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Remembering things is always a challenge in our hectic lives. I can’t tell you how many times a day I walk into a particular room, only to find myself wondering why the hell I did so. Was I there to speak to someone? Forget something? Jeez, am I even in the right room? It’s especially problematic for students studying any new language. Learning vocabulary, in particular, requires learning, memorizing and using countless new words, and in their various tenses and forms, as well as their definitions, various uses, synonyms, antonyms and colloquial variations. It’s daunting to say the least. To make matters worse, the English language has an enormous vocabulary–well over 2.4 million words–and the number is growing, as around the world users add to the lexicon and the new words and ideas are incorporated.

Therefore, if you happen to be among those studying English, to learn effectively you should consider using a variety of techniques that can help you remember and reinforce all the information they learn in your studies. Any help is good help, and a monster can indeed help you remember what you have learned. I’ve tested this technique in my own classroom, and found it to be both enjoyable and effective. This is called the “Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster” technique.

To use this technique, you’ll need vocabulary cards, a banana or two, a knife, a map (preferably plasticized for hygienic reasons), and, of course, a Japanese monster (kaiju). Actually, the monster doesn’t have to be Japanese. As long as it has sharp horns, scales, ears, or anything pointy on its head, or back, any monster will do. What’s crucial is that you use a monster, and not some cute little Disney character like Nemo. Let’s face it, though he may be able to swim pretty well, Nemo lacks enough charisma to be memorable in any way. And, it goes without saying that we’re not talking about a real monster here; such a thing might be hard to come by, or at the very least might disturb your studying if it decides to rampage about destroying your city and using its atomic laser breath to turn citizens into crispy burnt chicken wings, as they tend to do. In this case we’re talking plastic toy monsters.

So, for a memorable studying experience, follow these steps.

First, unroll your map and spread  it out across a large desk or table, making sure that it lies flat, and doesn’t curl. If it curls, when you spread vocabulary cards across it later, they might slide around too much. As well, this will prevent your bananas from rolling around and making a  crazy mess. The map will form the base upon which you assemble the rest of the structure.

Second, gently peel the banana (s), being careful not to break them into irregular chunks or to let them fall onto the map. Instead, rest the bananas on their skins. You’ll want to eat them later, so this will keep them hygenic and away from the potentially nasty surface of the map.

Next, using the thin-bladed knife, slice the banana into 5 pieces equal in length. If the banana is unusually short, 3 chunks will suffice. Do this while the banana is safely and cleanly resting upon its skin. Once you have sliced the bananas, carefully cut 3 shallow incisions across the width of the chunks, perpendicular to the banana’s original length. Be careful not to cut too deeply; no more than 2mm is best.

Now it is time to unleash the Japanese monster. For this example, use, and I quote the title of his cinema debut, “King Ghidorah A.K.A. Monster Zero: the Terrible Three-Headed Monster from Outer Space”. Ghidorah is a monster featured in several movies battling Godzilla, and is particularly well-suited for this technique since this particular Japanese monster, or kaiju, has three heads. Set the monster on the centre of the map. Because of his three heads, Ghidorah tends to be top-heavy, and may tip forward. To prevent this, set upon his tail some heavy object such as a book, or your lunch. Arrange Ghidorah so he is facing you. Don’t be scared, remember, he’s just plastic and won’t bite you.

It is time to mount the bananas. Take one chunk of banana and, keeping the 3 incisions upward, set one vocabulary card into the incision. Repeat this until the banana chunk is loaded with 3 vocabulary cards. Make sure the vocabulary words are all facing the same direction. Then, take the card-loaded banana chunk and, keeping the vocabulary word facing forward, gently push it down onto one of Ghidorah’s heads, letting his spiky horns pierce the banana. The banana should now be set firmly upon Ghidorah’s head, with the words all facing the same direction Ghidorah appears to be looking. Repeat this step for all the bananas. Ghidorah has no hands, but you can mount bananas on his neck, wings, back and tail, all of which are covered in sharp scales.

Again, make sure all the vocabulary words are facing forward. You should then have a Japanese monster covered with vocabulary-bearing banana chunks standing on a map of the world. Good work.

You may by this point be asking: what the hell is this thing?

There are several possibilities. Make a game of it. Look at the vocabulary cards and quiz your friend. If they get the answer right, and correctly define the vocab, they can take the card and set it on the map, on their home country. Whoever scores the most cards on their country wins, and gets to eat the bananas. If however, you are alone you can quiz yourself, one card at a time, by turning Ghidorah around so that you can no longer see the vocabulary.

Of course, if you want, you can give up and stop studying altogether. Instead, take the Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster to the bar, restaurant or nightclub with you, have a beer, then jump up onto a table and sing your favorite Miley Cyrus tunes. Throw the vocabulary cards into the air like confetti, as if you have something to celebrate–you probably don’t because you’ll likely fail your quiz or exam if you choose this option, but nonetheless, why spoil the fun?–or bite into the delicious banana chunks, which you can also pre-soak in rum or tequila for added effect. Tear your shirt off, rub your chest and stomach and dance around infused with the marauding spirit of a gigantic three-headed monster. And don’t forget to get a selfie. Now you’re really living the dream!

Of course, this is just one of many options. The Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster technique is uniquely versatile. It can help you remember vocabulary and study English because you’ll remember both the vocabulary and the monster. Or it can help you make a splashy scene while out on the town that might make you famous on social media.

Either way, you’ll have an experience you’ll never forget.


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Teacher Paul
Teacher Paul

Paul Duke lives, instructs and tutors English, studies and writes in Canada and Japan.

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