Put that textbook down for a minute.
Just for a minute! I’ve got to show you something.
Need to hone your pronunciation? Need to get more comfortable reading Hangul? Want to connect with native Korean speakers? There are online tools for all that and more—many for free!
So leave your old school language materials where they are for now, and let’s explore the best of what the internet has to offer to Korean learners.
Why Use Online Korean Learning Tools?
Despite what I like to tell myself, there’s only so much that Korean movies and k-pop jams can teach us. If we want to really be able to understand and use Korean, we’re eventually going to have to buckle down and learn some language rules.
But in the 21st century, learning those rules no longer has to mean sitting in a classroom, fighting to stay awake while a teacher reads out textbook passages.
For one thing, tons of visual and audio learning aids are easily accessible online. That’s good for those of us (most of us) who may not be able to easily memorize vocabulary or grammar rules using traditional methods. We now have a plethora of options to choose from so we can learn in our own style.
Apps and websites can also make it easier to practice Korean every day. We can practice on the bus to school or work, or get into the habit of doing a five-minute lesson to wind down at the end of the day. Plus, some of these resources are so entertaining, you don’t need to force yourself to practice!
Even the most basic tools of the internet can be useful for learning Korean. Sometimes, when a particular grammar rule or phrase just isn’t sticking in your head, it can really help to find a clear and concise explanation of the rule that you can write down and refer to at any time. No matter what level of learner you are, this can be achieved in seconds with a good Google search!
So, what are the best learning tools available online?
Grab your favorite device and find out!
8 Online Korean Learning Tools That Will Replace Your Textbook
This resource is my go-to whenever I need a clear and simple explanation to help me understand a Korean grammar rule.
The blog is vast in scope, covering everything from beginner Korean to the history and terminology of taekwondo to the Korean War. However, the lessons are divided into logical and manageable chunks, and the language used is clear, concise and memorable.
If you enjoy what’s available on this blog, you might also want to check out the premium lessons available for a membership fee. These lessons cover more content in more detail.
Using real-world videos to create fun and interactive lessons, FluentU’s Korean program is language immersion at its best.
FluentU’s content is current, engaging and caters to all language levels. Each FluentU video is equipped with interactive captions. Click on any word for its in-context definition in English, plus example sentences to demonstrate usage. There are also video-based quizzes to ensure you’re retaining what you learn.
Not only will you be expanding your language skills, but you’ll also be getting essential exposure to Korean culture through the authentic videos. This is significant if—as most language learners do—you ultimately want to be able to converse with native Korean speakers!
With 300 questions available from old TOPIK exams, this site offers a fantastic practice opportunity for all Korean learners.
The questions are divided into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, with separate tests for vocabulary and grammar, writing, listening and reading. It’s an awesome way to flex all your language muscles, or home in on your individual weaknesses.
Unlike in a real exam situation, you can take as long as you need to answer each question. In the listening section, you can listen multiple times and access transcripts of passages.
If you sign up for an account on the site, you can save and track your progress. Whether you’re preparing to take the TOPIK exam or not, answering exam questions is a fantastic way to consolidate what you already know and to find out what more you have to learn.
Memrise is wonderful for learning vocabulary—and actually remembering it.
With this tool, users can create their own “courses” on Korean vocabulary focused on specific themes, proficiency levels or learning goals. This tool is designed to adapt to your personal learning style, so you can be sure to memorize new vocabulary words and retain them.
My favorite thing about Memrise are the “Mems:” little tips and tricks uploaded by users that helped them memorize given vocabulary sets. These can range from linguistic breakdowns to “sounds like” tricks or common sentences that include the word.
A paid version of Memrise is available as well. It includes a listening skills test and “Difficult Words,” which is a quiz based on a store of words you have more difficulty remembering in the review quizzes. However, the free version is absolutely adequate for vocabulary learning.
Loecsen is glorious in its simplicity. Learn vocabulary from 15 themed sets with the aid of simple visuals and audio recordings.
Choose your theme (the first being “essentials”), and you’ll find a list of words in English on the lefthand column. Click on any of these, and you’ll hear a clear pronunciation of the word in Korean, see it written and view a very simple visual demonstration of the meaning.
There’s a reason why Rocket Languages is one of the leading names in online language learning: their program is vast, with tools to help you improve writing, listening comprehension, pronunciation skills and vocabulary.
Pronunciation is difficult for learners of all languages, but I would wager that trying to pronounce Korean as a native English speaker may be one of the biggest language challenges there is. It’s also extremely difficult to practice, unless you happen to have a finicky Korean-speaking friend who will correct your every mistake, which I don’t think anyone necessarily wants.
So you might be interested in Rocket Record. It’s a wonderful feature of Rocket Languages that allows you to record yourself in order to listen back and refine your pronunciation.
With Rocket Languages, you’ll also get downloadable audio lessons, tests and games for consistent, engaging Korean practice.
Anyone who has ever tried to use Google Translate for Korean knows that we need an alternative. My favorite is Naver Dictionary.
Korea’s answer to Google, Naver is a fantastic source for many aspects of Korean learning, but now that I’m home from Korea this is the tool I use most frequently.
The Naver Dictionary is the most thorough translator tool I’ve found. The number of possible translations it provides for each word is quite remarkable. It’s also unique in that you can use it to look up Hanja.
Like with all of Naver’s services, however, you need to be able to read Hangul to use this translator. Romanization isn’t available.
Transliteration is available to help with reading, and the inclusion of text-to-voice and voice-to-text makes listening and pronunciation easier to learn and practice.
You can search for speaking buddies by their proximity to you, by country or city and more. Similarly, English learners from around the world may reach out to you for help with their learning.
My favorite thing about learning foreign languages is the potential it has to connect people across national and cultural lines, and HelloTalk achieves this beautifully. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make a new best friend, or meet your future boss in Seoul!
It may still be tempting to attend a class or hire a tutor to ensure that you’re learning language the “right” way. But there are so many resources available to help you learn Korean independently, and they’re so high quality. I encourage you to try some of these resources, and find out what really works for you.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.