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September 26, 2002 - Memory Improvement - 2002-09-24

Broadcast on "Coast to Coast": September 26, 2002
Re-broadcast on VOA News Now: September 29, 2002

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER – some ways to help you improve your memory.

ELDH: "We don't forget, we just haven't learned it in the first place."

RS: That's Wendi Eldh. She's a communications trainer who teaches memory skills. One technique she uses she calls the three R's -- record, retain and retrieve.

ELDH: "That is, you have to say, what is the piece of information I want to learn, and you record that. Then you have to figure out where you're going to put it. I don't just throw it in my brain. Am I going to put it with car information, will I put it with insurance information. So you actually get disciplined enough to organize the information you retain in some kind of filing system. And then when you're ready to retrieve it, you know where to get it, just like filing information in a filing cabinet."

RS: "But this is your head." [laughter]

ELDH: "Exactly."

AA: "Is your brain set up that way?"

ELDH: "Sometimes. It takes a lot of work. And I would say that in addition to the epiphany of learning that until you learn it you can't forget it, I think the other thing to realize about memory is that it takes a tremendous amount of discipline."

RS: "Well, how do you go about doing that?"

ELDH: "Well, there are many different memory techniques. I would say that the majority of them have to do with using very intense visual images. The more elaborate, the more bright, the more it draws on all your senses, the better you'll remember. Let's say somebody's name is Campbell. How are you going to remember Campbell? Well, break it up -- camp bell. You want to see that person at a campsite. He's got a huge bell in his hand and he's ringing it. And you see that in your mind, and you hear the bell ringing, very loudly, and you smell the pine needles. Now, you're never going to forget Mister Campbell."

AA: "So you file that, what file do you put that under?"

ELDH: "I'm going to put that under names, and I would probably file it -- depending on the scenario -- under a workplace name. Now that is a danger, though, because then we have what is called 'queue dependency."

RS: "Aren't you at risk of forgetting your cue?" [laughter]

ELDH: "You definitely are, and in fact that is one of the ways that we forget. We forget from decay. If you've studied another language, you know that if you don't use it, you lose it. And we've all heard that. Another is depression. When we have either a mental or a physical illness, our ability to remember and retain information goes down dramatically."

RS: "How would you apply these techniques that you've been talking about, the three R's -- record, retain and retrieve -- to learning a foreign language?"

ELDH: "I think that I would use a lot of the mnemonic devices where you make associations with words. I would also use the device that we use where you use the first letter of each of the words that you have to memorize. I'll give you an example: In America, we have what are known as the Great Lakes. Of course, we all know that. How do we remember the Great Lakes. Can either one of you remember how you ... "

AA: "Let's see, Huron, Michigan, Superior -- what are the other two?" [laughter]

RS: "Erie."

AA: "Erie, right, of course."

ELDH: "Now, I'll tell you an easier way to memorize this. You take the H for Huron, the O for Ontario, the M for Michigan, the E for Erie and the S for Superior and you make the word homes. Now you don't stop there -- and this is what I really want people to get from this information, that you don't just stop at homes, you don't just stop at an acronym, you take it further. You see homes -- it can be floating homes, on the lake, and you see people talking about their homes on the lake, and they're saying 'aren't these lakes beautiful that we float around on in our homes.' And so you can see you deepen the image that you have."

RS: "At one point in my life, I really, really wanted to be good at telling jokes. I never told many jokes and I thought it would be really fun to do that. And so what I did is -- but I could never remember the punch lines of the jokes that I'd hear. So I would write the punch lines down or a word or two, and all of a sudden I had a repertoire of jokes. So I think that writing down reinforces in some ways the things you're trying to remember."

AA: "Assuming you can remember where you put the paper. You know that situation ... "

ELDH: "Absolutely."

AA: "You write something down and you can't -- is there a simple way to remember where you put the paper?"

ELDH: "Ahhh ... "

RS: Memory and communications trainer Wendi Eldh. Now let's see if you can remember some addresses.

AA: The first address is our Web site: Next, our e-mail address. That's And, finally, our postal address. It's VOA Wordmaster, Washington DC 20237 USA.

RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "Thanks for the Memory"/Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, from the film "The Big Broadcast of 1938"