15 Courses to Learn Korean Online for Students on a Budget
If you’re trying to learn Korean, chances are you’re a fan of the path less traveled.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you have enough money to go glamping along the way.
Check out these recommendations for Korean courses that either have a free trial or are totally free, perfect for thrifty self-starters.
- Best For Learning Hangul: Learn Korean Pronunciation in 30 Minutes (Through Udemy)
- Best For Learning With Authentic Media: FluentU
- Best For Conversational Topics: Learn to Speak Korean 1 (Through Coursera)
- Best For Learning the Basics: Introduction to Korean
- Best For Audio and Video Material: KoreanClass101
- Best For Learning Through Culture: King Sejong Institute
- Best For Engaging Format: Let’s Speak Korean
- Best For Self-studying: Korean From Zero!
- Best For Low Commitment: Duolingo
- Best For Detailed Grammar Explanations: How to Study Korean
- Best For Improving Speaking: Loecsen
- Best For Absolute Beginners: Introduction to Korean (Through FutureLearn)
- Best For Learners of All Levels: Talk To Me In Korean
- Best For Improving Conversational Korean: Rocket Languages: Korean
- Best For Simple Visual Learning: Basic Korean
- Why Learn Korean with an Online Course?
Best For Learning Hangul: Learn Korean Pronunciation in 30 Minutes (Through Udemy)
Price: Free course
Udemy has thousands of online courses available for intrepid learners, many of which are free or extremely affordable.
This course is presented as being about Korean “pronunciation,” but what it’s really about is learning Hangul.
Learn Korean Pronunciation in 30 Minutes is a quick, totally free option you can sign up for through Udemy.
It’s brought to you by an experienced Korean instructor who has the cool qualification of having done interpretation for K-pop stars like EXO.
The course is friendly, funny and straightforward. Miss Li Carman, the instructor, uses mnemonic tricks and amusing visuals to teach the vowels, consonants and pronunciation basics that accompany them.
Best For Learning With Authentic Media: FluentU
Price: Pricing information available here
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.
Best For Conversational Topics: Learn to Speak Korean 1 (Through Coursera)
Price: Enroll for free
This is currently the highest-rated Korean course on Coursera, so it’s an option that should be on your radar if you’re looking for a more formal online course.
Taught by Professor Sang Mee Han, Learn to Speak Korean 1 covers six weeks of conversational material, including introductions, food and shopping. Each week of the course includes about an hour’s worth of videos, along with readings and quizzes.
Best For Learning the Basics: Introduction to Korean
This is a fun little tutorial with a minimalist feel that puts you in control of learning Korean language basics and is brought to you by LangIntro.com. It was created by J. David Eisenberg, who’s authored similar tutorials for other languages, with the help of several native Korean speakers.
You can navigate your studies from a main index that links to topics, some of which have their own indexes. Content covered includes the alphabet, grammar and basic phrases and vocab.
The pages in Introduction to Korean feel friendly and welcoming. They feed you information through explanations, example sentences, sound clips and diagrams. You’re never presented with too much at once, but always given enough essentials to understand general concepts.
The course also provides you with this neat auto-conjugator, which allows you to look up some of the most common verbs in different forms.
Best For Audio and Video Material: KoreanClass101
Price: Basic plan is $4 a month
KoreanClass101 allows you to learn Korean with video and audio lessons through the Innovative Language app and website.
Innovative Language lessons are basically in a (sometimes visual) podcast format, so if you’d prefer to learn from real teachers but in a casual way, you may want to check them out. You can try a subscription for free, or sample some of their material on their YouTube channel.
Regardless of whether you sign up for this course or another, you may want to take a look at their livestream on YouTube (click on the video that says “LIVE NOW” to get there). It’s not truly live but is rather a continual stream of their lesson material, including cultural lessons.
It’s a good way to get a feel for the course but also to reinforce basic information learned elsewhere.
Best For Learning Through Culture: King Sejong Institute
Boasting a variety of different online courses, the King Sejong Institute accommodates a broad range of learners from introductory to intermediate levels. This is supported by the fact that the site is funded by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, so you’ll definitely be learning some crucial Korean.
