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30-Day Challenge

30-Day Challenge: Day #11 – The importance of vocabulary acquisition cannot be overstated


Poor mastery of grammar would not break down communication, but scanty vocabulary would… One cannot overstate the importance of a rich word-bank in the language learning process.

The following are the 7 strategies for mastering foreign vocabulary as presented by Dr. Vakunta in the video:

  1. Spaced Repetition of Vocabulary
  2. Previewing Vocabulary
  3. Reviewing Vocabulary
  4. Repetition Cycle
  5. Recycling Vocabulary
  6. Categorizing Words
  7. Semantic Organizer

Details about each strategy

1: Spaced repetition

Fluency = interaction with words over time. Learning words in class and not studying them later = bad practice. Study throughout the day in short intervals. Merits include:

  1. Increased retention of vocab learned
  2. Freed up study time at the end of the day for review
  3. Lowered stress levels related to language learning
2: Previewing vocabulary

Familiarize students with the vocabulary the instructor will be using in class the following day.

3: Reviewing vocabulary

Helps to develop retention skills. Enhances listening and speaking skills as well. Plan vocab review sessions in 15-20 minute intervals. Work on vocab first, then take a short break before starting something new.

4: Repetition cycle

Enrich your vocabulary bank. Practice listening, speaking, and reading in the form of a cycle. Listen, read, and write/speak. OR Read, write/speak, and listen. BUT immerse yourself in all three at once.

5: Recycling vocabulary

Reusing words over time (recycle on a daily basis). Don’t stop at mere words, construct meaningful sentences and short paragraphs using those words. Begin by writing sentences related to:

  1. Personal experiences
  2. Circle of friends
  3. Family members
  4. Daily routine.
6: Categorizing words

Rearrange words into lexical banks related to:


  1. Professions
  2. Sports
  3. Health Care
  4. Foods
  5. etc.


  1. Easy
  2. Very easy
  3. Moderately easy
  4. Difficult
  5. Very difficult

Text typology:

  1. Generic
  2. Specialized
  3. Technical
7: Semantic (web/graphic) organizer

Organize info gathered from reading or other sources. This provides learners with a visual representation of ideas they’ve just read about.

Vocab memorization strategies

And the following are some unique memorization techniques I read about:

1. Use a mnemonic to link words

Here’s a more complete article on the subject, but the basic idea is to link new foreign language words with things you already know. 

A lot of Korean learners already do this with the alphabet saying things like, “The ㅎ looks like a hat, so I remember the ‘h’ sound,” or “the ㅇ looks like a zero, so I remember there’s no sound when it is the first consonant.”

You can also visualize images or sounds to help you remember. For example, some students remember the verb for ‘to take a picture’ (찍다) by thinking about the sound a camera makes when it flashes “찍!” (Click!).

Or, break the words into syllables and link each syllable with something you already know to create a mental image that will help you remember the new word. For example, I recently learned 형광등 which means “fluorescent light” in Korean. This word has three syllables and I remember them in this way:

  1. 형 = In Korean, this word also means “older brother” and I saw one of my friends (albeit younger than me) changing a fluorescent light. So, I visualize him and think “형.”
  2. 광 = In Korean, this word is also on Go-Stop poker cards. One of the cards has a man dressed in red, almost like a king. So, I visualize my friend in red king’s clothes and think “광.”
  3. 등 = I don’t actually know the meaning of this word, but the sound of it and the horizontal character ㅡ remind me of a fluorescent light.

Put altogether, it’s easy to remember my “형” dressed like a “광” changing the “등” = fluorescent light.

2. Use a hook

A “hook” is basically the same thing as a mnemonic, some way to link vocab words to things you already know, but I found a good quote about it from this website:

For example, the word for joke in Korean is nong-dam (농담) and in Aussie English a nong is an ‘idiot’ while dam in Arabic means ‘blood’. So I think of a joke about an idiot who falls over and starts bleeding.

It’s a memory hook I won’t forget.

The online tool Memrise basically works the same way in organizing these ‘hooks’ and turning it into a bit of a game, spacing study sessions by getting you to come back later and ‘water/harvest’ plants in a virtual garden.

3. Use flashcards

Memrise has been touted as a wonderful flashcard-like program. But here’s an exercise I learned from one of my coworkers that sounds equally useful.

  1. Prepare a stack of vocabulary cards and 5 small boxes.
  2. Begin drilling the flash cards with yourself (or students).
  3. For every word you remember successfully, put it in the first box.
  4. Continue until all the words are in the first box – BUT, if you make a mistake, pick up ALL the cards from the box and start all over again.
  5. After all the cards are in the first box, pick them all up and review them again, this time placing them in the second box.
  6. Again, if you make a mistake, you have to start all over again (or at least with that particular box).
  7. After you’ve progressed through all five boxes, SUCCESS! You’ve memorized them! (But don’t forget to periodically review them.)
4. Immediately put vocab to use

It’s really a waste of your time to study and drill vocab if you don’t use it. Whatever new vocab you learn today, make it a point to try to use that vocab in conversation between 5-10 times in the same day! That will help solidify the new vocab in your brain.


Vocabulary memorization! This Challenge begins today and extends through the remainder of the week:

#11: Make a list of words to memorize using the above techniques. Tackle them at about a reasonable level (10-50 per day) then put those words to immediate use in conversation.

The goal here is to increase your overall vocabulary by between 50-350 words this week! And don’t forget to review at appropriate times. Spend all your free-time today and for the next week reviewing and memorizing your vocab list.

Hashtags today are:

#k2k3011 #vocabMaster

Feel free to take a picture of your vocab list or a video of your memorization work and link to it in the comments below.


Here are all the vocabulary lists we currently have available on this website:

  1. Seogang Compact Series
  2. Korean Grammar in Use: Beginner
  3. Complete Guide to the TOPIK: Basic

Here’s some more TOPIK vocab:

  1. TOPIK Beginner vocab with meanings (without meanings)
  2. TOPIK Intermediate vocab list
  3. 6000 most common Korean words compiled by National Institute of Korean language

Vocab learning tips:

  1. How to improve your Korean vocabulary
  2. 8 myths about foreign language vocabulary
  3. Reasons to improve your Korean vocabulary

Helpful memorization apps and programs:

  1. Memrise (1000 most common Korean words) (TOPIK)
  2. Anki Flashcards (Android) (iPhone)

So, how’s your vocab memorization going? Any other useful strategies I should know?

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