Today we are talking to Kevin Oconnor, an Irishman who is currently living in Australia. Kevin runs MemoryMentor.com website that helps you improve your learning capabilities.
Kevin, according to the information on your website you are a laser engineer. Could you please tell us more your profession. What kind of work do you do?
Before I came to Australia I used to work as a Laser Engineer in Dublin. Day to day I would test lasers to make sure they were working properly, make adjustments if needed, and did a little programming too. I really enjoyed working there and have learnt a lot of new skills as a result.
The lasers are used to cut or scribe into certain materials leaving very little debris on the material.
When and why did you decide to move to Australia?
I came to Australia in September of last year, 2004. I came because I wanted to see other parts of the world before my commitments at home became too great, ie buying a house etc.
I always wanted to go to Australia and when the opportunity came, I took it!
When and how did you get the idea to start MemoryMentor.com?
I have been interested in memory improvement for some time now and decided it was time to try and help others improve theirs.
I remember when I was in school how hard I found it to remember foreign words and science definitions. That's why I decided to create memorymentor.com as I realised that it wasn't just me who had problems remembering vocab and formulas, and decided to do something about it. My only hope is that those people who need the help of memorymentor.com actually find the website!
What types of materials did you use to study and explore the structure and functions of the human mind?
One Saturday morning I walked into a bookshop in Ireland and noticed a book on the shelf, «How to develop a perfect memory» by Dominic OBrien.
I was sceptical at first and had no real interest in improving my memory. So I picked up the book and read the back of it. I found it interesting so bought it.
After reading the book cover to cover I had a «new» brain. Well, that's what it felt like anyway! I felt empowered. I told my friends about my new found skills and demonstrated them too! it was a good feeling.
I was once offered a week's wages to prove I could memorise a deck of cards. Needless to say I proved I could do it, but didn't have the heart take his wages from him!
Ever since I was able to increase my memory power I have been interested in the human mind. I believe that everyone is capable of remembering vast amounts of information, if they want to. That's what the site is for, if you want to remember something, I want to help you do so!
This sounds very exciting. Could you please elaborate on Dominic OBrien's book? If you were to summarize the contents of How to develop a perfect memory how would you do it?
The book is excellent. I think it is one of the most important books I have ever read. Unfortunately it is out of print now, so getting your hands on it could be difficult.
The contents of the book aims at providing the reader with all the necessary tools required to develop their memory.
The book is well structured and gives plenty of examples so you know you are going on the right track with developing your memory.
You have also written a tutorial on how to learn languages faster and more effectively. What is the secret to building up a big vocabulary?
Keep your eyes open! What I mean by that is be really farmiliar with your home town. Know where all the shops are, cinemas, park etc. Then, after reading the tutorial and learning the techniques, you will be amazed how easy it is to recall vocab. Next time you are down town keep your eyes open. So when you come to learn the new word, you will know where to find it in your town. Create your image in your mind, and there it will stay, in your town!
So, what you are saying is that we can learn new words by attaching them to pictures and images? How exactly does this technique work? Maybe, you can give us an example. Say, I'm learning English as a second language I want to memorize the word «sophisticated». Suppose, I know what it means and I recognize it in a text but I seem to have trouble reproducing it.
What I would do when I come across a word that doesnt provide you with any particular images, I would break it down phonetically.
Well, looking at the word sophisticated, I would break it down.
«sow fist gate»
So after understanding what the word means, produce an image for it. What does the meaning of sophisticated mean to you? What image does it produce? Take that image and now add the «sow fist gate» to it (or whatever it conjurs in your mind!).
So I would imagine someone sitting on a sofa (soph reminds me of sofa) and that person is sowing severed fists (phist) to it! Gruesome, but I'll remember it. One pair of fists are grasping a gate (gated) probably holding onto it when the person was being attacked! it is a horrible image, but will help me remember the word the easiest!
I think I'm getting the drift now. Basically, your technique consits of two parts then: Breaking down a word into its syllables and attaching similar sounding words to them. You connect words that you already know to new words you want to memorize. Can you give us another example that shows your method in action?
If the word doesnt produce any images to you, then you break it apart and then look at it at a different angle. Words may not need breaking down, like «computer» I am sure you can imagine a computer, but if not, you could try «comp» as in compost (soil) and a golf putter for «puter».
Dinosaur. If I was unable to put an image to it, I would break it down.
So I would think of a diner for «dino», and a cutting saw for «saur».
That sounds very interesting and I'm sure some this technique can a be very effective for ESL learners once they have understand how it apply it properly.
How often do you practise your memory training exercises yourself? Do you apply your methods in your daily job activities?
Everyday i am always on the look out for possible new routes for my memory techniques. If I see a new fact, I will memorise it there and then. At night when I am relaxing I go over the thoughts of the day refreshing myself.
Sometimes I pick up a deck of cards and test myself for speed and recall. If I see a date written down, I work out what day it was. When people ask me my hobbies I love to tell them about memory improvement and they really seem interested in it! I guess it's something everyone wants to do; have a great memory.
Your ESL learners are more than welcome to come onto the forum at www.memorymentor.com and ask how to memorise something. It would be a great place to get a discussion going and to see what others think.
I'm sure that thousands of people will read this interview and get interested in your site. Are you planning to expand your tutorials on memory development?
The core learning material is on the tutorials page, but they are always up for review. There may be easier methods than the ones I have posted and therefore I will review the tutorials if need be.
I am currently reading up on vedic mathematics, a really cool and interesting way to do math compared to the way I was taught in school. If I find a method or technique that would benefit others I will share it, just like the tips and tricks section of the forum. My only hope is that others will do the same.
As you know we are currently building an e-community for GMAT candidates and MBA applicants. Do you have any advice and useful information on how to prepare for the GMAT more effectively?
I don't know too much about the GMAT but what I do know is that the science part is sa little more advanced than school, more like first year in college. The English, I believe, is more advanced than what people would generally use in every day English. It is more about comprehension, from what I understand, and attension to detail. All the material is on the text, it's just a matter of being able to understand it and extract the material from it.
If I am incorrect about what it means, I may then be confusing it with GAMSAT.
Well, the GAMSAT is the «Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test» and it might be similar to the MCAT the «Medicine College Admissions Test» in the US. With so many abbreviations and acronyms it might be a good idea to develop a special technique that enables you to memorize them immediately.
Let's get back to the topic at hand. What are you plans for MemoryMentor.com? Have you ever thought of offering memory training seminars?
Ultimately I would really like the site to be a success. That is, if someone has a memory problem, they come to the site. I would love for the community to grow and others contribute with ideas and share information.
I would consider doing memory training, if the situation arose. I think it is a useful tool, one we all have, but just need to know how to use it.
As for GAMSAT, thanks for the clarification. From now on when I hear GAMSAT I will think of GAMMA rays and x-rays and therefore an xray machine, thus giving me the medical link. Won't get confused any longer!
If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
please post them on this English Grammar Forum.