Korean has rocketed in popularity since the rise of K-pop, K-dramas, and K-movies. Which one of these has brought you to this blog? Is it the desire to understand your favorite group or idol? Or maybe you want to travel to Korea comfortably or watch K-dramas without subtitles? Whatever brought you here, you came to the right place!
Learning Korean is hard, but with this blog, I am going to inform you of the best, most effective way to learn Korean, so that your language studies are as easy as they can possibly be. So continue on below to read all you need to know about learning Korean the best way.
How Can I Learn Korean Fast?
They say that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a new skill. The same goes for learning a language. Learning Korean takes thousands of hours of study and practice. But not every hour of study is equal. It is possible to study Korean for an hour and learn almost nothing new. Quality study beats quantity any day when it comes to learning Korean fast.
When I started learning Korean, I spent hours flipping through flashcards and looking at grammar books. While this was helpful, I found that other methods of study worked a lot better for me. The trick to learning Korean fast is to find what study method works best for you and to stick with it.
It is also important to be well-rounded when studying. When learning a language, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, listening and writing are all things that need to be developed. So, find study activities that improve all parts of your language skills. The last thing you need to do is be consistent with studying. A little bit of study is always better than no study. Below I will teach what you need to know to study Korean consistently and effectively.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Korean?
Korean is not an easy language and it takes a lot of effort to learn. Because it is so opposite to the English language, those who speak English as their first language are estimated to take 8-10 years to become fluent in Korean. Those who speak an Asian language as their first language can pick up Korean faster and those who already speak more than one language, and are familiar with the language-learning process, can often pick it up quicker too.
Yes, Korean takes a long time to become fluent in, but don't be discouraged! The journey of a lifetime starts with one step and those who study Korean report being conversationally proficient in as little as one year. Of course, the time it will take to learn Korean will vary by how much time you put into studying, whether you are immersed in the language, and whether or not you have a natural tendency to learn languages.
Learning Korean has also become easier with the growing popularity of Korean media. It is now easier than ever to access Korean learning materials and listen to Korean on the daily.
So to sum things up, learning Korean is difficult and it will take a while, but it is certainly possible and definitely worth it. Here are a few tips that you need to know before you start this journey of learning Korean.
Tips Before You Begin Learning Korean
As discussed above, learning Korean is a long process that is going to take lots of time and effort. So before you jump into your Korean studies try out these tips below to make sure you are starting your language learning journey right. If you follow these tips, you will be more likely to study consistently and keep up your motivation to study.
Define Your Goals and Motivation
Every great accomplishment starts with a goal and the motivation to complete that goal. Becoming fluent in Korean is a great accomplishment and requires many short and long-term goals. It also requires consistent motivation. Before you start learning Korean, define what you want to accomplish and why you are learning Korean.
When defining goals, you should make at least two goals. A long-term goal and a short-term goal. Your long-term goal should be big and something that you can’t accomplish right away. For example, when I started learning Korean, my long-term goal was to become fluent in Korean. This was a goal that I knew would take several years to accomplish.
After making a long-term goal, think about what you can do in the next week or month to bring you closer to accomplishing your long-term goal. My first short-term goal was to learn Hangul (the Korean writing system) within a week. After completing a short-term goal, reward yourself and then make another one. Hundreds of short-term goals will bring you to your long-term goal.
Goals are essential to make when studying a language, but goals will feel impossible to accomplish if you don’t have consistent motivation. Before learning Korean, it is important to realize your motivations and if possible, put them into writing. Write down your motivations for learning Korean and put them somewhere where you can look at them every day.
Your motivation for learning Korean can be anything! There is no good or bad motivation. I have met people who were studying Korean because they wanted to understand their favorite K-pop songs or K-dramas. Others were learning to be able to communicate with family and friends. My motivation came from my desire to communicate with locals while I lived in Korea. Whatever your motivation, remind yourself of it daily and you will be able to accomplish your goals with constant motivation.
