Bananas for Brains

Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.

—Homer Simpson

As a translator, I ask a lot of my brain—store, sort, link, recall, roll out the witticisms, bring forth a masterpiece from the smorgasbord of words I’ve collected over a lifetime—and as I steadily go about acquiring new knowledge, I can hear it cry: “we’re full!” as it sends the “old stuff” tumbling out of my hindbrain.

How can I put a stop to this catastrophe? I need a more powerful brain.

I suppose I could have done like my sister and aunt who both hopped on the brain-training bandwagon and bought Brain Age for Nintendo when it first came out.

As for me, I’m not sure that doing things like crosswords will make you a genius at anything other than things like crosswords.

However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that this ageing encephalon of mine (not to mention the rest of my body) is crying out for exercise. So, while scribbling away at crosswords and playing video games may not make me a real-world prodigy, I’m sure it’ll give my brain a workout. Problem is—how do I trick my saturated brain into doing more work after a hard day’s translation?

Turns out it may not be that difficult, as I discovered on our recent two-day Syllabus–espresso team-building countryside excursion.

As it happens, there is a game out there that promises to stretch your noodle in creative ways, ways that are particularly relevant, I think, to the way we work it in translation—and it’s all wrapped up in one neat . . . banana!

Well, when that banana came out of my boss’s suitcase, it engendered quite a few addicts given that the snowless winter had shattered our hopes of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Downtime was now dedicated to lazing about in the spa, on the couch, and around the fireplace and piano—what better places for a boardless board game?

The game in question is called Bananagrams, and essentially it’s a faster, more fun, more versatile, and nearly pocket-sized version of Scrabble (sorry Scrabble geeks). Players have a set of lettered tiles and have to arrange them in their own grid of words faster than their opponents. The first one to finish yells: Peel! Then, all players must pick up another letter and make it fit in their grid by rearranging it accordingly (that’s the tricky part) until all the tiles have been used up.

I found it great because it brought old vocabulary back to the surface, forced me to think on my feet, and got me rearranging words non-stop—which seemed like the perfect way to jump start those latent language neurons so crucial for translation.

So, when you’re feeling like your brain needs a bit of exercise and there’s a free period on your next team-building weekend, break out the Bananagrams! Just remember: Don’t go bananas if you’re starting to feel like you’ll never be as smart as your boss who’s winning every round; she’s just downloaded the app and has been practicing every spare moment on her iPhone.


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