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‘Thinking with images is human language’

‘Thinking with images is human language’

KARACHI: It is the language of pictures and images through which every child associates things first, not through his or her first language or mother tongue. Thinking with the help of images is human language.

This was said by English author and renowned educational consultant Tony Buzan during his talk on the topic of mind mapping (a technique to unlock the potential of the brain) at the Oxford University Press head office on Monday.

Mr Buzan kept his talk interactive, asking members of the audience to do a few exercises so that he could prove the point he was trying to make. At the beginning of his lecture he asked the audience about the importance of artists, scientists etc, and about daydreaming and whether they had just daydreamt as he spoke. He said daydreaming was considered bad in schools. He then asked them to think ‘Why am I here’, hinting at the importance of time and intelligence. This led him to touch upon the subject of metacognition, which he described as ‘thinking about thinking’. He pointed out that geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci and Einstein had always urged people to ‘use your imagination’.

This was followed by another exercise. Mr Buzan told everyone at the venue to imagine they’re part of a big audience of 2,000 people attending a programme in which there were five speakers. One speaker got stuck at the airport and couldn’t make it to the event. The organisers of the event requested the attendees to fill that speaker’s spot, for which they (attendees) needed to make and present their resumes then and there. Mr Buzan requested his listeners to prepare their resumes at that very moment, which they did.

Mr Buzan said it was important to tell and listen to stories. He told a story of his childhood days when he and his friend Barry had one common interest: nature. Barry was fond of birds and could tell if a blackbird was on the horizon or a thrush. Sadly, he said, the teachers in their school didn’t realise his potential and his love of nature because of the school system.

Speaking on the importance of creativity, Mr Buzan said a study conducted by psychologists revealed that kindergarten students used 95 per cent of their creative skills, primary school students 80pc, senior school students 50pc and university students 25pc. He termed the decline of creativity as a ‘serious’ matter, which was why publishing was in trouble. He said ‘normal is not natural’ rather ‘natural is creativity’. One ought to know how to use the brain, he added.

The subject of using the brain brought Mr Buzan to the topic of colour. He said each one of us, living either in London or Karachi, knew about colours — they helped us organise, focus and gave us stimulation. The brain loved colour, he claimed. A single colour or monotone was synonymous with ‘boring’, and taking notes as part of studies was a monotonous thing to do. When you’re bored, the brain switched out, he said. Ninety-nine per cent children in school were taught how to take notes, which switched off their brains, he stressed and asked the audience what their first language was, a majority of whom replied ‘Urdu’. After that he queried what their immediate association with the word ‘banana’ was. Everybody responded about the image and colour of the banana. He inferred that thinking with images was our (first) language, not English or Urdu. 

Published in Dawn August 18th, 2015

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