Create a Korean Learning Schedule
Now that you have made your goals and written down what motivates you to learn Korean, it's time to create a schedule to make sure you are being consistent with your studies. When creating a learning schedule, one needs to be optimistic but realistic. Make a schedule that stretches you, but doesn't exhaust you.
Consider your daily life. How much time are you able to comfortably commit to learning Korean? An hour? Or maybe just 10 minutes? Consistency is more important than the length of the study. Studying for 10 minutes every day is going to be more effective than studying for 4 hours one weekend a month. When you know how much time you can commit to studying, think up activities that you can complete in that time.
If you have 10 minutes to study every day, you are not going to be able to finish a chapter from a grammar textbook or watch a whole K-drama. However, you might be able to learn 10 new vocabulary words, a new grammar form, or watch a Youtube video in Korean.
When planning activities and study time for your learning schedule, be real with yourself. If you are someone who has trouble sitting for a whole hour, don’t plan for an hour of study time. Either shorten your study time or split it up. Think about your learning style and what methods help you learn best.
I thrive with written and visual learning materials. Knowing this, I might choose to watch a video or study a textbook. However, I also know that I struggle to study from a textbook for more than 20 minutes. Knowing myself, I might choose to study from my textbook for 20 minutes, watch a 20-minute youtube video, then write in Korean for 20 minutes.
When creating a learning schedule, make it for 1 week at a time. This allows you to switch up study activities often. New weekly study activities keep you engaged and give you well-rounded Korean skills. If you only do a grammar and vocabulary activity every day for a month, then your speaking, listening, and writing skills will suffer.
Choose the Right Korean Learning Resource
With Korea’s rise in popularity, Korean learning materials available in a variety of formats have become widely available. If you do a quick Google search you will find dozens of websites, apps, tutoring services, textbooks, and Korean media that will help you learn Korean. While having an abundance of options in learning Korean is nice, it can sometimes be overwhelming for beginner learners. It's hard to know which resource will suit you and if the resource you choose can even be trusted to give you the best information.
Here are a few ideas and resources for learning Korean that I can vouch for myself. Look into each resource and see if it's a good fit for you. Keep in mind your learning style as you read about each resource. It’ll help you choose the best resources for you.
Join Korean Classes
If you are a university student, see if your university offers Korean classes. This is a great way to learn Korean and make friends with other people learning Korean. If you are not a university student, try searching online, to see if there are any local Korean courses in your area.
If that doesn’t work there are many online classes that you can participate in. Coursera has many great Korean classes taught by real teachers. The website Hilokal also hosts group lessons in a less formal setting.
Hire a Private Teacher
Try searching online for private teachers in your area. If you cannot find one or are looking for a cheaper option, try tutoring websites like Preply and Italki. They have hundreds of Korean tutors available on their websites. Each tutor asks a different price so you can choose the best tutor within your budget.
Buy a Good Korean Textbook
Thousands of Korean textbooks that cover everything from Grammar to Korean slang are available. If you are a textbook user, you will likely have to buy multiple textbooks to cover all aspects of the Korean language. Look up textbooks online, read reviews, and think about what you are wanting to learn and what you need to learn. Focus on 1 or 2 textbooks at a time. Buy new textbooks as your skills improve.
I own over 20 different Korean textbooks and each has been useful to me at different times in my studies. For beginner Korean learners I recommend Korean Grammar in Use: Beginning and 2000 Essential Korean Words for Beginners. These books are a great place to start and explain grammar and vocabulary very simply. Also try checking back with this blog where we will post lessons on Korean grammar, culture, and vocabulary.
Practice With Korean Speakers
I am convinced that a Korean friend is the most helpful resource and practice when learning Korean. If you want to learn Korean, you need to speak it and listen to it. Korean friends are a great way to do this. They are also motivation for your Korean studies and are someone you can be accountable to. Try to find a Korean native that you can speak with regularly. It will improve your Korean tremendously.
