The other day at work I was discussing language learning with a few colleagues since we all need to speak multiple languages during a day so adding a language to our portfolio is something most of us consider. Some of my colleagues are true polyglots speaking some 5-6 languages fluently (oh how I wished I could do that), and in a neighbouring department they can count some 35 languages in total so things are pretty international.
During that conversation, I realised that one of my co-workers has not been in Denmark for particularly long, but her Danish is excellent and apparently she was fluent enough to get a good job after having been in the country for only 6 months. That is pretty darn impressive because Danish is a “weird” language in many respects and many foreigners (though especially the Swedes hehe) make fun of us by saying that it sounds like the Danes speak with hot potatos in their mouths.
It turned out that she had been attending a special language school targeting professionals and one of the requirements was to learn 15 sentences by heart for each class. The idea was that the sentences they memorised would provide a structure for the students, and then they could alternate the words depending on what they wanted to say.
She thought it was nice to be forced to memorise words and sentences because she would never get around to doing that at home and now she remembered them. I suppose she has a point there. If someone tested my Korean in some particular area on a set date (let’s not think of the TOPIK right now but more casually and on a weekly basis) then I would probably also try to memorise some more things to at least not make a fool of myself for not knowing some key words.
She still has a hint of an accent, but she is eloquent and does not appear to be in any way inhibited when speaking. Danish is her working language and she is able to handle even stressful situations in Danish. That’s more that I can say about my Korean skills at the moment…
Personally, I’ve gone through some phases concerning memorisation, and I know many learners feel very strongly about the topic. Some are strongly against it while others seem to live and breathe for it. My initial approach was to make lists and flash cards. After a while I didn’t really review them and just looked up words as I went along. Then I revised flash cards again and now I have had my feet solidly planted in the “no word lists” camp for a while – letting my poor collection of flash cards collect dust.
What I have done is to go through my TTMIK and Sogang books, going over the lessons and looking up whenever needed. Of course I have thought “seriously, this is the fourth time you look up that word, just remember it!” but I haven’t really gone though a “memorisation regime” in relation to these books. I’ve also looked at the word lists and grammar lists provided at the end of the chapters in the Sogang books just to check my comprehension level, but I never “drilled” the lists.
I’m still a newbie when it comes to Korean, but I sure have passed the 6-month mark by now and my Korean is nowhere near my colleague’s level of Danish. Of course I’m not in Korea, I don’t have to speak it in my daily life, and I don’t even have the opportunity to subject Koreans to my language learning struggles on a daily basis, but still, kudos to her for her efforts and her results. They are still impressive.
Have any of you learned a language through the method she has been following? A method where memorisation was a very integrated part and considered crucial?
Do share your experiences with memorisation and your thoughts about it in the comments 🙂