Help dealing with repeated images memorizing a dictionary.

I posted this question in a different form on the yahoo memory sports list, but this board seems to get more traffic. If you saw this before, sorry!

I want to memorize a dictionary of Korean words. I am having two problems coming up with a system.

First, I would like to encode each syllable–probably using a PAO method where Person is the first consonant, Action is the vowel, and Object is the final consonant–but I can’t figure out how to deal with all the repeated information. The first syllable (and therefore, first image) ends up being the same for several pages on end. For example, one syllable starts over 900 words, although there are occasional starting syllables with only a handful of words as well. It seems like everything would blur together.

One idea I had was to memorize each word backwards, since the ends of words are more unique. However, all Korean verbs share the same ending, so I’m not sure how effective this would end up being either. At least images wouldn’t be repeated as often in the same location.

The second problem I’m having is that I don’t know how to link several PAO groups together in one location. I think usually one PAO group is held at each loci, but I would rather hold one word per loci, which could include from one to maybe six syllables. Two syllables for nouns and three or four for verbs is typical for Korean words. Then I need to link the translation as well.

Does anybody have any tips or thoughts on how I could handle these two problems? As far as locations, I was going to use the page number and major system to come up with them.

Is your goal to “memorize a dictionary” or to “memorize a lot of Korean words”?

I’ve never tried in memorization project like this, but I don’t know if PAO is the best method to use for words. If your word isn’t divisible by three, it won’t match up with a PAO system.

If you are trying to learn words, and not just a specific dictionary, one idea is to group similar concepts by location.

Here is one example:
January: il-wol
February: i-wol
March: sam-wol
April: sa-wol
May: o-wol
June: yuk-wol
July: chil-wol
August: pal-wol
September: gu-wol
October: sip-wol
November: sip-il-wol
December: sip-i-wol

There is a group of 12 words where the memorization could be simplified. All you have to remember is number+month.

Other words could be grouped by suffix or meaning by placing them in a certain location:
Beef: sogogi
Chicken: takkogi
Pork: taejigogi

You could memorize them as a set by placing the images in one section of your town. Maybe a butcher or sandwich shop is where the images for meats are kept, and a clothing store for words about clothes, etc.

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Thanks for your reply Josh.

I’ve lived in Korea for about five years now. I have a fairly good vocabulary, and speak better than most foreigners (at least westerners) than you will meet here. But I have a ways to go until I am fluent. Therefore, I am ultimately looking to improve my vocabulary. But I would like to actually memorize a dictionary, including page numbers. This would be a fun way for me to combine my interests. (And hopefully easier for my wife to understand than memorizing cards!)

I am aware of prefixes and suffixes. They are extensively used in Korean. A lot of Korean vocabulary comes from Chinese (technically Hanja), not in terms of pronunciation, but in terms of word construction. Almost all Korean can be written with Chinese characters, but it is not done much anymore. It is mostly used to differentiate homophones. (The Chinese characters correspond to Korean sounds, not Chinese). It always helps me if I can identify and link words that share syllables, and therefore meaning, together.

However, I do not really want to organize my dictionary in a city. I would rather use the page number to create a shop or building via the major system, and place my words in there. I think this would work better for the way my mind works. I’ve considered the city method a few times, but my brain kind of slides off of it…

Anyways, as for your comment about being “divisible by three”, all Korean words are, or at least can be modified to be. Every syllable is composed of an initial consonant, a vowel, and a final consonant. In some cases there is no final consonant, but in those cases I plan to use a “dummy” consonant/image to maintain the PAO structure. (In fact, I believe originally all Korean was written that way).

Therefore, my problem is not in creating images for syllables via PAO, but in figuring out how to link each syllable’s image with the next one. As I said, usually two to four syllables. Also, dealing with the repeated images as page after page will start with the same syllable.

However, if anyone knows of another good system for generating images systematically based on “triples” of information, I would be interested in hearing it.


Slight Aside

I will absolutely not be using a linkword method, at least not as a primary method. I have tried it for years. There are words that do work, but there are too many sounds that do not exist in English. Also, there are different ways of spelling similar (to an English speaker’s ear) sounds. I am looking to use a system so that I can clearly differentiate those. For example, the hard A sound can be spelled at least four different ways (technically they are all different sounds, but again, to an English speaker’s ear…). If I use four different verbs to create my images, I will never confuse them.

