Studying grammar shouldn’t be tricky.
With a few simple organization, planning and note-taking tips, you can transform the way you study grammar in any language. This post is specifically for Korean, but you can use my methods for any language!
Step 1: Get a textbook and note down the grammar structures
I bought this Korean grammar textbook (빈도별 토픽 중급) many years ago and I haven’t finished it. I was motivated to finish it this time before the TOPIK exam. I started by looking at to the list of grammar that was the beginning of this book. Then, I wrote down every single grammar structure in my notebook. This was to have a single place where I could come back to and mark which grammars I’ve done.
Step 2: Categorize and color-code the grammar
On the first page of my grammar notebook, I categorized all the structures I wrote down into:
1. grammar that is totally new to me (marked in blue)
2. grammar that I know already (yellow)
3. grammar that I should refresh and review (pink)
You can use any technique that works for you. I also put a dot on the side of each structure in my notebook which I fill in once I’ve completed the structure. Of course, for grammar I already know, I just make a black dot anyway. I love using dots!
Here’s a video to go along with this post!
Step 3: Give yourself a deadline and do some basic calculations
I then counted all the grammar structures I wrote down. There were…
– 22 completely unknown grammar structures
– 34 that need review
– 54 that I already know
I’m not great at math, so you can see my scribbles here:
That means a total 56 grammar points which I need to study. I decided I can study two grammar structures a day as to not overwhelm myself. 56 structures divided by two gave me 28 days, so I made a 28 day schedule to stick to.
I made sure to do one blue (new) grammar structure and one pink (review) structure each day. You’ll see at the end of the schedule I run out of blue ones because there aren’t that many; so when it gets to that part, I just continue with the pink ones.
Step 4: Study with your own note-taking method
I use 3 pen colors when taking notes. Black for grammar explanations and blue for normal sentences. Then, within those sentences, all instances of the grammar structure are written in pink so it stands out. Looking for stationery recommendations? See my full list here.
I also use an icon (exclamation mark in a triangle, which I learnt from my very strict French teacher in grade 7) to indicate anything I should take note of, like common mistakes or irregular rules.
As for reviewing notes, I add anything extra in yellow. I also use yellow pen to fix any corrections when doing the in-book activities. In addition to that, I also add some stars to points that are particularly hard to remember. You’ll see this in detail in my video.
Feel free to use any color-coding or iconography system that helps you remember! It’s OK to change your method halfway. Here’s a pic of my first attempt, which I soon realized was not working (I didn’t like using such a thick highlighter to underline the grammar point and preferred writing it in a different color).
Tip: Skip stuff you already know
Sometimes when people work through a new book they start from the beginning and they go through all the boring stuff they already know on the keyboard and they just leave. Don’t do that if you don’t have stuff to skip it Don’t waste your time!
Things to keep in mind when studying grammar
Don’t get overwhelmed
Try not to get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn. I broke up my learning into little parts each day. Don’t just go through your textbook trying to finish as much as you can in a single day because it’s not going to stick into your longterm memory.
After you have studied your grammar structures, the next day when you wake up, be sure to go through what you’ve done the previous day. I find that my short term memory is absolutely terrible and I at least have to go through my notes about 2 or 3 times from the previous day. All I do is I read through the example sentences and put little stars at specific parts of the grammar that are still tricky to me so my eye catches it the next time.
Be sure to use these grammar structures as much as you can. As long as you are using this grammar structure, whether you’re talking to a language partner, writing a diary, or even talking to yourself, the more it will start to solidify in your memory.
Read out loud
Don’t be afraid to read out loud if you have that luxury. I read my sentences over because I’m an auditory learner. This is good for intermediate and advanced learners who don’t have issues with pronunciation. If you are a beginner and still learning how to pronounce things, I suggest asking a native speaker to record some sentences for you. You can ask an italki tutor or ask someone on HelloTalk or Hinative.
That’s essentially how I create a schedule to stick to, and not overwhelm myself. Don’t just blindly go through a book page by page and worrying about how much there – just take a look inside the book, created a schedule based on what you know and don’t, and choose a set number to study per day. Remember not to study grammar in isolation from vocabulary. Here’s a post I wrote about learning vocabulary.