At that time my reading comprehension was still fairly low, and if I had written down every new word I came across, I would never have learned them all. So only those words which seemed particularly useful would get added to the vocabulary file. Each entry had three columns: the word in kanji (Chinese characters), the word in hiragana (Japanese phonetic characters, so I could remember how to pronounce the kanji), and the English definition. Several years later, I added another column for a sentence or phrase that used the word.
In another worksheet of the same file, I used simple excel functions to generate 10 random entries from the vocabulary worksheet, with 2 of the 3 columns in each entry hidden. In this way I could give myself a simple test of 10 randomly chosen words any time I refreshed the file, testing my ability to pronouce the characters, understand what they mean, and reproduce the word from memory when presented with the English definition. It was a pretty simple concept, which had evolved from the common frustration of knowing that I was probably looking up the same words over and over again.
Once I felt that I had a thorough knowledge of an entry, I would transfer it to the "hospice" worksheet (the place where old vocabulary go to die). I only rarely reviewed the entries in the hospice. The rule was, if I hadn't looked at a word in over a year and still knew what it meant and how to pronounce it, then it could be deleted. Sometimes I would come across words in the hospice that I had forgotten, and those entries would get moved right back into the active vocabulary file.
At some point I created a new worksheet for Korean. This time there was no need for the second column, since Korean words do not use Chinese characters and are written using a phonetic alphabet. After I moved to Korea, I removed the Japanese worksheet for a while, but put it back in after I realized that I was still learning a lot of useful new words in Japanese. Today the file has worksheets for Korean and Japanese, as well as a new English vocabulary worksheet that I started to help me prepare for the GRE.
|What the file looks like today - you can detect the subtle influence of the sort of things I've been translating lately.|