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You remember the trouble we had and the time it took in learning those words, and even after having learned them well, we soon forgot many of them ; at any rate, if one of those words occurs, we are not always sure if it is an exception or not. But by this method just the contrary takes place. Not only does it take no time and require no effort to impress such a series on the mind, but you will find that, if we take the trouble to go through it once or twice more, it will be indelibly impressed on the mind. For, if afterwards we want to know whether a word is an exception or not, we need not go through the list, but the word itself tells us whether it is an exception or not, as each of those words recalls the preceding and following one, and is therefore immediately recognized as belonging to the series. I am sure it does not take one moment's reflection to tell if the words, sword, fish, end, net, etc., are in the list. If, therefore, the word is found to terminate in is, ensis, piscis, finis, cassis, I recognize it directly as an exception. Moreover, if a word occurs which is no exception, the word itself tells us that it is regular, because it does not recall others of the list, and is therefore not in the series of exceptions. I found that this method of arranging exceptions enables students of the French language to retain the genders of French nouns with great precision and certainty.
I gave the English equivalents of the Latin words, because I dealt only with the idea the word expresses. If we know the Latin word, it is of course quite immaterial whether I say mugilis or mullet, piscis or fish,
but if we do not know the Latin words, they cease to be an idea.*
I will add a few more observations about some other practical applications of this method. The principal means of facilitating the acquirement of knowledge is, as you have seen, comparison. But in comparing, it is most essential to take the known as a basis of comparison for the unknown; whereas, usually, we do the contrary. I tried to apply this principle of going from the known to the unknown, to the study of foreign languages, and will explain in the fourth lesson and the supplement the general principles which are fully developed in my books on German and French.
* Further on we will see how to remember the Latin words,
extremely stund with are HOW TO REMEMBER NUMBERS AND DATES.
In the previous lesson I endeavored to explain that the easiest way of facilitating acquirement of knowledge is to compare the unknown with the known.
I intend to show in this lesson how to apply this principle to numbers.
In numbers, as in other things, any number which is quite familiar to us can serve as starting-point of remembrance for others; e.g., if I know the date of the first French Revolution, which is 1789, I have no difficulty in remembering 1689, 1589, 1489, etc. Now, if by chance the events which occurred in those years present some points of comparison, it will be easy to remember them. In point of fact, 1589 is the very year in which Henry IV. became King of France. He being the first Bourbon, 1589 is the beginning of the Bourbons in France ; 1789 the great Revolution, which led to the end of the Bourbons ; 1489 and 1689 happen to correspond with similar facts in English history, for 1489 is the time of the beginning of the Tudors (the exact date, 1485, will be treated of later on), and 1689 the end of the Stuarts. This shows how one date or one number, which I know, can help me to remember others, by comparison. But in order to apply this prac
tically it would require the previous knowledge of a large number of dates.
Before showing what I propose in order to avoid this difficulty, let me say just a few words about what has been proposed before me to facilitate the remembrance of figures.
We use Arabic signs for figures. But not every language has particular signs for figures; some use their letters for this purpose. This is the case in Greek and Latin —the so-called Roman figures are familiar to all of us. M is thousand, D 500, C hundred, etc. In these languages the words contain figures. This suggested the idea that the easiest way to remember figures would be to take letters for the figures and to form words with them. Not to go back farther, it will suffice to mention Dr. Grey, whose “Memoria Technica” is well known. He took the letters of the alphabet and distributed them among the ten figures. In order to remember that William the Conqueror's reign began in 1066, he told us to take the first syllable of the word William, which is wil, the first syllable of the word Conqueror, which is con, and add the letters sau. With these elements you form the word Wilconsau ; and if you succeed in remembering it, and know the alphabet well, you will be able to find out the date, 66. I need not say that it is much easier to remember 66 than Wilconsau, and he must have thought so himself, as he recommended us to bring sufficient of those barbarous words together to form a hexameter. See page 15.
Others thought it better to form words which mean something, and proposed to form a word with the let
ters giving the required figures, incorporate it in a phrase, and learn a phrase by heart for each date. A few phrases well chosen may be easily learned, but to apply it practically, it will be found much easier simply to
pay attention to the dates, than to learn a number of phrases by heart.*
I shall not suggest anything to be learned by heart in order to remember numbers, but I spoke of these systems and of the idea of expressing numbers by words with the help of a figure-alphabet, because I thought to a certain extent it might be of some use to us. What I want is to get a few known starting-points of comparison. I thought if it were possible to find some numbers, say some dates, not in words or phrases, but in the facts themselves, we should get at once some known starting points of comparison. This is possible, if the letters of a word remind us of figures. I need not say that any so-called figure-alphabet would do for the
purpose, but to keep to my principle of comparison I constructed the following alphabet :
The letter t has been proposed for one, as having one stroke, consequently easily reminding us of 1.
n having two strokes, and m three strokes, they will easily remind us of two and three. I will leave out four for the moment.
The easiest letter to remind you of 5 is s, as it is of the same shape as 5.
Page 20 + The deaf and dumb express the lett and “m” with three fingers, on this account,
with two fingers,