Two Skills a Month Challenge 2 Report - French Basics and Memorizing a deck of card in 5 mins
Sep 1, 2019
Takes about 7 minutes to read ⏱
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
I spent most of my time in the past month picking up the basics of a new foreign language(French) and practicing a memory trick. My progress has been quite fair though not flourishing, it has been a month where I have unlocked some of my curiosity levels. I shall try to explain my path taken to take up those skills and creating a habit out of it.
Here is a link to my article where I wrote while taking up the challenge.
TL;DR : I can speak some broken French and memorize a deck of cards easily (Not under 5 mins though!)
Learning French basics - French 101
Latin languages have always been attractive to me and I always fancied picking up a latin foreign language. French and Spanish are the two most popular Latin languages (special mention : Portuguese). Both Spanish and French belong to the top 10 most spoken languages in the world. I decided to train myself to pick up French initially with no specific career driven goal in mind. The challenge was to practice consistently for a month so that the seeds of a new habit gets sowed.
- Memrise - Memrise is a fantastic platform to learn a new language. It was founded by Ed Cooke, who is himself a grand master of memory. I read about him in the book Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. It is both available on the website and as an app. It is free to use however I have subscribed to the paid version to unlock some test features.
Memrise has categorized the French language course into 7 modules based on difficulty levels. I am about to finish the first module which has 477 words.( As of now , I have learned 347). The best thing about memrise it is designed in a beautiful way using the spaced-repetition learning method, where regularly they review your skills based on various tests to refresh your vocabulary. It teaches new words and common phrases from small video clips of native speakers. I personally like this feature a lot as it provides an idea of the expressions as well.
It has become an obsession to maintain the daily streak and I hope to maintain it for few months.
- Duolingo - It is probably the most popular language learning platform and famous for its amazing simple user interface designed like a game. I use both Duolingo and Memrise in parallel to reap the benefits of both mediums and it helps me test the skills better as well as increase my vocabulary at a faster pace. Duolingo has divided the French course into 8 modules. Duolingo is comparatively easier than Memrise as it provides a lot of hints while practicing. So I prefer jumping to the next level by giving tests where no clues are provided. I prefer using the desktop version. Duolingo is completely free app and there is no such need to purchase the paid version as it offers no additional content apart from removing ads.
-Conversation Exchange - This is a good platform to find some native speakers and barter language skills. The website is does not have a very intuitive interface but it does the job well. I have made a friend from Gabon via this platform and sometimes practice using skype or whatsapp.
I understand learning a foreign language using these apps wont enable me to make long conversations or understand a native speaker’s accent with ease. However these platforms enables a strong basic foundation of the language while keeping learning engaging and fun oriented.
Duolingo even organizes meetups in various cities to enable learners of various skill levels communicate in a real environment and practice their skill-set. The upcoming meetups can be found here
Learning a new language can be fun and you should definitely give it a shot. I have found a new interest in the French language and after maintaining a monthly streak, I no longer find myself practice deliberately. It happens automatically and has become an obsession. With consistency and some patience, even a herculean task seems achievable.
Memorizing a deck of cards under 5 minutes.
My knack for trying out memorization tricks initiated after the reading the book Moonwalking with Einstein. It’s a fascinating read about how a journalist went on to become a US national memory champion with a year of practice.
One of the events in the memory championship event is to memorize a deck of cards (52 cards) as fast as possible. I was intrigued when I read about this and thought of it as an impossible feat. I started doing some research on memory athletes and their ways of memorizing. I came to know about memory palaces and the Person Action Object(PAO) technique. After practicing for a month, I am now able to memorize a complete deck of cards in under 10 mins. (Still need practice to make it under 5!). The best I have clocked is approx 7 mins. On first instance, it sounds a bit daunting but I would like to share the technique that I use and most memory athletes use.
First I created a memory palace in my mind. It needs to be a place that you know very well and can easily walk through the place in your mind. I selected my way from our society entrance gate to my rooms. I needed 17 places to store all the cars. Each place will store 3 cards and one card is left at the end which can me remembered easily.
Now cards have four categories. I assigned different categories of people for them such as - ♥ represents friends and family (hearts for love). - ♠ represents actors - ♣ represents sports persons and - ♦ represents entrepreneurs and wealthy people (diamonds for wealth)
Now each person needs to be imagined doing an action with an object. Here is how I alloted animated characters to my ♣ cards (The more exaggerated you can imagine, the better you can remember).
- King of ♣ - Virat Kohli tossing a coin (here person is Kohli, action is tossing, object is coin).
- Queen of ♣ - Mary Kom punching a boxing bag
- Jack of ♣ - Jasprit Bumrah bowling with a white ball
- Ace of ♣ - Roger Federer serving with a tennis racket
- 10 of ♣ - Tendulkar hitting a sixer with MRF Bat and so on…
Now suppose you see a cards in this order - 10 ♣ , K ♣, A ♣ - This will mean Tendulkar tossing a tennis racket (The person of the first card, the action of the second card and the object of the third card needs to be combined to form an image). This animated image needs to be placed in the first place of the memory place. For me, it will be my society entrance gate. So I will remember Tendulkar tossing a huge tennis racket in the entrance gate. In this way I allot 17 different characters doing various actions with the objects in my memory palace. Once I am done visualizing the same, I just do a walk through my memory palace and can easily see what was happening in each place. With practice, this can be done with ease. Thats how memory athletes train their minds.
While learning this trick was fun, it can be applied to any king of learning. Our mind easily remembers animated images, videos than texts or numbers. So these techniques can be applied to easily remember to-do lists, work related tasks, or anything that requires memorization. Memory palaces can retain information for months and years if practiced in spaced intervals.
I hope you will try creating some memory palaces for yourself as well and use it to store any information you like!
Books that I read past month
- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. (A must read) (https://amzn.to/2Lj3Ly7)
- An Autobiography of a Yogi by Parmanhansa Yogananda. (shorturl.at/fgrI5)
- Paradox of choice. Buy
Will be writing about my next set of challenges soon!