Your Ticket to Fluency: 7 Korean Immersion Programs for the Adventurous Learner
A focused immersion course is undoubtedly one of the best ways to up your Korean game quickly.
You’ll find yourself understanding things much faster than if you had stayed at home, and you’ll get a more in-depth understanding of Korean culture, too!
That’s why I’ll help you explore some Korean immersion programs in this post.
- What Does Immersion Mean?
- Strategies for Maximum Language Immersion Abroad
- Dive In: 7 Awesome Immersion Programs to Learn Korean Abroad
What Does Immersion Mean?
As the name suggests, language immersion refers to the method of learning a foreign language by surrounding yourself with it. While it takes some dedication, it’s possible to simulate language immersion in your home country—there are even nifty software programs that’ll help you do it.
But the simplest, most straightforward way to achieve language immersion is to stay in a country where your target language is spoken. You won’t just be surrounded by Korean—you’ll be living it. When you’re studying Korean in Korea, you have opportunities to practice and learn all day long—at the grocery store, out with friends, watching TV and on and on. There’s no shying away from it.
Korean is everywhere and you have to engage with it in some way. Foreign language immersion schools and programs will kick this experience into high gear.
Later in this post, we’ll cover some excellent options for focused Korean study that’ll ensure you get the most out of your stay in Korea. Expect to get training in grammar and the nitty-gritty of Korean that you can then put to use whenever you’re outside the classroom.
Strategies for Maximum Language Immersion Abroad
As mentioned above, you’ll be learning in a structured environment at an academic immersion program, but you should also be thinking about how to stay immersed in Korean when you’re out and about. After all, the real challenge of immersion abroad is to not lapse into thinking or speaking in your native tongue when it’s possible to do so.
So here are some strategies that you should use while abroad in Korea to make the best of your learning experience:
- Break away from the tourist mindset. Tourist sites in Korea, while great fun, aren’t the places you want to be consistently visiting during your time abroad.
Visit non-touristy areas and neighborhoods to get a stronger taste of Korean culture and check out the local events that natives would attend. Not only will this give you fewer excuses to use your native language (especially if you’re an English speaker) you’ll probably find these sites much more interesting than the typical over-crowded, foreigner-filled hotspots.
- Consume Korean media. Immersion applies to your entertainment habits as well. Chow down on Korean media, including K-pop music, sitcoms, dramas, newspapers and podcasts. Don’t rely on media in your native language during your leisure time. Instead, get comfortable relaxing in Korean.
You can also check out FluentU for authentic Korean media that’s equipped with language learning tools. FluentU’s videos include movie clips, music videos, commercials, vlogs and plenty of other real content that native Korean speakers regularly consume.
Immersion works best when it’s a combination of passive and active listening. So start your study session with FluentU by watching the video without the subtitles on. Then, watch it again, this time enabling either just the Korean or the Korean and English subtitles.
As you watch, move your mouse over the subtitles at any point to pause the video and check the definition of any word. You can also click on it for a more in-depth contextual meaning with grammar info, example sentences, video clips that use the word and a chance to save the word as a flashcard for review through FluentU’s personalized quizzes.
Use this kind of active learning in all your immersion, whether you’re listening to your favorite song or watching a Kdrama. This kind of authentic learning will be valuable to you as you embark on your learning abroad adventure.
- Jot down new vocabulary/language tips. When you encounter a new word or a helpful tip on anything from pronunciation to etiquette, write it down. This may seem tedious at first, but the effort you put into registering the new knowledge will help get you fluent faster.
Keep a notebook on you when you’re out and about; write in it and check it over whenever you have the time (when you’re on the train, lounging in your room or waiting in line for some awesome street food). Constant exposure and review will cement new language skills in your mind.
- Try the language. Yes, it’s terrifying, but if you don’t constantly practice what you’re learning in a real-world context, then what’s the point? Therefore, it’s important to immediately put what you know to use.
Don’t be afraid of messing up or looking foolish in front of native Koreans. Your efforts will often be appreciated. And if you need help, then go ahead and ask! It’s quite probable that wherever you’re staying, whether a dorm, hostel or apartment, there will be Korean speakers around who are able and willing to answer language questions.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. Contrary to popular belief, cramming does not ensure that you’ll retain more information more quickly. Plan independent study consistently but reasonably. Memorizing a handful of new words every day will be more effective in the long run than trying to absorb an entire chapter of your language textbook in one sitting.
And remember, it’s not all about flashcards and quizzes! Going out for a drink with Korean speakers or seeing a movie in Korean are nice ways to slow down and relax but still get awesome language practice.
Dive In: 7 Awesome Immersion Programs to Learn Korean Abroad
Sogang University’s Korean Immersion Program
Location: Seoul. Program date: summer. Price range: application fee is 80,000 KRW; tuition is 2,100,000 KRW.
The Korean Language Education Center at Sogang University offers a five-week, summer-based program with a wide application pool of high school graduates, university students and adult learners. The focus of the curriculum is on speaking rather than grammar, in an effort to improve your ability to navigate real-world situations in Korean. Instructors see themselves as conversation facilitators, above all. Within 30 hours of class per week, you’ll be learning the language and will also have some culture lessons in topics such as Korean cooking, handcrafting and dance.
