Memorize 4500 words in eight days?
May 30, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to memorize 4500 words verbatim in 8 days?

I need to memorize about 7 single-spaced pages from classical Greek sources in about 8 days. I think it might be possible to do this, as it's a little less than a page a day; but it's a bit wooden at times, so not like memorizing a flowing narrative.

What are the best ways to go about this? I remember things best by repeating them over and over by writing or typing. The process is helped when I also read aloud and try to remember what I've typed or written previously, so there is some auditory and visual processing there, but probably on a secondary level. With this amount of material to memorize, though, I'm not sure how to best systematize my approach.

Any advice on how to best do this? Google searches bring up a bunch recycled fluff on memorization techniques (probably not useless, just not really what I'm looking for). I was also hoping to find some software that might help memorize long scripts by typing, but I can't track anything down.

Thanks for any ideas!
posted by SpacemanStix to Education (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How well do you need to be able to perform it? To get a really nuanced performance you generally need to really memorize something and know it inside and out, but if you can pretty much just reel it off, it's a lot easier to memorize based on the flow and rhythm of the words, as you would with song lyrics. Some people like to set the text to a simple melody, I can usually get away with just kind of... rapping it.

If you choose this approach you should also pick some "signposts" every so often and practice starting from those points, since basing your knowledge of the text on the flow can make it really hard to pick up in the middle if you get flustered.
posted by telegraph at 2:54 PM on May 30, 2012

Best answer: I used to memorize large blocks of text for competitions in high school. I don't know if I ever memorized at quite the rate that you're working on, but I have memorized much longer sections and maintained them for over a year at a time.

Step 1 - if you can find a voice recording of the text itself, use it. If not, make one ASAP. Record the whole thing at once and make sure you get every word perfect. Be glad you're doing this in the digital era - I did my recording using cassette tapes and it took days to get the texts down perfect (if you made a mistake you had to rewind the tape and re-record).

Step 2 - This recording is now your constant companion for the next 8 days. Load it onto your digital music player and have it on in the background CONSTANTLY looping when you're not purposefully memorizing. You'll find that pretty quickly you can recite little chunks along with the recording, and those chunks will get longer and longer over time. Try to visualize what the text is talking about so that you build supporting imagery in your mind.

Step 3 - Set aside sessions of concentrated memorizing where you sit with the script in front of you (visual cues), you play the recording (auditory cues) and you speak along with the recording (kinesthetic cues from the vocalization of the words). Pick smaller chunks to work on in a session - maybe half a page at a time, and work on just that section.

Step 4 - When you cannot listen to the recording for one more moment without going insane, turn it off and try to recite from memory without using the voice recording as a crutch. As the end of the 8 days approaches, do this more and more to ensure that you remember.

I don't know if it will be possible for you to learn the whole text in 8 days, but I think this technique should give you a good shot at success.
posted by sherlockt at 3:09 PM on May 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: In a similar situation I made a recording of myself reading the text I wanted to learn, with pauses - so I'd leave a gap in the recording for me to say the line when listening, then I'd hear the same line in the recording so I'd know if I had it right. I also edited a BASIC (this was a long time ago as you can see) quiz programme so that the answers to the quiz were lines of the text I was trying to learn. Looks like Googling quiz maker finds editable quizzes.
posted by paduasoy at 3:35 PM on May 30, 2012

Best answer: I think the memory palace approach would be perfect for this.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't be surprised if chunking could work. Group the words into blocks of five* and memorize them. Then focus on five blocks of five words, etc., and build from there. I used it so well in high school french that the other kids accused me of cheating. Vocab lists of 20 words took a minute or two to memorize. I'd just block them off, repeat the words in each group, and go. Don't get too wrapped up in the order, or trying to remember everything that came before. You have to build the chunks before you can use them.

Sleep is also really important. You're forming new neuron connections. That requires some time, and it happens best while sleeping.

