This morning I found out the Korean word for 'spine'. Five minutes later, I'd already forgotten it. It certainly won't be in my memory the next time I need to talk about spines!

I think part of the problem is that as an English speaker, there's no direct way I can associate "spine" with "척추". In contrast, if I found out the French - "colonne vertébrale" - that has an obvious link to English words, and I may even remember that for life now. Even the Dutch "wervelkolom" is easier to associate.

Additionally, "spine" is not a word I'm going to use regularly enough to reinforce it -in contrast with, say, words to do with food...

As a native speaker of a language with very different word roots (and an older learner at that!), what are some good tips to learn Korean vocabulary - especially lesser-used words - in a way that I have a chance of recalling it some time later?

I realise that to an extent this is a general language-learning question, but some tips may be specific or particularly relevant to Korean, so I'd like to ask here. I really feel that this is one of the main issues blocking my progress.

1 Answer 1


As a speaker and learner of a few languages, there is no easier or easiest way of learning a language, especially when it is not related with your own mother tongue, other than repeating it and expanding the word using other more familiar words such as '척추 병원 (literally, spine hospital)', '척추 통증 (spine pain)', '척추동물 (vertebrate)', etc.

Furthermore, you should note that native Korean speakers rarely use the word '척추' as it is kind of a medical term, rather than a word for everyday conversations. For example, if you Google "척추가 아프다" (with double quotation marks), you get only 10,300 results and when you do "허리가 아프다", you get 227,000 results. That means, you don't need to learn this difficult word unless you learn Korean to be as proficient as a native speaker.

Those words using difficult Chinese characters are difficult for native speakers, too. You can just forget it and learn it later. '허리' can be used in place of '척추' in majority of cases. '허리 병원' sounds a little weird, but anyone can understand what it means and '허리동물' sounds very weird because '척추동물' is a term that is used in your biology textbook. As you progress, I am sure you will be able to tell the difference.

Learn relatively easy words first. If it is difficult, forget about it. It will find you later when you become more proficient. Slow and steady wins the race!

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