Learn Korean Fast With SRS

The TOPIK Korean Proficiency Test (한국어능력시험) has books featuring thousands of vocabulary words to add into your memorization repertoire. Many traditional ways of learning these words come from:

1. Writing down each word ten times in a notebook

2. Reading words aloud

3. Writing words on flash cards and memorizing daily

Knowing more vocabulary will help you learn Korean faster. The problem is that traditional memorization methods can be inefficient, inconvenient, and downright boring.  This is especially true if you’re studying for the TOPIK.

SRS systems can help!

“An SR-what?” you might ask. SRS stands for “spaced repetition software”. The “software” portion means you have software that runs on your computer and/or smartphone and emulates the function of vocabulary flashcards. The “spaced repetition” portion means that you have a stack of flashcards, and the frequency with which you see them depends on how well you know them. The repetition is spaced out according to how familiar you are with the flashcard content. All of this adds up to help you learn Korean fast.

For example, imagine you have a stack of index cards that you use to make traditional flashcards that you review every day. On one side you write “banana”, and on the other side you write “바나나” (banana in Korean). You want to learn Korean fast, so you review the words daily and try to memorize the word for banana.

Anki srs korean banana

However, in that stack, some words you know well, and some words are still a challenge. Maybe you have another card for “coffee” and “커피” (coffee in Korean). If “banana” is very easy, but “coffee” is very difficult, you could simply keep reviewing “coffee” more times until you get it right. Once “banana” becomes too easy to review it daily, how do you decide on how often to review it? You could put it in an “every other day” stack, or a “weekly” stack. That’s when things can become a bit challenging to manage. SRS can help organize this system to learn Korean fast, AND do it in a fun way.

There are many SRS systems available to help you learn Korean fast, so we encourage you to evaluate them yourself and decide what’s best for you. For simplicities sake, we’ll discuss the points with the Anki SRS system in mind since it has great functionality and flexibility. Here are 5 advantages of using SRS systems.

1. Smartphone & Tablet SRS

 SRS Apps for Studying Korean

Frequent review of vocab will help you learn Korean fast. One of the barriers to doing vocabulary review is that you have to have them with you. Possibly you’re traveling or commuting and don’t want to carry around extra weight? Or, maybe you’re in line at the bank and realize that you have some time to kill but didn’t bring your vocab. Many SRS systems have apps that are available on smartphones and tablets. Some also have web interfaces. If you’re like most people who have their smartphone with them 24/7, then you’ll always have access to your study material.

2. Customized Reinforcement For You

Anki SRS Custom Korean Study

Ever have a custom-made outfit? It feels great because it was made specifically for you.

Just like custom-fitted clothes, you want a flash card system that’s fit to you!

With SRS systems, you may either download vocabulary decks that someone else made or you can make them yourself. If you want to learn Korean fast, it’s highly recommended that you make them yourself. This is because you can put exactly what you want on them.

For example, maybe there are multiple meanings to a word, but you only want to learn 2 out of the 4. You can design your flashcard to fit your own preferences.  And it’s always good practice to use Hangeul.

In addition, entering the vocabulary in yourself further reinforces your knowledge of the material since you’re reading it, entering it, then will be reading it again. We recommended creating your decks on a computer versus a smartphone since you likely can type faster, even on a Korean keyboard. Also, you’ll be able to cut and paste much easier.

3. SRS Gives You Accountability

One of the key pieces to learning Korean fast is consistency. Even if you can’t open a book each day, getting some exposure to the language is quite key. SRS systems that are setup with reviews each day (such as Anki) require you to do the reviews on that day. If you don’t, they’ll carry over to the next day.

For example, let’s say you have 10 cards to review today, and that takes you 4 minutes on average. If you don’t do them today, they’ll carry over to tomorrow, and you may have 20 cards to do tomorrow, for a total time of 8 minutes. If you miss both days, then the 3rd day will be roughly 30 cards at 12 minutes.

To avoid them stacking up and to keep the SRS system running smoothly, it’s best to do you flashcards each day. Knowing that your obligations will stack up is one element of motivation you can use to keep yourself accountable to studying daily.

Don't let your flash cards pile up like these dishes!

4. A Sense of Accomplishment

For goals, people often talk about “moving toward” and “moving away from” motivations. The accountability motivation in #3 is a “moving away from” motivation, because if you don’t do it today, it’ll come back to haunt you tomorrow.

Don't let your unfinished Korean study haunt you tomorrow

Don’t let your unfinished Korean study haunt you tomorrow

There’s also a sense of accomplishment when you clear your deck for the day. Even though there are no streamers and confetti dropping from the ceiling, there is still a mental reward from seeing your review count going to zero for the day. That “moving toward” motivation combined with the “moving away from” motivation helps you keep your language learning on track and learn Korean fast.

5. Fun & Bragging Rights


Treat yourself to something special after you clear your flash cards!

Who says vocab memorization has to be boring? With SRS systems, you can make a game out of it. Time yourself to see how fast you can do 10 words, and then try to beat your time. Look at your estimated time, and try to finish 20% faster. Give yourself a reward at the end, such as “I’ll reward myself with my favorite drink at the café as soon as I clear my flashcard deck”. It’s a great motivator to learn Korean fast.

Not only that, but you can also brag to your friends about how many cards you have in your deck, and how many reviews you do each day. Are the friends in your social group not adding any new cards to their flash card decks? Maybe you need to add some different friends to your social circle! Maybe even some Korean friends. ^^

If you’re not familiar with SRS systems, hopefully that information was useful. If you are, we’d love to hear what SRS systems you are using. Feel free to leave a comment below about SRS systems, deck count, or largest number new cards in a month!


Photo by: Luke Ma

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