Let me ask you something: What’s free (or very cheap) but actually priceless for learning Korean?
It can take you to heights and depths you’ve never imagined.
Here we’ll talk about the top apps that are going to be your secret weapons for reaching Korean fluency.
The Many Benefits of Korean Dictionary Apps
Speed and Availability
Imagine carrying around a 500-lb slab everywhere you go—a behemoth of a dictionary that not only cramps your style, but also cramps your arms and legs. You go around town as if you’re married to this book because, well, you just don’t know when those Korean translations would come in handy, or when an opportunity to learn some Korean might present itself.
That’s what having a dictionary app on your phone is like, minus the 500-lb spine-arching load, of course. It means that, at any given moment, whether you’re commuting to school, standing in line at a popular donut shop or waiting your turn at the barbershop, you’re just a few seconds away from learning some valuable Korean lessons.
Simply whip out your phone and you’re good to go. Your app is at your beck and call, 24/7.
This isn’t your grandmother’s idea of looking up a word, where she’s mumbling through the alphabet then turning the page to the right letter section. Just imagine the speed with which you could do your dictionary searches via your phone. These apps move at the speed of light! Hit “search” and before you can even take your next breath, your target word materializes in front of you.
If that doesn’t completely blow you away, then let’s get to the next benefit.
Extra Features and Robust Content
Not only is your target word served up faster than you can say “anyeong” (hello), it comes with extra information and insight even before you ask.
The apps don’t only give you the meaning or direct translation. You might see an illustration of the word or hear its pronunciation. You might see how it’s written in Korean. You might be given synonyms for the word and all other words related to it. You’ll be bombarded with usage examples, including sentences that exemplify the correct and incorrect ways of using the word.
And all this time, you’ll be working on a smart interface that’s not only vivid, but also intuitive to your personal needs. It remembers your search history, for example. You can tailor-fit your experience, change up the colors and fonts and play around with the general settings so the features work in the exact way you want.
The app multiplies those advantages by bridging to other apps or programs or sites that can really facilitate your trek to fluency in Korean.
At some point, you’ll be thinking, “hey, wait a minute, this stopped being just a dictionary a long time ago!” And you know what? You’ll be right.
What you have in your hands is a dictionary-cum-thesaurus-cum-translator-cum-magic wand.
Entertaining, Engaging and Educational
Your Korean dictionary app, because of the virtues outlined above, isn’t only educational, it’s also entertaining and engaging. (If only your dates could be like this.)
Language learning material that teaches and informs is good. It’s really supposed to do that.
When you’ve got one that also tickles your fancy, then you might just have a great app in your hand.
All the colors, the pictures, the sounds—they’re all calibrated to be “sticky” and be firmly anchored in your memory. They enhance user experience and stimulate your different senses so that the vocabulary becomes highly memorable, highly meaningful and ripe for use.
Apps are engaging because they actually make you do things. They start being engaging the moment you first type the word in the search box, because that’s really not a passive thing, is it? That simple act of tapping sends signals to your brain, priming it for recall.
Then later in the app, you’re encouraged to create and manage word lists for review. Or the app can poke you with a friendly reminder like a “Word of the Day.” They have tests so you can assess your knowledge and even share your progress with all your friends on social media (if you so desire).
Alternative: The Anti-dictionary App
So obviously Korean dictionary apps are pretty hot stuff, but it would still be ideal if you didn’t even need to use them, right? While in everyday life, this simply isn’t realistic, whatever dictionary app below you choose to use, you should also consider using FluentU for some quality dictionary-free time.
Here's a quick look at the variety of video choices available to you:
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
Don't stop there, though. You can use FluentU’s unique quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU even tracks your progress and remembers all the words you've learned, making for a 100% personalized experience.
Review sessions use video context to help embed the words in your memory. The best part? You can access the full FluentU video library with a free trial!
Start using FluentU Korean on the website or download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
It’s not your grandmother’s dictionary, indeed.
Now let’s take a look at some of these Korean dictionary apps that a language learner like you shouldn’t dare miss.
The 7 Most Effective Korean Dictionary Apps for Your Smartphone
1. Korean English Dictionary App by Bravolol
This app features 160,000 Korean words and phrases that would make every language learner’s heart flutter. You can do the search in either English or Korean, and either way you’ll be given spelling suggestions as you type.
The audio icon is ubiquitous in the app, which means you won’t be left in the dark as to what the vocabulary actually sounds like. The words are amply scaffolded by plenty of sentence/usage examples, both in Korean and English, offering you more insight into how the target vocabulary works in relation to other words in the sentence.
Navigating the app is a breeze and the layout is easy on the eyes. It works even when you’re offline, and boasts that it has the fastest search speed of any Korean dictionary app, which is actually a pretty big deal.
And, if you’re up for it, you can always share your progress with your friends through its links to social networking sites.
