Lecturer becomes a 'living dictionary'

Lecturer becomes a 'living dictionary'

In an incredible feat of memory, college lecturer Li Yanzhi, 51, recited every word of an English-Chinese dictionary, a total of 220,000 words.

The 51-year-old business English lecturer in the School of Finance and Economics at Xi'an Jiaotong University in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, started to recite the entire content of an English-Chinese dictionary on August 6, 2013, and completed the task 19 days later.

Since that first recitation, she has performed the task 28 times.

"I tried to remember every word in the dictionary in order to make it easier for me to teach my classes," Li said.

For the past two years, Li has risen from her bed at 3 am to spend six hours memorizing the words in the dictionary to refresh her memory. She also read 465 English language magazines that she borrowed from the school's library.

Her tenacity and perseverance stem from a hard life that taught her to keep going forward no matter how many difficulties she encountered.

Li has an autistic son, and she has raised him on her own since her husband divorced her 20 years ago when her son was 6 years old.

"I had to leave my son alone at home when I went out for work. Almost every time I came back, my house was in a mess, but I could not give up my son and my life. I should keep going forward," Li said.

In order to improve their living conditions, Li took some spare-time translation work in addition to her teaching job and eventually had enough money to buy a new apartment.

Despite her hard life, Li has never lost her appetite for learning. She has learned 10 foreign languages: English, French, Russian, German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Urdu. She is fluent in English and Polish.

Li developed 11 kinds of memory methods to memorize English words and has taught them to her students.

Zhang Xinjie, a student of Li's, said that Li is a living dictionary and can explain the meaning of any English word without consulting a dictionary, no matter how difficult or rare the word is.

"Teacher Li's memory methods for English words are a great help in learning English and other foreign languages," Zhang said. "Her hard work and attitude toward life have taught us never to give up when we meet difficulties."

One of Li's colleagues surnamed Lei admires Li for not only her large vocabulary but also her hard work both in teaching and life.

"I often saw her to go to the library at 7 am and stay there to read English language magazines. Her approach to work is worth learning," Lei said.

Li's supervisor, surnamed Feng, hopes Li can publish more academic papers, which could help Li to become a professor.

Li's dream role is related to appearing on a Chinese television talent show that celebrates gifted minds.

"I have a dream of taking part in the TV show, The Brain, to further challenge my memory limit," Li said.

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