You’re at dinner with your friends and someone asks you, “Hey, I heard you’ve been studying Korean. How’s it going?”
You look at them, sigh, then say, “Not so good. You know, I’ve just been busy,” or “There’s just no one to practice with!”
As second language learners, we know there’s some validity to these reasons, but we know deep down what they really are—excuses.
Ready to get rid of all those and really focus on learning Korean?
I know you’re ready to tell that friend, “It’s going great! I’m almost fluent!” (Yep. If you’re almost fluent, you have a right to show off a little!)
Here you’ll discover 14 different places online where you can give your Korean a boost. We’ll be looking at some of the best providers of excellent content and some really cool sites that are helping more and more learners become fluent in Korean.
But before all that, let’s learn why practicing online works for language learners around the world.
Why Practicing Korean Online Works
Accessibility is key
This may be painfully obvious, but something can only start working for you when you can get to it. Online practice is able to work first and foremost because it is readily available. You don’t have to run to the public library during specified hours just to get to practice material. As long as you have a decent internet connection, you can engage in loud, unfettered practice anywhere and anytime you like.
Being unbounded by time and geography is one of the things that not only makes online practice effective but also makes it a better proposition than other learning materials.
And “access” does not only refer to fill-in-the-blanks exercises or books that come in digital form. The web gives you a direct line to leading Korean learning institutions, software, multimedia content and native speakers who can, for example, talk to you one-on-one and provide instant feedback on pronunciation, grammar, even sentence structure—all the while sitting in a room on the other side of the world.
To successfully learn a language, you need to have loads of practice, engaging in plenty of meaningful repetition. A thick Korean textbook with exercises placed after every chapter can only do so much. A listen-and-repeat audio exercise can only be repeated so many times. There comes a time when you’ve memorized the exercises like the back of your hand, a point of diminishing returns when you’ll need to get a fresh load of practice material to get you to the next level.
Online, you virtually have an infinite number of Korean exercises that hone your reading, writing, listening, vocabulary and speaking skills. No need to run to the public library or be content with the measly selection of three or four Korean language books available. You have exercises that’ll never get old because of the sheer force of their number.
And that’s not even the beauty of it. Every day, more and more content is being uploaded online. There are more learning videos, more quizzes, more tips and more blog posts created daily. (And they’re growing at an incredible rate!)
And the thing about them is that they often come very cheap, if not free—so you get to focus on actually working on your skills, rather than thinking about what meal to skip in order to afford the material. You get access to loads of these goodies without breaking the bank.
Technology gives you options
You might appreciate the dizzying and growing amount of practice content available online (K-pop included), but that’s just one side of the story. You not only get more content online than anywhere else, you get high-quality material—the kind backed by the latest education research and learning models.
Technology plays a vital role in bringing you the most effective material to help you in your language quest. Online, you not only get an abundance of material suited for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners, you get practice exercises that are highly engaging, distinctly memorable and eminently practical. In short, you’ll probably be having so much fun, you won’t even know you’re learning.
Not everyone learns the same way. Online technology has the capability to accommodate different kinds of learning styles like visual and auditory. It also has the flexibility to adjust to learner pace and preferences. Instead of you adjusting to static material, you’ll find techniques used like spaced repetition (revisiting information regularly at set intervals over time) to create a dynamic program that’s able to uniquely target the sticking points of each and every learner.
There’s no one-size-fits-all option. What you get is a choice of content that’s your personal route to learning.
Online technology also provides an immersive environment that makes you feel like you’re strolling down the streets of Seoul—all this without the downside of high costs or the embarrassment of being caught speechless when faced with a native speaker.
All that said, let’s get to 14 places where you can reap the benefits of what we just talked about.
14 Different Places You Can Effectively Practice Korean Online
One of the strengths of the web is that it gives you access to the most effective Korean learning videos, where you get the compounded advantage of both picture and sound. Featured here are some of the best found online.
