Learning (NaBloPoMo: Mnemonics)

Prompt: Are you good at learning languages or memorizing facts?


When I was in grade school I was a whiz at memorizing. The multiplication table? Easy-peasy. The regions of the Philippines? Easy as eating pie. Different scientific classifications? Done, done, and DONE.

The problem? Making them stick after the test is done. Aside from the multiplication table and the 13 municipalities of Metro Manila (now no longer municipalities), nothing else I’ve memorized in my youth has remained. Things will sound familiar if I come across something I “learned” from before, but that’s it. The transfer that ideally should have happened from school to real life never took place because beyond the tests, I saw no point in having to remember any of it. This is what I have been rallying against when I teach. Grammar is ridiculously tedious to teach and learn, but the benefits outweigh the work put in to teaching and learning it.

In the case of languages, I thought I had a good ear when it comes to learning it, but I honestly have no idea how true this is given that I no longer have practice at learning a new one. The last time I tried learning a language formally in class was around ten years ago in college with Japanese. I successfully got a Level 4 certification for Basic Japanese Language Proficiency, but that certification is useless because I’ve not been able to practice the language outside the classroom. Again, transfer to real life never happened.

To answer the question, now, I suppose I can say that I’m “good” at both, but there really doesn’t seem to be any point at doing both if there’s no transfer. Right now I’m just casually learning Chinese because I work at a Chinese-Filipino school. I try to learn phrases and words that are commonly used by the students in class, and that’s about it. With constant practice at school and with conversations with the Chinese teachers, I’m able to retain in my memory these words and use them appropriately.

Now if you ask me about WRITING in another language…

That’s a completely different matter for me.


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