Memory and Learning

Memory – the key to learning

Cute baby, learning all the time

He looks so cute … but he’s really learning all the time (and maybe secretly planning world domination!)

Memory and learning are twin skills – they complement each other perfectly. But when you were a kid, you didn’t have to consider learning and memory, you just learned new things all the time.  I don’t necessarily mean at school —  that’s a place where what we learn most successfully is to dislike learning!  Way before that, the natural processes of learning and memory began as soon as you were born, and in the first few years of life you learned so much that, if you had carried on at that rate, you would have been the most accomplished person in the world by about the age of fifteen.

It has been said that a child probably learns twenty-five percent of everything he or she will ever learn in his life by the age of four. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it’s certainly true that as children we are sponge-like in our ability to easily learn and absorb information.

Natural memory and learning

Child's building blocks - early learning tools

When kids play they’re really learning, and having fun doing it! For kids, learning and memory go hand in hand.

In those first few years you really could learn more effectively. You learned to understand speech, one of the most amazing and complicated things you could even imagine. And even before you learned to speak, you learned to understand body language and facial expressions, so you could get your own way.

A baby crying or reaching out or making a sad expression is communicating very effectively. Even though he or she might not have even started on the task of decoding speech yet.

You learned to walk as well, a unique and very human way of getting around, you learned to play, to interact with other kids, to give and take.  You learned what to do and what not to do, what’s allowed and what isn’t. And you remembered it all!

Because it’s not just about learning, it’s about remembering (putting learning and memory in action, together).  If you learn the most difficult and complex thing imaginable and then fail to memorise it, it was all a waste of time. Memory is that important!

Learn something new

You may be older now, but memory and learning still play a huge part in your life. Why not set yourself a task of learning something new.  Put your memory to the test.  Even without using a recognised memory system or any of the many memory techniques, you will be using your memory.  As you do so, and as you learn the thing you’ve chosen to study, you will feel a surge of confidence.  This might be the first time in years that you’ve actively chosen to learn, and memory will automatically come into play. You’ll realise you still have the ability.  You learned vast amounts as a child, and you still have the ability to learn now, just the same as you always did.

Do you see yourself as old?
Set in your ways?
Try to imagine you’re seeing the world
through the eyes of a child,
and you’ll re-awaken your natural childlike creativity!

Learning and memory techniques

Start using mnemonics.  They really help you remember, and learn, more effectively. In fact, mnemonics are about the easiest memory techniques you could ever use, and you probably use a fair few of them already without even realising it.  Start to actively make up new ones at every opportunity.  Don’t panic and expect to learn at a tremendous rate, just be content to make steady progress.

When you started to learn to speak as a little baby, you learned one word at a time, and those first few words took weeks and months of struggle.  Within a year or two you were learning hundreds or even thousands of words a year, and doing it virtually effortlessly.  Take something from that — what you did back then, you can do again.
 

Sometimes people with brain damage have to learn to talk all over again – they do it little bit by little bit, painfully slowly.  Sure, it’s tough and I have no doubt it can be very difficult and disheartening, but it can be done.  Learning to use your memory really effectively is like learning a new language, or learning to talk – it is hugely complicated, specially at first, but it can be done, and the way to do it is to approach it sensibly and intelligently.  You can do it.

Use memory training, and learn more effectively

Once you’ve learned some effective memory techniques there’ll be no stopping you! You’ll find that you learn better and more easily, and whatever you learn will stay with you longer. No more will you be wasting time learning and seeing no long-term benefit. Take a look at this page on memory training.

You owe it to yourself to match the effort you put into learning with the effort you put in to learn memory techniques. Once learned, you have them for life. Learning and memory skills go together – to get the best of both of them, you should treat them with equal respect.

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