Learn Korean Hangul
It is impossible to learn Korean without knowing Korean Hangul. Luckily for Korean learners, hangul is one of the easiest writing systems to learn in the world. You can learn it in an hour or less. Youtube has tons of videos teaching people how to read Korean. Pull up any one of those videos and watch it to the end. You will have learned Korean hangul!
Of course, practice will be required to remember everything you learned. Reading for 10 minutes in Korean every day will help you memorize all the letters in no time. It doesn't matter if you understand what you are reading or not, as long as you can pronounce what you are reading in Korean.
Focus on High-Frequency Korean Words
A person’s vocabulary consists of 20,000 to 35,000 words. To become fluent in a language, you need to know 10,000+ words in the language. The official Korean dictionary approved by the South Korean government has over a million words. When learning Korean, you should focus on learning vocabulary used by the population rather than the other 970,000 words not commonly used by the public.
You can learn the most commonly used Korean words by studying vocabulary textbooks or by watching Korean media and writing down and finding definitions for words you don’t know. Korean media is a great way to learn vocabulary because you know that whatever words you find are heard and said by the general public of Korea. Pay special attention to words you hear often in Korean media. Those words are likely high-frequency words.
If you are watching media to learn new words, I would advise against watching medical, political, or legal dramas because they will use a lot of vocabulary not commonly used outside of the field of medicine, law, or politics.
Use Korean Language Learning App - Konju App
Apps are another great resource for learning Korean. They can be accessed anywhere and are usually set up for quick, short study sessions. Though, be wary of learning apps that weren’t developed for learning Korean originally and offer several languages. These apps usually don’t have dependable well developed Korean content.
Instead, look for apps that focus solely on the Korean language and have good reviews from users. Nothing can be more annoying than a constantly crashing app. I recommend the Naver Dictionary App for learning Korean vocabulary and for translating sentences from Korean to English or vice versa. To make Korean friends and ask Native Korean for feedback on pronunciation or writing, try HelloTalk.
If you are looking for an app to learn Korean grammar in a fun and easy way, try the Konju app. The design is cute and user-friendly. The practice mode is really fun and provides great grammar practice. Konju really focuses on verb and adjective conjugations which are such a huge part of the Korean language.
Use and Understand Korean Formalities
Korean is a hierarchical language. This means that there are levels of formalities used in the language. The level of formality used depends on the age and rank of whom you are speaking to as well as the environment you are speaking in.
To speak Korean accurately and to understand Korean culture, you must know how to speak at each level of formality as well as understand when it is appropriate to use each formality. I will go over each level below so that you can have a general understanding of Korean formalities. A perfect understanding of Korean formalities will come with further grammar study as well as exposure to these formalities in a variety of situations.
Informal language is used with friends, family, children, and pets. It is a shortened form of Korean called 반말 (ban-mal). You can tell a sentence is 반말 because the ending will be absent of 요 or 습니다.
Formal language is called 존댓말 (jon-dae-mal). It is the most commonly used formality in Korean. It is used with strangers and people that are older than you. If you are not sure which level of formality to use, 존댓말 is always the safest option. You will recognize 존댓말 by the 요 at the end of sentences.
Honorific speech is used with those higher in rank or much older than you and in formal situations. An example of a formal situation might be a presentation at work or a job interview. You can recognize this form of speech by the ending 습니다.
Create an Immersive Korean Experience at Home
The last tip I have for you in this blog post is to create an environment at home where you will be constantly interacting with the Korean language. Especially if you are someone who is learning Korean in a country other than Korea.
In Korea, it is easy to be immersed in the language without even trying. If you are outside of Korea, you will need to put in some additional effort. The following are ways in which you can turn your environment into a catalyst for learning Korean.
