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120 Days to TOPIK #2 – Increase Your Memory Efficiency by Learning The Four Levels of Memory


Over the next few days, I’ll be taking notes (and issuing Challenges) based on the following 5 principles of memory found in Fluent Forever:

  1. Make memories more memorable
  2. Maximize laziness
  3. Don’t review, recall
  4. Wait, wait! Don’t tell me!
  5. Rewrite the past

Today’s post will discuss the FOUR Levels of Memory and How to Make Memories more Memorable.

1. Make memories more memorable

Hebb’s Law: Neurons that fire together wire together.

The more senses we can get involved in memory, the more likely the memories are to “stick”. You have 5 senses, and each can intake a variety of data for each memory. Then, when faced with a similar situation, your brain readily recalls those memories easily and often vividly.

  1. Structure (lowest memory level) = recognize patterns of letters, determine word type
  2. Sound (level two) = connect structure to ears and mouth; this is rote memorization, but the more accurately we learn the pronunciation, the better we remember a word (also, sometimes rhyming can help increase retention)
    1. But actually, IMAGES are better than words because you don’t want to think “사과” = “apple” (the English word), rather that “사과” =
  3. Concept (level three) =
    1. Abstract = word association (like associating “my birthday” with “in June”)
    2. Concrete = multisensory concepts (like remembering the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a given event or situation)
  4. Personal Connection (highest memory level) = associate a word + an image + a personal memory or connection

Here’s how to effectively build flash cards for memory retention:

  1. Google IMAGE Search the word to learn in the language you are studying (not English)
  2. Speak the word and practice its pronunciation while doing so
  3. Choose an appropriate image and ask yourself, “What does ______ mean to me? What memories do I already have of _________?”
  4. Create your flashcards with this combination of word + spoken pronunciation + image + concept + personal connection and you’ll have a hard time forgetting it

In short (from Forever Fluent):

  1. Learn the sound system (pronunciation) of your language
  2. Bind those sounds to images
  3. Bind those images to your past experiences

I’ve already shared on this blog that VOCABULARY is one of my major weaknesses when it comes to the TOPIK, so I’m excited to learn about this new method for memorization and that’s what today’s Challenge involves.


Take a new list of vocabulary words (either from a book I mentioned earlier, or our own Vocabulary lists, or a list of your own) and create your first set of new flash cards (either on paper, or in a digital format) using the set of principles laid out above.

Resources today are linked in the preceding paragraph and are also to be created BY YOU.

Share Your Progress

If you want to share what you’re working on at any social media site, feel free to use the hashtag: #120TOPIK so we can follow your progress. Or leave me a Comment in the section below.

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