Top 10 Strategies for Learning Vocabulary

December 6, 2016


10. Get away from words in isolation and put them into meaningful contexts (when do you ever in real life go around saying words one at a time?).  Think of a sentence or a snatch of a conversation in which each word might appear.  Say and/or write the sentence.  Have a conversation with a real or imaginary person.  This gives you added benefit because you are practicing more than just individual words. 


9. Write the list of words on a card with the Korean word on one side and the English word on the other side.  Use the card to test yourself.  When you look at the English word and remember it’s Korean equivalent, cross both off.  Continue until no words are left.  Then give yourself a written test and celebrate.  Another way of achieving the same effect is to use the staggered grid (just make a table in the MS Word, see example below).  The idea is the Korean words go down on one side, the English words go down on the other side but one line higher.  If you cover all but the top line with a piece of paper and move it down line by line, you can test yourself from English into Korean.  If you cover all but the bottom line with a piece of paper and move up, to test yourself from Korean to English.






Carry the card or list around in your pocket.  Whenever you find a few slack minutes during the day (in lunch line, waiting for a friend, in the bath…) get them out and review them.  You will need to supplement this with a more focused learning time, but you will have made the task smaller.


8. Vocabulary does not have to be a solitary enterprise.  Get together with a partner and test each other.


7. Some people remember things better when they hear them.  Record the words and play them back to yourself.  (One advantage of this is that you can learn while jogging…)


6. Use repetition and a gradually narrowing focus.  Write all of the English words in a column at one side of a piece of paper.  Then put your book away and see how many of them you can write the Korean meaning next to.  Leave a gap next to the ones you don’t know.  Then go back to your book and use it to fill in the gaps.  Now fold over the left edge of the paper so that you can only see the Korean words, and repeat the steps above but from Korean to English.  Whenever you get a word correct three times in a row, delete it from the list, so that the list gets shorter and you can concentrate on the more difficult words.


5. Some people’s memories are more visually oriented.  Find ways of presenting the words to yourself which help to fix them into your memory.  For instance, write the words out using a different color of ink for different kinds of words.  For example, blue for words connected with cold things and red for words connected with hot things. 


4. In a similar vein, if you find that there are some words that do not seem to stick in your mind, even when all the others have been learned, why not try printing them in large and unusual fonts and display them in your room.


3. Another tactic which might help the visually-inclined memory is to choose one of the words as the key word, write it in the middle of a sheet of paper, and arrange the others around it (e.g. spreading out like the rays of the sun).  Practice the words then put the sheet aside and try to reproduce your word picture from memory.


2. With some kinds of vocabulary you could label a picture instead of writing out a list.  For instance, with words for parts of the body you can label a stick person, or a magazine celebrity.  Label several until you can do it from memory.


1. Use your voice.  Read the words aloud.  With the ones that just won’t seem to go in, try chanting them rhythmically, or singing them to the tune of a familiar song.  Try saying them in funny voices or shouting them as loud as you can.  (note:  Don’t this early in the morning when all is quiet and the land slumbers peacefully…).

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