Tag Archives: sherlock

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Listen to the conclusion of this mystery story in which Amber, Paul and I attempt to solve a series of kidnappings in Victorian London.

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Welcome back to the this double episode in which Amber, Paul and I are working our way through an online text adventure game. The game is set in London in the Victorian era. We are playing the part of a brilliant detective with a particular set of skills who, with his partner Mardler, is trying to track down and rescue 4 kidnapped girls while also bringing the kidnapper to justice.

This is part 2. We’re halfway through the story. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, I suggest you do so. It’s episode number 425.

Thanks to Peter Carlson, who wrote the story. Peter gave me the go-ahead to record us reading it out on the podcast. Nice on Peter, thank you.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

You can find the link to the game on the page for this episode (link above) where you read all of the text that we are reading. So you can either just enjoy listening to us going through the story now, or you can listen now and read the story yourself later, or you can listen to us and read the story at the same time. It’s worth checking the text in the story because you’ll be able to read all the words and check certain things that you might miss, like spellings, definitions of certain language etc.

Whatever you choose to do, try to watch out for descriptive vocabulary (particularly verbs for different types of movement), the language we use while working together as a group and also the language we use when making deductions and speculating about the case (things like “might have” “could have” “must have” and so on).

As I said before, the story does contain some descriptions of violence so if you’re very sensitive to the gory details, then be warned, although it’s not that graphic in my opinion and you expect a bit of blood in a detective story, don’t you?

What’s the story so far?

Let’s recap again quickly.

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper in the form of a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

We were called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe had disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we worked out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They had planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduced that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we discovered that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a strange, creepy yet huge and strong man with an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

4 young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all have similar coloured hair – they all have light hair. Then we start receiving notes from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap, written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin – but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us (I blame Amber). It turns out she’s not at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that he must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place – the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

Let’s find out.

*** The story continues ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** The story ends ***

Here’s a recap of the story, just to make sure you got it.

Part 2 of Victorian Detective – Explained

So, after making a mistake and searching the cemetery for Chloe Worthington, we went to the hospital to track down Mr Burlap the kidnapper, who we suspected was Cade Brewer the weird, big guy from the mortuary. There we find the body of one of the other girls, Amy Anderson, but unfortunately it was too late! We’d wasted too much time at the cemetery and the girl had already died from ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Next to Amy’s body we found a smiley face (the kidnapper’s calling card) and a scratched note from Mr Burlap indicating that another one of the girls was being held somewhere else and that we had a limited amount of time to find her. We then deduced that she was being kept near the Thames river. We went there and discovered another one of the missing girls tied up next to the water. Mr Burlap’s plan was that because the Thames is tidal, the tide would eventually come in and the water level would rise, drowning the girl. Thankfully we managed to rescue her in time. We suspected the Italian uncle of the paperboy from part 1 of the story to be the killer, because Mr Burlap wrote “Good luck” in Italian at the end of the note. Closer inspection of Chloe Worthington’s house revealed that it wasn’t the Italian uncle, and that in fact Cade Brewer had been spying on Chloe and Joseph (the Italian paperboy) and that’s how he knew about the Italian phrase, which he wrote in the note as a distraction. We then worked out that Cade Brewer, who must be Mr Burlap was probably hiding in a forest just outside London – Epping Forest. We went there to investigate, and eventually found a small wooden house where we came face to face with Cade Brewer. There was a bit of a fight at the entrance to the wooden house, Mardler got hit in the face with a shovel, we dropped our gun and Cade Brewer escaped. We then picked up Mardler’s gun and investigated the house, which was full of bear pelts, bear traps and loads of carved smiley faces all over the walls – clearly Cade Brewer was Mr Burlap the kidnapper, and he’d been practising his smiley faces by scratching them everywhere in his house, like the way you practise your signature when you’re young, until you’re happy with it! We decided to chase after Brewer by going down a trapdoor which was hidden by a bear pelt on the floor. In the basement we discovered the 3rd girl, tied up, standing on a chair with a noose around her neck. For some reason we didn’t immediately rescue her from this perilous situation, and instead we chose to try and follow Brewer by shooting the lock on the back door of the basement  and opening it to discover a tunnel. We then didn’t look properly and got our leg caught in a bear trap, badly injuring ourselves. It didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome of the story but it must have stung a bit! Then, with the help of Mardler and some police officers we cut down the other girl, rescuing her (2/3 at this point).

Then the point of view changed and we followed the story from Cade Brewer’s perspective. Playing as Brewer was a disturbing experience because he was obviously suffering from extreme side effects because of the Opiax painkillers he’d been taking. In fact the painkillers had driven him mad and he’d turned into a psycho, completely obsessed with a nurse who had cared for him at the hospital where he’d been a patient with an injured leg. With his mind twisted by the effects of the opiax, he’d killed the nurse. Brewer’s mental illness, caused by the side effects of the painkiller, came in the form of the voice of Mr Burlap, who convinced him to kidnap the other girls and kill them as part of some kind of natural cycle, which he had to complete. Poor Cade Brewer was completely overcome by the influence of Mr Burlap, all because of the effects of this untested drug that he’d been given at the hospital. His next step was to kill not only Chloe Worthington, but also the detectives on his trail – that’s us!

Then we returned to the point of view of the detectives who had somehow worked out that Chloe Worthington was being kept back at the mortuary, and there we discovered her, only to be locked inside by Cade Brewer/Mr Burlap who proceeded to try and burn down the building as the conclusion of his natural cycle – having killed the other girls with earth, water, air and now fire. Thankfully we managed to use our articulate communication skills to trick Brewer into opening the door of the mortuary, where we chose to mercilessly shoot him dead without asking further questions (notice that Amber was the one who chose to do that straight away, immediately saying “shoot the fucker!”)

We escaped from the burning building with Chloe Worthington. But tragically we didn’t get 100% success because we let Amy Anderson die in the hospital due to our poor deductive reasoning at the cemetery.

That’s the end.

Let us know your thoughts

As ever, I’m curious to know what you think.

  • Would you have made the same choices we did?
  • Did you manage to work out what was going on?
  • Do you have any language-related questions or comments?

Let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section.

Other episodes like this

You could try these episodes if you haven’t already heard them.

Thanks for listening!

Luke
Foggy forest house

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

Listen to Amber, Paul and me as we attempt to solve a series of mysterious kidnappings in Victorian London.

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Introduction

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here’s a new episode, you’re actually listening to it. It’s really happening and here is my introduction. This was a very fun episode to record and I hope it’s going to be a fun episode to listen to. It’s going to be a two-part episode and this is part 1 and here is the introduction.

Amber & Paul are back on the podcast in this episode, and this time we’re going to play a game in which we imagine that we are detectives trying to solve a mysterious series of kidnappings in Victorian London and you’re going to join us.

In the recording that you’re going to hear, the three of us are reading through an online text adventure game – one of those games where you read part of a story and then make a decision which affects the way the story continues. I have done this on the podcast before. It’s always a fun thing to do so let’s do it again. And the cool thing about this is that the entire text is available online for you to read too. It’s all there if you want to read it, just visit the page for this episode and you can see the link to the game.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

Click that link (or just go to textadventures.co.uk and find the story called Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson) and if you check out the text for this story you can then not only listen to this episode but also play the game and read all of the text too.

This opens up lots of possibilities for using this episode to improve your English.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. You just listen to this. Maybe you’re doing the ironing or something. Just listen to us going through the story, try to follow it all, follow our choices and try to enjoy it as an entertaining detective story even if there are some bits that you don’t quite understand. You will hear the entire story from start to finish in this episode and the next one. So, just listen and enjoy it!
  2. After you listen (like when you get home or whenever you’re in front of a computer) play the text adventure game yourself. That way you’ll get lots of reading done and it’ll be a bit easier to follow the story because you will have already heard us reading through it, it will reinforce the things you heard in this episode, and it’ll allow you to check out words that you didn’t catch by using an online dictionary and so on. Also, as you play the game you can make different choices if you want and you can experience a completely different story.
  3. You listen and read at the same time, following everything we do, clicking on the same things as us, making the same choices and effectively just reading along with us. You can pause the episode whenever you want if you want to use online dictionaries to check the meanings of any words.

So, there are some options – just listen, or listen then read, or listen and read at the same time.

There’s a bit of graphic violence in this story (blood and stuff…)

Another thing you should know is that this is a crime story and it involves some descriptions of violence and a few gory details. It’s no worse than an episode of a crime thriller on TV or something like that, but there are some descriptions of violence involving blood and mortal danger, so if you’re a bit squeamish, then I suggest that you have a bottle of brandy nearby so you can revive yourself in the typical 19th century fashion, or take a few deep breaths or have a cup of tea to calm your nerves if necessary.

I understand that this episode might be a little difficult to follow

Or maybe not – you might have no problem following it all, but I have a feeling it will be a bit trickier because the three of us get quite animated and excited at times and we speak rather quickly, interrupting each other and talking over each other sometimes, but as we’ve established before on this podcast, that’s actually quite good practice for your listening skills – being able to follow a group conversation. There are many situations like that you could face in the future – imagine for example a business meeting involving you and three other people and everyone’s enthusiastically taking part, sharing ideas, working together quickly to make decisions. It’s good to listen to that sort of thing, rather than just always listening to one person giving a monologue or just two people discussing something. In episodes like this you can get used to hearing multiple voices discussing things and making decisions together.

Try to notice specific language – decision making, verbs of movement and modal verbs for speculation and deduction

From a language point of view, I want you to watch out for this type of language:

Try to notice language for making decisions. Listen out for the ways we ask each other for opinions on each decision, the ways we agree or disagree, the ways we speed things up or slow things down, the way we clarify meaning and the way we summarise or recap information. These things are often done very quickly, yet they’re important practical bits of English for team work.

The story has some moments of action, and so there’s a variety of verbs used to describe different types of movement. Watch out for them and remember to read the text to help you.

Watch out for the language of speculation and deduction. Since we are working together to analyse evidence in order to work out what’s going on, there’s a lot of language of speculation and deduction. So that includes simple ways like, like just putting maybe or perhaps at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “Perhaps she ran away” or “Maybe she was kidnapped”, but also more complex ways using modal verbs to speculate about the past. For example, when you’re talking about possibilities with might or could: “She could have run away” or “She might have been kidnapped” or when you’re certain that something happened by using must, e.g. “She must have escaped through the window” (in the past) and “He must be at the hotel” (in the present), and using ‘can’t’ to talk about something that’s not possible, e.g. “He can’t have escaped through the window, it’s not big enough” or “It can’t be the father!”. So watch out for might have, could have, must have, can’t have for deductions about the past, and watch out for the way we say those auxiliary verbs – “He must have gone through the window” – ‘have’ is hard to hear, but you know it’s there because of the extra syllable and the fact it’s followed by a past participle. “He can’t have done it”.

OK, keep in mind that kind of language, and also the fact that you can read the text for this story too whenever you want, and you’ll see there is a lot to be gained from this episode in terms of English learning.

Just enjoy the story!

But also, I hope you just enjoy listening to the story and spending some more time in the company of Amber, Paul and me.

Alright, that’s enough of an introduction. Here we go!

*** The recording with Amber & Paul starts here ***

Hello Amber & Paul. How are you? … What’s the situation while we record this? … We’re sitting in front of the TV screen and we’re going to play a game.

A Detective Story with Deductive Reasoning

  • Have you read any detective stories, or watched Sherlock? (Paul has read the Goosebumps series, Amber has read loads of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie)
  • Are you any good at deductive reasoning? Are you good at working things out?

Deductive reasoning: Your deductive reasoning is your ability to recognise certain clues and then put them together to make correct judgements.

Let’s test your deductive reasoning with a quick riddle.

Riddle

Can you answer this cunning Sherlock-style riddle?

There are three light switches in front of you. The light is in an upstairs room and you can’t see it. You are only allowed to take one trip up to the room. How do you work out which switch controls the light?

Answer:

1.Turn two of the switches on, say switch A and switch B.  Leave them on for a few minutes.  Then turn switch B off.  Run upstairs into the room.  If the light is on, switch A controls the light.  If it is off, feel the bulb.  If it is still warm, then switch B controls the light; if it is not warm, then switch C controls the light.  

Victorian Detective – Episodes 338 and 339

Last year I did a couple of episodes in which I read through an online text adventure called Victorian Detective on textadventures.co.uk . I read through the story, making decisions based on the evidence, trying to solve a murder mystery. The whole thing was written by a guy called Peter Carlson.

I didn’t ask permission from Peter before reading out the story on the podcast, although I did make a point of giving credit to Peter.

Then, the other day I got an email from Peter Carlson in my inbox. Ooh.

Here’s what it said.

Dear Luke,

I’m the author of the Victorian Detective game, which you read on podcast 338. You did a really good job! Thank you for picking my work to read.

Peter Carlson

I replied:

Hi Peter,

You’re the one who did the great job. Your story was excellent. I hope that it brought a bit more traffic to the site and that more people read your story.

Would you mind if I did Victorian Detective 2 on my podcast as well?

All the best,

Luke

Peter replied:

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the game.

 
That would be really great if you read Victorian Detective 2 as well.
 
Peter

I was very pleased to get this endorsement from Peter and he’s clearly quite happy for me to be reading through his stories on the podcast.

Victorian Detective 2

So, let’s do another detective story on the podcast. This one is called Victorian Detective 2 and this time I’m joined by Amber & Paul. Let’s see if we can put our heads together to solve the mystery in this story.

What we’ll do is read through the story as we play it. We can discuss and explain our decisions one by one. The listeners can follow the whole thing and they can even read along with it by going to textadventures.co.uk and finding Victorian Detective 2 – the link is on the page for this episode. That can help you check all the words, the spelling and so on and play the game yourself if you think we are making the wrong choices.

The link: textadventures.co.uk/games/view/rl6-r253x0aca-y-v_vnvw/victorian-detective-2

Remember, listeners, that we will be experiencing this story for the first time as we read it, so we have no idea what’s coming next or what happens at the end. In fact, I understand that there are multiple possible endings for this story.

The game will tell us if we’re making good or bad choices along the way. It counts a score as you go. E.g. if you make a good deduction it says “deductive reasoning success” or “deductive reasoning fail” and gives you a + or – score for each decision. And then at the end you get a score which explains what kind of detective you are. E.g. if you’re like Sherlock or you’re Shernot. 

OK let’s get started.

We should choose the name of our detective agency.

Thompson, Taylor & Minogue? or Taylor, Thompson & Minogue?

*** The story begins ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** End of Part 1 ***

That’s the end of part 1!

Have you managed to keep up with the story so far?

Here’s a brief summary of what has happened so far, just to make it clear.

The story so far

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. So far 3 girls have gone missing. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper. It’s a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

Taylor, Thompson & Minogue (all of us playing the part of one detective with a particular set of skills) are called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe has disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we work out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduce that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we work out that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a kind of creepy loner. Physically he’s huge and strong and he has an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is, so we can’t ask him any questions. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

Four young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all look quite similar – they all have light coloured hair. Then we receive a note from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap. The note is written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin, but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us. Obviously this is Amber’s fault – just listen back to it and you’ll see, but it also didn’t help when I clicked the wrong option at one point, losing us points and valuable time. Anyway, it turns out Chloe Worthington is not being kept at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that Mr Burlap must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place, in the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact the kidnapper Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

I suggest that you immediately check out part 2 (if it’s available) in order to continue this story and to find out if we discover the identity and motives of the kidnapper and how many of the missing girls we manage to rescue.

Thanks again to Peter Carlson. All credit goes to him for writing this exciting detective thriller. Remember you can check out textadventures.co.uk to play more of these games – and there are others written by Peter Carlson.

Any comments? Write something in the comment section below.

vicdec2

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

How to improve your memory and learn English more effectively with memory techniques & mnemonics.


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The following is a transcript of this episode of the podcast.
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. Today, we are going to take a journey into the palace of the mind! We are going to venture into the deepest parts of your brain, and in the process we’re going to clean it up, brighten it up, sweep out the cobwebs and make it a much more effective place for learning and remembering English. Have a glass of water, take a deep breath and get ready for a brain upgrade because this episode of the podcast is all about memory, mnemonics and learning English!

Recently I’ve been doing a series of mini podcast episodes called “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. It’s quite a popular series, which is great. Lots of people have been listening to it, and I’m updating it every day. You can find a link to the episodes on my webpage audioboo.fm/LukeThompson. I’m hoping to do 365 phrasal verbs this year, that’s one a day, which may be a little ambitious but we’ll see. 365, that’s a large number of phrases for me to teach, but also a large number for you to remember. You might be thinking – this is great Luke. 365 phrasal verbs, all explained by you with examples and transcripts, but how am I going to remember them all? Well, you don’t have to remember all of them, but you definitely can. Your brain is an amazing thing. It’s capable of remembering massive amounts of information. It’s just a question of how you get the information in there.

English has one of the largest vocabularies of any language in the world, which is quite an overwhelming prospect for those of you who are trying to learn all of those words, even just a portion of them – like the commonly used ones. But it’s not just the words, it’s the phrases, the idioms, the spelling, the rules of grammar. It’s a challenge, but you can do it. The question is: How? Well, let’s look into it.

In this episode we’ll be looking at ways to improve your memory and some specific mnemonic devices for remembering English vocabulary and spelling. So strap in, this is going to be a useful one. With the methods in this episode, you’ll be able to remember massive amounts of vocabulary, and you’ll be able to remember the spelling for loads of difficult-to-write English words. There’s also a transcript for this which you can read at www.teacherluke.wordpress.com. You’re welcome.

The techniques I talk about here are well-known methods, used by lots of people including some of the most famous brains in the world. The illusionist Derren Brown is an example. He’s famous for being able to remember vast sequences of information, and uses this technique in his magic shows. Then, there’s the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes. I know he’s not a real person, but in the modern TV adaptation called “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, he uses a mnemonic device known as a  mind palace in order to remember all kinds of information, which allows him to solve deeply complex criminal cases. You can create your own mind palace too, or just use memory techniques to help your remember names of people at a party, business contacts, telephone numbers, lists of phrasal verbs or the way English words and spelled and pronounced. We’ll be looking at all these things in this episode.

These are tried and tested techniques and I invite you to try them for yourself, even if you’ve never considered the idea of improving your memory. They’re a lot of fun and surprisingly useful, and you don’t need to try very hard to just play along. I don’t want to go on about it too much, but if you just listen – it’ll be quite entertaining, but you’ll get the most benefit from actually trying these things yourself, and if you do that – if you try to apply the memory techniques in this episode, it could transform your English learning in a really exciting way.

You might need a pen and paper, so you can join in with some activities. Don’t forget you can read everything I’m saying by visiting teacherluke.wordpress.com.

Let me give you a run-down of the systems I’m going to talk about here:

1. Firstly I’ll talk about some advice for learning English more effectively, based on mnemonic devices. I’ll give you a summary of what I’ve learned from reading about this subject.

2. Then I’ll outline some specific systems for remembering lists of things such as a shopping list, people’s names, the order of adjectives in English, or lists of vocabulary.

3. Then, we’ll go through some specific mnemonics for remembering English spelling, which can help you to improve your spelling massively.

Just to explain, a mnemonic is a method of remembering something. It’s a memorising technique. Mnemonic has slightly weird spelling. It’s spelled M-N-E-M-O-N-I-C but the first M is silent. So that’s pronounced “NEMONIC”. There is a mnemonic device for learning the spelling for the ‘mnemonics’. It goes like this Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage. The first letters of the first words in that phrase all spell “mnemonics”. Say it again… Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage. Again, you can read that on the webpage, and you can check out words like insufficient (not enough), cerebral (of the brain) and storage (where things are stored, or kept.

I’ve discovered while reading about this subject that the key aspect of mnemonics seems to be that you have to push the thing you’re trying to remember deep into your mind, and make links to things you already remember well. The more personal the the connection to that word, the more likely you are to remember it. How do we do it? This means creating an image in your head and making it as vivid and clear as possible, attaching some kind of narrative or story to it or connecting it to an already existing deep memory. I guess this is because in your brain there are electrical pathways – the brain is like an electrical system. Each electrical pathway is a connection to that word. It’s a way for your brain to access that particular bit of information. So, the more electrical pathways, or connections you have to something in your brain, the more likely are to be able to access that thing later, and remember it.

How does this relate to learning English? Let’s see if you this confirms that you are already learning in the right way, or if there are some new approaches that you can pick up.

First, you should really engage with the learning process. Don’t let information just go in one ear and come out the other. It has to go deeply into the brain. So, as a learner, you need to put yourself and your personality right into it, and become an active member of your class (if you’re studying in a class) with a sense of independent responsibility for your own learning. Remember that the stuff you’re studying (like vocab or grammar) is not just abstract information but something that involves you in a very personal and specific way.

So we’re talking about personalising new words. Think of examples or definitions of new vocabulary in a way that is meaningful specifically to you or your life. Put yourself into the examples of vocabulary you use. Imagine that you’re living these words and phrases somehow. Picture yourself acting it out. If I teach you a phrase like “to doze off”, meaning to go to sleep, just imagine a time when you’re really tired and can hardly keep your eyes open, even though you want to stay awake. Then imagine yourself reacting to that by saying “oh god I keep dozing off!”. Imagine people you know in your examples of new grammar or vocabulary. Vividly picture something familiar to you when you’re trying to remember the words. Bring the language to life in your own head. Create stories with the new language. Involve you, your friends or family in those stories, and make them really vivid, colourful and dramatic – like my Pink Gorilla story for example. Make your own pink gorilla story and aim to include lots of new language in it.

When you’re trying to practice using new grammar or vocabulary, don’t just make a random sentence. Make a sentence which you really feel or really mean. Obviously, this is not always possible – for example if you’re doing an exam practice exercise in a book or if you just have to play with the grammatical structure of a phrase quickly – in that case you might have to just dash off a quick sentence with the phrase in it, for structural purposes. But at some point you should aim to use the phrase to express something meaningful and personal to you.

