Oh ate for too free

by Suw on March 28, 2005

One of the easiest things to do when you've just started to learn a new language is learning your numbers. They're useful to know and submit well to chanting out aloud (and doing that will help you with pronunciation too).
So in the spirit of keeping your learning relevant to you, may I take this opportunity to suggest that you go through your address book, translate your ten most important telephone numbers into your target language and then memorise them. You can do that by chanting them out aloud, writing them down in your address book, and/or leaving notes by the phone and reading them out as you dial. Remember to memorise numbers in groups of five or less – it's easier on your grey matter that way.
And of course, the benefit of this is not just linguistic – if you lose your mobile phone or address book or adress book, you'll have at least ten numbers safely committed to memory.

Anonymous March 29, 2005 at 12:16 am

In the early 80s, when I wrote for the first time an address book app, in 6809 machine language no less :-P, I was testing the app by adding the phone numbers of friends and family from rote memory. A friend of mine, watching what I was doing, finally asked me “Da heck you need an address book for anyway? You got them numbers all memorized!”… Of course, I was a teenager, and back then it was easy (besides, it used to be one phone number per person, not a handful…).
I seem to have a couple of mnemonics for phone numbers, depending where and how I use them. Numbers I [used to] dial (old telephone on a land line), I usually have a physical memory of it: the index finger knows which buttons to press in which sequence. Don't ask me the number, ask me fingers! Then there is the ubiquitous speed-dial mnemonics. Instead of memorizing the numbers, I memorize[d] the speed-dial numbers attached to them. Then there are the numbers I have to recite to others: my own numbers, the company's etc… Those I usually memorized in the language of the probable audience: local numbers back then in Korean [now mostly in French], and international ones in English. The fact that 5 sounds in Korean like 0 (oh) didn't help either… Even reading the title of your post, I had difficulties visualizing the number because of that 'oh' 🙂
When I was a kid, France had 6-digit numbers. Now we're up to ten. We used to split them into three 2-digit numbers: thirty-two, fifteen, fifty-six. It had kind of a rhythm to it. When France Telecom upgraded the system to 8 digits, people usually made a small pause after the first 2-digit number, and then go on with the 3 other numbers, as before: fifty-five….. thirty-two, fifteen, fifty-six. It still had a recognizable rhythm. Now that we're up to ten, with a leading 0, I've seen and heard most of the possible variations. So when somebody spell out a phone number, and the other person spells it back to make sure it's correct, you'll often hear to different rhythms, like xx… yyzz…. ttnn and then xxyy… zztt… nn
I dunno know if I make much sense to non-French — I think you had such and addition of digits in the UK, so maybe there is/was a similar phenomenon. Anyway, memorizing numbers by spelling them out loud isn't the same fun as it was 😉

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