Teaching yourself Korean is a tad more complicated than your deep connections with each and every member of BTS.
But if you want to learn Korean without the intimidation factor, the entire process can be broken down into just six steps.
Yes, learning Korean may have fewer steps than microwaving your favorite convenience food.
Okay, to be fair, the steps will take a little longer than it takes to nuke your ramen cup, but they’ll also be full of fun!
Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to Korean fluency.
Why Should I Plan How to Learn the Korean Language Ahead of Time?
One reason to consider how to learn Korean ahead of time is so that you can approach the Korean language in the most logical way possible. Learning in a logical, methodical order will prevent frustration and help you stay on track. After all, learning grammar rules before you even know the alphabet could be an exercise in frustration.
Secondly, considering your approach ahead of time can prevent wasted time. You can download tons of Korean apps. You can listen to countless Korean with songs. You can buy every Korean learning book on the market. But if you’re just alternating between them randomly without any real direction, you probably won’t learn as quickly as you could if you implemented a learning strategy. Having a clear strategy can make your learning much more efficient.
Finally, knowing the steps to learn Korean ahead of time will ensure that you always know what to do next. Even the most devoted Korean student could be thrown of track by not knowing what to work on next. It could even halt your progress and make you stop studying Korean altogether. But if you have a clear order for what to do, when you finish one step, you simply move on to the next. No need to burden yourself with analysis paralysis as you try to figure out your own next step!
How to Learn the Korean Language (It’s Easier Than You Think!)
1. Learn Hangul.
Learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet, is a tremendously valuable first step to learning Korean.
We’re not going to lie to you—if you hate learning alphabets, there are resources out there that can teach you Korean vocabulary without using the Hangul alphabet. Instead, they use romanizations to help you learn words. But if you have any desire to continue learning Korean all the way to fluency, we recommend learning the real alphabet rather than leaning on romanizations.
Plus, Hangul was designed to be easy to learn. The shapes of the letters even reflect how to move your mouth to produce the sounds, so learning the alphabet could even make it easier to perfect your pronunciation.
Not only will learning Hangul prepare you for additional Korean study, it will also enable you to read Korean.
To learn the Korean alphabet, practice listening, speaking and writing the letters until you have them all down. Here are some resources that can help you learn Hangul.
Omniglot provides a comprehensive guide to Hangul that can act as a great crash course.
First, Omniglot teaches the background of the unique alphabet. Then, it gives some helpful facts about Hangul. And then, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for—the alphabet itself.
Omniglot shares each Korean letter and two different transliterations for each letter. Audio files can further clarify pronunciations. Want to continue your studies offline? Omniglot also offers downloadable, printable alphabet charts.
Learn Hangul provides a nice array of alphabet resources.
This website provides a brief introduction to Hangul, as well as a more detailed history section.
And you’ll have no shortage of materials for learning the alphabet itself, either. Learn Hangul lists each Hangul character and clearly describes its pronunciation by comparing it to English-language examples. Learn Hangul even explains how the letter’s pronunciation will vary based on its position in a word.
But Learn Hangul doesn’t stop there! It also offers writing lessons and printable flashcards that you can use to reinforce what you’ve learned.
How to Study Korean
How to Study Korean offers several units to teach readers beginner Korean. The first unit (Unit 0) focuses squarely on Hangul, with three lessons and several additional resources to guide learners.
All three focus on teaching different letters. The lessons also show how to put letters together, and they even offer audio pronunciations to help you master the letters. Plus, lessons have printable PDFs if you prefer to study offline.
How to Study Korean also offers a quick reference guide and pronunciation tips if you need a little extra help.
“Learn Hangul in 35 Minutes”
Sometimes, you just want to chill and watch YouTube. The good news is that you can also learn Hangul during your next YouTube binge.
“Learn Hangul in 35 Minutes” is a YouTube video that will walk you through the alphabet, pronunciation rules and how letters are combined.
2. Study common vocabulary.
Focusing on learning common vocabulary will allow you to start using your Korean skills right off the bat. Plus, because you’re more likely to use high-frequency words in the future, learning them early will help you master them so that they come to you naturally down the road.