Watch Korean YouTube Videos
If you enjoy watching Youtube in your free time, try switching out some of the English videos you watch for Korean ones. Try watching a Korean video with English subtitles while listening to the Korean. You will pick up phrases and words as well as become accustomed to the ways Koreans speak.
Try repeating some of the words and phrases that you pick up along with the video. You will pick up Korean diction and pronunciation much quicker if you do this.
Listen to K-Pop Music
To all of you K-pop fans out there, I am here to tell you that K-pop WILL improve your Korean. While listening to K-pop, try reading the lyrics of the song in Korean. This will help you become a better reader in Korean, help you match the pronunciation of words to the written word, and teach you new vocabulary.
If you are feeling ambitious, try learning all of the English translations of the words in a song and memorizing the song. You can then sing along with your favorite groups while practicing pronunciation.
To those of you who are not K-pop fans, try finding a different genre of Korean music that you like. I personally enjoy K-hip-hop and K-R&B. Find your music niche within the Korean music scene and listen to it often. It will definitely help you improve your Korean.
Watch Korean Dramas
Korean dramas have really taken off in the past few years. If you haven’t seen a K-drama, you are missing out. You are missing out not only on a cultural phenomenon but on great language practice. Korean dramas are great language practice for several reasons. One, they expose you to Korean culture and society. The more you understand Korean culture, the more you will understand the Korean language.
Two, dramas are great ways to learn new vocabulary and phrases in the situation that they are often used in. A common mistake that language learners make is learning an English translation for a vocabulary word, but not learning the nuances of that vocabulary word. By learning Korean from a drama, you will see directly how the Korean you learn is used.
Three, dramas are also great pronunciation practice. While watching a drama, try repeating everything a character says just as they say it. Your pronunciation will improve significantly.
Learn About Korean Culture
As I said above, the more you know about Korean culture, the easier it will become to learn Korean. All languages are deeply connected with the cultures they are tied to. When you learn about Korean culture, you will not only naturally learn more Korean, but little things in the language will start to click for you.
For example, if you learn about Korea as a collectivist society, you will understand why Koreans often say 우리 (oo-ri) ‘ours’ instead of 나의 (na-eh) ‘my’ for things that are owned solely by them. It is because Koreans look at some things as owned by the ‘community’ rather than the ‘individual’.
Learn about Korean culture, history, and society and the puzzle pieces of the Korean language will slowly fall into place in your mind.
Make Korean Local Friends
If possible, surround yourself with native Korean speakers. Listening to a friend speak Korean will be more comprehensible and easier to understand than any K-pop song, k-drama, or Youtube video. You can also ask your friends questions about Korean and speak to your friend in Korean and get a response. That’s something you can't get from any show or song.
Korean friends are also a great way to be introduced to Korean culture. Try to make a Korean friend in person or online. Try out some of the language exchange websites I mentioned above. If you can't find any native Korean friends, look for people who are learning Korean just like you. You can still practice with these non-native friends and encourage each other in your studies.
So, to review, the Korean language is not an easy language to learn and it will take hours of focused study to get the language down. The key to learning Korean fast is to stick to a routine and to be well-rounded in your studies. Find study activities that help you practice every aspect of Korean.
Once you have decided you are going to learn Korean, set goals and acknowledge your motivations for reaching these goals. Then create a study schedule that is realistic but optimistic. Think about how much time you can realistically spend studying and devote that time every day. Be consistent with your studies and mix up your study activities to avoid boredom.
Use Korean formalities when speaking Korean and try your best to learn when they are appropriate to use. Try to create an immersive Korean experience at home. Do this by listening to and watching Korean media. Also, make friends who speak Korean so that you can practice the Korean you learn often.
That is everything we went over in this blog. I hope you found some of the information and tips I provided useful. I wish you the best in your Korean studies. Sometimes things might get hard, but if you keep studying little by little, you will eventually be able to reach the goal you have set. Above all, have fun and don’t forget to visit some of our other Korean blogs for additional help in your studies! See you later!