Reaching out for the prize of Korean fluency…
…only to have it snatched away from you yet again?
Hey, it’s okay.
We understand where you’re coming from.
You know simple phrases like 안녕하세요 (hello).
You can count up to a hundred.
You can name different shades and colors, describe different shapes.
You even know a dirty word or two and some basic slang.
But now, you wanna get to the big leagues.
You’ve paid your dues and think you’re ready.
This post will help you get there, no worries.
We’ll look into six Korean programs specially designed for “intermediate” learners.
But before all that, let’s first decide what being intermediate really means.
What Does “Intermediate” Even Mean?
Defining learner levels can be quite challenging. How does a person know if they’re “beginner,” “intermediate” or “advanced” in a language?
My friend, who claims he’s intermediate in Russian, when pressed, only really knows да (yes), нет (no) and an assortment of colorful swear words and invectives. And yet he insists that he possesses enough Russian to navigate Moscow like a native speaker.
Being “intermediate” is especially hard to describe because it’s in the middle. You’re not a clueless beginner, but at the same time, you’re really not there yet. Think about it. That covers a pretty wide range! Being “intermediate” is like being a middle child, where you’re not the eldest who got first dibs on mommy’s love, and you’re not the youngest who gets spoiled. You’re just in the nasty middle.
Once upon a time, there was no universal standard that described what an “intermediate” Korean learner was supposed to be like.
And so… brilliant people decided, “Let’s make one!”
Korean language experts, linguists and government-sanctioned test-makers developed the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean). It’s an examination that determines Korean fluency. Based on your test results, you can know your place on the curve. Europe has a similar set of standards called the CEFR, or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
For this post, we’ll be approximating TOPIK’s and CEFR’s definitions of what an intermediate language learner is. For sure, they’re still just broad qualitative descriptions of linguistic skills, but this beats having nothing, or worse, relying on self-reported claims—like those of my friend.
Taking into account these standardized measures, we’re thinking of an intermediate Korean learner as one who, among other things, knows enough to:
- give clear descriptions
- express viewpoints on most general topics
- construct a grammatically sound statement and self-correct if necessary
- understand the easy parts of news broadcasts and newspapers
- navigate Korean public places with relative ease
These skills indeed go beyond knowing how to say “Hello!” in Korean, but have not yet reached the level of elegant native fluency.
Generally speaking, the courses listed below work for those beyond a beginner level who would like to see themselves possessing the skills just listed. Coming up are six intermediate learner programs that will further strengthen your grasp of the beautiful Korean language.
K-Intermediate: 6 Korean Courses for Antsy Mid-level Learners
How to Study Korean (Units 2-4)
The How To Study Korean site aims to take you from the “beginner” to the “advanced” stages of study. And you’ll be happy to know that it has a rocking “intermediate” learner component found in Units 2 (lower intermediate), 3 (intermediate) and 4 (upper intermediate).
The program has a healthy grammar focus and you’ll learn skills like working with irregular conjugations and complex sentences. You’ll discover how to construct complex sentences and inject them with shades of meaning. For example, you’ll find out how to express uncertainty in your statements, and how to indicate that an effort/attempt has been made. Knowing things like this will really add a more textured richness to your Korean.
The lessons come with relevant vocabulary words so that you’re not only really working on your grammar but also filling up your treasury of Korean words and phrases. There are also accompanying workbooks that test your grasp of the lessons.
And, there are short stories offered that align with the vocabulary and grammatical level of folks who’ve gone through units 2-4. If you think you can now handle more than just sentence examples, then have a go at the stories. The online course itself is free (though you need to pay extra if you want PDFs and workbooks) and the short story sets are $10 a pop.
FluentU is all about learning grammar in context.
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.
17 Minute Languages (Intermediate Korean)
If you have 17 minutes to spare during your day, then get this course. It promises to make you fluent in Korean in four months.
The program builds on the vocabulary and linguistic skills harnessed in its beginner course. The intermediate program has been updated for 2018, and you’ll meet around 1,800 words related to a whole bunch of topics, like settling differences of opinion, expressing feelings, writing a complaint and understanding instructions.
