Ever since I started subscribing to TTMIK’s “News in Korean” my reading speed and vocabulary have both improved rapidly. While that is a huge step forward, I felt that I was having a hard time learning and retaining the often specialized vocabulary presented in the news articles. Until now I’ve studied with the articles by looking over the text, marking the words I didn’t know, then looking them up in the vocabulary list (sometimes cross-checking the translation on Naver), and then making a Memrise deck with the words. This process is very time consuming, and I recently started questioning if this method would really yield the highest return in terms of internalizing the new words. (Thinking like a true economist) ^^
While I have definitely come to know A LOT of new words this way, I have probably memorized more words that I have learned. The difference? When memorizing a word, you may know that specific word and even recognize it in a text. When you have learned a word, you have learned the origin, the ways it can be varied, how it functions in a grammatically correct sentence etc. Starting from my most recent news delivery on Friday, I decided to go about it in a completely different way. (Disclaimer: This method is just as time consuming, but I find that the return to the time you put in is muuuuuch higher.)
So, here’s what I did: When encountering an unknown word, I looked it up on Naver, rather than relying on the provided vocabulary list, as in this way I have to write the word myself which aids my memory of the word tremendously. I then checked if the word had a Hanja character, and looked this character up in my “Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean”. Why? Because this enables me to place the new word in a context, where I am better able to retain it. It may just be me, but I picture my brain making thousands of small links when I learn new words, and the more words I can connect together, the more easily they seem to stick in my memory. Sounds weird? Here’s an example:
One of the articles contained the word 시승 meaning “trial ride” or “test run”. The Hanja for this word was 試乘 with the same 試 (시) as in 시험 (test) and 乘 (승) is the same character from 승객 (passenger). Now, it makes sense that the word is called 시승 and by linking this word to two words already internalized in my brain, I have learned the word – not memorized it. I find that I’m much less likely to forget words when I go about them this way, and on top of that it works a my own little “word building drill” where I can find new words with a shared Hanja.
How do you build and retain your Korean vocabulary?