ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 29

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“You’ve learned the alphabet right? [Opens notebook.] Maybe we should start there…”

Amazingly enough, I was excited when my teacher mentioned this last night. We had run across 어떻게 (by what means) last night, and I was (obviously) having trouble pronouncing it. While I have covered the alphabet in class before (it was one of the first things I learned), one aspect of the alphabet that we didn’t cover in depth was Korea’s double consonants.

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In Korean, all the letters are arranged/designed according to their phonetic structure. 바 / 파 / 빠 being an example. The first 바 (baw) has a soft “b” sound; almost like the cross between a “b” and a “p.” The next, 파 (paw), has a traditional “p” sound. The final, the double consonant, 빠 (Buh), has a hard “b” sound.

We went over these sounds for a good 10 minutes before my teacher finally called it quits out of a mixture of frustration and… more frustration? While he claimed I had made some improvements in my pronunciation, he also added that any Koreans who heard me talking would understand me. And understand why I was talking as I did; since I was a foreigner and all.

“I think you’re saying [pointing to the first column of letters ㅂ, ㅅ, ㄱ, ㄷ, and ㅈ] these too hard.”

I laughed, in between my attempts to get it right, as I’ve heard that line before. In this class. I can distinctly remember having a similar conversation with my first teacher when I was trying to get one word just right. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it to sound right. “You’re saying it too hard,” she noted. To which I replied, “That’s how I talk. I pronounce everything hard.”

She laughed, agreed, and then made the aforementioned realization that no one’s ever going to mistake me for a native Korean, so pinpoint phonetic accuracy might not be needed. Picking her (and now his) battles, so to speak.

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As far as Anki goes, I took to adding more vocabulary last week, but less than the data dump from a couple weeks ago. Trying to keep myself sane here. Though I’m often mixed about whether that’s the right approach or not. While I feel that overloading myself with vocabulary will ultimately lead me to learning less; as I won’t be able to focus on everything, I honestly have no way of knowing whether this is true or not.

I bounce between two schools of thought here. On one hand, using the controlled approach, I feel that I’ll be able to retain more. Or the other hand, my retention is hovering around 85%, with a word bank of around 2000. Granted, all my flashcards are front and back, so that only amounts to around 1000 words; minus even more as some cards are grammatical exercises.

Now, by no means am I saying my usable Korean vocabulary is 1000. My recall isn’t perfect, and I’m rusty on many of the older cards. But I also feel that no matter how great the increase in words per week, I still won’t be able to use all of them perfectly. Some just won’t be applicable to my life, or I might not care to learn them all.

For instance, I still have to actively recall the verb conjugation to indicate I should do something (~V을까요), but have no problem with saying I want to do something (~V고 싶어요). Is this a case of one being harder than the other, of one being learned in a cluster that was too packed, or a personal taste issue? If I do challenge myself with a huge load of new vocabulary, will the same sorting occur as if I had spaced them out enough to (hopefully) make it easier?

Further complicating things is, how if you look at the last graphs, my “Buried/Leech” card pile has decreased by 50% (from 4% of my total cards to 2%). I did this after reading an interesting take on spaced repetition, flashcard vocabulary learning. With Anki, after you miss a card x amounts of time, it gets removed from the deck (becoming a “leech”) because it’s leeching your efforts from cards that’ll be easier for you.

While that makes sense in a time/effort sense, it’ll also leave you with some holes in your vocabulary. But this is only true if you look at learning new vocabulary in a strictly black-and-white/binary type lens. Rather than 100% right or wrong, you can also (as I’ve started doing) loading those bothersome cards back into your deck, but edited so that the answer is now on the front of the card. So that you’ll still be seeing the vocabulary (and thus it’ll still be making some sort of impression), even if you’re no longer struggling with the word.

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