Mentalists & Memory Palaces: A better way to memorize Kanji
WaniKani is an excellent program. For years I have unsuccessfully memorized kanji and now I go through level after level with a quickness and a high rate of accuracy. Overall I have an exceptional memory, but when you get to the higher levels of the program, this becomes a handicap more than a skill. It’s in the little details that distinguish one kanji from another and if you are relying on the same pronounciation and same visualization that applies to eight plus kanji, things can get pretty tricky. Mnemonics is an excellent tool, but once you pass that 1,000 Kanji threshold, Mrs. Chou ちょうis more confusing than she is helpful.
Enter Memory Palaces.
I was searching for a way to make studying more efficient, forcing me to utilize all radicals of each Kanji each time in a very unique way. I wanted to also create strong associations across levels of similiar concepts or information that may be used in the same conversation.
Yan-Jaa Wintersoul. Maybe you have heard of her? She is a mentalist and Memory World Champion who despite not knowing me from anyone else who is a fan of her work, I consider her to be a personal best friend and mentor because of all she’s taught me.
“Moonwalk with Einstein” by Joshua Foer is a book all of you should read if you are serious about any form of memorization. You will quickly learn that memorizing a deck of cards is not much different as learning a Level of Kanji with WaniKani. Each card can easily be represented by a Kanji while each aspect of the card (color, face) is much like the radicals we learn. And by choosing a Memory Palace for each Level (Yes, 60 Memory Palaces) you can easily be transported to the proper Memory Palace and place within the Memory Palace to answer that kanji and all its respective associated vocabulary. We just need to store that information long term instead of short term as Yan-Jaa or any other Mentalist does with those competitions.
The reason Memory Palaces are so successful is because it ties visual symbolic representations of places in space and time, just as the brain normally stores information. Just as you are unaware that you are learning about the Fibonacci sequence from the famous mathmetician Lewis Carrol when Alice from Wonderland chases the white rabbit and falls down the rabbit hole, you can meet an angry (level anchor) Cardi B (radical:woman) at your favorite bar (memory palace), wearing a weave(radical:thread), sitting on a stool (radical:stool), drunk (radical:drunkard), talking crap (radical:sound) (radical:broken heart) about how men are dogs ど。She’s eating oreos (to weave:おる) and just rapping loudly(lookalike:say), but how discerning(しき） could Cardi B possibly be of people anyway? She’s so angry.
織る:おる to weave
I personally write out my walks through my memory palaces. I color code my radicals, kanji, vocab, hints and lookalikes to not to distract from the story. When I do my Reviews, if I can’t remember something, I return to the memory palace first in my head and then on paper if it’s not a strong enough of a connection. Then I make some tweaks accordingly.
It’s a lot of work. I’m not going to lie, but it is well worth it. Eventually you will only spend a few minutes writing up your memory palace step by step every four to five kanji. In the long run this is much better than being forced to see that very same kanji…over and over again before you get it….twenty or so vocab waiting in the wings until you have finally mastered it.
About the book:
About my favorite mentalist Yan-Jaa: