It Pays to Remember Foreign Language Vocabulary and Abstract Information

The more intelligible a thing is, the more easily it is retained in the memory, and contrariwise, the less intelligible it is, the more easily we forget it.

—Benedict Spinoza

You may not think that the above quote shows any particular brilliance on the part of Mr. Spinoza. You may feel, "Sure, anyone knows that if something is intelligible, or makes sense, it is easier to remember." Well, that's true, it is an obvious thought, but it took Mr. Spinoza to say it, or put it down on paper just that way, as far back as the 17th century.

I'm making a fuss about this particular quote because it tells you in one sentence what this entire book is about. Almost all the systems in the book are basically that—they help make unintelligible things intelligible. One example, of course, is the Peg system; numbers by themselves are usually unintelligible, but the use of the Peg system makes them mean something to you.

Perhaps the best example is in trying to memorize foreign language vocabulary. A word in a foreign language is nothing but a conglomeration of sounds to anyone who is

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