Years ago I watched a video on youtube titled ' The boy with the incredible brain '. It was a documentary featuring a man called Daniel Tammet, and for all intents and purposes is a savant. As a boy he suffered from epileptic seizures - which they believe to be the source of his abilities (complex math problems, working out days from calenders, becoming fluent in a language in a couple of weeks, etc.) Daniel says that he experiences each of these numbers; he feels and empathizes with the words - these are the symptoms of a condition known as Synesthesia.
Wikipedia gives examples of Synesthesia :"In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored,while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities.In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be "farther away" than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Yet another recently identified type, visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker." - Citation needed.
At the time of viewing this documentary, I was astounded. It seemed amazing that this man was able to have these abilities. However, with the inevitable passing of time, Daniel Tammet and his extraordinary feats were forgotten by me (ironic, isn't it ;) )
However, to my esoteric delight there was a section in Josh Foer's book that was pretty much dedicated to Daniel Tammet. Josh interviewed Daniel, talked to various people who had knowledge of the subject, searched him on the internet etc. He found posts Daniel has made under an alias where he advertised selling techniques that allowed him to perform amazing memory feats; he had association with the WMC and the community etc. Through his findings, Josh came to the conclusion that he wasn't entirely convinced that Daniel's feats were sourced from his conditions; Josh was under the impression that, like us, Daniel Tammet was mnemonist, a proficient one at that, but all his feats were performed with the aid of mnemonic devices. To strengthen this: there are many books that reveal how to perform impressive mental arithmetic calculations and work out calender days etc. It seemed that everything Daniel could do, could be learnt by a mnemonist.
What are people's thoughts on this? Is it possible, using mnemonics, to become fluent in a language in a couple of weeks (he was immersed by the way)? Is it that, humble are actually capable of doing all of this? I'd be very excited to find out. Or if not, using mnemonics, are we able to perform similar feats, perhaps not as well as if we had a synesthetic condition, but similar (a month or two to become fluent in a language for example)
Please write back.
P.S. I apologize for the sheer amount of writing in this topic - have a new laptop and enjoy the tiny clicking sound that the keys make as they are pushed down, it's most pleasing.
P.P.S Here's the link to the video I was referring to - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbASOcqc1Ss