Field trips to a variety of different locations are offered as well, including historic sites, music performances and local festivals. While the duration of the program is rather short, it’s likely you’ll be spending each day to its fullest. One of the unique advantages of this program is that you also have the chance to participate in a language exchange with a native Korean speaker, so you’ll be able to both teach and learn while gaining a new friend!
KLI Korean Language Program
Location: Seoul or Incheon. Program date: year-round. Price range: varies by program.
If you’re looking for a variety of program options, KLI is a good place to start. There’s a regular and an advanced program, a shorter three-week program, a culture-focused summer program and more. Placement tests are given in order to put you into an appropriate level of Korean instruction.
The classes themselves are conducted in Korean, so while it’ll be a challenge, you’ll definitely be working your language skills in an immersive and supportive environment. If you’re looking for the definite availability of cultural excursions, your best bet would be either the summer or three-week programs, as field trips are established in their curricula.
ISA Programs in Seoul
Location: Seoul. Program date: year-round. Price range: varies by program.
ISA (International Studies Abroad) offers international programs for college students from the U.S. and Canada. At ISA’s Seoul location, you can enroll in a program that includes both a Korean language course and business/economics courses that you’ll take alongside Korean locals.
This is one of the less immersive programs on this list, but it is a nice option for getting your feet wet in academic life in South Korea. The language course is available for multiple levels from beginner to advanced. The business course is taught in English. There are also a number of other courses available in the sciences, humanities and more that you can take, although be aware many are taught in English.
Moreover, because this program caters to university students, it’ll be carried out in a typical, college-style study abroad experience with a dedicated staff to cater to your needs. Excursions and cultural activities are included in the tuition fee and take place in and out of Seoul. Housing is offered on the program campus sites.
HUFS Center for Korean Language and Culture
Location: Seoul. Program date: year-round. Price range: application fee is 60,000 KRW; tuition varies by program.
Run by the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, the standard program at the HUFS Center for Korean Language and Culture provides a targeted language program split across six proficiency levels. The program runs 10 weeks and is predominantly focused on communication and conversation. To successfully complete a level, you have to attend a certain number of classes and pass a final examination.
Because this program lasts multiple months, you can rest assured that you won’t be rushing through lessons, and you’re likely to jump up a proficiency level after completion. But it’s not all about the classroom—there are cultural activities and festivals as well. As an alternative, there’s also a short-term program that runs for four weeks in the summer and spring.
Chungnam National University’s Korean Language Course
Location: Daejeon. Program date: year-round. Price range: 1,300,000 KRW for tuition.
Located at South Korea’s fifth largest city, Chungnam National University hosts a special program to teach foreigners Korean language and culture. The university itself offers a variety of foreign language courses with Korean being the representative course. The Korean course is split into six proficiency levels with each being about 10 weeks (200 hours) in total. Cultural and extracurricular activities include etiquette lessons, visiting historical sites and participating in festivals and contests.
There’s also a shorter six-week program that has classes in the evening, although it’s held less frequently in the year and mainly focuses on building conversation skills. This is best suited for business workers or short-term travelers. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for admissions. Limited scholarships are also available based on class performance.
Location: Seoul (Gangnam area). Program date: year-round. Price range: varies by program.
A private language provider, Lexis Korea offers flexibility in its course options and schedule, which can be a big plus compared to the more rigid university-hosted programs. The target audience namely consists of business workers and travelers sticking around Korea for a short time. The education focuses mainly on conversational skills and practical learning with special training available for standardized tests such as TOPIK. There are also plenty of field trips and excursions supplementing your classes.
There isn’t much of a campus and housing is more or less dependent on the applicant. However, Lexis offers a service to help accepted students find a suitable living place based on their budget, including the option of home stay. Another great feature of Lexis is the chance of finding some work while abroad, depending on your specific skill-set.
There’s a special work study program that offers internships to students (contact the staff for more information)! The program is held in the ever-famous Gangnam area, so quick and easy entertainment won’t be something to worry about.
Best Friend Korean Language School
Location: Seoul (Sinchon area). Program date: year-round. Price range: varies by program.
A private language school, Best Friend Korean Language School offers very flexible study options within its small-knit community. Students can choose the length of their education period with the basic module being one month long, and learning can occur in either a one-on-one or small class environment. Much of the education is focused on speaking, with specialized training offered in pronunciation and presentation.
Tuition costs depend on the program as well as how long you wish to be at the school. One month of the regular Korean course can reach up to $590, the price lowering for the one- and two-week versions of the course. Special discounts may also be available. While foreigners are also treated to cultural classes and sightseeing trips, there’s much to see in the school’s neighborhood of Sinchon itself. Sinchon is known for its thriving entertainment outlets and array of eating and hangout places, with transportation areas also readily nearby. You probably won’t find yourself getting bored anytime soon in this area!
The school also arranges accommodations for foreigners. Housing can take the form of small apartments, home stays or communal buildings.
Participating in an immersion program in Korea can be an optimal way to not only reach a high level of fluency in Korean, but also experience first-hand the different colors of the culture.
Regardless of how long you stay in the country, it’ll always seem like it wasn’t enough. Therefore, make the best of your time abroad by seeing as much as you can with an open, curious mind. Doing so will help you reap the real rewards of being more than just a tourist in a foreign country!