Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Learning Greek

What the hell does that mean? It's all Greek to me. A-ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Actually, Greek doesn't present much of a problem here in Ipsos, a second home for vermilion sunbathers escaping from North West England. Practically all the neo-locals who frequent the bar I use for internet access hail from Greater Manchester, meaning I've heard more accents from my home counties in these last two weeks than I did in the previous three years, and I'm in the bloody Mediterranean.

What do these Mancs think they're doing, abandoning their birth nation to make a new life overseas? They make me sick.

Because I'm obviously nothing like them, I'm committed to at least trying to learn the local language while I'm in Greece. Here's how to learn foreign numbers easily and keep them in your head for all time, along with all the other junk.

Note: All anglicised spellings contained here are lazy-phonetic, according to how I hear them. They probably don't reflect the standard English spellings of these words. Is that a rule I see? Smash!

Total recall

Magic sceptic and all-round evil genius Derren Brown details some fantastic recall exercises in his book Tricks of the Mind, and while it was published too late to help me with any tedious exam revision, I've found his methods very useful for learning units of language.

In particular, DB proposes a system of remembering ordered lists by creating memorable mental images that link neighbouring item together - so you don't only learn one piece of information in isolation, but you can also move back and forth through the list accurately. I've found this a great way for learning the order of foreign numbers.

Earlier this summer, I started learning Japanese in my free time, when I thought I'd be heading over there to Teach English as a Foreign Language. I still remember how to count from one to ten, thanks to the mental image (in all senses) that I pieced together at the time.

Say what you will about its insanity (and there's much to be said) - I wouldn't remember any of this if I'd just revised a word list.

Japanese numbers: 1 to 10

1 ichi
2 ni
3 san (these three together make 'itchy knee man' - he is scratching his knee, see?)
4 yo or shi ('Yoshi' - Nintendo's popular prehistoric character ridden by itchy knee man)
5 go
6 roku ('Go Moku!' - this one only works if you are me, and have a dim recollection of owning the computer version of a board game of this title on your old Amiga, but can't remember what it actually involved, so might as well make Yoshi play hopscotch)

7 nana (self-explanatory)
8 hatch (nana is incubating an egg)
9 kyu
10 ju ('Q-Jew' - a Semitic man with a quirky Q on his hat hatches from nana's egg)

Greek numbers: 1 to 9

As I write this, I've just checked out Greek numbers for the first time. Their partial similarity to other European numbering systems actually makes it more difficult to represent them visually than Japanese, which is so far removed from what I'm used to that it was easy to come up with detached images. Here, tria already means three to me - so it's more a case of remembering that it isn't trio or tri-ay.

Here's what I came up with for total recall of the numbers 1 to 9:

1 ena
2 theo
3 tria ('in a Theo trio' - Wizard Theo x3 from Codemasters' classic adventure game Spellbound Dizzy - I'll just have to remember that it's pronounced 'tria')*
4 tessera (a tesseract in a Theo trio)

5 pende
6 exi
7 epta ('panda.exe - Accept' - remembering not to pronounce it 'septa' might be a challenge though)

8 octo
9 enia (pretty unimaginative this one - an octopus singing Enya. How will I remember it's Enya? Because I've never drawn an octopus singing anything else, that's how!)

10 theka - okay Greeks, you got me. I can't come up with a sufficiently mental mental image for that one, at least nothing I can link to the Enya-crooning octopus.

Maybe I will just have to remember that ten is theka. Unless you have any ideas? Feel free to test me on this five years down the line and see how well the system worked after all. I reckon I'll at least get the panda right!

* You don't know who Wizard Theo is, so substitute for whatever Theo means to you.

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