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Vocabulary Maintainance February 5, 2007

Posted by Edwin in French, Vocabulary.

In a comment from my previous post about vocabulary building, Geoff the language addict asked me how much extra time is involved for me to maintain the vocabulary list. I have never timed the process, but I guess if I describe the steps involved, this could give a rough idea of the amount of time involved.

I have installed a web plug-in from WordLearner, which gives me an easy access to a French-English dictionary. I customized it to point to WordReference. Using the plug-in to look up a French word only requires 1 double click to select the word and 2 mouse-clicks to redirect to the dictionary. When I am reading a French article from the web, I would open up a notepad. Every time I encounter a new word, I would perform the 4-click maneuver to find the meaning in the dictionary. Then I would pick the appropriate definition and cut-and-paste it into the notepad. I estimate that each word would require less than 10 seconds.

After I finish the article, I would cut-and-paste all the new words from the notepad into my vocabulary spreadsheet. I would also need to tidy them up a bit. On average, this requires about 5 seconds for each word.

From the master spreadsheet, I could do a few things: I could make a csv file and import the new vocabulary to jMemorize, I could make an html file and update my French Vocabulary Builder page, or I could check for duplications.

I import the new vocabulary to jMemorize about once or twice a day. I already have a separate sheet to transform the master list into the csv format. An additional step is to copy-and-paste the cells into a text editor and remove the tab characters. I would then launch jMemorize and perform the import operation. This takes about 30 seconds each time, regardless of the number of words since the copy-and-paste, replacement and import operations are done at the file level.

I update my Vocabulary Builder page about twice a week. The operations are similar to the ones for the cvs file. Again, I need to copy-and-paste the cells into the text editor and remove the tab characters. Then I would cut-and-paste the resulting html segment into my page. This takes about 1 minute.

From time to time, I would make sure I don’t have duplications on my vocabulary list. I am not a spreadsheet expert, so I use a rather dumb way to achieve this. I copy all the words in my vocabulary onto a separate sheet, sort them alphabetically, and then use a spreadsheet function to check if a cell is the same as the one below it. The whole process takes about 1 to 2 minutes.

I run jMemorize several times a day to learn new words and relearn expired words. It takes me 1-5 minutes, depending on the amount of words need to be worked on.

I hope this gives a rough idea on how I maintain my vocabulary and how much time is involved. I posted this up not because I think I have the best approach, but rather, I would like people to give me suggestion on how to improve the process. I would appreciate if you can give me any feedback you have.



1. Geoff - February 7, 2007

It sounds like you’ve got your process all worked out. I hope it keeps coming together for you. I’ve found that for some languages, vocabulary building is easy, and for others the learning of five new words leads to the loss of five old ones. In my case, the better my foundation in the language, the less common are the problems. I can see doing something like this for Spanish or Italian or even German. But with recent languages that I lack a foundation in – Uzbek, Turkish and Mandarin – it’s a chore. I hope one day to find the silver bullet for these challenges. Till then, I suppose I’ll have to work at it. Best of luck.

2. edwinlaw - February 7, 2007

A nice thing about the Leitner system is that it works under different difficulty levels. It just takes longer for more difficult words.

Another thing about the system is that it does not pressure you very much. If you forget a word, then start again. It will eventually work its way up the decks.

Remember, learning 2 words actually involved learning 3 things. The 2 words themselves, and how do differentiate them. I have words that came down all the way from deck #7, just because I got confused with some new words. But eventually I need to learn how to differentiate them. This is what learning vocabulary is all about.

3. Scott - February 13, 2007

I’ve been playing around with JMemorize. It’s a fun and interesting application. Thanks for the reference.

I’m loading small vocabulary lists into JMemorize and using them to increase my listening comprehension. It’s working well so far, but I think I might need bigger lists to start seeing the real power of the Leitner system.

4. edwinlaw - February 13, 2007

Scott, I think it is easier to maintain one list within JMemorize instead of several smaller lists. You may sort them by categories. You may also keep them separate outside JMemorize.

As for me, I sort my vocabulary in verbs, nouns, adverbs, etc. But when doing memorization, I mix everything together. It is more fun this way.

5. asad - February 14, 2007

memorizing softwares like supermemo and fullrecall can be a big help whem it comes to memorizing a word in context. The best way for learning newly-acquired words is in context and there is no other way to it. So copying a real sentence in which a word is appeared to the software and recallin’ its meaning and understanding of the word is made easier by such softwares. There is no restriction limit on how many words you can put on a particular item, which is limitless.

The way jmemorize software is designed, the kind of feeling I have from taking a look at its screenshots, is that I am memorizing words from a list of words with no real context. Kinda monotonous!

6. asad - February 14, 2007
7. asad - February 14, 2007

btw guys, how do you get your pronunciation right when you add a word to imemorize or does it provide you an option of making audio items where you can guess a pronunciation of a word by looking at its spelling and matching its real pronunciation by listening to its an audio pronunciation. I hope I made myself clear.

8. edwinlaw - February 14, 2007

asad, thanks for your suggestions. Are they freeware?

9. asad - February 15, 2007

fullrecall — upto 500 elements/vocabulary words per database then you need to buy it for 19 bucks if you want to have infinite limit of your database. Atleast go for working with your 500 items in the first place 🙂

supermemo – 98 version is a freeware version, had all the options to work with that all up-to-date versions have.


you can download a free version from above link.

10. Riad - February 22, 2007

I don’t get where the difference is in jMemorize and fullrecall/supermemo in regards to learning in context. jMemorize is a general purpose learning tool and allows to add as much text to every card as you like and even to organize cards by categories. You can also group cards by their category in learning sessions, if you want all cards belonging to one topic to appear together. Otherwise you can also just enable shuffling and learn in a totaly random order.

Asad, could you elaborate a little on how fullrecall/supermemo work differently in this regards? How do they allow to learn in context?

11. edwinlaw - February 22, 2007

Hi Riad, thanks for your comment.

I would like to personally thank you for the great software. It has been helping myself and many others in our language learning.

I am looking forward for your next version!

12. Learning Vocabulary Through Context « Tower of Confusion - December 31, 2007

[…] I have encountered, and I use JMemorize as the reviewing tool. I find this to be very efficient in maintaining the list of vocabulary. But then reviewing them might take some time, especially with my current vocabulary of more than […]

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