Am I Worldly Now?

The end of the semester has come, as does the official end of my learning project. I’ve been working on learning the countries of the world and their capitals, and I can’t say I got exactly where I wanted to, but I have much improved in this area.

In case you missed it, here was my first post before I started doing this project.

At the beginning, I took a 15 minute quiz on the countries of the world – you have 15 minutes to name as many as you know. The first time I took it I knew 68 out of 196 countries – and not necessarily where they were, but I knew they existed somewhere beyond the horizon. Today I took the same 15 minute quiz and achieved 196/196 with 1:49 minutes left! AND I used the map below to look at a country and name it rather than just spouting out random country names.

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The capitals have proved to be difficult. I think this is because countries are more well-known and talked about, where the majority of the capitals in the world I have never even heard of, therefore they are difficult to remember and place. I took a quiz on the same site, but instead you have 12 minutes to complete it, with the names of the countries below. When I completed it at the beginning, I achieved a measly 11/196. This was quite depressing. However, now I took the same quiz and have upped my score to 104/196 – and know where all 104 of them are. I think this is quite an improvement.

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In my original post, I mentioned I wanted to do this because I knew it would go beyond this semester, and that I could use it for the rest of my life. And I know that is true. I want to continue learning this over the next couple weeks/months until I can successfully spout out any country or capital on command. That sounds kind of like a dog doing tricks, but it is something that has made me increasingly globally aware over the last couple months and I really feel more connected to the rest of the world. I really appreciated this assignment and the push to learn a new skill – I think it’s something we all need to do. Maybe when I’m done this I’ll pick up something else to learn. There’s no time limit on learning! I’m excited to continue with this project and the next one (I’m thinking maybe sign language?). I’ll let you faithful followers know how I’m doing!


You Are Too Kind

Not you. Well, maybe you. I may not even know you so you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I’ve been continuing on with my learning project of learning the countries and their capitals (yes, all 200).

So far I’ve nailed all the countries and their spelling (98% of the time). The capitals are proving to be a bit of another story. For one, they are not talked about or as familiar as the countries. Most of us can recognize the names of countries and even probably tell you what continent they are on, but the capitals – most of them I’ve never even heard of. Which is crazy! Well, maybe not crazy but I do feel more educated the more I learn.

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So here’s how I’m doing – from this quiz – I’ve got the countries down, and the capitals…I have a ways to go. I find that when the capital is given to me, I can usually figure out what country it belongs to. It’s when i look at a country and try and figure out what the name of the capital is that I struggle.

So back to the title. I was working through the capitals of Oceania in the library while studying (or not studying) for a test with a friend. As I was complaining about how difficult it was, she plainly asked why I would even try to do this. Which was good for me to look back and remember why I started this process. I want to have an increased global awareness and to be able to relate even on a small level with the news that constantly bombards us on twitter, facebook and tv and even to people as Canada has such a diverse place. I help out with a conversational english program, and we have people who come from China, South Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uganda, Spain, Uruguay, and India to name a few. I love that I actually know where these places are. Maybe it’s selfish to just be happy that I know things – but I think it’s more than that and it’s increasing my awareness and also desire to learn more about global culture.

So I told my friend that in not so many words, and she said how incredible it was that I could memorize all of them and she would never try. She was too kind. But the fact is there are many things I cannot do. That’s the point of this learning project – we are stretching ourselves and trying new things, and developing new skills. Whether it’s building on a previous one or starting from nothing.


Too Much Information? You Decide.

It takes about 142.18 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie pop.

Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.

A normal raindrop falls at about 7 miles an hour.

In a world where we can google almost anything, and with limitless information at our fingertips, how do we decipher what is important and what isn’t? The facts I shared above are interesting and weird, yet also completely useless. I mean, who cares if “stewardesses” is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand? Or if catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers?

I’ve been thinking about these things as a result of my learning project (which is going great by the way). I’ve learned the names, locations, and spelling of all the countries of the world, and am pretty well done the same with the capitals of all 200 of those countries. Then I thought to myself, what should I learn next? The flags? Other important cities? The currency used? The main language? Maybe I should learn a language. Or sign language. Or brail. Or maybe I should learn morse code. That could come in handy one day.

I’m currently taking a history class as my elective on Ancient Rome. Why do I need to know anything about ancient Rome? Will it help me in my life to know that Appius Claudius Caecus created the manipular army formation that won them the Third Samnite war in 290 BC? Probably not.


If you’d like, here is a whole site with 77 ways to learn faster so you can pack as much knowledge (useful or not) into your brain as you want. But don’t be fooled. There are also articles dedicated to the opposite, such as this one called “Know Your Limits, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much.”

So how do we pick out useful information and discern what is worth our time learning? Or what is worth remembering? I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog that I don’t have the answers to. I’m simply pondering and sharing those thoughtful insights with the world at large. I would, however, love to hear (or read?) your thoughts!

Finland is Inland

Well if you haven’t been keeping up to date with me over the last month or so, I’ve been learning world geography – more specifically all the countries in the world as well as their capitals. I’ve pretty much got all the countries down – which comes in handy a lot more than I would have thought.

