Are vocab lists worth it?

“Is keeping a list of 90834791 vocabulary words going to make me learn xxx language?”

Vocab lists have been debated back and forth, to the ends of the world and back. Simply, it is a method, and as to whether if you should employ it, it is a preference to a working style. 3

There are generally two types of inclination in people when it comes to dealing with stuff.

(J – Judgers; P – perceivers [for people who read about MBTI])

  • People who are good at sticking to lists, plans, schedules (J)
  • People who prefer freestyling, procrastinating but deliver ultimately (P)

I believe this kind of already answers the question, but just to reassure language learners, it does not really matter how you pick the language up.  It’s a bit like picking which road to get to your destination. As long as you are aware that there is MORE to learn (and continue in the path you are on), eventually I do believe we would end up at the same destination. It’s about experience. Whether you have a good or a bad one, does depend on your choice.

Knowing your style helps you pick.

Organized people, I trust you know your shit. So ima leave you to it, and see you at the end of the road!

Personally, I’m not very organized. I can get very distracted, and immediately follow trails  that pique my interests, and it causes me to lose track. This does not mean I don’t use lists. I use lists to keep me on track when I stray. If you’re like me, read on..

Why a short list?

Unlike organized people who spend hours keeping a neat book of handwritten vocabulary, mine gets messy, and I would write irrelevant things in it, like example sentences, japanese counterpart, a drawing, lines… clouds.. 10 highlighter colours.., I do that, but I rarely reread my stuff.

Keeping it minimal

I learn better when I curate my list. The long list is used for documentation purposes – (timeline and memories of how I encounter said word.) Curated words are those I really make an effort to memorize. Not just any words. Words I’ve come across more than twice or thrice, words that you feel are important to know. Familiar faces. I pick less than 10 each time, like my special friend club. So the next time I encounter them in texts would be something akin to seeing a VIP familiar face in a party and being able to call out their names. We would make great friends, and have a great time. (I’m sane. trust me.)

Keeping it instinctual

Don’t worry about words you let go. Let them seep in, and see if you can instinctively get it. Make it seem like a game of seduction (I’m sane.), guess what they are saying. Searching everything out is like looking at the cheat sheet before attempting the game. Let it seep in.. be a mystery, until it catches your eye several times, then look it up. Remember where you’ve seen it hang around, then you’ll know its neighbours, common lurks, what words it’s commonly used with. (I’m not a stalker. At best, I’m a word stalker, which is totally not illegal.)

So yeah. Another way to think about learning languages.


2 thoughts on “Are vocab lists worth it?

  1. I’m not organized, either. I delete all my Anki cards and start over every time. I don’t keep notebook,either. I start over as often as I want to.

    • I tried them SO many times. I used mnemosyne, then neglected it, then some other web flash cards, then ditched them, then my latest efforts have been at memrise, but I too, have been obstinately avoiding their reminders guiltily.

      I do, however have an account on naver and Daum though. Whenever I do searches, I’d just click a button to store them in their web lists (You can even check the option to ‘automatically store all searches into my list “단어장에 자동저장”). They have revision functions there too, but I seldom use them. You can consider those if you’re lazy like me! 😀

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