The countdown was on. Could I learn 50 Hungarian words over three days to get into the Drops Dojo? To do so, I’d need to learn between 16–17 words a day — a very real possibility.
I dove into my first session.
By the way, if this is the first post you’re reading about this project, I recommend starting here so you get some context around this surprise project.
In the project introduction, I shared that my first milestone was to get into the Drops Dojo because it would allow me to spend time reviewing the new words I was learning and better internalize them. By day three, I had done just that.
Why was getting into the Dojo so important?
In Drops, there’s a feature called the “Dojo”. It’s where you review the words you’ve learned and get to focus on the vocabulary you’ve struggled with most.
By getting into the Dojo, I could spend time on those “problem words”.
To get into the Dojo, you need to learn 50 words on Drops. And once there, you can split your study time between learning new words and reviewing the words you’ve already learned.
Here’s the video from my first study session in the Dojo:
By day three, I:
At this point, I was spending all of my study time in Drops, getting familiar with the language and learning basic vocabulary. Most of my attention was spent on vocabulary in the Foundation category. This included basics like Countries, Numbers, Nationalities, Pronouns, and Essentials.
Why did I choose to start with these topics? Because many of the words in these topics are used often in conversation and are highly relevant when you first start learning a language.
Because the majority of my study was done with Drops, I was able to do most of my learning anywhere and at any time. I kept my phone with me over the three days, grabbing it to study whenever I had five minutes to spare.
I really tried to bulk up on vocabulary because without it, I wouldn’t be able to do much in Hungarian. Words are the building blocks for language. The grammar and everything else is the cement that holds those bricks together, but without words, it can be difficult to build a solid structure.
After just three days and almost all of my attention on vocabulary, I started to notice patterns and very specific things I needed to work on. Here are just a few of the things I noticed:
Pronunciation: I still wasn’t familiar enough with Hungarian to confidently pronounce the words I was learning, particularly when it came to ‘gy’, ‘ny’ and ‘ly’.
Reading the alphabet: Because I didn’t learn the Hungarian alphabet up front, I had to figure out how each of the letters sounded through context. It took slightly longer that way, but it was much more interesting than looking up the alphabet and focusing on each letter alone would be. Plus, this process makes it more memorable long-term.
Stress: In Hungarian, the stress of a word is always the first syllable, but this still takes some getting used to. I sometimes want to put the stress on a different syllable, so I’m very grateful for the audio in Drops so I can hear how each of the words should sound.
Contextual learning is a powerful way to study new material. It immediately makes whatever you’re studying more memorable. By learning how Hungarian letters sound through the context of words, it’s easier for me to remember long-term than it would be if I were studying each of the letters as a part of a list.
The same is true of the words I’m learning in Drops. By learning them along with the images and audio rather than just translations, they’re given more context and better sticking in my memory.
When you try to learn new information on its own, you’re asking your brain to sort out a completely new set of information. When you learn through context, however, you’re giving your brain the chance to link what you’re learning to a bunch of different connections that already exist.
Getting to this milestone took me just three days, but I could see that I was making progress with Hungarian. All of the words that I was learning were originally extremely unfamiliar, but I started to get comfortable with some of what I’d learned so far.
Hungarian isn’t related to any of the languages I’ve learned in the past. It’s a little more challenging to learn so much new vocabulary because I didn’t really have anything I could tie them to. When I study a language like Russian, in comparison, there are a lot of similarities regarding grammar and vocabulary to other languages I know (i.e. French and Croatian), and that adds a little more “stickiness” to new words. With Hungarian, I don’t have that.
Despite this, my progress was still fast. On average, I got 90–100% of words correct every Drops session and I was glad to have hit my first milestone by the deadline I set (50 words by day three).
Of course, learning all these words and using all of these words are two different things!
Be sure to check back soon for my next Hungarian learning update.
Are you learning a new language? Do you have any questions about what I’m doing to learn Hungarian? I’d love to chat with you in the comments below.
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