Recently, I read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, which is about a sixteenth century Portugese monk who goes to China as a missionary. Why? That is, not why did he go to China but why did I read the book? Because I thought it would discuss his memorization system. You see, Ricci was brilliant at memorizing things.
The book actually gave away the secret in the first few pages, and if you know about the Greeks, you know the system already. Basically, the Greeks would memorize a speech by going into a house, and associating each part of the speech with a different room in the house. Ricci’s contribution was to create a ‘palace’ in his memory with which to associate certain facts.
It’s occured to me that there’s a good reason why the human mind works this way. Basically, our brains are hardwired to remember geographical cues for navigation, not to remember facts and figures. So if we can associate facts and figures with geographical cues, then we can remember the facts and figures better.
Anyhow, I came across this blog entry that was linked to Live Science, and that discussed virtual environments such as Second Life as learning tools. So far as I know, no one has really followed the Greeks and Ricci to the conclusion that a virtual world can create a geography that can be associated with facts and figures for memorization.
It seems to me that this would be really good for learning languages.