The comic above was a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. When I drew it, I thought I’d just get a laugh out of imagining what different Asian scripts might look like. Since then, though, it’s actually helped me out quite a bit identifying which written language I’m looking at. For instance, thanks to this comic, I can now look at a photo of any random Asian city street and have a good chance of guessing which country it’s in just from the writing on the storefronts and street ads. What started as a silly joke actually became a useful reference tool.
In college I took a German class to fulfill my language credit. I’d no idea I was going to move to Germany, nor had I any desire to learn it fluently. That was almost seven years ago, and I remember nothing that the professor taught me except for two incredibly annoying songs to help us remember prepositions and cases. Aus, außer, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu are the dative ones, and durch, für, gegen, ohne, um are the accusative ones. Believe it or not, I didn’t even have to look that up, because she made us sing the former to the melody of “the Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss, and the latter to that military “I don’t know but I’ve been told…” cadence call (“durch für gegen ohne um, Deutsch zu lernen ist nicht dumm!”, or in English, “through for against without around, learning German isn’t stupid!” . . . it rhymes in German).
I remember these things because annoying, funny, or stupid tricks actually embed themselves deeper into your brain than just rote memorization. You may have noticed that some airline safety videos are getting funnier these days – it’s been proven that humor helps you remember information better, and songs as well. The Germans took this idea to its wicked, German extreme in this absolutely insane forklift safety video (not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned!).
What about you? What silly songs or rhymes or games have you learned to remember otherwise boring grammar tables or vocabulary?