I don’t know you.
At least, I don’t think I do.
If you found this post because you were searching for online Korean courses, there’s a pretty good chance we’re not acquainted.
Which means I don’t know what your life is like.
I don’t know what’s behind your interest in the Korean language.
And I’m certainly not qualified to tell you whether or not you should learn Korean, even if there are plenty of good general reasons.
But what I can tell you is that if you’re waffling in indecision, it’s really easy to take that first step.
Or if you started learning Korean once upon a time or several times (welcome to the club), gave it up, feel guilty about that and are thinking about getting back into it? It’s still easy.
Why overthink it? Drawn-out decisions can be agonizing and also completely unnecessary.
Sure, impulsive commitments can blow up in your face.
But we’re not talking about getting married.
We’re just talking about trying out an online Korean course. By yourself. For free. You don’t even have to tell anyone you’re doing it.
What do you say?
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. It’s easy to start beating yourself up before you even begin, to think, “Oh, I’ll never keep it up.”
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 and momentum you have when you have them.
If you’re having one right now, an online course that you can try for free immediately is one of the best ways to let your impulse take flight.
- 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.
The thing is, outside of whatever structured course you use, you can indulge in Korean-language materials as haphazardly as you like—you don’t need anyone’s permission to enjoy whatever Korean drama you want to watch. So 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.
Now, let’s see about those courses.
15 Korean Online Courses You Can Start Right Now (for Free!)
Learn Korean Pronunciation in 30 Minutes (Through Udemy)
Udemy has thousands of online courses available for intrepid learners, many of which are free or extremely affordable. Among these are some excellent Korean learning courses (and other language learning options)—including this one.
This course is presented as being about Korean “pronunciation,” but what it’s really about is learning Hangul. Which isn’t to say it’s mistitled. Learning the Korean alphabet is about learning how to pronounce written Korean, after all. We just may not always think of it that way.
Learn Korean Pronunciation in 30 Minutes is a quick, totally free option you can sign up for through Udemy. There are plenty of materials online for going through the alphabet yourself, whether as part of a larger course or not. But if you’d rather have someone teach it to you, this multi-part video course will do that in only a little longer than half an hour.
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. Sign up and start learning!
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.
Introduction to Korean is limited in scope but extremely unintimidating. Once you’ve gone through it, you may be tempted to continue your studies with… *drumroll*
FluentU takes real-world videos—like kids’ cartoons, K-pop videos, movie trailers and other interesting stuff—and turns them into personalized language lessons. In other words, you can start learning with these authentic materials from the absolute beginner stage.
The program has hundreds of videos and counting for Korean, and you can try any of them out with a free FluentU trial.
Essentially, you can build your own course with FluentU, but that doesn’t mean you lack structure. You simply choose your own learning material (which is marked by level for your convenience) and then let the program create customized quizzes for you.
You also have support in the form of interactive captions, which allow you to automatically pause and look up a definition at any time.
One of the most exciting things about FluentU is that it’s completely personalized, both in terms of the way you can use the program and the way it responds to your learning. Plus, it takes you up through the advanced levels.
So, once the video quizzes have become a productive habit for you, all you need to do is stick with them!
Learn to Speak Korean 1 (Through Coursera)
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.
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.
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.
This is a great course for self-guided comprehensive learning of Korean basics. If you’re ready to dive in and start learning with no messing around, this is the place to get your hands dirty. 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!
Either you’ve already studied another language with Duolingo and have some idea of what you’d be getting into with Duolingo Korean, or you haven’t signed up yet and wonder why you keep hearing about it.
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. This can be a godsend if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your Korean studies and just need to slink off and hang out with the language in a low-key way for a while.
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.
Nerd alert! 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.
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. It can actually be a way to build confidence—not just for first conversations, but for all aspects of relating to the language.
Loecsen, which provides basic conversational courses for many languages, including Korean, utilizes speaking drills with voice recognition technology. For a free, easily accessible course, that’s pretty awesome. 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.
Here are some lessons in a series of video lectures from The Cyber University of Korea. This course starts from the absolute beginning with the alphabet and includes four levels of learning with tests for each level.
This is all free—you do need to sign up with your email to access the course material on the site, but it really just takes a few seconds. If you want, you can take a look at the Level 1 videos on YouTube. Signing up gives you access to accompanying PDF downloads.
The lectures are more extensive than you might expect considering the name “Quick Korean.” Because of this, Quick Korean could be a good course to jump into if you enjoy friendly lecture-style learning but want more than an “intro” course.
Introduction to Korean (Through FutureLearn)
But 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.
This is a cute Adobe Flash course from Seoul National University that takes you through the basics of Korean. It offers units that are based on different language concepts from a communication perspective.
The lessons include interactive exercises, short explanations, sample conversations and cultural insights. The best part is that you don’t need to sign up in order to access the lessons—you can just go to the site and use it at any time.
Because it’s so easy to use and because it offers a lot of characteristics of other courses on this list combined (it has sort of a textbook format, but it’s also fun and interactive), Click Korean might be a good default course to try if you’re having trouble choosing one.
This site has various Korean learning resources for sale, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive course for free, you can focus on the “Korean Grammar” offerings. 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 SoundCloud 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.
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.
An online Korean course isn’t a big commitment.
You can easily back out of one if it doesn’t work out.
Also, cake is optional (but still an option).
Elisabeth Cook is a freelance writer and language nerd. You can check out more of her writing at Lit All Over.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.