This Korean Language Guide
is for you if you really want to learn the Korean language on a higher level than simply greeting and ordering food at a restaurant. As someone who is fluent in Korean, I want to share my learning experience with you! The series consists of 3 parts – one for each level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Today we will start with tips for absolute beginner learners that don’t have any previous knowledge of the language. It will help you set up a learning pattern and tell you how to start.
1. Learning Hangul is your first priority.
This should be your first step before you even learn how to say hello. There are a couple of reasons why leaning the alphabet first is so important in this case. First of all, the romanization of Korean is very inconsistent, as there are not one, but several romanization styles, for example, McCune–Reischauer or the Revised Romanization of Korean.
The second point is that there are pronunciation rules in Korean that actually help you pronounce words easier, but the explanations make very little sense when not using Hangul.
And even though the Korean government really did a great job to provide romanized or even fully translated subway stations, when it comes to restaurants, shops and the colorful neon signs, being able to simply read the words will help you navigate the city. Bonus tip if you like Kpop and Karaoke: I remember when I used to go singing because I wanted to read faster.
You can learn the alphabet here or here.
2. Learn common phrases and the basic sentence structure
When learning, try to focus on the grammatical structure of common phrases and short sentences to help you understand the basic sentence structure. It will ease you into the Korean language and more complex grammatical forms.
Important! When you study vocabulary, make a note if the word is a verb (동사) or an adjective (형용사). You need this distinction for many grammatical forms!
I would also recommend learning the informal polite form first as you go on because it is the most commonly used form. You can practise other forms like the informal one later down the line when you get an exchange partner. It comes with a lot of slang usage most of the time and you often cannot find the proper translation in the English dictionary and would have to search for the meaning in Korean.
For an online dictionary I recommend Naver. It got you covered for all the basics. You can also get a vocabulary app like Memrise. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend this list of 100 most important Korean verbs.
3. Get a solid printed Korean grammar book
I used the book called Korean Grammar for International Learners by Yonsei University Press. Some people hate it, some like it, but it got everything you could possible search for when it comes to Korean grammar with short explanations and example sentences.
Whatever book or website you choose to learn Korean, it really helps to have a separate printed grammar index at your disposal for reference. I cannot stress this one enough. Korean grammar can get a little complicated later on, especially when it comes to the proper usage and tone of your sentences. It is a helpful resource and an investment that will be useful to you even in more advanced levels.
4. Read, read more and read out loud!
Read, sing or rap everything you can get your hands on. I don’t care if it’s a web novel, a web toon or the new Blackpink song. You have to absorb yourself in a language, especially if you are not currently living in the country. Reading out loud will help you not only with pronunciation but also with memorizing grammatical patterns and expressions.
I can confidently say most of my vocabulary came from reading web novels. K – Dramas are nice for hearing and when you are on a more intermediate level, but at the beginning, it is important to learn new vocabulary and actually memorize it, not just passively understand phrases. For that, reading out loud while studying really helps. If you cannot buy any Korean children’s books or novels, Naver is your best friend.
Here are the links to:
Even if you don’t understand much, make a habit of reading a small paragraph every day for practise. You can also randomly choose one phrase that you want to learn and write it in your notebook everyday. That’s 365 words a year!
5. Do weekly/daily writing exercises
I used to keep a diary in Korean. It started with simple things like a to do list, what I ate that day etc. and as I learned more, I started writing about my feelings and worries too. Later you can move on to short introductions, film reviews or essays about various topics. Try to do this at least once a week. It can serve as a great tracker of your progress and will help you use your newly learned vocabulary.
Listening to simple songs and writing what you hear is also a great practice. It will help you understand native speakers faster and better. You can start with writing individual words and phrases that you can hear and understand. If you have an exchange partner, you can ask them to correct your writings.
6. Make a learning schedule
If you have time to learn daily, that would be ideal and you will have the fastest results, but even if you can only learn once a week, be consistent about it. Consistency is key in making progress. Sometimes you’ll feel stuck, but eventually your progress will be noticeable even to yourself. If you have an hour a day to spend learning Korean, I would suggest mixing it up.
So do vocabulary 3 times a week, then focus on listening and reading twice. You can do longer writing exercises weekly or write daily diary notes before you go to bed. It depends on what you have the most trouble with, so try focusing on that area until you have solid basics to build on. It is harder to correct something you have been doing wrong for a long time and it can make your learning experience unnecessarily frustrating.
7. Choose a program and stick to it
Just like with a fixed schedule in number 6, I think it is also important to have consistency when it comes to the program/class/website that you use when learning Korean. Most classes and programs are made with linear progress in mind. If you think a program does not work for you, you can change it of course. But try not to jump all over the place. Find one and stick to it. It will help you in the beginning to learn in an organized manner. It also assures that you have all the basics down before you move onto more advanced levels.
Here are some websites to help you start with your journey:
Learning a new language can be hard, especially in the very beginning. I offer 1:1 online classes and tutoring sessions for Korean, German and Polish. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Those were my 7 tips to help you set up your learning process in the beginning.
Did you ever learn a language on your own? What is your favorite way to study?
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