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Phonetic Memory System

The major system (also called the phonetic number system, phonetic mnemonic system, or Herigone's mnemonic system) is a mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers.

Phonetic Memory System

The system works by converting numbers into consonant sounds, then into words by adding vowels. The system works on the principle that images can be remembered more easily than numbers.

Memorizing numbers is a difficult task without a proper technique. Their abstract nature demands a more suitable solution in form of images to make them more memorable. The most popular of these number systems is also the oldest: the so-called Major System uses a phonetic coding for consonants, from which words are then formed with the remaining vowels. The French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Hérigone developed it in the 17th century. It was brought into its present form by his countryman Aimé Paris in the 19th century. Since the beginning of memory sports in 1991 and the age of the internet it is quickly spreading around the world.

The coding is easy to learn thanks to mnemonic associations and offers a lot of possibilities to find suitable images. This easy access and the fact that this system is usable in most Western languages and even beyond makes the Major System the first choice for everyone who wants to memorize numbers. But it is much more than that: It is a proper memory system to store any kind of information and rivals the Method of Loci itself.

As already mentioned, the Major System is a phonetic system, in other words a sound system. This means that we assign similar consonants to the same numbers. Vowels, on the other hand, remain free and are not part of the encoding. It allows us to use many different words for the same numbers. This increases the possibility of individualization enormously. Everyone is different, with different interests, abilities, and especially knowledge. The latter is essential, since for some an Okapi is a wonderful animal and an excellent picture, while others have never heard of it and can therefore imagine it only with much more difficulty. Hence they would probably prefer to use a cap or a cube for the same number. This variety is a great advantage of the Major System.

The Major System uses different mnemonics for its code. Each digit-consonant assignment is based on a certain logic. This is very easy to learn. You can, of course, change the following coding to your own associations. Lets devise our own phonetic codes

1 = D

Letter 'D' has one down stroke

2 = N

Letter 'N' has two down stroke

3 = M

Letter 'M' has three down stroke

4 = R

Last letter of '4' is 'R' in many language

7 = T & K

The letter 'T' & 'K' structure is similar to number '7'

0 = S, C, Q & Z

Sun is round like Zero

5 = L

In Roman letter 'L' is '50'

8 = B, V & W

The letter 'B' has two loop like the number '8'

6 = J & G

Letter 'J' is mirror image of '6'

9 = P & F

The Letter 'P' structure is similar to number '9'

Now that we have the coding behind us, we come to the rules with which we can now form words. We have encoded the following 16 of the 26 letters of the alphabet: B, C, D, F, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V and Z. In addition, there are the letter pairs SH, CH, CK and PH.

The vowels A, E, I, O, U remain free. In addition, we have not used the consonants H, Q, W, X, and Y, which is not bad, since they are mostly unimportant and very peculiar. All these letters are now freely available to us to combine with the coded consonants. For this, we place the free letters before, between and behind our encoded letters to form meaningful words. A special rule is that double consonants are combined into one digit, since they sound phonetically almost as a single sound.

Encoded Letter - B, C, D, F, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, Z

Encoded Letter Pair - SH, CH, CK, PH

Free Letter - A, E, I, O, U and H, Q, W, X, Y

Double Consonants - Double consonants are merged into one

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