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Language Notetaking practices

This is not directed at anyone in particular, but sometimes we fall prey to being ‘over-particular’ with notes – be in for a class, or for learning languages in this case.

Notetaking is not as easy as it seems, especially for foreign languages when there’s just … so many things to take note of. I think everyone who starts to learn a new language will encounter the same problem. We all know somehow that we should/want to take down some notes, but these questions arise.

  • what to take down? – Grammar? Vocabulary?
  • write on what? – pen and paper? digital format?
  • how to organize each section? – handmade flash cards for vocabulary? What to write for grammar notes?
  • what kind of paper to use? – notebook? loose sheets?
  • how many to use? – separate notebooks for vocabulary and grammar? A single one?
  • to color code your notes or not?

I could go on forever. To put simply, there are simply so many things to consider and it can be quite overwhelming. Some people will be like ‘MEH WHATEVER. I’ll just scribble what I want in a notebook’ while others (like me) will try to want to be organized.

It’s one thing to be organized, but another thing to be overly particular about keeping things standard and neat. Language learning is not something that you can break down so neatly and also something that changes and evolves over time. Do I make sense? What I mean is that as you study and get better, you will change your notetaking pattern, change the focus of your notes and you may want to do reading one day and another day focus on writing and another day decide to study dramas. It’s fluid and your notes will show it. Mine does. Although I have since established a pattern for my notetaking process, I loveeee to switch materials every other day. My notes are neat and organized, but at the same time all jumbled up.

Most of you have seen my notebook photos and thanks for saying that they look nice! ^^ But don’t think that I’ve always been that neat and organized from day 1. When I first started , I had the same question. HOW TO GO ABOUT DOING THIS?! Sometimes I take notes on the books itself, and at one point I was trying to make vocabulary lists on MS Word (I gave that up pretty quickly), and at times I wanted to type, and at one point I was using those online notetaking sites. It’s all about trial and error.

I’ve seen quite a number of people who tries to reorganize their notes by rewriting them, transferring them to another notebook, consolidating them etc. It’s just my opinion but I think that it is unnecessary. Instead of trying to make them neat and organized, why not spend the time picking up new knowledge? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m one of those weird people who almost never refer back to my own notes. hahaha. except in the beginning when I’ll very rarely look back to the notebooks and find that particular grammar point I’ve written down. But really rarely.

Rewriting notes take up looooooads of time. Time that can be spent reading a new article, and getting more practice.

All of us love pretty notes. But instead of spending so much time color coding, highlighting and making sure your handwriting is neat and pretty, why not spend the time on something else? ^^

People sometimes tell me that they don’t know how to begin a notebook and don’t know what to write. It’s normal to feel hesitant and unsure, but my advice will be: just write whatever you feel like. You will naturally end up with a notetaking system that you are comfortable with.

There’s no need to worry about organization. What’s more important is the knowledge that actually goes into your brain and that you actually make use of what you learn.

What do you guys think? 😀

p.s. Application for the Singapore Korean Speech contest closes tmr! Don’t forget to apply if you are interested!

p.p.s. good luck for those taking TOPIK on Sunday.

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  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    You are totally right!
    I had a korean notebook before.. But it was getting so messy
    so I wrote it all over again in another notebook as you said, it takes so much time..
    The time I took to write all over again, I could have use it for something else
    but yea… I realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or not.. Anyway , others won’t read my notes haha. Thanks for this post ! ^^

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    I think this is the perfect way to put note-taking into perspective!

    I am personally having trouble deciding what to do with notes, I’ll figure it out soon. 🙂

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      it’s always about finding your own comfortable method 😀 keep going!

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Good point, but I think rewriting and consolidating notes is excellent practice if a person is having trouble remembering a certain words/grammar points. It helps me learn better than using flashcards, at least.

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      that’s very true too! writing does help people remember stuff.

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Ahh! I wrote a comment, but I think it didn’t post -.-‘
    In case there’s two comments from me sorry !

    So yea, You are totally right!

    I had a korean notebook before… It was getting so messy so I wrote everything alll over again in another notebook.. As you said, it takes so much time! This time I took to write, I could have use it for other purposes. So now, I just don’t care if my notes are messy or not 🙂 as long as I understand myself I guess it’s okay ! anyway, others won’t read my notes haha. Thanks for this post ! 🙂

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    I’m one of those that don’t know how to organize my notes since I have so many different textbooks that I’m learning from. sadly, I’ve never really had thing for organize notes :p

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      ㅋㅋㅋ you will find a way 😀

