Gedächtnistraining, Teil 1

Termine, Telefonnummern, Namen und Funktionen von Mitarbeitern und Kunden, dazu noch Details wie Geburtstage und Hobbys … Als Assistentin gibt es eine Menge, was Sie sich merken und zur richtigen Zeit parat haben sollten. Elektronische Kalender, Handys und das Internet nehmen uns heute zwar viel „Merkarbeit“ ab. Aber sie können nicht alles – und sie sind oft genau dann nicht verfügbar, wenn man sie am dringendsten braucht. Am besten hat man jederzeit alle Daten im Kopf, die man braucht! Mit Gedächtnistraining schaffen Sie das leicht.

Hier als Erstes eine Wortliste. Versuchen Sie bitte, sich die Wörter einzuprägen. Wir brauchen sie später noch einmal.

criminal, duck, washing machine, swallow, already, maroon, breast, slip, Madonna, monster, nails, further, tomato, far, merchant, beautifully, grey, book, run, screaming

Warum Gedächtnistraining?

The battery of your PDA containing your electronic calendar is dead. Do you know tomorrow’s appointments by heart? And do you remember what you wanted to buy after work even though you have left your shopping list on the kitchen table?

Memory training is quite useful in emergency cases like these. But it can do much more than that: you’ll be able to memorise (BE)/memorize (BE and AE) all kinds of facts much more easily. That will help you to speak more freely and be more competent and confident, e.g. in meetings or presentations, because you don’t have to constantly consult your notes to recall sales figures or selling points.

You can also memorise more easily the names and positions of people introduced to you, say, at a dinnerparty. You’ll not only be able to remember names like “Baker“ or “Gardener“, but also names like “Przybilska“ or „Roalstad“!

If you know the right technique you can also memorize numbers no matter how long they are: telephone numbers, calendar days, prizes, PINs …

Three elderly men are at the doctor’s office for a memory test. The doctor asks the first man, “What is three times three?” “274,” is his reply. The doctor rolls his eyes, and says to the second man, “It’s your turn. What is three times three?” “Tuesday.” The doctor shakes his head sadly, then asks the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s three times three?” “Nine,” says the third man. “That’s great!” says the doctor. “How did you get that?” “Simple. Just subtract 274 from Tuesday.”

Furthermore, if you make use of the techniques below, you’ll be able to learn long lists of random words – including words in a foreign language – and you’ll be able to recite all the states of the United States, if you want to.

If nothing else, you’ll be able to think faster and to concentrate better. And you’ll get more and better ideas.

Nur Bemerkenswertes wird gespeichert

Our brain sets high demands on what it allows to be stored permanently:

Our brain only stores what is worth memorising! That is, information has to be emotional, exceptional, visual, funny and linked to other bits of information. The most “worthy“ information is emotional AND exceptional AND … all at once. That is why every technique of memory training is based on these aspects.

Exercise: Erinnern Sie sich?

Please cover up the beginning of this article and write down every word on the list you remember.

What did you keep in mind? Chances are, you do remember the most exceptional words like “monster“ and “Madonna“ and emotionally striking ones like “criminal“ and “breast“ (sex always attracts attention!). Those most likely not to appear on your list are abstract terms like “far“ and “beautiful“.


The secret of a good memory is attention, and attention to a subject depends upon our interest in it. We rarely forget that which has made a deep impression on our minds.

Tryon Edwards, US-American theologian (1809–1894)

Die Geschichten-Methode

What do you think; can you memorize the following story in as much detail as possible? Please take your time, a few minutes will do.

“Criminal duck Gluck still on the run!“

Daisy was sitting on her washing machine when she read this headline. She was so horrified that she swallowed her chewing gum. Gluck! The duck she marooned as a duckling and who then turned bad. Perhaps he was already heading for her home! She jumped off the washing machine with heaving breasts, stepped on something and slipped. Holy Madonna! Must have been the monster who spilled the nails here! Daisy moved further but then slipped on a foul smelling tomato. This monster was definitely going too far now. She remembered the merchant advertising it. And admittedly, it was beautifully grey. But maybe she should have bought a book instead. A book was also entertaining, but it wouldn’t spill her vegetables and then run away screaming …

It’s only with difficulty that we can remember a list of unrelated words. But we can remember an exceptional story all the better! The reason is that in a story the words are connected by a context. This enables our brain to make connections to knowledge we already possess. A story also generates images and prompts emotions. And on top of that we learn the words in the given order.


Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.

Michel de Montaigne, French philosopher and politician (1533–1592)

Spieltipp: „Think.“ by Ravensburger is a series of different games for training memory and concentration. The game “Think. Memo Crime“ for example is based on the story technique.

Exercise: Ihre Merk-Geschichte

Here is another word list for you. Please build the words into a story, the stranger and funnier, the easier to remember! You should come back to it tomorrow or the day after tomorrow and see how many details of your story, our story and our word list you remember. You’ll be surprised!

breadbox, sky, thousand, cruel, fingers, fear, pig’s ear, help, bitter, oil change, bearded, cough, crystal, dragon, strong, by

Have fun! In one of your next English@Work issues you’ll get to know some more techniques that will help you remember numbers, tasks and other useful things.

Lebendige Bilder

But you don‘t always need a story to memorise a list of words. A vivid image would also do in most cases if you don‘t have too many items to memorise. Note, that the key word here is “vivid“!

Let‘s imagine you want to memorise a shopping list containing the following items:

red onions, eggs, smoked salmon, beer, cheese, tomatoes

You could imagine a table with these things lying on it, but chances are that you‘ll forget at least one of them. That won‘t happen if you make your image as crazy and remarkable as possible, e.g.

There‘s a hollowed red onion the size of a suitcase on your floor. It is filled with melted cheese (can you feel how sticky it is?). And in the cheese, intensely moving its tailfin, there‘s a salmon wearing a hat consisting of a nicely carved tomato. It‘s trying hard to stay on top of the cheese. As if this wasn‘t enough, the salmon is holding a bottle of beer in his pectoral fins, because it‘s very thirsty. But no matter how hard it sucks, the beer stays in the bottle. The reason is easy to see: there‘s an egg inside the bottle which closes it up from the inside. (By the way, do you know how to get a pealed hardboiled egg inside a bottle? You have to rinse the bottle with hot water, then place the egg on the bottleneck and put the bottle with the egg on top into cold water. The cooling air in the bottle will cause the air pressure to fall and soak in the egg.)

An agitated patient was stomping around the psychiatrist’s office, running his hands through his hair, almost in tears.
“Doctor, my memory’s gone. Gone! I can’t remember my wife’s name. Can’t remember my children’s names. Can’t remember what kind of car I drive. Can’t remember where I work. It was all I could do to find my way here!?!”
“Calm down, Sir! How long have you been like this?”
“Like what?”
Vocabulary Box
hollowed            – ausgehöhlt
pectoral fin        – Brustflosse
rinse                   – (aus)spülen
salmon              – Lachs
soak in               – einsaugen
sticky                  – klebrig
tailfin                  – Schwanzflosse
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