The program is unique in that the lessons come in interesting contextual stories. You join the program’s two main characters as they go through common experiences, like choosing an apartment, receiving delivery of a TV to go with a new apartment, writing a letter of complaint to a product manufacturer because the TV didn’t come with a remote, cooking for friends who show up for a visit and so much more!
You’ll have access to dialogues recorded by native speakers that you can listen to and repeat after. If you want, you can also print a written text of the dialogues.
The program also comes with plenty of interesting, effective and relevant exercises including multiple choice, fill-in-blank, word jumble, etc. Printable flashcards are another bonus!
The intermediate course can be yours for $29.95 (price may change depending on current offers).
Berkeley Online Intermediate College Korean
This course suggests that after going through the 27 lessons, you’ll be able to do things like browse those K-Pop websites with comprehension, write simple essays, converse in Korean and understand TV ads and newspaper articles intended for native speakers.
The lessons include a short paragraph that serves as context for an oncoming dialogue. So, for example, maybe you’ll have a set up about a baby crying on a plane, followed by a dialogue about an apologetic mother and a fellow passenger. Certain parts of the texts come with audio components, which allow you to hear how a native speaker might go about saying them. They really make the lesson come alive.
The dialogues are followed by intermediate grammar and vocabulary lessons, which analyze and explain the dialogue in greater detail. Think of it like going behind the scenes. The lessons are bolstered with plenty of examples, exercises and even homework so you can really get the hang of the grammar points being pursued.
Plus, this course is free.
Core Korean 3 on Udemy
Udemy is a convenient site for learners because it allows you to purchase courses based on exactly what you need, whether it’s a full course to take you through a whole language level or just a short one to practice a certain skill. So you can certainly dive in and look for courses that are more tailored to your specific needs, but this particular course is 16 hours of video spread over 17 lectures and 83 practice exercises that will make you so proficient with the language you’ll be speaking Korean on the fly.
The course, of course, assumes that you’ve gone over Core Korean 1 and Core Korean 2, and can read Korean.
This is a grammar-oriented intermediate course that doesn’t make you memorize generic lines. (Because what happens when your dialogue partner gives an answer not taught in the “Hello-I’m-fine-thank-you” class?)
Instead, Core Korean 3 makes you understand Korean that enables you to basically create your own expressions, phrases, lines and dialogues. The course will teach you how to construct sentences so you’ll be able to express what it is you really want to express. It’ll teach you gradations of meaning and explain how words relate to each other so you can communicate more naturally with native speakers.
Prices for courses on Udemy may fluctuate according to special deals. This one is officially marked at $199.99, but has been offered for as low as around $10-11. Seems like a pretty good deal to me!
Sogang (Intermediate Korean I-III)
No, “Sogang” is not some famous Korean boy band. (That’s Big Bang!) It’s a prestigious Korean university at the forefront of promoting the Korean language.
The online component of this mission is reflected in the Sogang Korean Program, which gives absolute beginners a place to dive into Korean.
But it doesn’t just stop there. The Sogang program has three sections dedicated to intermediate language learners eager to progress beyond novice level.
And if multimedia learning tickles your fancy, then you’ll take a liking to Sogang’s lessons for sure. They’re flash-enabled cartoons that provide you with different contexts for how the language is used. So it may be a conversation about marital problems in one lesson and a live news reporter relaying updates to an anchor the next. If you have difficulty following the dialogues, you can look into a text version of the conversation written in both Korean and English.
The cartoons are followed by vocabulary and grammar sections that further explain key phrases and points. Also, there are exercises that get you to do some work like filling in blanks or pairing words. If you get the answers wrong, you hear a “toink” sound. (So try again!) But if you get them right, there’s the sound of a happy bell that just makes your day.
And best of all, it’s totally free!
So what are you waiting for?! These programs are yours for the taking.
Take that next step in your Korean journey and go beyond the beginner level.
Korean is a beautiful language and it becomes more so the more you get into it.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.