Ordinary people, ordinary minds, extraordinary memorisation

Like the hell of memorisation, The Thinker at the Gates of Hell by Rodin

Source : https://www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/4528252054/

It is no accident that basketballers are typically very tall. Even without the drugs, Lance Armstrong had an advantage with an extra-large heart (literally), a useful asset for great endurance. The physical attributes that sport athletes are born with make a huge difference. This is not the same when it comes to the mind. Ordinary people can have extraordinary memory skills with a bit of dedication and discipline. So here is a list of incredible feats of memorisation. Hopefully it can be a source of inspiration for anyone who still has stuff to learn.

  1. Athletes
    The ‘mind athletes’ of the annual World Memory Championship train themselves to memorise a lot of information quickly. For example, there is the ‘Random Words’ discipline – basically memorising a list of random words in a set amount of time. Or you may prefer the popular ‘Speed Cards’ discipline of memorising the order of a deck of 52 playing cards as fast as you can. German lawyer Simon Reinhard, holds several records including the Random Words record of 300 words after 15 minutes of memorisation (2010); and the Speed Cards record of 21.19 seconds for memorising the order of a shuffled full deck of cards (2013). These records may be rather intimidating but don’t let that discourage you. Joshua Foer, an American journalist who was researching an article on mind athletes, himself became the 2006 USA Memory Champion after just one year of training.
  2. Heavenly
    Millions of Muslims all over the world have achieved the title ‘Hafiz’ or ‘Hafiza’ as recognition for memorising all 6,236 verses of the Qu’ran, that is 80,000 words. Arguably they have a particular type of motivation in studying the Qu’ran in this way. As it happens, becoming ‘Hafiz’, that is memorising the Qu’ran and acting accordingly, is believed to guarantee entrance into heaven for yourself and a few others of your choosing. Despite this special motivation, or should we say devotion, they only have the memory and the same physical attributes of mere mortals like most of us.
  3. 3.141592…
    Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, has an infinite number of decimal places, without there being any pattern to them. Pi has fascinated people for centuries. Maths enthusiasts all over the world memorise it to 100, 500 or even 1000 places. Some however take it a little bit further… In 2006, Akira Haraguchi, a 60-year-old Japanese man, set the world record for memorising and reciting Pi to 100,000 decimal places. Sat in a public hall in Kisarazu, just east of Tokyo, Haraguchi took 16 hours to recite 3.141592…
  4. Epic!
    John Basinger memorised John Milton’s Paradise Lost in its entirety. This is epic in all senses of the term. Paradise Lost is certainly much more than just 60,000 words, 10,565 lines or if you prefer 12 books. But this in itself is already quite a bit. Basinger, a Professor of Theatre and Sign Language, started memorising the poem in his late 60s. For 8 years, he spent about an hour each day learning 3 or 4 new lines and practising. In 2001 he recited the whole poem for the very first time over three eight-hour sittings. Psychologists even examined him and were fortunately able to confirm his normality.
  5. The Word
    John Bathurst, another lawyer, is expected to recite the New Testament of the Bible from memory 2-5 May 2014. 172,000 words! If you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Chichester, South England, you could witness this accomplishment in person. Given that he has already managed to memorise and recite the 150 Psalms of the Bible in 2002, we have faith.

2000 Words

Just think, for European languages you only need to learn 2000 words to know 75-80% of the most frequently used vocabulary… Do you want to get started with your 2000 words?