I love the fact that when I watch the news, read an article, or hear someone talk I know what/where they are talking about. Even though it’s a small thing to know where on this Earth someone is talking about, I feel more educated and globally aware anyway. In turn, it makes me want to know more. It makes me want to get more involved, to become more educated, to know what the issues in different places are, to know how to get involved.

Recently, outside of my ECMP class and university in general, I’ve taken a real interest in the Middle East/Northern Africa region. I’m finding myself passionate about the people there, the culture, and the land. I’ve been reading a book lately – The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers by Dale Hanson Bourke. Because of my learning project, I feel like I can visualize what areas are talked about in the book, and understand a little more what/where things are happening.

That feeling of being more educated and feeling more connected to the world just by knowing the names and locations of the countries may not make any sense to you. But it has really changed some things for me and I’m excited to continue. And I’m excited because I don’t think this is a skill that just goes away. It’s something I will continue to use over and over again.

Here’s some practical things I am doing to learn my world geography – I make up little things in my head – like the title. For some reason I could not remember the order or Sweden, Norway, and Finland. So of course now that I will never ever forget that Finland is inland, and is not on the large western coast of Europe. I try to make as many personal connections to different countries as I can – I have friends in Austria, Germany, El Salvador, India, New Zealand, etc. so I like to know those places because I know people from there! I also learned my heritage – German, Dutch, and a little Russian. I know where all those places are and am learning more about them.

It’s also exciting. I’m looking forward to all the places I’m going to visit. Places others are visiting/living. I can’t wait for the list of all the places I’ve been and lived and visited. I hope that it’s a very long list! If you had to pick one country to visit, where would you go?!

The Elusive 12

As I continue my learning project of learning the names and locations of all 196 countries in the world, I find there are a common 12 I have trouble with. I took the Countries of the World quiz again, the same quiz in which I started with. Here are the 12 countries I was missing:

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Each black dot represents a country I did not name in the 15 minutes provided. I found this frustrating for two reasons – for one, my spelling has to be dead on. For a couple of these, I knew what they were (how to say them) but I could not for the life of my figure out how to spell them. So spelling is something to work on. The other was that many of the ones I missed in Europe/western Asia are extremely small on the map, so small in fact that I can’t see that I’m missing them. I find that I can consistently get 195/196 countries on my World Map app – that is when it says, “Find …. (insert country here)”. When I don’t have to spell the country, I can usually find in no problem.

So I have a little work to do in this area still, but I am already noticing that as I hear the names of different countries in conversation and the news, I find myself quite content that I know where in the world that is, and I feel a little more informed about the world around me. More than once I’ve had conversations about this learning project with friends, and they say what a useful thing knowing world geography would be – and it is! I am particularly pleased with the fact that this will be a lifelong skill and that it will come in handy in all kinds of situations.

Phase two of learning world geography is going to be learning all of the capitals of every country. The spelling is proving to be quite difficult in this sense, and I have taken to using a flashcard app where I can create flashcards with the names of all the countries on one side, and the name of the capital on the other. This way I can visually see the spelling and what I really like is that you can also turn on pronunciation help, that demonstrates how to say the name of the country and/or capital so that I don’t sound daft when I go around spouting my world geography knowledge. I challenge you to take the Countries of the World quiz here or the Capitals of the World quiz here and see where you stand!


Swaziland, Kyrgystan, Tuvalu, and Other Weird Places

As part of my last semester, I am taking a class on using computers and technology effectively in the classroom. One of our assignments is to do a learning project – we have to learn something over the next couple months.

I have chosen to learn about the world we live in! I’m going to learn the names AND locations of all 196 countries of the world, and their capitals. Depending on how effective I am, I would love to learn even more about these countries, but I will play that by ear. I have chosen to do world geography for a couple reasons:

  • When I meet someone from a new country, I want to know WHERE that country is instead of vaguely knowing it is in Asia for instance.
  • I want to be more aware of the world I live in. When I watch the news and they are talking about an event in a country (for example, the tragic shooting in Burkina Faso this past week), I want to know where that is, what it is normally like there, etc.
  • This is something I will not just use this semester, but for the rest of my life. Being more culturally and globally aware is something that will benefit me way past when this class ends

When I started this project last week, I wanted to know how much I already knew. I took a countries of the world quiz in which all you have to do is type in as many countries as you can think of in 15 minutes. You do not even have to know WHERE these countries are, you just have to name them. I could name 68 countries out of 196. Pretty pathetic.The green in the picture below are the countries I could name, and the red are the ones that I did not name.

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My knowledge of capitals of these countries of the world was even worse. I could name 11 out of 196. ELEVEN!! I obviously have much to learn.

I have downloaded an app on my phone called World Maps in which you can pick a continent and it asks you to find a certain country. You can start with the top couple countries, and then increase the amount as you master them. I’m hoping to master all the countries in the world in the next week or so (good enough that someone could point to a country on a map and I would be able name it) and then move on to the capitals!

Has anyone else studied world geography or have any good ideas/apps/sites in which could help? Let me know in the comments!