Friday, August 31, 2007

The Guinness Book of Records and the English Teacher

Meet Enrique Ortega Salinas

Passing from one to the other of us lined up side by side, Guinness Book of Records memorization record holder Enrique Ortega Salinas came face to face with me. I was about number 17 out of around thirty people.

“What’s your last name?” He asked me in a low key voice.

“It’s LYNCH. You know like when they hang someone?”
I pantomimed a noose-tightening gesture to illustrate.

“Oh, like linchar?” (It’s the equivalent word in Spanish.)

“That’s right.” I responded.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a university English as a foreign language professor.”

“And what’s your first name?”

“It’s Larry.”

“Hmmm.” He thought a moment or two before responding.

“I picture your students pulling you by the tie. They want to lynch you and you’re yelling at them in English.”

I laughed a little and responded, “I hope not.”

Enrique moved on to the next person. He was in the process of memorizing the last and first names of everyone at his demonstration session. He continued until he’d reached everyone. Then a few minutes later, he went back and calmly recited each of our names in turn. There were no mistakes.

Currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records with 320 numbers memorized in one view and 52 playing cards memorized in 49 seconds, Uruguay-born writer Enrique Ortega Salinas travels extensively throughout Latin America training others to accomplish seemingly amazing feats of mnemonic manipulation. Can you mentally multiply 3517 x 6209 with a perfect result in less than 15 seconds? How about something simpler like multiplying 817 x 582 in ten seconds or less? But wait, you’re a foreign language learner, so something more practical like memorizing a quick 100 new words of foreign vocabulary is a snap, right? It is for people like him. “Everyone has the potential to be a genius”, he says. Adding, “Your brain is an incredible computer you can learn to manage”.

Fortunately for us, he shares some of his techniques for rapidly internalizing lists of unrelated words or foreign vocabulary including first and last names. From a phone book or from asking around, find out the most common first and last names in the foreign language you’re learning.

Make a list of the last names you want to learn. Make other lists of male and female first names too. If they seem weird, difficult or unpronounceable at first, don’t worry. You’ll learn to get your tongue around the names soon enough. Begin familiarizing yourself with the names on your lists. Feel free to add more names that come up of people you regularly run across, no matter how trivial the contact with them might seem to be at first.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for the no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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