Learn 1,000 Words in 30 Days

Korean Dictionary by Bittegitte

Is it possible to learn 1,000 new words in 30 days?

Being fairly well invested at this point in our challenge to learn to speak Korean in six months, we’ve decided to toss another minor challenge on top of it.

Learning 1,000 new words in Korean in 30 days

The motivation for this is simple, I just don’t feel our vocabulary is progressing quite as quickly as I would like it to for meeting our 6 month challenge. I’m also finding that in many cases our vocabulary is the limiting factor in the speed of progress in other areas of practice. I figure the best way to fix this is by learning the 1,000 most common words in Korean.

Why the 1,000 most common? Well, like I’ve said before, the 80/20 rule applies to language too. By focusing on the most common 1,000 words we’ll be taking the most efficient route and learning the stuff we’re most likely to need to know first.

Why in 30 days? Well, for two reasons to be honest. The first reason is that we’re on a constrained timeline. Our goal is to speak Korean in six months, if we take four months to learn those thousand words, we’re not going to be able to make as much total progress. The second reason is because it’s a challenge. 1,000 words in 30 days probably sounds crazy to most people (a lot like learning a language in 6 months probably does), which is a perfectly good reason to see if we can pull it off.

How are we going to go about it? The first step is finding a listing of the 1,000 most common Korean words. That part is easy, a quick Google search has given me this one which is likely what we’ll use.

With our list in hand, the next step is to divide and conquer. A quick bit of math reveals that 1,000 words divided into 30 days comes down to 33.3 words per day. Since I have no interest in learning 1/3rd of a word everyday, I’m going to round that up to 34 words per day.

I do realize that at 34 words per day we can actually learn 1,000 words in 29 days, but I’m going to assume we’ll need that extra day for review anyway.

Everyday we will tackle the next 34 words using all of the memorization hacks we have available to us, from SRS systems like Anki to good old-fashioned memory hooks. If, by the end of the day, we haven’t learned all 34 words then I’m not going to worry about it too much. The most wonderful part of this challenge is even if we have a dismal 50% success rate, we’ll still have learned 500 of the most common Korean words – an accomplishment I would be proud of on its own.

Anyone else want to try to learn 1,000 words in 30 days?

Adam is a former English teacher turned personal trainer and writer. He’s addicted to learning, parkour and martial arts. In addition to being a voracious bibliophile Adam’s fascinated by anything related to health, fitness and language. When not studying or training he can usually be found curled up with a good piece of fiction. You can e-mail Adam at Adam@RoadtoEpic.com

  • Kim

    But how do you bell the cat?

    • I’m not quite sure I understand the question.

  • hello adam! thats fantatsitc i am hoping to acheive this with my kid in a school… how ever i am interested in the grammar part as well any tips on that… by the way i am working on teachiong englsih to kids who know nothing of the language…thanks (you can email me ur answer if u wish

  • Diana

    I am up for it. Sounds like a good plan. Did you start already?

    • Yep! We finished quite a while back. It actually worked out really well!

      It was hard to test exactly whether or not we’d be able to recall every single word on the fly, but when we tested at the end using word lists and flash cards we had learned a majority of the words.

      Definitely give it a try and let us know how it goes for you!

  • HilaryChapman

    Which language(s) should we be learning? Learn Spanish and you’re at a loss In Germany, learn French and you’re illiterate in Russia, learn Chinese and you can’t ask for an ice cream in Portugal. So which
    language should we be learning? I would respectfully suggest that we take another look at Esperanto, a relatively new language which is easy to learn and use.

    • You should learn whatever language you want to most in my opinion. I think if you’re learning a language just for utility you’re going to have a hard time or lose interest – you need to love the language you want to learn.

      Whether you learn Spanish and can talk to millions of people or learn a dialect of Ojibwe and have to work to find another speaker isn’t important as long as you’re enjoying it.

      Now I do think people should learn some Esperanto, or at least study the basics for a couple weeks, because you’re right it is very easy to learn and can teach you a lot about how it feels to start using a new tongue. Even if you’re not terribly interested in it, Esperanto makes a perfect warm-up for tackling the language you love.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Brian_Barker

    Apparently President Obama wants everyone to learn a foreign language, but which one should it be?

    The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Hindi, out of the equation.

    Perhaps it’s time to move forward and adopt a neutral non-national language, taught universally in schools worldwide, in all nations? That truly would be a courageous step.

    As a native English speaker, I would prefer Esperanto.

    Your readers may be interested in the following video at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

    The study course http://www.lernu.net is now receiving 120,000 hits per month. That can’t be bad 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Brian! I’m not sure the assertions about the President and broad generalizations about who learns what are necessarily true. My professional opinion as a linguist is also that Esperanto is probably never going to catch on as a global lingua franca any more than Volapuk, Interlingua, Lojban, Sindarin, Klingon, Na’Vi or Dothraki.

      It’s a fantastic idea, but people have been trying to do so since the 1800s to no avail. People will use whatever language is convenient and dominant which right now in the business world is English. My weak prediction is that in 100 years or so it may be Mandarin, but who knows.

      Even so, the Lernu site you linked to (which is actually down at the time of writing this) seems to be a convenient and – most importantly – free resource for learning Esperanto. While I doubt Esperanto will ever live up to the aspirations of its origins studying it for a few weeks definitely can help prime learners to tackle a language they’re more interested in.

