I had started last week determined to memorize 6000 words in just 100 days.
The first two days felt great! I had memorized more words in two days than I had in a whole month. It was difficult but possible. I memorized 64 words in the late hours of the night, woke up a few hours later and memorized 71 more, and the next day memorized 67. In 48 hours, I had memorized 202 words. I was on fire! My motivation to study had spiked higher than ever. Could I become proficient in Korean in just 4 months of self-study? I honestly hope so, and truly believe that it is possible.
Across the next few days, however, I began to feel as though my brain was turning to scrambled eggs. From the beginning, my boyfriend had questioned the logistics of my goal and whether or not the outcome would be worth the effort.
"You'll be memorizing the words, but will you know how to use them?"
"Do you understand why I only study a few [English] words at a time? That way I can learn how to use them correctly."
He said these kinds of things to me, but I shrugged them off, determined to stick to my goal. I, of course, understood and even agreed with the point he was trying to make. But my study goal was different from his. He wanted to speak...I wanted to read.
As a native English speaker, I feel like I owe the largest portion of my English proficiency to my passion for reading. As a child, I was obsessed with books. In elementary school, I finished the entire Harry Potter series, twice. I always felt like "the bigger the book, the better." When it came to reading, I was very competitive. For this reason, I had a higher vocabulary than many children my age and was also very good at spelling.
I considered this when I started my new study goal this week. When questioned by my boyfriend, I simply replied, "Maybe I won't know how to use them now, but if I memorize what they mean, I will at least be able to recognize them later." Perhaps I would be able to memorize the words and then easily be able to read books, and from reading books I would naturally learn how to use the words, the way I did with English when I was a child. I still believe that this may be possible, however, the brainpower and time it will take to efficiently commit all 6000 words to my long-term memory is more than I had anticipated.
To memorize 60 words per day, I was splitting the work into two sets of 30+ words per day. I would study the first set, going through the flashcards once, testing myself, and reviewing any words that I got wrong. If I was able to pass the test with 100%, I would move on to the next set of 30+ words. I would then repeat the process with the new set, then combine the two and retest myself, this time with 60+ words. I would repeat this same process a few times throughout the day to make sure I wouldn't forget any of the words. By the end of the day, I had gone through each set at least 5 times. The next day I would repeat the process, adding 30 more new words at a time. As I added more words, I needed to review more and more. It became so time-consuming that after the first 4 days, I was running out of mental fuel. There were other things that I wanted to do in my day besides memorizing words. I wanted to give some of my time to improving my art skills, and some of my time to also studying grammar and using other language learning apps that I had already paid to use.
Exactly one week from the start of my goal, I have decided to change my goal...or at least the way I approach it. At this point, I am far too committed to give up. I WILL become fluent, as quickly as personally possible.
Here's what I've discovered while trying to mass memorize 60+ new words per day:
So what now?
I haven't given up, I have only changed my study approach after learning from my short experience. My goal is to reach the highest level of Korean proficiency as personally possible within 100 days. But how can I reach that goal while keeping the pros listed above, and eliminating as many of the cons as possible?
My new approach:
I will continue to learn new words every day from the same book as I have been. However, rather than memorizing words based on a set quantity goal, I will go at a slower pace, sometimes memorizing fewer words per day to give myself time to truly commit them to long term memory.
This means I will be able to dedicate more time to learning the root of each word, including Hanja when possible, and practice writing and speaking the word in example sentences with various contexts and conjugations. I also am going to start balancing my vocabulary studies with grammar, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I believe this shift will help not only me to understand and grow, but also, I will be able to share more of what I study so that you may also study with me. I'll be posting updates regularly to show my progress and to share what I've learned.
I hope this new approach will be more effective, and that you are also able to learn something from my mass memorization experiment. Thank you so much for your support. Fighting!