I just want to leave you with 2 ideas, that will help you in your quest.

Firstly, images are not homogenous. What I’m saying is simply that a sword can take many forms (scimitar, broad, long, dagger, barbarian, kriss, katana, chinese-straight, rapier, fencing…) and each one of these you can have look differently. A rose is not a rose. Like the words lite and light, they sound the same, but we do not interpret the same. Use this idea to increase your number of objects used for association.

Secondly, why not use the context of your word more effectively. Rather than beginning with the first syllable and associating that to the second, and so on, begin with the meaning of the word. see that in your mind’s eye and then link the syllables to that picture in an ordered way.

Look at the word “duck” in french : le canard.
In french objects are male of female, in this case male.
the prefix of the word “le” denotes the gender of the word.
Obviously you would not mand to associate “le” to “can” to “ard” in order, as there are a very large number of words starting with “le”. Lets rather say we begin with the word duck. and we decide we will associate duck to can to help us remember canard. we still do not know the gender of the word, so we will need a reminder. I have used a big, hairy, boxer to denote male in every french word I would like to remember. So a boxer will be needed somewhere in the duck scene to remind me.
I associate duck to can, by picturing Donald Duck strung up by its feet, swaying from left to right pecking at a massive can. I find that this is more than enough to remind me of canard. Now I simply add a boxer to the picture. I see the boxer pushing Donald every time he swings back, giving him more momentum.

This is not korean I understand, but you can play around with the basic idea, I am sure you will find a solution.

PS a duck has a tail and a body and wings and a beak and an eye.
(boxer & tail) + (can & wings) + (ard->art->painting & beak)
Often we just approach the problem from the wrong end of the logical spectrum.

Good Luck on your Quest


Wesselj, thank you very much. I really like the idea of associating the English word first. I think that should help cut down on the repetitive first syllable issue.

Based on what you said, maybe I should consider having an OAO or OOO system instead. Using actions does not seem limiting to me, but people do. As you said, a sword can take many forms. For me, a person would probably only take one form. So, for a word like “ga-gye”–store–I would have had “Gary sprouting water” and “Gary cutting water (maybe some ice)”. The two Garys would have been difficult to link. But with objects you can imagine different forms or aspects of the objects.

Sounds Good,
Let me know how it goes.

I’ve got a few books coming in the mail on IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet.) I’m thinking of creating something akin to a larger more extravagant version of the major system so that stringing together the sounds and pegging them would be a bit easier. I your interested in collaborating on something like this let me know.

When I was learning spanish, I did a lot of the link-word stuff but as you mentioned… it doesn’t fly when your dealing with something like Chinese or Korean. But, regardless of how you memorize it I found it to be more helpful to do shorter lists (perhaps 20 or 30 per week) and then my reviews would consist of always trying to use the words in a sentence. I’m not sure the structure of Korean, but do they conjugate verbs for tense? With spanish, I would choose a tense each time I reviewed my list and go through and conjugate them all in one form.


Of course Korean has tenses, but it doesn’t have different words for them like English or the Romance languages. You just tack an ending on. Korean grammar is quite light compared to most languages. If you are familiar with the Korean alphabet you can probably learn the present, future, and past tenses in about 30 minutes. (And that’s without any memory techniques!) There are no irregular verbs. Not all verbs are conjugated exactly the same, but they all follow rules based on the letters they contain.

I’d be happy to (indeed was planning on) post my system when it is complete, including all the objects and verbs I use. I’m not interested in learning the IPA right now, but I will freely share information and ideas!

As for your comment about numbers of words to use, I was planning on much more. Using normal repetition I was able to memorize a maximum of about 40 new words a day. But that was when I had time, before I was a father! I’m hoping to do at least that much once I get my system in place, though. Since there are no conjugations or sexes in Korean, once you learn a word you know exactly how to use it.



I am definitely interested in working on the enhanced version of the major system. Let me know what you have in mind.

I’d be interested in seeing what you come up with using the IPA.

Got one of the books in. IPA is very interesting. It’s actually going to take me a bit to understand the symbols and such. Although my initial thought was something like the major now I’m not so sure.

Basically, I was thinking of keeping my major just like it is… and then perhaps using other classes of sounds as modifiers/adjectives. Perhaps things like colors or whatever… then I realized it wouldn’t necessarily work for learning other languages; I would need an icon for each sound etc.