      • Dominique Couturier

        Hello Adam! Your “professional” opinion as a linguist is also the opinion of a human being, who can be influenced by a lot of things…
        1) You have to know that the personal (and professional) opinion of OTHER linguists (John Wells, Probal Dasgputa, Giridar Rao, Renato Corsetti, Mark Fettes…) is different : they are (or have been) responsible at differents levels in the world association of esperanto (UEA).
        Well…
        2) About “people have been trying to do so since the 1800s ” I am sorry to tell you that a lot of people couldn’t “try to do so” because they simply NEVER had heard about it (sometimes there’s a lack of information, you know, especially when something is interesting for the lower classes, and considered as dangerous by the upper classe). If you want make a language spread, you must inform peoples about it, and teach it in schools. Can you say WHEN and WHERE Esperanto was taught in the schools, between 1887 ans 2013? In a very very small amount of them. On the contrary, a lot of children received a teaching of english, without having asked for it. I was among them (I am French). On the contrary, don’t forget that almost all those, who can speak esperanto learnt it during their free time, on a volontary base. If Esperanto had been taught only ten times less than english, I bet that nowadays, it would have won! Such a progress without any support of states and educational system IS an evidence of its qualities, and A REAL victory.

        3) USA and GB were very active before, during and after WW II to promote and (you have to hear that) enforce it as “THE” world language. See Robert Phillipson “Linguistic Imperialism”

        4) You cannot compare Esperanto with Volapuk or Klingon, are you joking? Not even one article of Wikipedia in Klingon, and more than 150 000 in Esperanto.
        Interlingua have still some speakers, but actualy its community has nothing to compare with the large amount of people who DO speak Esperanto. Especially in China. And there is a strong growth in South America and even in Africa…

        So… perhaps you are right about the future, perhaps Esperanto will never become the main language for international communication, BUT you know, the only fights somebody is sure to loose are those, which are not carried.

        And… please remember about the year 1989, in Eastern Europe: Bratislava, Berlin and so on… How many people, around the 70 years, had predicted that the end of USSR was so “close”?
        You have to understand something: the great changes usually mature gradually, while a lot of people do not notice it, and suddenly, they come to light…

      • Lu

        Hello Adam, I would like to know what would have been your professional opinion as a linguist about English and Latin and their respective chances to catch on as a global lingua franca – when asked about them in the year 1500.
        And: Are you familiar with the ideas of “Diffusion of Innovations”?

        • Again, just to make sure I’ve been clear, I’m not against Esperanto myself. I’ve studied it. I recommend everyone else study it, even if only a little.

          I would be thrilled for Esperanto to become a unifying global language.

          I’d also be thrilled for world peace and a cure for mortality. I don’t reasonably expect any of these things to happen during my lifetime though. Saying I don’t expect them to happen doesn’t indicate I don’t want them to – I’d love to be wrong here – I’m just a realist, pessimist or cynic (depending on your point of view) in regards to the matter.

          • Lu

            You didn’t answer my two questions 🙁

            I live in Berlin since 1983. In the beginning of 1989 nearly everyone “knew” that any idea about the wall going to fall was just as unrealistic as world peace, a cure for mortality and Esperanto becoming a global language spoken by a majority of people interested in international relations. Then the Berlin wall disappeared and my opinion about “realistic” ideas changed. (In fact it already collapsed shortly after the 23rd of August 1977, when Paul MacCready won the Kremer price with a human-powered flight; in July I had assisted a very scientific lecture telling why such a flight would take at least a decade…)

            If the Esperanto people will continue to act as they do, nearly nothing will change. If they’ll begin to inform a growing percentage of young people between 14 and 25 years about Esperanto and its reality of today, about 1 % of them will learn Esperanto (in countries where foreign languages are learnt a lot; more precisely 1 – 2 % of those speaking a foreign language). If such an intense information of these youngsters continues, there is a chance to reach (after the so called Innovators) the next group of the Diffusion of Innovations, the Early Adopters. The main problem is to organize the information of young people about Esperanto – certainly far from being an easy task.

            Maybe it isn’t reasonable to wait for such an evolution to take place. I just think, it’s not impossible. Esperanto made a really big progress during the last 125 years and is still progressing in many fields of application.

            When you write, “People will use whatever language is convenient and dominant which right now in the business world is English”, you just say something about 99 % of the people. But the process of diffusion of innovations begins with the last 1 %. If they know about the new thing, if they are enthusiastic enough to buy it (or to learn the language Esperanto), to use it and still be enthusiastic about their use – and to tell others about it, there is a tiny chance of convincing an even bigger part of the target group (which is people interested in international communication and willing to learn one or more foreign languages).

            I fully understand that this whole subject has an other perspective, if someone lives in an English speaking country.

  • Brian_Barker

    Hello Adam 🙂

    Many ill-informed people think Esperanto “never took off” – other ignorant people say that if human beings were meant to fly, God would have given them wings.

    Esperanto is neither artificial nor a failure however. As the British Government now employs Esperanto translators it has ceased to be a hobby. More recently this international language was used to address the United Nations in Bonn.

    Following a short period of 125 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to Russia and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. Financier George Soros learnt Esperanto as a child.

    Esperanto is a living language – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CwJ9I8q-L0&feature=player_embedded#!

    Their online course http://www.lernu.net has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can’t be bad 🙂

    • molly

      Do you know Hello in Korean and how to say? please TELL ME! I need it for school :l

  • molly

    Hi 🙂 well, im looking for words as im doing something for school I need the word hello and how to say and yeah. So if you happen to know it tell me 😀 thanks 😀 <3

    • Hi Molly,

      Just saw your comment, hopefully it’s not too late – I know I always did my school stuff at the last possible minute. The basic ‘hello’ in Korean is ‘annyeonghaseyo’ (on-yong-ha-say-oh would be a rough English speaker’s phonetic equivalent since I don’t know if you’re familiar with IPA).

      You should check out Omniglot’s page of useful phrases by language, they have Korean on there and a bunch others. (http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/langs.htm)

  • Permacore

    The 1,000 most common word list no longer exists. Can you post it yourself please? Im also wanting to learn those Korean words