Remember Memrise, the company that uses pictures to help you learn new information quickly using pictures? Well, co-founder Ed Cooke has launched an off-shoot called CatAcademy, which is introducing a series of mobile games to teach you languages through, well, cat pictures.
Just to recap briefly, Cooke has become something of a grand master of memory – he’s able to memorize a shuffled deck of cards in one minute, or a 100-digit number in an hour. However, he wasn’t born with an innate ability to memorize things. No, he perfected the art over many years, and has been putting these learnings to good use for the past few years, as the CEO of Memrise.
Though language-learning has always been a central tenet of Memrise, it does encapsulate almost anything – from maths and science, to capital cities. It uses visual cues to help plant a piece of information in your brain. This is one example from learning a new language:
CatAcademy kicks off today with the launch of Cat Spanish for iPhone (Canada, US and UK only), and is basically the result of data analysis covering more than “a billion learning events” on the Memrise platform.
So can combining pictures of cats with memory science really get you habla-ing in Español?
“At first glance, CatAcademy seems like a bizarre combination of Internet cats and hardcore science – the two, however, are not so far apart,” explains Cooke. “Humour is one of mankind’s most fundamental characteristics. We learn to laugh before we learn to speak. Laughter is memorable. It enhances our attention and relaxes us, but until now there has never been an education tool that actually makes people laugh. With CatAcademy, we took the techniques we used to teach a million people more than a hundred million words on Memrise, and combined that with the cutest and silliest content that we could devise.”
Okay okay, so what exactly can you expect to see in Cat Spanish? Well, here’s the type of thing you’ll experience if you’re a complete beginner:
Essentially the cat pictures help you learn by creating visual and emotional memory associations with words. It’s a shortcut to conversational Spanish, and your new-found knowledge is checked via five different test-modes – multiple choice, typing, listening, conversation and match-the-cat. It also adapts to your strengths and probes you further on the phrases you need to improve on most.
But it is worth stressing here – Cat Spanish isn’t designed to make you fluent in Spanish. However, if you follow the protocol you should at least get some way towards becoming conversational.
Sure, but why cats?
Last year, Cooke & Co. wanted to know what kinds of ‘mems’ – visual mnemonics – were best at helping people learn quickly, while enjoying the process. And it seems that cats always featured (disproportionately) among the most effective mems. Indeed, they actually discovered that their data was supported by scientific findings, that cuteness improves cognitive function.
Cat Spanish is available in the US, Canada and UK App Store for $0.99/$0.99/£0.99.
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