How to Memorise Effectively

The human memory is an amazing yet unpredictable thing. You may remember a totally irrelevant conversation from 10 years ago word perfectly, but you can’t remember any of the speech you spent hours revising yesterday. The frustrating thing about memorisation is that it often doesn’t matter how much you try to remember something- it’s all about working smarter rather than harder. Spending hours and hours writing out line after line of a speech or large piece of text that you have to learn may feel effective at the time, but it’s a really inefficient way of memorising something.

Memory experts swear by the Mind Palace technique, but if you’re not a super-visual person, this can be just as useless as reading and re-reading.

The technique that I believe works for anybody and for memorising any piece of text is the first letter technique. I’m currently trying to learn a speech in a foreign language and initially wasted hours trying to revise it the old fashioned way. That was until I stumbled upon this video while procrastinating one day:

Now I’m not sure if this YouTuber, Lauren Tothero, was the first to make a video on this technique but she definitely demonstrates it better than the other YouTubers who’ve done it since.

As she explains, you take the text you want to learn and write down on a piece of paper the first letter of each word- ensuring you keep all of the punctuation and capital letters in place. After recalling the speech from the letters, you will very quickly be able to recite the text from memory.

I have no idea of the exact science of how this works but I can vouch for how helpful it has been to me. After a week of trying to learn my monologue in a German and still stumbling over the first few lines, I was able to learn the entire thing in one evening.

It’s an amazing technique and can be transferred into many other subjects: learning poems and quotes for a literature exam, business meetings, a speech at an event etc.

If you want a bit more help with the technique, use this free online tool. It breaks down the process of memorisation and uses this first letter technique.