Memorizing a 5-minute speech for a contest--in Japanese.
March 7, 2004 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Help! I have less than one week to memorize a 5-minute speech for a contest--in Japanese. Most of what I can find on Google tells me not to bother with memorization, but the contest rules say I have to have it memorized verbatim. I have about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes memorized so far, but they're not solid yet. Does anyone have some tips for memorization?
posted by Jeanne to Education (17 answers total)
do you know japanese, or are you only memorizing sounds?
posted by rhyax at 8:14 PM on March 7, 2004

You can do it the slow way, where you memorize it line by line, and then recite as much as you can until finally you have memorized every line, or you can do it the passive way, where you just read the thing hundreds of times, and just like watching a movie over and over, eventually the whole thing starts to stick in your mind. Generally the slower way is more solid, but the passive way will give you a general memorization of the piece that will get better the more times you read it.
posted by banished at 8:19 PM on March 7, 2004

Response by poster: I've been studying Japanese for about six years, so the language itself isn't much of an issue except for the occasional word I'm not really familiar with.
posted by Jeanne at 8:20 PM on March 7, 2004

Break it up into segments. Record yourself saying it. Play it over and over. Memorize it like a song.

It always worked for me.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen..."
posted by ColdChef at 8:26 PM on March 7, 2004

In addition to all your other preparation, record a self-hypnosis tape consisting of a brief induction, followed by the passage you need to memorize, then a brief ext. I used to use this technique to memorize long lists of regular/irregular verb forms and masculine/feminine nouns when I was studying French.
posted by scarabic at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2004

When I had to memorize something (quite awhile ago now), I'd do it line by line. But I'd do it backwards. Start just doing the last line. Then add one, then another, then another.

This way, you start off with the part you've practiced the least and then finish off where you're strongest.
posted by ODiV at 8:34 PM on March 7, 2004

Yep, the only bulletproof method I've found is to start at line 1, memorize that, then go on to line 2, memorize that, repeat lines 1 and 2, then go on to line 3, et cetera. Such is memory.

If there's a secret way that gets it done better, I'd love to hear it.

That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a miracle now...

You could try The Method of Loci, but it's never worked for me reliably.
posted by Hildago at 10:47 PM on March 7, 2004

Just reading it over and over again ... and don't freak out. You've got plenty of time to get it letter perfect. Spend an hour a day doing it.

My usual method is to carry the speech with me and read it whenever I've got a few spare seconds. When practicing formally, read it out loud once, and then put the card away and read until I need help. Every time I need help, I have to start over again from the beginning. Since I hate monotony and repeating things, I'm subconsciously motivated to remember it.

Once you can say it without help all the way through, you're pretty much set. Then it's just a matter of continually refreshing your knowledge until you have to say it.

You've got plenty of time, don't worry.
posted by SpecialK at 10:50 PM on March 7, 2004

Writing it out longhand - in hirigana or katakana might help - or in romanji. I know that when I was forced to memorize the getthysburg address and other things in school that worked well for me. You can practice your strokes this way too I suppose.
posted by woil at 12:13 AM on March 8, 2004

One technique I used when I had to memorize the Presidents and their dates in office in high school was to write a simple computer program that prompted me for each one and their dates. If I entered it wrong, it would just tell me the right answer and move on. I found running through it a dozen or so times the period before the test was sufficient to fix the Presidents in my mind long enough to ace that part of the test. If I wanted it to stick longer term, I would have used the program several times every day for a period of time.

It was a very simple program, you could write something similar in JavaScript, Visual Basic, AppleScript, or just about anything.

Since you have to recite orally, if you use this sort of approach, you might want to actually speak aloud each line as you enter it into the program.
posted by kindall at 1:16 AM on March 8, 2004

Another hand up for the passive method - reading it over in full. I've found over the years while listening to songs that one minute I don't know any of the lyrics, and then suddenly I'll know all of the lyrics. I've put this down to listening to the same song over and over in the car, or on the radio.

Has also worked for speeches, and other sundry lists that I've had to learn by rote.

I've found that learning lines bit by bit - such as learning a poem line by line, or a song performed on piano - isn't as effective for me, because I will get stuck into thinking that I am shit-hot at verse one, and then never get around to memorising the rest of it at a level that's as comfortable as the opening. If you read through the whole thing together, it means you will feel as comfortable with the intro as you will with the stuff around the three-quarter mark.
posted by chronic sublime at 2:39 AM on March 8, 2004

woil: romanji

er, "romaji" is the accepted spelling (yes, I know it comes from "Roman" but you do not pronounce the "n" in Japanese.
posted by gen at 2:59 AM on March 8, 2004

Also I recommend overlearning. Keep working till you get it memorized, then keep working still.

I have been in two separate plays where I had to learn my lines AND perform in the same weekend-I would write the lines over and over. Also, when you read, read the whole thing as one unit.
posted by konolia at 3:51 AM on March 8, 2004

What some others have said: make it into a song. I don't know a word of Japanese, but by god I'll die before I get that damn "Kikkoman" song out of my head.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2004

I'm lucky that I haven't had to do much of this, but when I had to memorize a section of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English, what helped was really thinking about what it meant, so that I wasn't just remembering a sequence of words, but also the story. I can still remember about half that passage...

Do this in parallel with other memorization techniques, of course, but I've found that really understanding the text and having my own mental map of it is a big help--I think it's especially helpful if you get lost.

Gambatte, ne.
posted by adamrice at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2004

Once you think you've got it down, find some willing victims and recite it to them. Try to reproduce the conditions you'll be performing in (sitting or standing, time constraints, loud for an entire roomful of people or quietly for a single face-to-face listener). I've been amazed at how easy it is to think I've got something memorized when I'm on my own, and then watch it break down when I'm in front of other people.
posted by fuzz at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2004

Try learning the speech backwards, from the end. Learn the last sentence, then the one before that, etc. Practise that from time to time as well as from the beginning, and you'll have double the memory anchors, as well as less likelihood of the end of the speech looming unlearned and terrifying.

Another tip; tape yourself speaking it with small pauses between the sentences, then use the tape as a drill/test. Press "pause" between sentences and test yourself on the next sentence.

Also, draw/construct a visually memorable outline (using colour, shapes, or whatever appeals). Spending a little bit of time on this early in the memorising process will aid you in grasping its structure and will also give you another set of anchors as you continue to study by rote.

Finally, as fuzz says, there is nothing like practising in front of an audience. Dress rehearsals are essential in my field, opera.
posted by suleikacasilda at 3:27 PM on March 8, 2004

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