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I’m very obsessive-compulsive when it comes to note-taking. And since I want to be organized I also don’t what’s the best way to organize my notes since, as you’ve mentioned, there are tons of factors to consider. I have a bunch of notebooks full of trial and errors. I also jump from one learning material to another, thus my notetaking style changes from time to time as well, and my obsessive-compulsive side doesn’t like what I’ve accumulated so far and have always wanted to find the best way to take-down notes and reorganize everything. Then I realized (just now! after reading this post) I never actually reviewed my notes at all! I went back… what once, twice to recall something I know I’ve studied before but have forgotten (and that could easily be googled these days anyway). But other than that, I never actually touched my notes (even notes on my pc). I also think that note-taking hinders my studying. Like instead of continuously listening to ttmik podcasts or continue reading my textbook, I don’t do it until I feel I’m ready and have enough time (and will) to take down notes (so I ended up not listening/reading at all when I could have). I guess I should stop being so obssesive-compulsive on my notetaking and just concentrate on learning. Afterall most of the things I learn, I learn them now by being exposed to them/by encountering them over and over though different mediums. Though I never want to stop notetaking either since it does help in remembering things and I feel more at ease when I know I noted something down (even though I know that I will eventually forget it unless I encounter it again on another instance). 🙂
    Thanks for this post! It made me reassess my notetaking habits. 🙂

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      hehe writing this made me reflect too XD it’s true that note taking sometimes feel like a hindrance to studying. Like you, sometimes i feel like i am too dependent on taking something down that i sometimes dont read articles because i’m on the go. like i’ll come across a new word and when i dont write it down, i feel like i wont remember it. that’s nonsense logic, but yeahh…

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    I have a book for TTMIK lesson lesson by lesson (super organised) and another one for “others” category like verbs, sentences, lyrics and others… XD i flipped to whichever page I like and write the article down.. Haha.. I am a messy person.

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      hahaha!! that’s pretty cool, i have an obsession for order ><

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    i have TONS of notebooks, but i think i only ever finished using one. the rest are all half-written and abandoned because i like to use different notebooks for different books/purposes. but being the 三分钟热度 kinda person, i keep jumping between materials and sometimes end up writing inside the textbook itself instead haha. but yeah i never ever refer back to my notebooks also coz i wouldn’t know where to find things! ㅋㅋㅋ

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      hahaha! i always think and think about whether i should write in the textbook or in the notebook LOL. my notebooks are like getting a jumbled up dictionary already XD

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I think this post is very useful (lol.) as well as your youtube, about how you use notebook. I follow your style and think it is suitable to me too >_<

    • Reply
      22 October, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      glad it worked for you too! 😀

  • Reply
    How I take down notes | My Love for Korea
    22 October, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    […] reading Shanna’s post about language note-taking practices, I suddenly thought of blogging how I take down notes. So let’s […]

  • Reply
    22 October, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    I re-read my notes. And find (in absolute horror) that I’ve noted down the same vocab/grammar twice, sometimes even three times. And also that I completely do not recall some of the words I’ve written down previously.

    Goldfish memory. BAH.

    • Reply
      23 October, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      haha!! That’s normal XD I do that sometimes for the vocabulary. After you seen / noted them a few times, you will remember them! At least that’s the plan XD

  • Reply
    23 October, 2012 at 2:10 AM

    Because of the different books and websites I use, the notes themselves are organized, but when you flip through the notebook it’s like, WTH because after one lesson from a book is done, the note style changes drastically. XD

    I’m laughing at how we both take notes and then don’t go back to them except for those rare moments. XD I’ll try to take notes on everything I learn, but for some reason, I just let it stick and I keep going forward with other lessons and take more notes. I only look back if I forget. The main thing I look back at is the pronunciation/liaison rules because some of them slip and I don’t have anything to really read in Korean. Oh wait, I just looked and remembered I brought a children’s folk tale book. XD It has “선녀와 나무꾼” and “불개” which were interesting, but had some “Wait… lolwat” moments.

    I’ll be so happy to have a Yonsei reader (when I have money to order some more stuff TToTT) so I’ll have more reading material and can remember the rules better. It made me sad that in most of the books I have, they didn’t give much reading practice for that. They only put some words as examples. I would have loved if after teaching all the rules they put short passages to practice with.

    • Reply
      23 October, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      Actually for reading practice, try reading ‘real Korean’ outside of the textbook. It’s a lot more fun and you can actually learn more!

  • Reply
    Sammy Leigh
    23 October, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Ah~ I tried so hard to be neat when I first started xD Now I have books everywhere with fail stops & starts… It’s true though~ You fall into a pattern if you stop focusing so hard on how to compile it haha ^^
    The only thing I really kept ‘organized’ now is a notebook that has vocabulary with verbs & adjectives, etc. in dictionary form at the back & everything else written in front… Don’t ask me what will happen when the two lists meet in the middle… but for now it works! LOL

    And aaaaaahhhh!! TOPIK!! I’m ridiculously not ready ㅠㅠ My teacher thought it would be ‘good experience’ for our class just to try it but ah! I don’t even know how I’m gonna survive, we’re lacking so much ><!! lol

    • Reply
      23 October, 2012 at 9:50 PM

      ㅎㅎ taking TOPIK on Sunday? All the best!!!! 😀 😀 It’s really fun to take it, just try it out! XD

      when the two lists meet in the middle… start a new notebook ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

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