A great method of learning and remember new vocabulary words and grammar structures for people with terrible memory

For the past couple of months I have been concentrating my time and efforts towards some Korean writing practice. Of course I am still continuing my listening exercises and word memorization (through dramas and others) on my free time. But I have been making conscious efforts to do some free writing practice in Korean as well. So this week, I have started a great new method of practising Korean writing, which is “Picture story writing”. This was actually one of my Korean friends :신지원, Jiwon Shin’s idea (another good friend I met on the language exchange app HelloTalk). I am really grateful for her for her simple yet fantastic idea. It is perhaps the simplest exercise that has always been there. But it is really effective, especially for a visual learner like me (who, by the way, has a terrible memory). As you may have already guessed from the name itself, what you do essentially is you write a story in your target language (in my case it is Korean) from a picture. Just simple as that! You create a story in as much detail as you want. You are free to let your imagination run.

The picture that my friend Jiwon sent me was a series of pictures quite similar to the famous old fairy tale “Goldilocks and the three bears”. So all I had to do was to guess a story from the picture and write it in Korean.

(source: www.wikihow.com)
(source: http://www.wikihow.com)

Now if you ask me “What’s so damn special about writing a story from a picture?” well my answer would be that it is “learning through imagination”. The picture is not just a random static picture, but rather a series of pictures that depict a “STORY”. Therefore, when you sit down to write a story from it, you will obviously imagine the story. You will imagine the scenes, from the first scene of Goldilocks discovering the porridge to the last scene where she runs away from the bears. So when you do your “vocabulary search” before writing the story in your target language (Korean), there is a much greater chance that you will remember them better than if you were learning it from a rigid vocabulary list, or through some “word-to-meaning” kind of memorizing techniques.

What I have realized through this exercise, is that you will learn the new words and remember them much more effectively, through three main techniques:

  • Your own vocabulary list:

First, you will remember the words better as you will have discovered them through your own “vocabulary research” for writing the story. You didn’t get the words from the vocabulary list or flash cards that other people have developed, but rather it will be your own vocabulary list. So the effort you put in will prevent you from forgetting them easily.

  • Usage:

Second, you will learn and remember them better through usage. You will have to use the words in your own sentences while writing the story, which is way better than memorizing them from a rigid vocabulary list.

  • Imagination and Context:

Finally, you will learn them through the story itself and the context. Language experts or people with good memory in general, say that they memorize things by using CONTEXT and IMAGINATION through association techniques, mnemonics and imagination. For example, if they have to remember a list of, say, 5 points then, they would make a sentence from the first letters of the five points, and then memorize the points. However for me, I belong to the category of people”having unbelievably bad memory” who would struggle with, first making a good, memorable  sentence from the initials itself and second, even if I did manage to make one and remember the sentence, that would be the end of it. I mean, I will be able to remember the sentence ONLY and NOT THE POINTS associated with it, which is missing out the whole point of the memorizing technique (LOL!). So despite being a visual learner, imagination does not always come easy, let alone context. So a picture story like the one here, acts as an aid for us “unlucky absent-minded learners” (I am sure there are dozens of people like me out there, I feel for you guys, I really do!), writing a story this way gives us an AUTOMATIC CONTEXT (all ready and done), which will help us to remember the words better through association.

Of course learning a language through “Describe a picture” technique is also great. It is a great way of learning new vocabulary through the context and imagination as well. In fact, Talk to me in Korean Talk to me in Korean (TTMIK) has a series of video lessons entitled “Describe This Picture In Korean”“Describe This Picture In Korean” in which they teach various new words, explain the context, their usages, etc.

Both “Describing a picture” and “Writing a story from a picture (Series of pictures)” are incredibly effective ways of learning new words and grammar structures through usage, imagination, and context. They both are more effective than simply rote-learning vocabulary lists (although it may work pretty fine for people with excellent memories (I envy you guys!)).

So I completed this week’s picture story “Goldilocks and the three bears” in Korean and practised some writing too. Here, have a look at my first draft of the story that wrote in Korean. It is just the first draft and needs some work. Therefore, please excuse any mistakes.


It was an absolute 일석이조 (killing two birds with one stone) experience for me. I not only practised the grammar structures and forms, but created my own vocabulary list from story too. Here, have a look at it too:


I happened to know the story of the picture that my friend sent me beforehand. But it works equally fine even if you don’t already know the story. You can use any sequence of activities that you can describe as a short story. (Have a look at some of the pictures below)The idea is to find a picture “in motion” with one thing leading to another; So that you can imagine it as a story.

(Source: http://www.vanasch.school.nz/catalog.php?cat_id=218)
(Source: http://www.vanasch.school.nz/catalog.php?cat_id=218)
(souce: www.wikihow.com)
(souce: http://www.wikihow.com)

Since, Jiwon gave me the “Goldilocks and the three bear” picture story challenge; I prepared a similar challenge for her. I sent her a picture (actually two) of the “Little Red Riding Hood”. And she has to write a story in English based on the pictures. After that we are going to share our stories with each other, correct the mistakes made and finally discuss each others’ mistakes and queries regarding the corrections. So it is essentially a “story exchange” exercise.

I created two sets of pictures for the story from this Youtube video.

So I am plan to send her the video along with the corrected version of her story once I receive it from her (in English) Since this video has been made in English, with a narration in English, she can have a look at the original version of the story and make a comparison with her own script.

So all language learners out there, if you also want to improve your writing skills and learn more new words in your target language, this is one of the great ways of doing that. What you can do is use a combination of exercises like me: writing short essays on a topic, describing a picture, writing a story from a series of pictures, etc. I bet you will never be bored!

red riding part 1 red riding part2

Here is one more picture story for you to practise your writing skill. It is the “Three little pigs” from the same YouTube video (7:31 minute to 10:38 minute) as the Little red riding hood.

Three little pigs part 1 jpegThree little pigs part 2 jpeg


You can also find native speakers of your target language or language partners at the HelloTalk Language Exchange app. You can download it from here:

HelloTalk Language Exchange (Android app on Google Play)

HelloTalk Language Exchange app (on App Store)