The Vocabulary-Translation-Queen-Elizabeth-Memorization Connection

shutterstock_3181455-150x150Dear Memorizers,

Some weeks ago I told you about this book and how I found it well worth reading. (Actually, I think all books are worth at least glancing at, particularly when it comes to language learning and memorization).

The author talks a bit about mnemonics, albeit nothing so elaborate or detailed as the Magnetic Memory system.

However, one fascinating point he raises is the use of translation to enhance fluency. He tells a story about Queen Elizabeth and the five languages she mastered that is riveting for people like us who seek fluency.

In very brief strokes, Queen Elizabeth had a language instructor who gave her a text in say, Latin, and then had her translate it into English. Having read the translated text and either corrected or approved it, the teacher returned the text and then had Queen Elizabeth translate it back into the target language.

The fascinating thing about this procedure is that when the Queen translated her own English language translation back into the target language, the instructor did not look for fidelity to the original. The “reverse-engineering did not have to be the same.

Rather, the language instructor looked for fluency. Could Queen Elizabeth create legible sentences from her own translation in the target language?

Apparently she could and …

… these exercises boosted her fluency tremendously.

I’m going to be experimenting with this over the next few weeks in May using German newspapers and see how I fare (stories about the movies and entertainment, not depressing stuff). With the few experiments I’ve made so far, I’ve already noticed a boost.

I’ve also noticed that this practice is kind of an elaborate version of the Excel file exercise – or perhaps better said, an extension of it. (If you’re new to the list or haven’t seen it, here’s the link to the Excel-Memory-Palace training video I made for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMPMuOyfke4  )

The reason I see a similarity is because you recreate words, sentences and phrases in the absence of the original text, or your original records of the text, and only later make a comparison after working out the material on your own. It’s not rote learning. It’s quality control.

So here’s how to get started when you’re ready to try this translation technique on your own.

1. Pick a simple newspaper article. Something short, 100-200 words. You can even start with just a single sentence.

2. Have a dictionary nearby, all of your predetermined Memory Palaces ready to go and a paper and pen.

3. Translate the article into English.

4. Place the words you don’t know into your Memory Palaces.

5. Take a rest. Eat some fruit. Go for a walk.

6. Without looking at the article or the dictionary, recreate the article in your target language.

7. More rest.

8. Compare.

9. Rinse & repeat the next day.

Give it a try and let me know how you do!

Want more help? Give my video course a try. If nothing else, watch the free lesson in the video to see if it’s something for you.

Until next time, make sure to teach someone what you have learned about memorization. It’s the best way to deepen your own understanding and to help make the world a better – and more memorable – place. The more we remember, the more we can remember, and the more we learn, the more we can learn.

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