How our memory fails us


Having worked through an incredible amount of translation options from their native languaue into English of one phrase, teachers find it quite natural that a remarkable part of such options contains errors, both lexical and grammatical.

Incredible case study from LearnatHome

In order not to be unfounded, we will give an example. In our LearnatHome tutorial, we invite students to translate the title of the Beatles song “Let It Be” from December 2013.

Incredibly, during this time this expression has been translated more than 500 times!!!

And in about 90% of cases, we, the "evil teachers", cut down the translations in the bud, crossing out the very first word of the translation, for example, ok, well, will, etc. and recommending that our users look up the word "let" in the dictionary. But our users did not remain in debt either: we were accused of being uncompromising, having been brought up on Soviet grammar, having no idea about the conversational practice of the English language, being too obsessed with grammar, and the like. But to be honest, we all become hostages of the mechanisms of our memory. And this affects not only the study of foreign languages.

You probably already guessed that the correct translation of the phrase, "Let it be" )

Memory tips in English

Ask yourself the question: when you try to remember something, are you absolutely sure that your memories are correct? In other words, do you spend more than 30 seconds checking that “let” in English is exactly ok, well or will? Scientists agree that the most important category in the memorization mechanism is the "hint". It is the quality of this hint that guarantees you whether you remember this or that event or word correctly. A cue is a point in memory where your brain builds logical connections to the correct memory.

In 2014, Dr. Henry Roediger from the University of Washington conducted a study on the relationship between correctness and confidence in the correct option. He gave students a list of words to remember: onion (onion), bean (bean), spinach (spinach). Then they received a new list, which, in addition to these words, included new ones similar to the previous ones - for example, carrot (carrot), broccoli (broccoli). The participants in the experiment were asked to decide which words from the second list were present in the first. As a result, they also found the old words, and claimed that the new ones were also in the first list. Thus, they were sure that their choice was correct. But in this, oddly enough, there is also a plus.

Harvard psychologist Daniel L. Schechter argues that such memory errors help build other kinds of connections, such as generalization, as in Roediger's experiment. After all, the students chose only the categories “vegetables” from the list, although not all the names from the second list were present in the initial list. In this way, your memory can help you create meaningful connections between the various units stored in your brain.

How not to become a hostage to false tips?

So our users often become hostages of incorrect tips. On the one hand, everyone knows that if you do not know how a word is translated, translate its synonym. "So be it" can be translated as "ok", "ok", "I agree". But on the other hand, even if you translate in other words, you should not forget about the context - it is not always possible to replace “so be it” with these equivalents. To take another example, the word "failed" in the sentence "You let Steve down" is often translated as "summed". But “summed” is summed up, summed up, added up. And this value does not suit us at all. So an incorrect brain cue in the form of a literal translation will, of course, send the entire translation to the wastebasket. But, on the other hand, it will also enrich your vocabulary when we reveal to you the essence of this mistake. Therefore, our dear users, one phrase can have dozens of translations - we welcome this. But it is important that they match the context of the original sentence both grammatically and lexically. When these conditions are met, we are incredibly happy for our skilled and advanced users, and quite sincerely!