This YouTube channel is managed by Miss Mina Oh, who promises to deliver Korean in a fun and easy way—and who’s actually delivered on that promise. She has turned this channel into a Korean powerhouse, showing you a mix of language, food, travel and culture videos. She’s so funny and creative with her skits that you can just imagine the kind of scripting, shooting and editing work that goes on behind them.
She’s so much fun. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actively practicing your Korean. There’s a difference between passive watching and actively scaling linguistic heights.
After watching her videos a few times, like you would a TV, that is, sitting back and munching on popcorn, you should actually be repeating after her, making yourself pronounce the target words or phrases. Even better, you shouldn’t just try words or phrases, but get yourself to repeat the brief conversations and dialogues presented in the clip. Work on this “Korean Word of the Week,” for example. Don’t worry if you need a few more times to get the pronunciation and intonations right, it’s all part of the process.
Doing these things ensure that you’re not just racking up minutes watching educational videos, but actually practicing.
This YouTube channel is proof of the formidable volume of free learning materials available to you online. With a treasure chest of over 400 videos, and growing (since they post new lessons every Tuesday and Friday), you’ll have your hands full for quite a while.
The channel features not only native speakers, but actual teachers of Korean dishing out some of their best stuff. You don’t get a mundane classroom lecture here, but a quick and fun lesson, interspersed with cool graphics and animations that make the language vividly satisfying. The videos are often topically divided and you’ll get lessons for words having to do with common topics like family, life events or drinks.
The channel also has specific programs that focus on a particular element of the language. You have programs like “Korean in 3 Minutes” which deals with the basics of the language, “Korean Listening Comprehension” and “Read and Write Korean Hangul.”
If you like what you see on YouTube, go directly to the source and check out the KoreanClass101 website, where you can get access to all the materials by signing up for a free plan or a membership starting as low as $4. What’s great about it is its nifty portability—besides its online version, it’s available on mobile apps and desktop software. This will make on-the-go learning all the easier!
And just like I mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t just passively watch the videos here. You should be actively digesting them and putting them to practice. For example, in the Korean alphabet program, you shouldn’t just be watching your screen fill up with Korean vertical and horizontal lines. Get a pen and paper and try writing the characters for yourself. Just like repeatedly pronouncing the words, write the characters several times and get an actual feel for the language. That’s what active practice is all about!
FluentU is leading the way in authentic language learning videos. For our Korean program, we’re taking authentic Korean videos (the types native speakers see on TV—interviews, music videos or news clips) and turning them into practice material on steroids.
Interactive captioning is injected into the clips, making them really useful for the language learner. You can simply hover over any word in the captions and you’ll see useful information about that word, including translation, transliteration and insightful usage examples.
There’s also “Quiz Mode” for these clips, which efficiently turns passive watching into active learning. You’re given quizzes on the different vocabulary words found in the clip. You’ll be asked to translate, identify, fill in the blanks. You’ll be drilled over concepts multiple times so that by the end of the exercise, you’ll be able to master the targeted keywords.
FluentU uses spaced repetition, which affects how you review the words in your vocabulary chest. You don’t waste time and energy on Korean words that you already know; you only focus on the words you need to practice. This is not only an efficient use of your study time, it also means your experience will be as personal as ever.
FluentU makes it possible to learn with K-pop videos, funny commercials, entertaining web series and more. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you (which are organized by level and topic), so you simply choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
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.
You can use FluentU’s unique Quiz Mode to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU keeps track of what you’re learning, and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you 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.
(In addition to its unparalleled language learning videos, FluentU has a Korean blog that gives out some awesome tips and strategies every language learner can use. Subscribe now and never miss a single post!)
Blogs take you by the hand and show you the personal side of Korean language and culture. Here are some blogs that are worth checking out:
There’s a whole team behind this venture and they are native-speaking, fun-loving millennials who don’t take themselves seriously.
If you can boast about 500,000 students from 199 countries, then you’re probably doing something right. The blog is another example of not only the healthy amount of online Korean practice material available to you but also of its growing nature. (They update several times a week.)