Registration is free and just involves a quick-and-easy sign-up. Once that’s done, you can choose your language level and then check out the learning materials on the site, which can be navigated either in its native Korean or English versions.
The resources and courses are vast—you can access videos, sound clips and e-books. Lessons are organized by topic and range from travel vocabulary to popular K-pop. You also have the option to follow a preset standard curriculum; alternatively, you can choose what you’d like to study.
The lessons themselves can be supplemented with the other Korean materials on the site, which include lectures, songs and literature.
Best For Engaging Format: Let’s Speak Korean
This is a bit of a wild card option, but if you’ve ever wanted to have your language lessons delivered to you in the hopelessly cheesy style of a morning television show, you’re in luck.
Created by the English-language Arirang network, this show provides “seasons” of approximately 10-minute episodes for Korean-learning viewers. A typical episode involves topics introduced by hosts (teachers) that are then delved into with guests (Korean students like you).
The only drawback to Let’s Speak Korean is that the hosts can be chatty in ways that aren’t always moving the conversation about learning directly forward, but that can have its own appeal.
This program can be used as its own course or along with another one. In any case, you don’t have to do more than 10 minutes a day if you don’t want to, and you can stream this show as part of your daily routine. Or, you can browse language topics (which are pretty apparent from episode titles), and use Let’s Speak Korean to home in on specific areas you need to brush up on.
Best For Self-studying: Korean From Zero!
This is a great course for self-guided comprehensive learning of Korean basics. While there are e-book versions of the three Korean From Zero! courses available, you can also access all the course material online at the link above for free.
What you get with this program is essentially text lessons with audio clips. You can move at your own pace, playing the clips whenever you need them. No waiting for a lecture to finish or an explanation to be over. The material is straightforward, skimmable and includes plenty of example sentences.
Because Korean From Zero! is text- and audio-based, it combines well with more entertainment-based courses like FluentU or Let’s Speak Korean. Besides, if you do a lesson in a KFZ! course every day, you deserve to enjoy some silly learner TV or authentic videos.
The main hazard of using resources like this that allow for flexible self-study is that you can burn yourself out by working too hard. So find a way to have fun with this material.
Want to know more? Check out my full review of Korean From Zero!
Best For Low Commitment: Duolingo
There’s really no downside to creating a Duolingo account. It’s free, and no matter how unhappy the cartoon owl is with your lack of progress, your lessons will be waiting for you whenever you come back.
Duolingo has an accurate reputation for teaching language that isn’t always super useful or realistic. But it’s also known for making learning addictive through its interactive quiz format and giving you basic knowledge that can be applied to a more thorough understanding of the language later on.
For Korean specifically, Duolingo can be a valuable alternative to programs that are more explanatory or involved. It occupies a certain middle ground that’s both interactive and casual, only requiring as much thought as it takes to recognize basic patterns.
It’s not going to be an all-in-one solution, but it’s a safe space where you don’t need to understand everything all at once.
Best For Detailed Grammar Explanations: How to Study Korean
On this site, you can access a collection of extremely thorough Korean lessons. Nothing is skimmed over or left by the wayside here, unless it’s because explaining it too early would require an oversimplified explanation.
Vocab! Grammar! Audio clips! Diagrams! Charts! It’s all here. There’s even a YouTube channel with corresponding material.
If you want to understand everything about how the Korean language works while you’re learning it, and to be guided every step of the way, this is the program for you.
Now, for many learners, myself included, actually following all of these lessons in order would be extremely difficult and perhaps not a preferable way to learn. If you’re more of a self-studier, or someone who doesn’t want to dump a lot of information into your head all at once, you might find this course frustrating.
But that doesn’t take away from how impressive the sheer volume of the lessons is, or the fact that they’re doubtless extremely valuable to many.
Best For Improving Speaking: Loecsen
People often go on about how you have to “just start talking” when you’re learning a language, a declaration that strikes terror into the hearts of introverts.
Something that I think we don’t consider enough, though, is how valuable the simple physical act of talking can be to the language learning process, even if it’s done alone in a room.
