Fairly recently there was a video by popular comedian Jimmy Fallon on whether people could name a single country on a map. Now, people put on the spot forget things, and surely the video was edited…Either way I can’t name a single person in my US friendgroup who could name more than 20-30 countries, let alone point out where they are on a map. It became very important for me to learn all the countries. As of last week I finally managed to name all of them in 15 minutes.

Here’s How I Did It.

I didn’t want to just know the names, or just to be able to identify them if shown to me. I wanted to know where they were, what they looked like, what was next to them, what their names were.  To learn all the countries as a whole. If I was in the middle of the Central Africa Republic I would want to know what was west, east, etc., of me.

First, I needed something fairly gentle, continent by continent. I chose World-Geography-Games, which gives you unlimited chances, no timer, a blank map divided by lines and a country prompt. This helped with the spatiality and it’s pretty easy to learn. It also familiarizes you with the names of unfamiliar countries. I, for one, did not know many of the island countries in the Oceana even existed. I also used their quiz for learning the different Seas.

Once I had mastered all of those I moved onto the world map as a whole, offered by Seterra.

Finally, I moved onto Sporcle. While there are several quizzes available to simply name all the world’s countries in 15 minutes, this one blows up certain sections of smaller countries to make it a bit easier to see everything. As I am a highly visual person, I need to see the country to name it (and it’s why I couldn’t start with this method). I found moving east to west was easiest for me (Kiribati was my nemesis).

Beyond Countries

Once I had mastered all of the above I realized I still wasn’t satisfied. I have since moved on to learning all of the capitals, of which I realized I knew embarrassingly few. It was a shock to realize that all the names of cities I’d heard on the news (Kabul, Tehran, etc.) were not clearly represented in my head. I could have, perhaps, named “Tehran” but not have been able to say it was in Iran. I’m currently using Jetpunk‘s world capitals quiz with a 12 minute timer. So far my highest score is about 130, but I already know it will take time and practice.

The above games only use the countries as represented by the UN. There are several other fascinating states which have declared independence but are not universally recognized. Seterra actually has a quiz with some of these. I do wish there was a quiz that listed countries which are entirely culturally divergent (language, history, etc.) but have not (yet) declared a wish for independence. Examples of these are Basque and even Wales. However, I understand such a thing would have to be incredibly long and incredibly difficult to detail so I get it.

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