Using quotes is a really powerful way to spice up your essays, as it strengthens the idea you are expressing. Besides it shows how well-researched and knowledgeable you are on the subject. Hence being able to use quotes appropriately is crucial for those looking to write really well, and scoring that elusive A in English.
Of course this leads to the question: How do I remember so many quotes??
Apart from listing and organizing them, to practice using them frequently; there is a really powerful method that is often overlooked by many. I used this method back then in Year 12 when doing English and my writing skills improved dramatically.
I call this method is called Making it Relevant. Before I explain what this method is, let us instead have look at...
How Not to Remember Quotes
Here's a childhood story to illustrate the extreme side on how not to remember quotes:
When I was a kid, my grandfather, to his well-meaning intentions, wanted my brother and I to learn more about the rich Eastern Confucian philosophy about filial piety. So he signed us up for classes on Chinese Classics.
The classes went on for a few hours, and believe it or not, all we did in class was to recite the ancient Chinese text from start to finish over and over. You've read that right, that is all we did, just reciting the text.
There was no explanation of what we were reciting, no discussion on who wrote them, no elaboration on how are they applicable to our lives, and no historical context presented.
All we did was recite them from start to finish, then repeat, and repeat until class is over. If this is the way Chinese Classics are taught back then, I'm really glad we came a long way since then to how things are being taught now.
Needless to say that is one of the most excruciatingly boring experience in my childhood life. It made sitting in a room by myself with nothing (not even phone and tablets) and staring at the walls sounds so much more fun.
Apart from having part of my childhood soul sucked away, I learned and retained absolutely nothing from the classes. Those mindless recitation were useless, and even if I did remember a couple of lines, without the understanding of them, it will be better off for me to just forget them so I have more room in my head.
What I went through as a kid in the Chinese Classic is an extreme example of how not to remember quotes if you want to utilize them in your writing. Unfortunately listing out quotes, and reciting them is commonly done by many students in one way or another, as an attempt to quickly jack up their English grades.
Going by rote-memorization and reciting them till you remember them is not enough; there is something deeper that will really make a difference on remembering them and being able to use them well.
The Power of Relevance
"Information that is about ourselves, about the parts of ourselves we really care about, is the easiest to learn" Ellen J. Langer, The Power of Mindful Learning
As pointed out by psychologist Ellen J. Langer in The Power of Mindful Learning, the information we can remember the best are the ones that we find relevant to our lives, something about ourselves, something we can relate to. Langer, along with Matt Lieberman, in an experiment found that students that are instructed to make the materials they are learning relevant showed improvement in intelligence and creativity in their writing.
To help yourself remember quotes better, don't just recite them again and try to memorize them. Instead relate them to your personal life and attempt to elaborate them in your own words. This can be done really well philosopher's quotes as they are usually deep and profound. I'll illustrate two of my favorites below.
If you are extracting the quote from a novel, put yourself in the character's shoes, pretend you are living the character's life from where they came from, or submerge yourself in the context that the novel came from. Some extra research on the background like the historical setting will be very useful here to help understand the context.
When I was in Year 12, the book I has to read was Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway set in World War I. Fortunately for me, I loved history of wars, especially the scientific and technological advancements, so I dug deeper. I learned the history of World War I, and how brutal and chaotic it was as it was, as it is the first war on the industrial scale with the deployment of modern weapons. Digging deeper made me empathize more with the characters, and I was able to remember the details a lot deeper.
This is what I called Making it Relevant, and it will help you understand on a deeper level and use them appropriately.
Very often the most memorable quotes that we all remember are the ones that we can deeply relate to our lives, where we can give it a personal meaning. That's what helped me remember a lot of the quotes deeply when I studied Year 12, as a lot of it related to my experiences.
Here are a few example of my favourite quotes that even till today I still remember them (though not word by word, I needed to look them up) and how I they are deeply related to my life. You remember them and use them if you like!
1) "Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence." Henry David Thoreau
Growing up, we all have parents wanting us to have high paying stable lucrative jobs, and society wants us to fit in. I never liked the the idea of fitting in, going the easy route, and having a job just because it pays well.
I'd rather do something that I'm really passionate about, even if the path is a lot more challenging and unconventional. This is why this quote resonates with me, because I want to walk a path I love, no matter how narrow and crooked it is.
2) "The mind is a dangerous weapon, even to the processor, if he not know how to use it discreetly." Micheal de Montaigne
The mind is a potentially a highly destructive to others and ourselves; you never know if a mean comment can shatter other's heart, and self-beating thoughts can be very harmful to ourselves, very often without us knowing it.
This is why understanding the mind, and knowing how to use if carefully is very important.
3) "Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible." Richard Feynman
I love this quote! Find something that interest you the most, and study it in your own unique way. I never liked having a too rigid study structure, or following someone else's study regime. It is better to go with the flow and let my heart guide me.
From these examples you can see how by relating the quotes to my life, I'm able to understand and remember them deeply, even till today. Employ this method and you will find studying English a lot more enjoyable, and before you know it, you can easily write a fancy essay filled with quotes and beautiful language!