each segment. I was able to go to that particular section or review my notes as it was really useful for me to revisit certain ideas as I was creating my first memory palace.
I found your presentation style engaging yet simply straightforward and accessible. Your course(s) and newsletters reveal your enormous generosity with your time, knowledge and experience, a genuine commitment to helping each person with their questions, and an uncommon generosity to network people and support other experts in the field. I appreciate your passion for learning and experimenting with life and the brain’s infinite capacity. Quite a package you are Anthony! A rare bird indeed. You’re an inspiration and I send oceans of gratitude, and blessings to you for your gifts to reach out to an ever-widening circle of people.
Next for me is choosing the vocabulary to memorize. I have decided to devote approximately 10 memory palaces to themes such as food, time, colors , numbers, grammar, etc. as I get the feeling this will be helpful to have for quick reference, as well as for words I can use right away in everyday activities. Then I’ll have memory palaces for each letter as well.
Okay Monsieur Metivier. All for now. I hope this hasn’t been to long, but if any of this can be of benefit to another you are welcome to share. I’m just so glad I found you, and I know if I get stuck or overwhelmed that I can email you my questions and you will respond. That’s a gift in itself.
One more thing…
Before I finish here I thought you may want to know how I found you.. I stay connected with my mom by playing an online scrabble type game. I ‘accidentally’ saw a video of yours that popped up on a site I came across when doing a search for two-letter words. I got drawn into the site… I found myself clicking on memorization techniques (primarily because I never remember the two-letter words, or much else for that matter!) a video of a 6 year old who had memorized the U.S. presidents using different rooms in her house, and another video about Ron White, who apparently is a champion memorizer (I’m new to this). But somehow, without my conscious intention or choice, a podcast of yours came up ( I can’t even find it again on this website!?!) and I listened to it…I really was drawn to the sound of your voice, what you were saying, even though I had never seriously thought about improving my memory, and next thing I knew I went to your website,
Then I signed up for your newsletter (I am typically loathe to do that! I’m a chronic unsubscriber!), read several and enjoyed every one, found myself getting excited about improving my memory and learning Hindi (I’ve been living in India for way too long not to know it!), then I signed up for your online course.
Here’s the part you can laugh at if you’d like. It’s embarrassingly funny (to me). You offer your online course on Udemy. For some reason I thought Udemy was only offered on IOS devices. This was because I use an Ipad for most all my internet stuff. When I clicked through to your course from the website I had to download an app for Udemy. Well I’m not so up-to-date on all things technical – the app required IOS 6 or later. I still had 5.1 and for reasons I won’t go into I can’t currently upgrade. I thought, well, my phone, an old iPhone 3 has IOS 6 and I’ll download it on there. So I proceeded to take your full course looking at this tiny little screen, using a magnifying glass whenever you showed documents. Do you think I was serious about learning?
Okay, here’s the funny part. When I finished the course and I got to the part where I wanted to use an Excel spreadsheet I took out my 7 year old Macbook and as I was setting it up and doing some internet surfing I had a flash (talk about belated). Wait a minute, I wonder if Udemy is available on laptops. So I found the site and signed in and saw that I could have taken the course with a normal view. OMG! I just didn’t connect the two in the beginning.
The other great surprise was how much more info is available-all the answers you give to questions.