Memory master shines despite being a poor student of English

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 May, 2010, 12:00am

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, otorhinolaryngology and pachyderm - just three of 20 random words that Roy Lam Kin-tung memorised in a five-minute display yesterday.

At the recent Welsh Memory Championship he memorised 42 random words in five minutes. Lam is now ranked 31st in the world in the 'five-minute words' category - the highest-ranking Chinese.

In yesterday's demonstration for reporters, Lam memorised 20 words in order, including those listed above, in five minutes. Seven competitors - from Ireland, Britain and Sweden - took part in the Welsh championship. Other categories included memorising poker cards, binary number, dates and names.

Although Lam, director-general of the Hong Kong Memory Study Association, finished last at the Welsh championship, he said he was proud of his efforts since he could memorise more words than many native-English speakers.

'My English has never been good. Unlike native speakers, I do not understand most of the words in the competition,' he said.

Lam, 34, failed all English dictation exercises in school and has never been a top student. 'In the past, I would forget people's names almost as soon as I met them,' he said.

Frustrated by his forgetfulness, Lam decided to improve his memory skills when he was 30. He said memory could be improved in many ways, such as by stringing random words into a picture or story. He uses a similar method to remember names.

'Take Ann, for example. I would link the name to 'ant', and would imagine an ant was crawling from Ann's ear,' he said.

Lam said his personal best was 80 words in five minutes. He aims to make it into the world's top 10 this year by memorising 62 words. The current world record is 109 words.

The World Memory Championships, the biggest of similar events, will be held in August in Guangzhou.

Lam said age was not an issue when it came to memory skills.

'One of my students is now 70 years old, but he is performing well,' he said.