But don’t just memorize lists of words.
Context is super important in Korean, especially considering that Korean is defined by etiquette and politeness. The way you speak will be completely shaped by the level of formality you’re part of.
For example, saying something as simple as “thank you” needs to be modified depending on the situation, as seen in the following video from FluentU’s Korean YouTube channel.
Whether you’re saying thank you to a doctor, a stranger on the street or even a young child, the level of formality you use matters—and using the wrong one could get you weird looks or even someone thinking you’re rude.
Check out this video and many others like it on FluentU’s Korean YouTube channel!
The trick to learning common vocabulary is to study it, then reinforce it in different contexts. The following resources will help you do just that.
Available: iOS | Android
Duolingo is one of the most popular language learning programs on the market, and for good reason—you can use it for free, and it can help you learn to read, write, speak, and understand Korean!
One of Duolingo’s main focuses is common words, so you can use it to develop your basic vocabulary skills. Duolingo uses multiple approaches to help you remember the words, including having you read, write, speak and listen.
Words are broken down into thematic categories. That means that once you’ve completed a category, it’s easy to go back and refresh your skills whenever you have a few minutes.
KoreanClass101.com offers a helpful list of 100 core Korean vocabulary words.
This list focuses on some of the most common vocab in the language, so learning these words will give you a great start to your Korean language education and allow you to start understanding and communicating in Korean.
The list includes the Korean word, a transliteration of the word, the translation of the word, an example sentence using the word, a transliteration of the example sentence and a translation of the example sentence. Plus, each word and example sentence comes with audio to help you perfect your pronunciation.
Linguanaut provides a free list of 300 of the most common Korean words, which will be a great foundation for your growing vocabulary.
The words are organized thematically, making it easy to study similar words together. For instance, one day, you might learn animal names. The next day, you might study body parts.
Each entry lists the English word, the Korean word and a transliteration of the Hangul.
3. Study grammar and sentence structure.
Grammar and sentence structure are essential building blocks of the Korean language. While it is possible to simply memorize common phrases so that you can recite them on cue, learning the underlying grammar and sentence structure will enable you to put together sentences with the vocabulary you’ve learned. This is essential if you ever hope to hold a real conversation in Korean.
Learning grammar and sentence structure requires studying the rules, then practicing what you’ve learned. Luckily, the following resources can help.
Korean101 offers a quick, easy guide to help students learn the basics of Korean grammar.
This guide is very simple and direct, so you won’t have to wade through unnecessary information or complicated descriptions. Plus, the site even offers a brief video to explain key concepts to you.
Learn Korean – Grammar
Available: iOS | Android
If you prefer your Korean grammar lessons dosed out by an app, Learn Korean – Grammar might be just the tool you’re looking for.
For grammar aficionados, this app offers around 200 grammar lessons. But if you want more well-rounded education, the app can also help you learn 5,000 words and phrases.
4. Start making use of the vocabulary with supportive resources.
Using vocabulary in more authentic contexts is a valuable way to reinforce the words you’ve learned and prepare you to use them in real-world settings. That’s why using supportive resources is a great way to transition to greater Korean proficiency.
Supportive resources are often flexible, adjusting for your level and allowing you to move at your own pace. They also usually offer a number of features to improve multiples skills. To get the most out of these resources, try using all their features!
Available: iOS | Android
Now that you have the basics of the Korean language down, it’s important to start using what you know. While using authentic materials may be one of the best way to improve your Korean skills, it can also be intimidating to go it alone.
That’s where FluentU comes in.
Each video is captioned and the captions are annotated, so you have easy access to any word’s definition, example sentences and an associated image.
Ready for interactive fun? Try quiz mode! Quiz mode fuses videos, images and example sentences into activities and flashcards you can use to reinforce what you learned.
Not only that, FluentU can stay with you as you learn and grow. Its algorithm tracks your learning to adjust to your current level, whether you’re just starting out or practically fluent.
