How to Study English Vocabulary Using a Japanese Monster

Remembering everything we need to can be a challenge in our hectic lives. Our brains are busy machines. I can’t tell you how many times a day I walk into a particular room, only to find myself wondering why the hell I did so. Was I there to speak to someone? To get something? Jeez, am I even in the right room? For students who are studying English, memory can be even more problematic because developing English fluency involves learning a vast vocabulary. Students have to memorize and try using countless new words, and in their various tenses and forms, as well as their definitions, various uses, synonyms, antonyms, and colloquial variations. This is a daunting project, to say the least. To make matters worse, the English language has one of the language world’s largest vocabularies–well over 2.4 million words–and the number is growing, as around the world users add to the lexicon and the new words and ideas are incorporated. How can one possibly study and learn so many words? It’s an enormous, even shall we say, monstrous, challenge indeed.

A monstrous challenge like this requires a monstrous response, and fortunately, there is such a response available. If you happen to be among those studying English, to learn effectively you have to consider using a variety of techniques that can help you remember and reinforce all the information you learn in your studies. Having a memorable experience while you try to remember, actually helps you remember. Confused? Let me explain. Any help is good help, and my own personal suggestion is to get such help from a Japanese monster, or kaiju. Not just any Japanese monster will do. Godzilla is too chubby. Mothra is, well, a moth. Being a flying turtle, Gamera’s legs are too short and stubby to be of any use for the job; he can’t even manage a sandwich, never mind a vocabulary technique. No, for my money, the best Japanese monster for helping you learn vocabulary is Ghidorah; King Ghidorah, as his girlfriends like to call him. I’ve enlisted the technique of using a Japanese monster on many occasions, even in my classroom, and have found this technique to be both enjoyable and effective. This is called the “Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster” technique.

To use this technique, you’ll need vocabulary cards, a banana or two, a knife, a map (preferably plasticized for hygienic reasons), and, of course, a Japanese monster. Actually, the monster doesn’t have to be Japanese. As long as it has sharp horns, scales, ears, or anything pointy on its head, or back, any monster will do. I’m open to suggestions if you have them, but so far, Ghidorah remains the best guy for the job. What’s crucial is that you use a monster, and not some cute little Disney character like Nemo. Let’s face it, though he may be able to swim pretty well, Nemo can’t really do anything else—he’s kind of useless. And, it goes without saying that we’re not talking about a real monster here; such a thing might be hard to come by. Or it might disturb your quiet studying if it decides to rampage about destroying your city and using its atomic laser breath to turn citizens into crispy burnt chicken wings, as they tend to do. As well, although you can’t tell from the movies, monsters really don’t smell that nice. In fact, they stink like a dog’s breakfast. So, in this case we’re talking plastic toy monsters.

For a memorable studying experience, one that helps you remember, follow these steps.

First, unroll your map and spread it out across a large desk or table, making sure that it lies flat, and doesn’t curl. If it curls, when you spread vocabulary cards across it later, they might slide around too much. As well, this will prevent your bananas from rolling around and making a crazy mess. The map will form the base upon which you assemble the rest of the structure.

Second, gently peel the banana (s), being careful not to break them into irregular chunks or to let them fall onto the map. Instead, rest the bananas on their skins. You’ll want to eat them later, so this will keep them hygienic and away from the potentially nasty surface of the map.

Next, using the thin-bladed knife, slice the banana into 5 pieces equal in length. If the banana is unusually short, 3 chunks will suffice. Do this while the banana is safely and cleanly resting upon its skin. Once you have sliced the bananas, carefully cut 3 shallow incisions across the width of the chunks, perpendicular to the banana’s original length. Be careful not to cut too deeply; no more than 2mm is best. Please don’t eat the bananas yet.

Now it is time to unleash the Japanese monster. For this example, use, and I quote the title of his cinema debut, “King Ghidorah A.K.A. Monster Zero: the Terrible Three-Headed Monster from Outer Space”. Ghidorah is a monster featured in several movies battling Godzilla, and is particularly well-suited for this technique since this particular Japanese monster has three heads. Set the monster on the centre of the map. Because of his three heads, Ghidorah tends to be top-heavy, and may tip forward. To prevent this, set upon his tail some heavy object such as a rock, book, or your lunch. Arrange Ghidorah so he is facing you. Don’t be scared, remember, he’s just plastic and won’t bite you.

It is time to mount the bananas. Take one chunk of banana and, keeping the 3 incisions upward, set one vocabulary card into the incision. Repeat this until the banana chunk is loaded with 3 vocabulary cards. Make sure the vocabulary words are all facing the same direction. Then, take the card-loaded banana chunk and, keeping the vocabulary word facing forward, gently push it down onto one of Ghidorah’s heads, letting his spiky horns pierce the banana. The banana should now be set firmly upon Ghidorah’s head, with the words all facing the same direction Ghidorah appears to be looking. Repeat this step for all the bananas. Ghidorah has no hands, but you can mount bananas on his neck, wings, back and tail, all of which are covered in sharp scales ideally suited for holding banana chunks. Again, make sure all the vocabulary words are facing forward.

You should now have a Japanese monster covered with vocabulary-bearing banana chunks standing on a map of the world. Good work.

You may by this point be asking: what the hell is this thing, and what do I do with it?

Well, there are several possibilities. One is to make a game of it. Look at the vocabulary cards and quiz your friend. If they get the answer right, and correctly define the vocab, they can take the card and set it on the map, for example, on their home country. Whoever scores the most cards on their country, wins, and gets to eat the bananas. If, however, you are alone, you can quiz yourself, one card at a time, by turning Ghidorah around so that you can no longer see the vocabulary definitions. Guess the word, turn Ghidorah and check.

Of course, if you want, you can give up and stop studying altogether. Instead, take the Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster to the bar, restaurant or nightclub with you, have a beer, then jump up onto a table and sing your favorite Miley Cyrus tunes while waving Ghidorah in the air like a cheerleader’s pom-pom. Throw the vocabulary cards into the air like confetti, as if you have something to celebrate–you probably don’t because you’ll likely fail your quiz or exam if you choose this option, but nonetheless, why spoil the fun?–or bite into the delicious banana chunks, which you can also pre-soak in rum or tequila for added effect. Tear your shirt off, rub your chest and stomach and dance around, infused with the marauding spirit of a gigantic three-headed monster. Don’t forget to get a selfie! You’re really living the dream of your studying-abroad experience. Post your selfie on Facebook, Instagram, Line, and anywhere else your friends post their monster pics. Get famous. Show mom.

Of course, this is just one of many options. The Japanese Banana Map Vocabulary Monster technique is uniquely versatile. It can help you remember vocabulary and study English because you’ll remember both the vocabulary and the monster. Or it can help you make a splashy scene while you’re out on the town, and this might make you so famous on social media that you get rich and thus, never need to study anything ever again because who needs vocabulary when you’re rich? You can spend the rest of your life spending your millions on flashy cars and clothes even though you can only speak English like a five-year-old.

Either way, this will be an experience that you’ll never forget.

About Paul Duke

Paul Duke is an online English tutor and coach, content creator, writer & editor. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, and loves language, culture, cinema, literature, and pizza.