4. Paranoid Android

In which a bored computer helps us to examine your brain

Marvin is a robot. A sensitive and depressive computer robot.

And he is bored. No task he could be given, no question that he could ever be asked, would occupy even the tiniest fraction of his vast intellect. You see, he has a brain the size of a planet. And only an infinitesimal fraction of it is ever used.

It’s enough to depress anyone, isn’t it?

Marvin the Paranoid Android makes his first appearance in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a book teeming with inventive characters. Zaphod Beeblebrox, he of the two heads, dubbed Marvin: the Paranoid Android.

Does your brain have a name? Strange question, perhaps, but people do give names to all sorts of things, even body parts. But the brain is much more than a body part. The truth is that there is no computer on earth that can even begin to match the learning capacity that you have in your brain. It has been called the most complex object in the universe. It has a capacity for learning so immense that it puts even Marvin in the shade. And it never gets bored. It always has room for more.

In this chapter we are going to examine how it works and how we can use this knowledge to help us learn languages more quickly, more efficiently, to release some of Marvin’s – or Melody’s, or Methuselah’s – untapped linguistic power.



  • The gift of tongues: is multilingualism a “gift”?

  • How the brain works: synapses and neurons

  • Spaced repetition and sharing information

  • The visual memory: word association and mnemonics, flash cards and mind maps

  • Muscle memory and dominant spheres

  • Concentration levels and sleep

This is an extract from our must-read book about language learning, THE LANGUAGE SECRET. Browse the site for more extracts from the other chapters and information about what they contain. You can also purchase a copy of the book by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page.