This works for teachers as well. When explaining new words, try to give vivid examples. Bring the expression to life. The more vivid and colourful, the better. If you can, try to attach some personal element to it. Put yourself into the example perhaps. If you need to use the 3rd person, pick a real person, like a famous person or someone in the class, rather than just a name. I know it’s not always possible to think up these vivid examples, or you can’t always share personal details, but just remember – the more lively and vivid the example, the easier it is for the students to internalise. It also might encourage them to personalise the language enthusiastically too, when it’s their turn to use the language.

New words can be quite abstract, so try making them familiar by attaching them to things you already know. For example, maybe the English word looks like a word in your language, or perhaps it reminds you of somebody’s name. You can then associate the English word with that name, and it sticks in your mind more effectively. For example, the Japanese word for apple is ‘ringo’. I always remember this because Ringo is one of the Beatles and the Beatles’ record label is called Apple, so now I think of an apple, and I think of The Beatles, and Ringo. This method is common sense really, but we often just don’t apply these techniques to remembering things as much as we could. Instead we just try to cram information into our head, without doing it in a meaningful way, and as a result we just fail to remember things.

It works with names as well. I have to remember lots of names in my classes. At the moment at university I have over 200 names to remember. Sometimes the only way I can do it is to make an association to something. For example, I had a Saudi student once called Faisa. It can be difficult for me to remember Arabic names, because they’re quite foreign to me. We don’t have many Arabic names in English. So, Faisa was quite a difficult one to remember at first, and it’s important to remember names in class because referring to someone by their name helps get their attention, but it’s also a nice way to establish rapport with that person. So, Faisa – F-A-S-I-A. In English, we have a similar sounding word, which is ‘phaser’, spelled p-h-a-s-e-r. A phaser is a kind of laser-gun, like the guns they have in Star Trek. “Set phasers to stun!” for example.  I imagine the old Star Trek TV series, in which they used these laser guns, with cheesy special effects and sounds. In the classic 1960s version of Star Trek which I used to watch on TV during the 80s and 90s there was always a scene in which Spock and James T Kirk went to an alien planet, and they took their phasers with them. So, I just imagined my student Faisa, in Star Trek, beaming down onto an alien planet (England?) with her phaser set to stun. It didn’t take long – just that image of Faisa in Star Trek, with a phaser, maybe shooting an alien. I didn’t tell her this. She had no idea she was in Star Trek, but it helped me to remember her name. This could work for anybody, at a party for example – when you’re introduced to someone, as soon as you get their name, make a point of connecting that name to something you know well. For example, if the person’s name is John – imagine him with John Lennon, or imagine him wearing John Lennon glasses, walking across Abbey Road. JOHN. Perhaps you have another friend called John. Imagine the new John and the other John together, perhaps having a fight – like Street Fighter 2. John vs John. “Round 1 – fight!!! Hello John, hello John! PERFECT… John, wins….” You won’t forget it. Do that with everyone at the party, or everyone at the business conference. You’ll remember their names, and you’ll have fun doing it. Just remember not to tell them. For example, if you get drunk a bit later, don’t go up to John and say “Hey John! How’s John Lennon?? How are all the other Beatles. When’s the new album coming out?? JOHN! I love you John… ” Don’t do that.

Sometimes it works against me though. I have a student called Charles, and to me he looks just like Roger Federer, the tennis player. Sometimes I call him Roger by mistake, and he has no idea why I keep calling him Roger. I haven’t explained that I think he looks like Roger Federer, and that’s because he doesn’t look enough like Federer for everyone else to agree with me. They’d probably just think I was weird, and I’m supposed to be a professor, y’know. Anyway, there’s just something Federer-ish about this student. So, I mistakenly call him Roger sometimes, even though his name is Charles. What I need to do is imagine Federer meeting Prince Charles, and perhaps being knighted by Prince Charles for being such a great tennis player. Roger Federer and Prince Charles. – that should help. You might think that remembering all these connections is more complex than remembering the individual words or names themselves, but it’s not true. We’re just making connections to things that already exist in our heads. The more connections there are, the more likely you are to remember the words. Words that exist with no connections at all, are just lost in space, in your brain. Disconnected and missing. Words like to hang out with other words. They’re all connected in some way. It’s worth remembering that, and people often draw mind-maps to create visual representations of the connections between words. This is a good vocabulary learning strategy.