Loecsen, which provides basic conversational courses for many languages, including Korean, utilizes speaking drills with voice recognition technology. The phrase-based lessons allow you to test your pronunciation and get talking with simple content immediately.
It’s worth mentioning that voice recognition tech (in this program and in general) isn’t perfect, and it can be frustrating if you’re pretty sure you’re actually pronouncing something adequately but the system isn’t recognizing it. But talking in itself and trying out different ways of saying a phrase is helpful regardless.
Best For Absolute Beginners: Introduction to Korean (Through FutureLearn)
Price: $134 one-off payment
If you are looking for an intro course, you can try this free one, created by educators from Hanyang University. Unlike some other MOOCs, this one is only available for a limited amount of time once you sign up, so make sure you pace yourself appropriately.
This course covers basic communication skills with an emphasis on culture. Some material can be sampled without signing up, such as a video featuring a teacher and two students learning introductions.
Best For Learners of All Levels: Talk To Me In Korean
Price: $16.99 a month
This site has various Korean learning resources, but you do need to purchase a subscription to receive access to them. You’ll need to create an account, and then you’ll be able to add materials to your “Learning Center” and take the lessons with audio files and transcripts.
This is another site that does lessons like podcasts. The hosts are funny but sometimes spend a bit of time joking around before getting into the lesson material, which may be a plus or not depending on your tastes.
Best For Improving Conversational Korean: Rocket Languages: Korean
Price: Free trial; $300 for 20 CD pack + online access; $149.95 for lifetime online access
Rocket Languages Korean online course promises learners an education that will take them from beginner level to good conversational level.
The course involves plenty of tools to help you learn, including audio and writing lessons, flashcard sets, games, a self-rating system and a voice recording feature that lets you improve your pronunciation. You’ll be studying Korean in all facets—reading, writing, and speaking—and learning crucial vocabulary and grammar rules that will develop your skills as a Korean speaker in the real world.
Another special tidbit about Rocket Languages is its chunking teaching method, which involves grouping pieces of information to make a larger whole. This strategy has been shown to be helpful in memorization tasks and thus beneficial as a general study habit.
You can try a free 7-day trial of the program, the trial being a mini version of the course in itself. Lifetime online access costs $149.95, but discounts are offered.
Best For Simple Visual Learning: Basic Korean
This is a laid-back but practical YouTube course by Conversational Korean that’s easy to follow. Pictures and very basic animation help drill vocab into your head. They also enable you to envision interactions and real situations where you might need to use Korean as you’re learning.
What’s cool about this series is that it teaches Korean using an entertaining, visual approach that’s normally reserved for kids in educational materials, but appeals to grown-up learners.
This course jumps right into showing full Hangul phrases, so you’ll want to have learned the alphabet before starting. You’ll also need to pause to take notes if you want to retain vocabulary and grammar explanations.
Why Learn Korean with an Online Course?
You might worry that an online course is going to be a waste of time or not as smart a choice as another learning method. Okay, that’s fair. But here are some reasons why it still pays not to overthink.
- Immediacy: You’ll start learning before you can talk yourself out of it. The truth is, anything that’s worth doing long-term is usually something that we struggle to maintain over time. Sure, you may have days, weeks or even months where you slack off on your Korean. But the trick to long-term learning isn’t being perfect. It’s taking advantage of the bursts of inspiration you have when you have them.
- Online learning is fun and convenient. You probably already spend a certain amount of time online every day. And some of that time is probably spent looking for ways to entertain yourself: Something interesting happening on social media, an article that’s getting buzz, the latest celebrity news. An online course can easily become just another place you check into—it can be education, but also recreation.
- Online courses give you structure and help create a low-maintenance learning habit. Any amount of learning can be time well spent. But the best reason not to jump from resource to resource is that you end up wasting time re-learning things, or not learning them in an order that makes sense. Having a go-to course to return to every day doesn’t need to feel like a restriction. It’s a way of grounding yourself that gives you freedom in the rest of your learning.
An online Korean course isn’t a big commitment, especially with these affordable options.
You can easily back out of one if it doesn’t work out.
Also, cake is optional (but still an option).