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         Long before the advent of modern brain sciences such as neurophysiology and psychology, the ancient Greeks had discovered that mental performance could be enhanced if certain techniques were applied. The Greeks, who were extraodinarily gifted orators, used these mental techniques to help them remember points they wanted to make in their long speeches. These techniques, known as mnemonics, are still in use today.


Mental olympics
         The word "mnemonic" was derived from the name of the Greek Goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne. In ancient Greece, those who master mnemonic techniques became the intellectual elite of the time. Mnemonics were employed to perform prodigious feats of memory in public. All in the name of personal fame and glory, as well as economic, political and military power. The Greeks were thus Gladiators of the Mind, the intellectual aphitheatres were their stadiums, and Memory was their primary weapon. They would hurl questions and challenges at each other. Trying to best one another in diverse matters such as those concerning the number, names and order of the Greek City States, and the exact phrasing of quotes from their great literature or obscure points of law. Those who triumphed were widely admired and looked up to with awe. They were the senators, the heroes and the social leaders of their time.


What the Greeks did
         So, how did the Greeks manage to give stunning oratorical performances without notes? The method of the Greek orators was based on the spatial arrangement of a temple with which they are thoroughly familiar. They made use of the order in which they walked past the doorways, rooms, statues, and other objects within the temple walls as "memory hooks". For each location, they created a mental image associating the spot with a topic in their speech. For instance, if they wanted to start by discussing medicine, they would visualize a famous physician of the day pushing through the temple entrance. Next, they might visualize the physician encountering a senator just beyond the entrance. This image would remind them that the next topic of dicourse would be law, so on and so forth.


How and why it worked
         The mnemonic techniques discovered by the Greeks were based on fundamental principles of learning that had since been borne out by scientific research. What the brain sciences have proved today, is that memory is in major part an associative process; that memory functioned by linking things together. For example, as soon as your brain registers the word "durian" it would remember (link with) the colours, tastes, textures, and smells of that fruit, as well as the significant experiences, friends and events connected with it. Normally, our brain remembers new information through a self-organizing process that builds associations amongst the most naturally fitting pieces of information. This usually is a time consuming process, something that most of us has experienced before as "digesting" the information. Mnemonic techniques seek to accelerate the process by pro-actively linking the new information with "memory hooks", artificial constructs created specifically for the stated purpose.


Some examples ...
         The Greek mnemonic technique described in the passages above is commonly known as method of loci. It is by no means the only kind of mnemonics there is. Another simpler technique is known as chunking. For example, try to remember this string of 19 letters: tvcIAUmnorTMSpmnASA . You will find it almost impossible to memorize these letters exactly. But notice what happens by chunking these letters into small meaningful groups of letters: tv - cIA - Umno - rTM - Spm - nASA. With chunking, the task of memorizing them becomes far more easier.

         Yet another mnemonic technique takes advantage of our natural afinity to rhythm. Using rhythm, melody or rhyme as an aid to memory is nothing new. Storytellers have always used them in the form of songs or poems to help perpetuate folklores. Nowadays, advertisers use it to promote messages in the form of catchy advertisement songs. Even we have likely utilized this technique before without being aware of it. For example, do you remember learning the alphabet? Many children learn the letters of the alphabet to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." This particular jingle is such an effective mnemonic device that it stays with us well into our adulthood.

         A more creative mnemonic technique is known as acrostics. In this technique, you use the first letter of each word you are trying to remember to make a sentence or phrase. For instance, the phrase, "Every Good Boy Does Fine", is an easy way to memorize the musical notes (E, G, B, D & F) represented by the lines on the treble cleff, bottom to top. The sentence, "My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets", helps you to remember the order of the planets, which is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.