Also, it can help people to learn new words when they find out the origin of those words. There are lots of TEDed videos which explain the origins of many words. You can find TEDed’s youtube channel online. Again, go to my page and I’ll give you a link. Here is the link to the TEDed YouTube channel: ed.ted.com/series/mysteries-of-vernacular

So, in all these mnemonic devices, the words that come up a lot seem to be these ones: vivid, personal, funny and weird. So, when you’re linking a word to an image – make it vivid, personal, funny and weird. That’s how you really lodge the word deep in your brain. You could probably create a mnemonic to remember that! Vivid – meaning bright and clear, personal – meaning related to yourself or something you know personally, funny – just something that makes you laugh, and weird – something bizarre, out of the ordinary and strange. I’m just imagining The Simpsons, like Homer Simpson, just glowing! They’re vivid because they’re bright yellow and have big bulging eyes. They’re funny, obviously. At its best The Simpsons is one of the funniest shows on TV (in English – I’m not convinced it’s as funny in other languages, but in English it is generally hilarious sometimes). They’re personal because it’s about a family, we know them well, we’ve grown up watching them on TV. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. They’re weird – because they’re yellow, that’s strange. They only have 4 fingers, and the sense of humour in the show is pretty bizarre. Also, they’ve been on TV for 20 years and yet they’ve always stayed the same age. Bart has never grown up. That’s pretty weird. So, vivid, funny, personal and weird. Those are the key qualities for mnemonic images.

So, I’ve just given you some quick memory techniques for learning English, as they occurred to me, but let’s have a closer look at some specific tried and tested memory techniques and mnemonic devices.

Some specific memory systems

These might seem like pretty weird techniques, but as I said earlier, if you just listen to this you won’t get the full benefit. You’ll just enjoy listening to it as entertainment. So I invite you to try them for yourself, because only then will you realise just how effective these things are. It can make a huge difference to your life.

Let’s listen to a short presentation from The University of Western Sydney. This video is available on YouTube and also on my website. This video is about 5 minutes long and it clearly explains some mnemonic systems. The guy in the video speaks with an Australian accent. It’s not a strong one, but you might be able to notice the way he says some words, like numbers 1 – 9 for example.

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoYOb2sPnqA&w=500&h=281%5D

So, that’s Acronyms (a word – each letter represents something, eg. ROY GBIV), Acrostics (a sentence in which the first letter of each word spells out the thing you need to remember),  The Peg System (words represent numbers, and you can then create an image using those words), Image Mnemonics (I’ve talked about this with the John Lennon example), Chunking – grouping individual bits of info together to make them easier to remember (This helps with vocab because words are often grouped together – so you should not just remember a word, but remember a whole group or chunk of words – for example if that word is followed by a particular preposition or verb form), Mind Maps (we talked about this – but you can make your mind maps as personal as you like – create any kind of connection between words that will help you remember them)

At my university course, I have to remember some details of the assessment procedure. Students often ask me. For some reason, they can’t remember it themselves so they’re always asking me. They should remember, and I definitely have to remember. Basically the grading system was continual assessment which included lots of different criteria, like their development through the course, their English in a presentation, their attendance, absences and the way they took part in class. To be honest, it was hard to remember those 5 items, but I managed to group it together as “the 5 Ps” – progress, presentation, presence, punctuality and participation. Knowing that there were 5 things, and that they all began with a P, allowed me to quickly recall and summarise the assessment type, in the middle of a lesson.

Let’s consider the linking system. This can help you to remember lists of apparently unrelated items. It could be a list of nouns, or it could be a shopping list. I’ve taken this explanation from a book actually. It’s a really great book called “Tricks of the Mind” by Derren Brown, who, in my opinion, is one of the world’s best illusionists, and a bit of an expert into mind control techniques, hypnotism and mentalism. If you’re interested in the subject, I suggest you get a copy of Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown. He deals with the subject in a very common-sense and scientific way, without all the mysticism that often accompanies this subject. So, let’s try an experiment.

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhZcHoU-QR8&w=500&h=375%5D

Mind Palace
This is what Sherlock Holmes uses in the TV show. It’s an amazing idea – apparently you can remember massive amounts of information if you create your own memory palace. That’s a massive space, in your own head, where you keep memories. It works by making connections to a place you know really well. It could be your house, for example, or the route you take to work (if you know it well) or a part of a city that you know well, or your school building or something. You imagine you’re walking around this place, and in key spots you plant a vivid image of each thing you’re trying to remember. Then, all you need to do is imagine walking around the place, and you’ll be able to remember everything. Also, when you’re doing it you can say “Hold on, let me go into my mind palace” which sounds pretty cool – especially if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan.

Let’s hear Derren Brown explaining how he uses his mind palace.
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WPY3I8yTkY&w=500&h=281%5D

Spelling Mnemonics
I may have left the best until last here, because now we’re going to look at lots of common mnemonics for learning difficult spelling in English. Don’t forget you can read all this on my website, which is teacherluke.wordpress.com

Let’s get started. I’ve taken this list from Wikipedia, and added some of my own as well.

