A week of learning new vocabulary, documented.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

This week I’ve been trying to get more consistent with learning new vocabulary.

So I thought I would document what I did so that I can keep myself accountable.

The Process

Everyday I aim to learn 8-12 new words/vocabulary, as this is the sweet spot for me. Any more than this and I can’t keep up while reviewing previous days of vocab.

So here’s the daily process:

  1. Write down 8-12 new vocabulary from watching netflix shows, Youtube or reading.
  2. Add this vocab to a spaced repetition system.
  3. Review yesterdays new vocabulary by creating sentences using the new vocabulary.
  4. Practice with natives, thinking specifically about the new vocabulary recently learned.

Learning new vocab (not my notes, my notes are ugly)

Initially I was using Netflix shows to get the new vocab, but I realised that the words I wasn’t understanding were either idioms or level HSK6 or higher words.

The problem is these words were very specific and were not likely to occur in conversations often. I would rather focus on words I’m more likely to use. Once I’m at a higher level, then I can start acquiring more specific words that aren’t used as often.

A good tip here is to notice words you don’t understand the first time you see them, but don’t note them down until the second or third time you see it. This way you know it’s not a “one off” idiom or something.

I’m currently using Plecos built-in spaced repetition system. I believe it is 10 dollars to purchase. I bought it because its extremely convenient as you have the dictionary built in and you can easily add words to your flashcard deck. No exporting to Anki, which I was too lazy to do.

Creating example sentences using the new vocabulary acts as a bridge between learning the vocabulary on it’s own and actually being able to use it in a conversation. This helps me build context around the new vocabulary.

For any example sentence that I feel might be wrong, I’ll try to ask a native to see if they think it looks okay.

If you haven’t already, check out how I practice with natives for a more indepth guide on how to practice with natives.

Results

By day 3, I had wrote down around 30 new words and added them to my SRS. However when I did the flashcards for the first first two days, I only got 5 of the cards correct on my first attempt. I have Pleco set up so that the remaining 15 cards that I didn’t get correct initially are shown again until I’ve got them correct for that session.

Interestingly on day 4, for those same cards I managed to get 14 correct on the first attempt, with 6 needing a second or third review.

Therefore I can see it takes me a couple of days for new vocabulary to ‘sink in’. This would be equivalent to seeing the vocabulary at least 7 or 8 times before I’m consistently getting it correct.

Although I did the flashcards on day 4, I somehow forgot to get new vocabulary for that day, meaning I skipped one day. This was the only day in the week I missed.

Reviewing on day 5, I only managed to get 13 correct, with 17 incorrect. (The total is 30 because this would actually be equivalent to day 4 since I skipped one day.)

I have Pleco configured using a ‘points based’ system. After I get a flashcard correct enough times, I then reach a threshold of points where the flashcard is switched to show the character, instead of the English. This is because I also want to learn to read the new vocabulary.

But this meant I was encountering the characters ultimately for the first time. Therefore I believe the reason I didn’t get many correct on day 5 is because I wasn’t familiar with around 10 of these characters.

Conclusion

I’m finding this to be pretty effective. One thing I haven’t been doing enough recently is actually practicing using the vocabulary in conversations.

I’m also thinking about doing the same process, except instead of using Pleco, using Anki to determine if there is any kind of change in results.

What do you think?

How can I improve my process for learning new vocabulary?

Let me know below!

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