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I'm currently in a Korean class, and I'm aiming to learn all the vocabulary and phrases before the lesson. Next week we'll be learning the numbers 1 to 10 amongst other things. I've tended to be weak at numbers when learning other languages, so I want to study effectively. Also, Fluent Forever mentions that learning lots of overly similar words at once can cause confusion.

So far, I've created Anki cards for the numbers. The pictures are distinct, such as a map of China and Taiwan for 1, the seven dwarves for 7, and flags of the G8, and avoided having character-based representations of the numbers, and when memorising, I try to remember the picture rather than the number. I've limited the number of notes coming into play at once, by temporarily suspending the even numbered cards. In hindsight, I might have allocated two weeks rather than one to learn them.

What else should I do to learn a lot of similar words in a short period of time?

  • Some important parts of this question are very vague. How much is "a lot" and how long is "a short period of time"? – IkWeetHetOokNiet Jun 29 '17 at 15:38
  • @christopher the body of the question, as opposed to the title, refers to learning 10 similar words in one week. – Andrew Grimm Jun 29 '17 at 21:02
  • Exactly, the numbers 1–10 does not sound like "a lot". (10 words per week is usually quite moderate.) Also, do the numbers 1–10 in Korean all sound or look similar? – IkWeetHetOokNiet Jun 30 '17 at 9:03
  • I'm curious what technique you ended up using in your Korean course. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Jul 26 '17 at 11:13
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    @ChristopheStrobbe the techniques I described in the question turned out to be sufficient. – Andrew Grimm Jul 26 '17 at 11:18
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If you are willing to put in some intensive study (since it's a "short" period of time) and you are looking for a type of "flashcards on steroids", consider using SAFMEDS. SAFMEDS is a technique developed in the context of precision teaching, a type of instruction and evaluation developed by Ogden Lindsley; the abbreviation stands for "Say All Fast a Minute Every Day Shuffled". Below are the basic elements of SAFMEDS.

  • SAFMEDS is usually implemented with a set of flashcards provided by the teacher, but people who take their learning into their own hands can create their own flashcards.
  • On the front side of the flashcard, you have your question or prompt; this can be a picture, a short (!) cloze test, a definition or a word (a translation). The other side has the answer.
  • Decks can have any number of cards, but more than 100 cards in a single deck is rare. (This is a major difference from Anki). The reason for keeping decks relatively small is that you want to quickly get through the deck in single session.
  • Before each session, you shuffle the cards. This avoids the serial learning effect (i.e. learning the sequence of the cards rather than their content).
  • You set a timer for the session. Depending on the size of the deck, this can be between 15 and 60 seconds. (2 minute sessions are considered very long; see the comment above about the size of a deck.)
  • After starting the timer, do the following for each card in the deck:
    • read the front side;
    • say the answer out loud before turning the card over;
    • check your answer;
    • put correctly answered cards on a "correct" pile, and incorrectly answered cards on a "errors" pile.
  • At the end, count the "corrects" and the "errors". Precision teaching involves creating charts of your progress. (I won't go into the details here; look for "celeration charts".)
  • You may have another session on the same day. Make sure that you first shuffle the cards again.

For more details and background information, see

Update: When learning numbers, e.g. 1–10, in a foreign language, first learning the sequence and then learning to use them outside of this sequence, is an appropriate method. I would only use SAFMEDS for numbers after learning the sequence.

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Let's take an angle from the philosophical representation of your situation, if you don't mind.

It doesn't really matter what you are learning, unless you are capable of to use what you've learned. Learning a lot of similar words, phrases, plus in short period of time, can totally kill your best intentions. Believe me.

First thing first: you should not try to use the vast majority of techniques to learn something that needs simple repetition, that's it.

Second of all: If it's Korean language, and your 'mother tongue' is English, you should be able to be fluent in Hangul alphabet and its unique phonetic representation of words, i.e. ideas, to read really easily, even if you have no idea what's going on inside the text.

And third thing: Learning a new language isn't how you allocate the resources, but rather about managing your time to find yourself in a place where you are just taking a look at your flashcards. If you are total beginner.

As you know, it's not finding new techniques and tricks, it's just simple repetition.

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Words are like people in some ways. Imagine there are some people who resemble each other. What would you do to memorise and distinguish them? - Talk with them, find out more info about them and so on.

The same goes with words. Try to use them more often. Find some (interesting, if possible) info from the Internet about origin of those words, their usage, etc.

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