Characteristic sequence of letters

  • I always comes before E (but after C, E comes before I)

In most words like friend, field, piece,pierce, mischief, thief, tier, it is i which comes before e. But on some words with c just before the pair of e and i, like receive, perceive, e comes before i. This can be remembered by the following mnemonic,

I before E, except after C

But this is not always obeyed as in case of weird and weigh,weight,height,neighbor etc. and can be remembered by extending that mnemonic as given below

I before E, except after C
Or when sounded “A” as in neighbor, weigh and weight
Or when sounded like “eye” as in height
And “weird” is just weird

Another variant, which avoids confusion when the two letters represent different sounds instead of a single sound, as in atheist or being, runs

When it says ee
Put i before e
But not after c
  • Where ever there is a Q there is a U too

Most frequently u follows q. e.g.: Que, queen, question, quack, quark, quartz, quarry, quit, Pique, torque, macaque, exchequer. Hence the mnemonic:

Where ever there is a Q there is a U too (But this is violated by some words; see:List of English words containing Q not followed by U)
  • When two vowels go walking the first does the talking

For words like “oat” or “eat”, here the second letter a is silent and first letter o and e respectively are pronounced in the examples

Letters of specific syllables in a word

  • BELIEVE
Do not believe a lie.
  • SECRETARY
secretary must keep a secret
  • PRINCIPAL
The principal is your pal.
  • TEACHER
There is an ache in every teacher.
  • MEASUREMENT
Be sure of your measurements before you start work.
  • FRIEND
A friend is always there when the end comes.
Fri the end of your friend
When Friday ends, you go out with your friends.
  • SPECIAL
The CIA have special agents
  • BEAUTIFUL
Big Elephants Are Ugly
  • SLAUGHTER
Slaughter is laughter with an S at the beginning.
  • PIECES
Pieces of a pie
  • ASSUME
When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.
  • SEPARATE
Always smell a rat when you spell separate
There was a farmer named Sep and one day his wife saw a rat. She yelled, “Sep! A rat – E!!!”

Distinguishing between similar words

  • Difference between Advice & Advise, Practice & Practise, Licence & License etc.

Advice, Practice, Licence etc. (those with c) are nouns and Advise, Practise, License etc. are verbs.

One way of remembering this is that the word ‘noun’ comes before the word ‘verb’ in the dictionary; likewise ‘c’ comes before ‘s’, so the nouns are ‘practice,licence,advice’ and the verbs are ‘practise,license,advise’.
  • Here or Hear
We hear with our ear.
  • Complement and Compliment
complement adds something to make it enough
compliment puts you in the limelight
  • Principle and Principal
Your principal is your pal
A rule can be called a principle
  • Sculpture and Sculptor
A sculpture is a kind of picture
  • Stationary and stationery
Stationery contains er and so does paper; stationary (not moving) contains ar and so does car
A for “at rest”, e for envelope

First letter mnemonics of spelling

  • DIARRHOEA
Dashing IA Rush, Running Harder OElse Accident!
Dining IA Rough Restaurant: Hurry, Otherwise Expect Accidents!
Diarrhoea IA Really Runny Heap OEndless Amounts
  • ARITHMETIC
A Rat IThe House May Eat The Ice Cream
A Red Indian Thought HMight Eat Tulips IClass
  • NECESSARY
Not Every Cat Eats Sardines (Some Are Really Yummy)
Never Eat Crisps, Eat Salad Sandwiches, And Remain Young!
  • BECAUSE
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
Big Elephants Cause Accidents Under Small Elephants
Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Exits
Big Elephants Can’t Always Use Small Entrances
  • MNEMONICS
Mnemonics Now Erase Man’s Oldest Nemesis, Insufficient Cerebral Storage
  • GEOGRAPHY
George’s Elderly Old Grandfather Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.
  • TOMORROW
Trails OMOld Red Rose Over Window
  • RHYTHM
Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move

So, there we are. The transcript ends here!
OH BY THE WAY – CAN YOU REMEMBER THE LIST OF WORDS IN THE MEMORY TEST? I BET YOU CAN!

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Do you love this subject, and want more? Here’s a fascinating TED Talk about amazing feats of memory that anyone can do:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6PoUg7jXsA&w=500&h=281%5D
Oh, and here’s another one! This one is about mind mapping, which is particularly important in recording new vocabulary.
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMZCghZ1hB4&w=500&h=281%5D
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