How can I memorise sign language?
by Graham S.
I was really pleased to find your website. I am learning British sign language and was wondering if you could tell me which of the memory improvement techniques would be the best for me to use to help me remember the vocabulary, etc.
Will any of them work for a visual language do you think? Any help and advice you can give me will be very much appreciated.
Doug's Reply: To memorize British (or American) sign language vocabulary, I would use a variation of the Keyword Method. For example:
According to BritishSignLanguage.com, the sign for *boots* is "Both hands held as fists make pulling gesture from waist upwards."
To memorize that sign, I need to visualize a silly image that links the keyword ("boots") to the action for the sign. That is the trick to to remembering the sign easily and placing it in long-term memory.
The mental image must be bizarre or unusual. Normal images are forgettable but an unusual image sticks in the brain.
So I first imagine a gigantic pair of boots. These boots are as big as a mountain. They are just sitting in a field somewhere, with nothing else around.
When I look into one of the boots, I see it is filled with thousands of human fists. No arms or bodies, just clenched fists. Not in a gruesome way, necessarily, just in a very odd and memorable way.
To memorize sign language using mental images, you must visualize the image as clearly and in as much detail as you can. Thinking of an unusual image is only the first step.
So examine the texture of the boots. Are they made of rough leather, perhaps? Are they scuffed or smooth? What color, any decorative features? Visualize the fists in similar detail.
Next you need to connect the action for the sign (pulling your two fists upward from the waist) with the unusual mental image we created.
Imagine yourself as a giant, reaching down into the two boots and grabbing a handful of fists in your right and left hand. They are kind of squishy like a handful of marshmallows. Next, you stand up and decide to place the fists under your armpits holding them there for safe-keeping.
So you pull your hands (full of the "fists") up past your waist and toward your armpits.
Review this boots/fists image and action several times until you can picture it easily and clearly. If you are planning to memorize a lot of signs, write down each sign and a hint on a cue card. We call these "index cards" in the U.S., often 3" x 5" in size.
Once you've memorized several signs, flip through your cards to test yourself. The cards will also help you remember the images you created in case you forget some of them.
Now consider a situation where you need to use the sign. First you will think of the term "boots" since that is the word you want to sign. The crazy image of the giant boots should just pop into your mind if you have practiced it enough. Once you think of the giant boots (filled with the giant fists), the action for the sign should immediately come to mind.
Easy, right? Even though it took me several sentences to explain how to memorize the sign for "boots", with practice you will be able to create silly image and action combinations very quickly. It took me about 30 seconds to think of the way to memorize the sign for boots I described above.
This is information only. It is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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