And you can enjoy FluentU a number of different ways. Use FluentU online, download the app from iTunes or try out the Android app.
Mango Languages is a software program designed to help you improve your Korean through realistic example conversations.
This interactive program aims to teach conversational skills that you’ll want to use in real life. Along the way, Mango Languages will also help you learn vocabulary, grammar, culture and pronunciation. Once you have these down, Mango Languages will guide you through constructing your own sentences with what you’ve learned.
Not only that, Mango Languages has tons of other fun, useful features you’ll discover along the way. For instance, the program allows you to record your Korean pronunciation to compare it directly to that of a native speaker.
5. Find a conversation partner.
Now’s the time to put your skills to the real test!
Finding a conversation partner gives you unbeatable speaking practice and allows you to use all the skills you learned from the previous steps. Plus, connecting with another Korean speaker gives you someone to bounce all your lingering questions off of.
To make the most out of your experience with a conversation partner, try to find someone with shared interests. This will ensure you never run out of things to talk about, allowing you to continue your relationship long-term, thereby continuing to improve your Korean. Here are some resources to help you find your conversation partner.
When it comes to speaking a new language (especially for the first time), it’s only natural to feel a few butterflies in the stomach. To help prepare you for this big step, check out the hot tips in the video below. You’ll learn how to overcome this initial hurdle and make the most of your Korean speaking opportunities.
For even more great content and insider tips, be sure to subscribe to the FluentU Korean YouTube channel and don’t forget to hit the notification bell!
Available: iOS | Android
Whether you use it on your phone, device or computer, italki is designed to connect language learners with conversation partners.
There are plenty of Korean speakers using the service, so you may be able to find a new best friend to help you improve your Korean. You can filter by gender, country and whether or not Korean is the user’s native language.
Not comfortable asking a stranger to chat with you for free? Don’t have time to help someone learn English? No worries! You can also hire a tutor from italki, allowing you to focus exclusively on your own needs rather than also helping your partner.
Available: iOS | Android
Tandem has three million members, so when you’re in the market for a Korean exchange partner, it’s a great place to check.
Not only can Tandem help you find a Korean language exchange partner, but Tandem also allows you to make audio and video calls, leave text or audio messages and even access text translation.
If you prefer to hire a tutor, never fear! Tandem can also hook you up with a Korean tutor.
6. Consume increasingly difficult authentic media.
With the other steps under your belt, you’re ready to upgrade your skills even further. One easy way to do this is to consume increasingly difficult authentic media. Because authentic media is intended for native speakers, it will expose you to real Korean.
To use authentic media to its maximum potential, try noting unfamiliar vocabulary that you should study more, thus expanding your vocabulary as you fine-tune your reading and/or listening skills.
And to ensure you’re operating at your skill level, try to select easier resources in the beginning, such as books, movies and TV aimed at children. When watching movies and TV, you could also use English subtitles to help you along. For written works, you can keep a Korean dictionary or translator handy. As you get better and better, though, start using more challenging resources with less outside support.
LibriVox allows users to upload their own spoken audiobooks of works in the public domain, and Korean students can use these audiobooks to their advantage!
While there aren’t a lot of Korean recordings on LibriVox, there are six nice options, including some poetry and short stories. You can download the audio files or listen online.
Once your Korean skills get really good, you may even consider posting your own Korean readings for others to enjoy.
Already have a Netflix subscription for all your binge-watching needs? Terrific! You can turn your account into Korean-learning gold!
That’s because Netflix has plenty of Korean content. And because you can turn subtitles on or off, you can start using it before you’re 100% confident in your listening skills. Once you get better, just turn the subtitles off for a more challenging listening activity.
Netflix offers both movies and TV shows. You can simply search “Korean movies” or “Korean TV” to see your options. If you want to watch a great movie, we recommend “Tunnel.” Looking to watch an addictive series? Check out “Romance Is a Bonus Book.” And guess what? Netflix even offers Korean closed captioning for “Romance Is a Bonus Book,” so you can switch your captioning options to whatever works best for you.
With just these six steps, your Korean language skills will skyrocket.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.