Memory is not comprehension
         Mnemonic devices are unquestionably useful for remembering things that do not hang together through any organization or logic. Without mnemonics, these unrelated things would have to be memorized by rote. However, memory should never be equated with comprehension. Remembering something is a far cry from understanding it. For most of the knowledge that we acquire, there is still no substitute for the kind of information "digestion" that seeks meanings, organization, relationships and finally, that leads to insights.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Glossary of Terms :
(1) Tuition - Tutelage, the act of tutoring or teaching a student (pupil); Fees paid for instruction (especially for higher education). In Malaysia, tuition is more popularly used to denote tutoring rather than fee. Common Malaysian misspellings: Tiution, Tution. *(BM): Tuisyen, Tiusyen, Tusyen, Tuisen, Tiusen, Tuisyan, Tiusyan, Tusyan. | (2) Home Tuition - Tutoring that takes place at students' or tutors' home as opposed to at tuition centers; Also: Home Tutoring, Private Tuition, Private Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Di Rumah, Tuisyen Swasta. | (3) Personal Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to one student. Also: Personal Tutoring, Individual Tuition, Individual Tutoring, One-to-one Tuition, 1-to-1 Tutoring, One-to-one Tutoring, 1-to-1 Tuition. *(BM): Tuisyen Peribadi, Tuisyen Persendirian, Tuisyen Perseorangan, Tuisyen Individu. | (4) Group Tuition - Tutoring on the basis of one tutor catering to several (small number, but more than one) students. Also: Small Group Tuition, Small Class Tuition, Group Tutoring, Small Group Tutoring, Small Class Tutoring. *(BM): Tuisyen Berkumpulan, Tuisyen Kumpulan Kecil, Tuisyen Kelas Kecil. | (5) Tutors - Tuition Teachers, persons who conduct tuition. In Malaysia, teacher is more popularly used to denote a school teacher whereas tutor usually means a non-school teacher. Also: Tiutors, Tuitors. *(BM): Guru Sekolah, Cikgu Sekolah, Pengajar Tuisyen, Guru Tuisyen, Cikgu Tuisyen. | (6) Home Tutors - Tutors who provide home tuition as opposed to those who teach at tuition centres. Also: Private Tutors, Personal Tutors, Individual Tutors, One-to-one Tutors, 1-to-1 Tutors, Group Tutors, Small Group Tutors, Private Teachers, Personal Teachers, Individual Teachers, One-to-one Teachers, 1-to-1 Teachers, Group Teachers, Small Group Teachers, Private Tuition Teachers, Personal Tuition Teachers, Individual Tuition Teachers, One-to-one Tuition Teachers, 1-to-1 Tuition Teachers, Group Tuition Teachers, Small Group Tuition Teachers. *(BM): Pengajar Di Rumah, Pengajar Swasta, Pengajar Peribadi, Pengajar Persendirian, Pengajar Perseorangan, Guru Di Rumah, Guru Swasta, Guru Peribadi, Guru Persendirian, Guru Perseorangan, Cikgu Di Rumah, Cikgu Swasta, Cikgu Peribadi, Cikgu Persendirian, Cikgu Perseorangan. | (7) Tuition Centers - Private institutions that conduct tuition on classroom-like settings. Also: Tuition Centres, Tutorial Centers, Tutorial Centres, Tuition Classes, Tutorial Classes, Tutoring Classes. *(BM): Pusat Tuisyen, Pusat Bimbingan, Pusat Tutorial, Kelas Tuisyen. | (8) Home Tuition Jobs - Home tuition vacancies; Posts to be filled by home tutors. Also: Private Tuition Jobs, Home Tutoring Jobs, Private Tutoring Jobs, Home Tuition Assignments, Private Tuition Assignments, Home Tutoring Assignments, Private Tutoring Assignments, Private Tuition Vacancies, Home Tutoring Vacancies, Private Tutoring Vacancies. *(BM): Jawatan Kosong Tuisyen, Pekerjaan Tuisyen, Kerja Tuisyen, Tugasan Tuisyen. | (9) Home Tutees - Home tuition students; Pupils receiving home tuition from home tutors. *(BM): Pelajar Tuisyen, Murid Tuisyen, Penuntut Tuisyen. | *(BM) denotes terms in Bahasa Melayu or Malay Language.

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