Study Methods

A few months ago, Whitey asked for my Korean study methods. A few days ago, I discussed the same thing with Jennifer.

I use the Sogang books. I like these books for a few reasons: they focus on common language (-yo form first instead of starting with -sumnida, like Yonsei does), translations aren’t provided right next to the text (my eye naturally drifts to English), and they progressively get harder (level 1A, for example, translates everything in the appendices, whereas 2B only includes scripts and translations for the listening portion).

These books have 3 practice dialogues, a reading section (with follow up questions), and a listening section (with follow up questions). There is also a workbook.

I usually take about a week per chapter. The first day I make flashcards, using the vocabulary lists and grammar points at the end of the lesson. I also read through the dialogues and reading section. The second day, I practice the dialogues, hopefully with Good Man, so I can make inappropriate sentences. The third day, I do the reading section and answer the questions. The fourth and fifth days are usually workbooks days. The sixth day is the day I do the listening section. The seventh day is a slip day/review day/self-assigned writing (or blogging) day.

I sometimes take longer than a week, as I have with this chapter, but my general study order is still the same. I have found, over time, that this works best for me.

I usually review the flashcards every day. I review them once or twice Korean to English first. If I know Korean to English, they go into another stack. That stack I study English to Korean once a day. Once I know a card English to Korean, it goes into a third stack. The third stack is not studied every day. I study that stack after two days, maybe after three or four. Although I’m constantly adding cards to that stack, I keep making the length of time between reviews longer and longer until I’m pretty sure I know the words. Once I know the words, I wrap the stack up, date it, and file it. I review the stack again after one week, two weeks, and a month. I tend to keep about two weeks worth of cards in one stack. If I ever get the card wrong, it goes back to the second stack until I know it again. It’s not at all scientific, but I’ve sort of figured out how long it takes before I know a card. It’s my version of the Leitner System.

The flashcards I make must be unusual, because they confuse everyone else the first time they see them. I write the flashcards so that you turn them over top to bottom, not side to side. This makes it easier to hold them while standing on a subway train. I also color-code them. I will add a stroke in green above a ㅈ that sounds like a ㅊ. I will write a ㄹ over the ㄴ in green ink in the word 살날 to remind me of the shifting sound. I’ll circle irregular endings in red to remind myself to drop the ㅂ (for example). When I’m writing out grammar patterns, I’ll write an example of irregular verbs in red to help me remember them.

While I’m doing this, I’m also reading Korean books whenever I want. As a teacher, I know about the zone of proximal development. But I find Korean books that are just at or just above my level can be a bit boring. So usually I read whatever I want and don’t worry about it. If the book is too hard (like The Little Prince, which I’m reading now), I read it chapter by chapter in English first. I tend not to worry about the words I don’t know. I just read for enjoyment.

Now that I’m nearly done with The Little Prince, I found a copy of it as a graphic novel. I plan on reading it solely in Korean because the pictures provide such good support. I will probably choose 5-10 vocabulary words/grammar patterns in each chapter to add to my flashcard stack.

If I’m reading a book closer to my level (like the Once Upon a Time in Korea book), I will pay more attention to grammar and vocabulary, taking note of problem areas.

I tend to read stories I like over and over again. I know young children do this when they’re reading, too. I guess I’m like a child that way. But if I like a story, I’ll practice reading it again and again for fluency and enjoyment. I’ll also read out loud to practice my pronunciation.

In fact, I find moving my lips slightly when I read in Korean helps keep me on track. I hate doing it because it makes me feel like a young child, and I can’t remember the last time I had to do it in English, but right now my level is low enough that I need to do it. (For the record, when I teach, I let kids move their lips, whisper read, use their finger to track, whatever. I don’t care, as long as they’re reading.) I only tend to move my lips when I’m reading something difficult; when I’m reading at my level, the mouth stays shut.

I write in Korean whenever I feel like it. I try to write using only words and grammar patterns that I know, though I will look up a new word if necessary. I usually have Good Man look over my writing. Sometimes I have someone else look after it too, since Good Man is not very picky about markers and the like.

I practice speaking mostly at taekwondo. Good Man and I have agreed to speak Korean once a week, but we haven’t been very successful at it yet.

I also make goals to keep track of what I’m doing. This year my primary goal is to study through 3B. I’d also like to read Pippi Longstocking in Korean by the end of the year.