* Personal taste I suppose, but six was too many, and four didn't seem worth it.
posted by jwells at 6:05 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend that you do a couple of things:

1. Break this text up a LOT. Pieces should be 250-500 words long. For the most part, deal with just one piece at a time, till you're pretty sure you have most of each one down.
2. Use cloze deletion after you have written out each one a few times and it starts feeling a little easy (I personally use SuperMemo for this.)
3. Oh my gosh YES listen to the audio, almost constantly. But if at all possible, break it into chunks, again, so you're hearing it out of order. Why? Because that'll make your brain work a bit harder - listening to the exact same thing over and over again becomes hypnotic, listening to an assortment of 9-15 chunks of the thing, randomly repeated out of order, means you're constantly working a little bit to put it back together.
4. Copy it out strangely. Write the sentences out, but start from the last one and go to the first one. Or copy out alternating sentences.
5. Record yourself reciting it, then play it back while reading the original text. This will make every gap very apparent, and help you remember it all better.
6. If you can get a partner, GREAT. If not, improvise - split the script into two pieces, read by A and B. Either your partner is reading them live with you, or you record the "A" half of the script (alternating sentences is fine.) Then you try and respond (either to your partner or the recording) with the "B" half, without the script. You're learning it as though each sentence is a prompt for the next sentence, instead of them just coming one after another.
7. Make sure to both write AND type it out. Do it with cursive and printing, if you can. Try to type as much as you can from memory, then fix it, then try the next chunk from memory.

I'd guess, based on how long it took me to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, that this will take you something like 45 hours of concentrated practice (not counting times when you're just listening to the recordings.)
posted by SMPA at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is possible. I do it with a fair degree of regularity as an organization to which I belong frequently requires its officers to deliver substantial lectures, often in convoluted 18th century English, from memory.

My suggestions:

1) Try creating a cheat sheet that includes only two or three letters of each word. For example, "Memorizing can be very difficult" might be written "Me ca be ve di." This allows you to get a prompt when your memory fails without having your eyes cheat and read the next four sentences.

2) Do not overwork it. When you find that you are beginning to flub things you knew last time, stop. Relax. Do something else for a bit. When you come back, you will find that you have improved.

3) I think it is especially important to go over it a couple of times before sleep. It really seems to help me.

4) Use your random free moments to work on it. Say it out loud over and over in the way you intend to deliver it. Use your expression, intonation, etc. to help you memorize.

Best of luck.
posted by driley at 6:53 PM on May 30, 2012

Best answer: Divide the word count by eight and add a section per day.

The way to memorize it is simply to repeat it and repeat it until you make zero mistakes.

It will be hard, but it is certainly doable. You must expect to spend a lot of time on it, though.
posted by tel3path at 4:28 AM on May 31, 2012

Response by poster: Great, thanks for the good advice everyone. There's some really helpful stuff here, especially the voice recording idea. I've also broken it down into manageable (I hope) chunks, and divided it up into sections for each day.

I'll give an update later on how it went, if anyone is interested.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2012

Best answer: One other tip: if you can split the written words you're memorizing on to separate pages, and illustrate each page with a picture (downloaded from the Internet or drawn), that may help. It gives you an extra visual cue. Bonus points if there's a clear progression so that you can remember which picture/page comes next.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:50 AM on May 31, 2012

Best answer: Whenever I have to memorize large chunks, I begin at the end. Start with your last "chunk" and when you're familiar with it, add the chunk right before it. This way you continue to reinforce the end. When you go to perform it, you can glance at the opening line if you're unsure and then you only get more confident as you go along!
posted by wallaby at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2012

Best answer: If you're using a recording, it should be possible to literalise the 'memory palace' approach as follows:
Go for a long walk. Try to keep your pace even. While you're walking, listen to the recording. Don't retrace any of your steps. Do the same walk repeatedly over the 8 days. When you want to recall the words, visualise the walk. Since the text is long, you might want to 'chunk' and choose a different route for each chunk.
posted by Acheman at 7:38 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I definitely am interested in an update, btw.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:03 PM on June 14, 2012

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