I’ll play with it. But at this point I’m more thinking of treating it as a series of images like any other list. That way I could string together consonants and vowels to form words in a visual format.

Cassox, how many images do you think you can string together in one location? That’s what I’ve been struggling with. I played around some more today, and with my current system I have a lot of images to place at one location in order to remember one word. Of course you could use one location per syllable, but that adds up quickly.

Ok, I differentiate two techniques: Chaining and pegging. There are tons of labels that people use so let me give a quick explanation. I’m not inventing or saying I’ve come up with this myself, nor teaching it. I’m just describing it so we are using the same terms.

Ok, so chaining is very basic. It’s an analog memory, not digital. What I mean is that you take an Image and use action to associate it to the next image. You can do this over and over to make really long chains.
Something like this: The PRISONER raped the GUARD with a NEEDLE. So the guard was angry and used a SPATULA to serve FIRE ANTS to him in his meal.
So, now you remember PRISONER, GUARD, NEEDLE, SPATULA, and FIRE ANTS. ( Shit I hope no one does some freudian analysis cause this is probably free association, lol) Of course these are all concrete nouns so it’s easy and it gets a little crazier when you start dealing with abstract words or whatever. I know you know this, as your creating abstract pegs from another language.

So, fine. You can spit this list out. What you can’t do is say… what is number 3 on the list?
To do so, you use pegs. AKA loci or whatever term you want. You have your predetermined list like your using now, and you associate using action. Now you can say number 12 is…

Ok, so now that we are on the same page in terms of the language, I chain off of my pegs.
So I could say the Loci for 12 is eggs. I can do something like, I throw an egg at the Guard…
who then rapes the Guard… etc. etc.

A good way to visualize this is that having more pegs (loci, places whatever) is increasing the breadth of your system. Chaining on the other hand is increasing the depth.

So more loci increases your system this way:

Chaining on to them increases it this way

  1. A + B + C + D

So there isn’t a limit as to how much information you can place on a single Loci/peg. However, it does become cumbersome because of it’s analog nature. Like an audio tape, you pretty much have to go through a whole chain to remember each part. I’ve seen people try to get around this with grid like systems, SEMCUBED etc. I just haven’t seen someone do it well yet.

In my opinion, the best amount to put on a single peg/Loci is the word broken down by syllable, and the definition. This will increase your vocab very quickly, but make sure that when you review it you use the word in a sentence.

This method to learn languages is also very formulaic and certainly wouldn’t help you be able to understand a real speaker. However if your say living in frickin Korea while trying to learn Korean (lucky bastard) then it’s a great augment.

Sorry if some of what I’ve said is explaining super basic stuff you guys already know. I’m not at all trying to sound like an authority, but I don’t know the experiences of the audience here yet.

Oh, and remember the Chunking Effect (

When I chain, I usually do five and cluster them into short little stories. Then I later bond stories together into a longer one.

I personally feel comfortable with about 30 Icons on a chain. This way I can reinforce every 5th Icon, and then “find” my way to specific one from the signpost. So if I want to know what the 8th Icon on a chain is, I can jump to the 5th and work up to 8.

30 items in a chain! That’s very impressive. The most I have tried to chain together so far is four (For phone numbers. Otherwise I have simply used new loci.). I can see how it is possible, though.

This week I spent some more time thinking of possible images for each consonant. I’m thinking of having at least two images per consonant, so that I don’t have to repeat images when two syllables in a row start with the same consonant.

All levels. :slight_smile:

Well 30 items is tedious, so I really only do that when I’m making really long term lists. Sounds good to have a lot of different items for consonant. I haven’t gotten around to making multiple words for my Major list, but it’s on my to do. The only thing I’d watch out for is getting too rule based. Sometime foreign words with a lot of syllables are close enough to something your familiar with to peg it whole. I used to really get into trying to break things down, but I’ve found that as long as you intend to do a few good review session pegging things really loosely and quick works for me well.

Hey gyus, I have been studying korean for a year now. I haven’t really used any serious technique for learning the vocabulary so far, just learning along the way… but it is a very slow process and I need to speed it up. Therefore i wanted to apply some serious technique to help me learn faster. I have been seraching around but I’m not sure if what I have found would apply to learning korean, since it’s mostly based on Western languages. Could you reccommend me some basics? The memorizing techniques seem a bit confusing at this point. =X