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Q&A: How to Make Flashcards for Difficult Words

One of my Facebook followers recently asked a good question about the new approach to flashcards that I posted yesterday. I thought it was a great question so I decided to share both it and my response here.


I really do love this approach to learning vocabulary. I’m having a hard time with the words that don’t have a direct picture association. like 되다 to function, to become. its such a basic word that’s used a lot so one should learn it quickly. however, its hard to find a picture for. I’d love to see how you go about working through this situation.


This is where I think the “personal connection” aspect is most beneficial.

For example, when there’s a word like 되다 that is slightly abstract and doesn’t really have a concrete and visual meaning that you can readily find (like 사과), then I try to:

  1. First, I make a sentence or two using that word in an English sentence so that I can understand how I would use it in my native language
  2. Then I make or read example sentences using the word in Korean (to compare its usage)
  3. And then I try to make my own sentence in Korean with enough “personal” visuals to make it memorable

For example: 되다 = to become

  1. I would think about the phrase “What do you want to be(come) when you grow up?”
  2. Then, I would make a personal connection with that.
  3. I’d find an appropriate image (say, a fireman – or something I’d always envisioned as a child), and use that as my visual cue to remember the word
  4. My Korean sentence then would probably be something like, “소방관 되고 싶어요.” (“I want to be(come) a fireman.”)

Below is my COMPLETE vocabulary list from yesterday (taken from 쏙쏙 TOPIK 한국어 어휘 초급) with complete explanations for each word and image combination. And though I already knew MOST of these words, I had never matched them with flashcard images like this, so I found this a useful exercise.

Again, remember the EMPHASIS here is on a personal connection:


  1. 가격 = price = I LOVE bikes and really want to buy a new one, so I found a picture of a bike with a price tag and used that
  2. 가요 = popular song = I HATE Crayon Pop’s “Bababa” but it’s so catchy it’s easy to get stuck in your head – so I used that as my image
  3. 간식 = snack = This is my FAVORITE Korean snack. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever found to an American taste in Korea. It reminds me of Fritos
  4. 감기 = a cold = I used pictures of MERS in Korea since that’s a big deal these days
  5. 감동 = impression = I used pictures of people with hands extended to “shake” hands and thought of “first impressions”


  1. 값 = price = same as above about bikes
  2. 개인 = individual = this is a really common word to see on taxis throughout the country and I first learned the word BECAUSE I road in so many “individual” (non-company) taxis
  3. 거리 = road = this is a picture of a road from Lotte Cinema and the MAIN drag in our city (Baekjae-Ro in Jeonju). Also, I never made the connection until now but “intersection” = 사거리 (4 roads), 삼거리 (3 roads), or 오거리 (5 roads). Good to make that connection now~
  4. 거짓말 = lie = Obviously, Pinnochio is the world’s most famous liar because his nose grows when he lies. Also, my kids just watched this movie last night. Coincidence? (My wife chose the movie without my recommendation)
  5. 건물 = building = this is (not) the tallest building in Korea, the 63 building, but it is one of the most remarkable because of its gold color and that it sits on the Han River. Also, the Avengers 2 movie was filmed on a Mapo Bridge in Seoul which is very near the building


  1. 게임 = game = I haven’t really played games a lot recently, but the Minions Running Game is one exception and one that my son also enjoys playing
  2. 결과 = result = I used an image of a successful TOPIK result paper (because I also want to see one soon)
  3. 결혼식 = wedding ceremony = I used pics of my own wedding
  4. 경기 = sports competition = I LOVE watching the World Cup in Korea because the atmosphere is so crazy, so I used a pic of the Seoul World Cup stadium filled with Red Devils fans
  5. 경치 = scenery = I used a picture of 부여 and an area we visited that I found most scenic (Gungnamji pond)


  1. 경험 = experience = Obviously, from my many years of gaming, the first thing that comes to mind with this word is “XP points”. My most memorable games that built up your “experience points” were Grand Theft Auto (when you do pushups, etc, to muscle up) and Final Fantasy. Plus it was recently announced that Final Fantasy 7 is getting a remake
  2. 계단 = stairs = I used a picture we took just last week in a neighboring city with a beautiful lake (Gunsan Eunpa Lake) of me helping my daughter up the stairs
  3. 계획 = plan = Recently I’ve been using my Oxford planner (with that exact cover) a lot to help organize my life and schedule
  4. 고장 = break-down = Though my phone has never broken like that, I’ve seen enough students who have had it happen that I can easily empathize with them
  5. 가향 = hometown = although I have pictures of me farming, the best memories I have in my wife’s hometown (I prefer to use her hometown to mine because her’s is the “Korean hometown”) are when we go to the BEEF restaurant (미소) there. Super good eats!~


  1. 골목 = alley (though in the book it is MIS-spelled as “ally” which made it really confusing the first time) = the most memorable experiences I have with alleys are actually watching OTHER people run through them (i.e. Running Man). This alley looks similar to many of the ones I’ve seen in countless episodes
  2. 곳 = place = this picture shows the Food Court in our University that I walk past almost every day. The English Cafe (i.e. Global Lounge) is near here and I work there once a week (it’s quite a relaxing time)
  3. 공간 = space = I REALLY want to be a full-time entrepreneur/freelance designer/developer and leave my day job as a university English teacher, so I’ve often looked longingly at Shared Working Spaces and imagined the day I might join one~~
  4. 공기 = air = I really enjoy the air on a sunny day at the beach

So, there you have it. I hope that gives you a better idea about how to find and use your own personal connection with any new vocabulary word you add to your flashcards.

Good luck!~

Let me know in the Comments below how your flashcard making is going!

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