Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mnemonic's Phonetic System or How to Remember Numbers

If you've ever watched a "Memory Expert" memorize a shuffled deck of cards, a hundred digit number in a few minutes, or a list of things in numerical order, they're probably using the Mnemonic's Phonetic System or some variation of it.

In education, numbers, dates, alphanumerics, formulas, and equations can be remembered for a lifetime using Mnemonic's Phonetic System but most people won't take the time to even try it because after all, we can always Google that stuff, right? Sure if the only thing you like to ponder is what's for dinner and on television tonight, why remember anything? But if you're not mentally lazy you will be amazed with what you can do with Mnemonic's Phonetic System. Once you get good at it you'll wonder why it isn't taught in the fourth grade because all it is is a code that turns numbers into phonetic sounds which we convert into words which we can turn into visual images. We're going to focus on historical dates in this blog but the uses of Mnemonic's Phonetic System is limitless.

Mnemonic's Phonetic System
  • One is the phonetic sounds "t or d". Made memorable by t or d only having one foot.

  • Two is the phonetic sound "n". Made memorable by n having two feet.

  • Three is the phonetic sound "m". Made memorable by m having three feet.

  • Four is the phonetic sound "r". Made memorable by four's phonetic "r".

  • Five is the phonetic sound "l". Made memorable by holding up your outstretched left hand and the L being created with the thumb and forefinger.

  • Six is the phonetic sounds "sh, ch, soft j or soft g". Made memorable by J and G "kind of" looking like a six.

  • Seven is the phonetic sounds "k, hard g, or hard c". Made memorable by two sevens being used to create a printed K.

  • Eight is the phonetic sounds "f or v". Made memorable because a handwritten "f" looks like an eight.

  • Nine is the phonetic sounds "p or b". Made memorable because p or b look like a nine.

  • Zero is the phonetic sounds "z or s". Made memorable because zero starts with the letter z.

Here's a little personal addition I've made to the phonetic system. Anyone wanting to remember lots and lots of dates in history that includes the month and day may find it more efficient to use a twelve month code: January is one or "t or d" of course, but instead of October being ten we use zero or "s or z". Then instead of November being eleven it can be the phonetic "h" and December can be the phonetic "w or wh". The objective here is to eliminate what we don't need and streamline the mnemonics as much as possible.

Before we start, there is one confusing rule to using Mnemonic's Phonetic System that most people get wrong from the beginning, myself included. The rule is: It's the phonetic sound and not the spelling. So the word "little" is 515 and not 5115 and "puppy" is 99 and not 999.

Now let's do the year Columbus discovered the Americas, 1492. 1492 can be "tripping, turban, turbine, etc." Memory Story: We visualize ourselves as Columbus "tripping" over an oar as we get out of the boat in America and landing face first in the water amidst uproarious laughter from our crew. That is until they see the look on my face. But do we really need to remember the "1" in 1492? We know which millenium it happened. So how about "ribbon, roping, raping, etc.?

Let's do the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate of Rome, March 15th 44 BCE. We know Julius Caesar died almost a hundred years before Jesus Christ so we don't have to worry about the BCE. So it's 3-15-44. I use "metal rare". Memory Story: You are Julius Caesar and notice the dagger that's about to enter your body is a "rare metal" like gold.

Those two were easy so let's challenge ourselves a little. Let's add some alphanumeric codes for the Battle of Hastings on October 14th 1066 with William I's Norse army beating and killing Harold II and beating his Saxon army. William can be W1 and Harold II can be H2. We want to put the victor first in our alphanumeric code so we convert W1H2 to "WeT HeN" and add a NoSe to our wet hen for Norse beating the Saxon army. Memory Story: We're at the Battle of Hastings and a WeT HeN with a giant NoSe is on a "steer" (October 14th or 014) that "does a chacha" (1066) around a haystack of hay that stings. I guess the farmer got some stinging nettle in the hay and the steer and wet hen found it.

Wars are no longer decided in one decisive battle and as we all know can last for years. To remember WWI 1914-18 we can eliminate all the numbers possible to become 914-8 or "petrify". Memory Story: It's a Twilight Zone moment when you walk through the battlefields and trenches of France and everything and everyone is like "petrify" stone. (Can't use "petrified" here or it'll change to 91481.)

The Civil War 1861-5 can be shortened to 861-5 or "fishtail". Memory Story: The North and South are fighting over a "fishtail". Once we've visualized "fishtail" we don't need 186_ for other important dates during the Civil War. April 9th 1865 can become 4-9-5 or "rebel" for the surrendering of Lee's army or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14th 1865 can become 4-14-5 for "red roll" or "arterial" and I'll let you create your own memory stories for these dates.

WWII from 1939 to 1945 can be shortened to 39-45 or "mob rule" because we know it took place in the 1900s. Once we have the years down we can turn Japans attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941 into (using "w" for December) "wicked". Believe me, that's a lot easier to phonetically code and create a visualization for than 12-7-1941.

Last but not least we may want to remember something like the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648. How about "mouse" for thirty and "shot off a roof". Memory Story: A mouse "shot off a roof" in the Thirty Years War. Maybe a castle roof and I'll let you come up with your own mouse character that goes around shooting off castle roofs.

This is just for dates and believe me we've only just begun. The next subject we're going to use Mnemonic's Phonetic System in is Chemistry's Periodic Table. Hopefully next week. Til then have fun practicing the phonetic system on phone numbers, license plates, and whatever you fancy.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I have a question about the Major system. Is the phonetic system meant to be for English speakers primarily or can someone who isn't a native speaker in English use the phonetic system and use it in his or her mother language? I speak fairly good English and I understand the concept of the system but I think I would appreciate it more if I could use it in my mother tongue Swedish primarily.

    I have also one last question, do you think that the system is easy to use to convert word along as you go or do you use peg-words that you have constructed earlier on. I read in Harry Lorayne's book Super memory-Super student that he thought it was much more easy to construct words as you go along. Like if you found digits like 68, 90, 120, 340, 804 that it's easier to just come up with words when you look at them for the first time. I find that almost impossible to do. Maybe because I don't have that big vocabulary in English or I simply think it's to difficult. like the word 68 I know it's JF but a word for that? Jof, Jaf, maybe Jaw. But still it takes some time to and think that you have to struggle a lot with it.

    Thank you!