2. Korean English Dictionary & Thesaurus & Translator by Xung Le
This one has a database of 500 thousand words, phrases and sentences. You’ll find Korean idioms and contemporary sentence examples that could come in handy when talking to a native speaker. The definitions and synonyms are well-rounded, giving users a more complete picture of a word by providing the many different meanings and usages for the same word.
You also have a powerful set of extra learning tools like Word Reminder and Word Lists that help you manage and review the words you’ve tackled previously. You can even add personal notes to your list to truly make it your own.
For extra reference, the app links you to other dictionaries like the Oxford dictionary, Urban Dictionary, Wiktionary, Wikipedia and so on, but if you find yourself unable to connect to the Internet, no worries, the app itself works even when you’re offline. And, oh, they also have a database of pictures that you can search!
3. Prime English-Korean Dictionary by Dong-A Publishing
Don’t know exactly how to phrase something in Korean? You want to find the Korean equivalent for some English idiomatic expression? You want to say “cool” or “awesome” in Korean? Let this app bridge the gap. There are plenty of nuanced sentence examples that allow you to really capture the subtle flavors of the language.
It’s a rare feat when an app is able to bridge the two-way traffic between those who wanted to learn Korean and those who are interested in English. This one’s quite popular on both sides of the language spectrum.
English speakers who want to learn Korean find it amazing, and Korean native speakers interested in English find it useful. That’s why the app got the official nod from ELLAK (The English Language & Literature Association of Korea).
Use this for all your more conversational, colloquial and authentic phrasing needs.
4. Korean Dictionary by Athena Soft
This is a Korean language dictionary app that also functions as a robust thesaurus, giving you more vocabulary options in the way of synonyms and antonyms. The app has voice search as well as speech-to-text feature, which will come in handy for auditory learners.
In addition to the classic “Word of the Day” feature (which can actually accommodate up to five words per day), there’s a Study Plan feature where you can add specific vocabulary that you want to master as well as remove words that you already know. There’s also a multiple choice quiz waiting to challenge you, for when you want to take your Korean through its paces.
This one works offline but works best when you’re connected to the Internet, especially when it comes to its audio capabilities. Pop-up ads come up every now and then, but they rarely get in the way of your learning.
5. English Korean English Plus+ by DaolSoft
This app started out as two different programs—one geared for Koreans learning English, and the other for English-speaking people trying to learn Korean (for K-pop purposes, perhaps?) Then the developers realized that by combining the two and getting the best of both worlds, they could have one extremely cool app.
It’s now touted as the bestselling English-Korean, Korean-English dictionary on the market, with a database of 857,000 searchable vocabulary words—the fattest of its kind. And since the app is constantly being updated, there’ll be even more words in the coming versions.
Here you’ll have a healthy dose of contemporary Korean that can be commonly be heard in dinner table conversations and during day-to-day routines. The definitions are highly nuanced and you’re pretty much given all the different things that the same word can come to mean in Korean.
The app has excellent technical support and you do really feel like there are people working behind the scenes, polishing up the app and trying to add even more cool features.
6. Korean Dictionary, Translator, Phrase Book by iThinkdiff
This app is very robust, and can even translate whole sentences for you. Oh, and you don’t even have to manually type these sentences out. Say there’s a road sign you don’t understand. Snap a picture of it and the app will do the search and translate it for you.
Features include a handy flashcard capability that allows users to review vocabulary. If “Word of the Day” sounds too easy, why not amp things up with their “Phrase of the Day” option? You even get a chance to show off your mad Korean skills by playing multiplayer vocabulary games and climbing the top of the leader board. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can simply and quietly adjust the fonts to your liking.
The app can connect to social networking sites and the translations could be posted on Twitter as tweets, on Facebook as status updates and on LinkedIn as network updates.
7. Talking Translator by GreenLife Apps
Imagine typing a word, phrase or sentence and hearing it translated into the world’s major languages. Cool, right?
This app doesn’t just have Korean in its arsenal. It also has French, German, Spanish, Italian and the rest of the world’s major tongues. This is the closest thing we have to the Universal Translator from “Star Trek”! You can see the Korean word you’ve just looked up and hear it pronounced as many times as you desire.
If you’re traveling and need a quick language reference, this app is an excellent companion. Look beyond the ads that pop up from time to time and you’ve got a learning tool that will be useful wherever you go.
If you really want to take the learning to the next level, the “Word of the Day” feature gives you a more detailed look into a word, offering a cogent example of how it can be used in a sentence. In fact, many users have commented that they’ve learned as much from this feature as the talking translator itself.
And so we round up our picks for the top dictionary apps that can take your Korean to the stratosphere.
This only goes to show how much help and support there is out there for any Korean learner. Technology is your friend.
The apps are often free, and have been programmed to make your life a little bit easier.
So why don’t you give them a quick try and unleash that little genius in you?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.