Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Japan, my time in Seoul, and the TOPIK exam (the Test of Proficiency in Korean). The most difficult thing about the TOPIK is the sheer amount of vocabulary I’m expected to know. The listening section is alright, and I actually do okay with the grammar, but many times I’ll read a sentence and understand it, only to be told that I should substitute in a synonym for an underlined word and realize that I don’t know what any of the options mean! At that point the only thing I can do is guess.
I’ve been thinking a lot about language. In July I’ll be heading back to America (for good?) and I’m scared that I’ll lose all the Korean that I’ve gained. Though I’ve been studying for over two years, sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I’ve been reading a lot about language acquisition, and I’ve been observing my students struggle with English, and part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to “fluency,” however you define that. I read an interesting article written by Antonio Graceffo about fluency, and how many words it takes to read a newspaper, and started thinking about my own vocab level. How many words do I know?
I wasn’t always, but these days I try to be methodical when studying vocabulary. It’s too easy to “think” that you’re actually learning and retaining a word, and then realize that you can only recognize it, and not produce it. Halfway through last year I started using an awesome website called Memrise to study vocabulary, and my rate of retention skyrocketed. It’s the only program I know of where in order to get the flashcard “right” you have to actually type out the word, which is great because then I’m being tested on spelling and there’s no cheating. If I can remember the spelling, then I’ll know how to pronounce it correctly. When you get a word right the “plant” associated with each word is “watered.” With every successful watering, you have to water that plant less, so words I get wrong are frequently shown to me, whereas very simple and easy vocabulary is brought up once every few months or so in order to refresh my memory. I highly suggest Memrise to anyone who struggles with vocabulary (be my mempal – Memrise friend- I’m AnnPotski!).
Anyway, in the article Graceffo takes eight different articles from the New York Times online and through what seemed to be a painstakingly painful process counted all of the unique words (counting conjugated forms as separate words, so word would be counted once, and words would be counted separately). Apparently to read the New York Times you should have a vocabulary of approximately 4,000 words. Holy mackerel. After reading that, I headed over to Memrise to see how I was doing.
Considering that not all of the words I know are actually on Memrise, I have a vocab of at least 1,000, probably closer to 2,000. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Time to go water some plants.