It’s been exactly two months since my first checkpoint for learning Korean. I’m midway to the next one.
First half of the first half (or simply put, the first month) went by a lot better than I expected. I managed to study from a textbook every morning, review and learn words on Memrise every evening, and was making consistent progress that made me proud.
Then things happened. A lot of my symptoms got worse one after the other, I got lung issues, probably from lying down horizontally all the time (apparently that’s not good for you), my brain decided to ramp up the inflammation, and all in all, even with the maximum amount of effort, I managed to take a feeble peek at Memrise every 3 days or so.
My progress had come to a halt.
It felt crappy. During that forced break I really didn’t want to lose all I’ve learned. So I asked myself
Consistency, consistency, keep the streak alive. The most important advice in language learning.
And here I am, as inconsistent as marker usage in Korean. So inconsistent, in fact, that I’ve I started forgetting what I’ve learned faster than I can learn new Korean items, or even revise the old ones.
I managed to keep up with Korean word of the day for whole 40 days before I realized it’s just not for me (so maybe I wasn’t wrong about it after all). On good days I can learn maybe 10 or more Korean words, and on bad days I can hardly open my eyes, let alone learn a new foreign word.
And yet I do make progress too.
Not that I don’t agree that consistency is the most efficient way to learn a language, I am just not sure that you can’t learn a language even if you are not a regular patron of your Korean study materials.
I say this because I did notice that even when my memories are seemingly erased beyond the reach of my recollection it takes only a day or two to relearn what usually took weeks to learn at first.
The connections are still there, the memory lane is just a bit… congested (speaking of which, don’t you just love how in Korean you say “The road is clogged,” (길이 막히다) or “The road is complicated” (길이 복잡하다) to mean there’s a lot of traffic).
I’ve been thinking of the time it takes to learn and relearn as I’ve been doing a bit better the last few days and have seized the opportunity to continue revising the words from SungKyun Korean 1. I’ve been more consistent with it than any other Korean language materials and thanks to this, according to my Korean study tracker pictured below – which I made out of a notebook from my Korean stationery haul, I am past 80% of the textbook.
(I can’t wait to finish the remaining 20%. It will be such a sense of accomplishment and I am looking forward to reviewing it here. Oh do I have things to tell you.)
Thanks to those short excursions I made into Memrise every few days it only took a few hours (with frequent breaks) to plant and water all of my SungKyun Korean 1 textbook course, so I felt capable of tackling another, neglected, Memrise course. My webtoon course.
(The Post-it you see next to the webtoon is special Korean vocabulary sticky note I wrote about.)
And it is here, revising that untended webtoon course, that I came to a realization about consistency in language learning: It’s not all it’s made out to be.
Sure, if you have the ability to choose – go for consistency.
If, like me, you are never offered the choice by life, go with the second best thing – inconsistency.
There is no doubt about it, if you don’t recise, you forget. By neglecting to revise the words and grammar from the webtoon I got only 10% of it correct. 90% had completely faded from my memory. Gone. No matter how much I strained (full disclosure: I didn’t strain much at all since I’m sick and weak and the strain is the last thing I need) I couldn’t recall the words and grammar expression which I so painstakingly found in the webtoon, looked up in Korean dictionary, entered and learned and revised in my Memrise course; and yet here is where the language learning magic happened: within an hour of relearning them I could recall 90% of them.
The percentage has flipped.
The connection reestablished.
The knowledge is back and it took one hour. Maybe less. It took me more than two weeks to learn those 108 words and expressions first time around.
Two weeks. One hour. Two weeks. One hour.
Not really the same amount of effort.
I would say the memory was far from lost.
Then again, I’ve been learning Korean for a better part of a decade and this is all I have to show for it, so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me.
I can feel my brain overheating. Time for another nap.