Thai Huynh Chi Kien’s family, residents of Saigon’s Go Vap District, discovered his prodigious memory by chance.
The father said that his son was a normal boy who enjoyed watching football and was especially interested in national flags.
Once, Kien used pictures to quiz his parents about national flags and they couldn’t recognize many of them. That’s when they discovered that their son could remember all of them.
“In the beginning, Kien only knew a few countries participating in (sports) tournaments. When we went to a bookstores, he would ask us to buy a globe and books related to other countries, and study them all on his own. At first, he only focused on national flags, but later learned about national anthems, capitals of countries and other related information.”
He has committed to memory the national flags, emblems, capitals, map shapes and geographical locations of more than 200 countries and territories around the world. In March, Kien was recognized by the Vietnam Records Association as the person able to identify the most number of flags and national anthems in the country.
He has a strong love for the globe. At first, his parents had only bought him a small globe, but he asked for a bigger one with information inscribed in English.
“Kien studied so passionately that he even wanted to bring the globe with him when having dinner; and hugged it when going to sleep,” the father recalled. “He also likes books about other countries around the world.”
On a song
After finished learning all about national flags, national emblems and capitals, Kien began to learn about their national anthems. He can hear, recognize and identify over 200 national anthems in 3-5 seconds. Of these, he can imitate the lyrics of 105 in their original languages.
He listened to the national anthems without lyrics on Wikipedia first, memorized the melodies before listening to the versions with lyrics. When Kien sang these anthems for his parents, they felt he had got the melodies right, but couldn’t understand the language and determine if he was singing them correctly.
“Kien loves all the national anthems around the world. Every time he comes home, he listens to them as entertainment. And in doing his research, he also learns more about the history of that country,” the father said.
In addition to books, Kien also learns things via television, iPad and computer, all on his own.
Kien with his parents and older sister. Photo courtesy of Hoa.
At home, Kien has an older sister, so the two of them frequently quiz each other for fun, improving their knowledge.
Kien has yet another hobby, drawing.
“He often draws imaginary things in his head, especially the shapes of maps of each country or national flags … Perhaps this ability also contributes to helping him practice thinking and remember things,” the father said.
The boy does well in school and has a good handwriting. He keeps developing his memory in class, too, surprising teachers and friends. Once, Kien volunteered to go to the board to draw flags of different countries as requested and let his friends quiz him with related questions.
Kien’s dream about what he wants to be when he grows up is related to his interest in other countries. He wants to become a pilot so he can fly to all the countries around the world.