Today Annie told me that she has a new project. What is it? To learn where every single country is, what its capital is, its president, and ten current news items from each.
That's a handful.
I'm not willing to keep up on the presidents or news items, but countries and capitals rarely change. That's useful information to have. There were a couple times (Qatar and Hong Kong) where I didn't even know exactly where the country was before we flew in.
So, I'm modifying the project for me. I'm going to learn where all the countries are, their capitals, and MAYBE their flags. This, of course, turned into a friendly competition, which will in turn become a bitter rivalry.
By October 12th we have to both get down South America, Europe, and Asia.
At first that seemed really hard, but I spent a couple hours today and have already learned every single country in the entire world! That includes all those pesky island nations like Wake Island in Oceania and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (sounds like a band, doesn't it?) in the Caribbean.
That means that if you name any country I can point to it on a map. Or, without a map, I could probably tell you which countries border it on which sides.
You can do this, too. Believe me, I have no natural aptitude for geography. In fact, some of my early mistakes were really bad. Like... I had to think twice before clicking on GERMANY.
Anyway, here's my method.
Go to this map quiz site.
There are eight different zones. Central America has a strict one and a normal one. Pick the normal one.
Choose two, say South America and Africa, and alternate taking the two quizzes.
If you have no idea where a country is, make sure you use all three tries to discover what the unknown countries are. So maybe you don't find Togo, but you notice where Guinea-Bissau, Benin, and San Tome and Principe are.
After each quiz, write down your score. Your score will increase with each time, and eventually you'll get it all correct. Once you get one all correct, pick another area to rotate in.
By the end you'll have gotten a perfect score in every single one. Then you can go back to the first ones to double check that you still remember. I found that once I got a perfect score on one, I would never miss one again.
I used a lot of mnemonics to remember them. For example, Grenada is the Southernmost island in it's chain, so I imagined it being a grenade being dropped. Croatia looks like a C. Tajikistan looks like a tangent to China (weird, but that's how I remember it). If I couldn't come up with a mnemonic I would just make a note of which countries were to each cardinal direction. That is harder to remember, but it helps for more than one country at once.
I sometimes thought that a region would take me tons of tries, but even the hardest ones (Caribbean and Africa) only took five tries each.
I don't know how long it took me to learn this total, but doing nothing but practicing for two hours should knock it out. Learn some countries and post your tips and scores and such to the comments.
Two tips for countries that are hard to find: Guam is south of the Marianas Islands and St. Martin (or St. Maarten if you're Dutch) is just South of Anguilla.