A quick look at their lessons would reveal a robust list of Korean material ranging from beginner to advanced. And these aren’t just all written text, they’re heavy with video and audio material to help you deal. They cover topics (like verbs and tenses) that are commonly found in most Korean textbooks, but they approach these subjects in a more contemporary and practical way, revealing the easy-going nature of the folks behind TTMIK.
Dom is the foreigner who came to Korea to teach English. Hyo is the wonderful woman who later became his wife. And the site, which was originally designed to chronicle the adventure that is their relationship, evolved into a Korean graphics blog perfect for those who wanted to learn Korean vocabulary.
Remember when you were a kid and had a penchant for comics? You just couldn’t get enough of them and they were a constant companion through your middle school years. You didn’t know then, but it taught you a lot about your native language, with pictures contextualizing the text you were reading.
You can do the same thing with Korean and learn while gawking at funny characters. Practice vocabulary with engaging pictures, having them as anchors for your memory.
Dom creates these infographics that you can print out and use as a cheat sheet, or even better, get some of their posters and plaster them all over your room as constant reminders and instant reviews.
This blog has a self-imposed 90-day deadline to teach you as much as possible about the Korean language and culture, so you can be sure that there are no non-sequiturs here.
You’ll feel a sense of urgency from its posts and a propensity to hit the ground running. There’s a plan of attack for the 90 days and you’ll be encouraged to speak from day one, mistakes and errors be damned. You’ll be motivated to practice, practice and not worry about perfection. You don’t need to perfect! You just need to be understood.
There are plenty of actionable tips, practical advice and useful resources that can speed up your language intake. The people behind it believe in the 80/20 rule, where only the most essential and practical of things are to be learned. No time is wasted on the academic, the esoteric and the non-essential elements of Korean.
Here, 90 Day Korean isn’t just the name of the blog. It’s the personal mantra.
For anyone who wanted to learn and practice Korean online, there are established courses to take you on that journey. Leveraging technology, these programs are often more fun and engaging than a classroom set-up. Add the fact that you can do them at your own pace, anywhere and anytime, and you have a winner.
The Polly Lingual interface is so intuitive and so streamlined you won’t have any problem getting to where you want. It’s really very simple. But in spite of that, you still get the sense that so much is happening in the background, that is, in terms of algorithms that personalize your experience. Like any good course, it runs on spaced repetition technology that notes the vocabulary that you’re having trouble with and emphasizes them in the games and quizzes you take.
Oh, this one has lots of fun games and has placed the fun in fundamentals. You can play Hangman, Alphabet Soup, Memorama (card matching game) and Whack-A-Word.
The folks behind it believe that if you’re not actively practicing your Korean, or if learning it has become a chore, it’s probably because the course is no fun. So Polly Lingual remedies that by gamifying the process just a tiny bit. Not too much that the games become the central attraction, but still engaging enough that you stay motivated, giving you all the chances for active practice.
You can choose where to start: beginner, intermediate or travel.
TOPIK stands for Test of Proficiency in Korean—and it’s exactly that. It tests how good you are in the language. But it’s not just any test. It’s an official and formal examination administered by the Korean government to determine a non-native speakers’ ability to communicate and comprehend the language.
The TOPIK Guide is a site dedicated to giving you all the tips you’ll need to prepare for the test. And, boy, are they making good on this promise! They have mock tests you can practice on, and they even have over two dozen of the previous years’ TOPIK examinations—all with answers!
The site has courses specifically geared towards TOPIK 1 (beginner), TOPIK 2 (intermediate-advanced) and for those who need a grammar review.
There’s really no other way to make the most of the site: take as many mock tests as possible and review as many of the past exams as you can.
It can be argued that this one could also belong to the Video or Blog section because it has those components, but I included the site in the Course section to highlight the uniqueness of the course and the distinctive line of thinking espoused by the folks behind it.
Most courses dive right in and focus on vocabulary and grammar. Beeline is concerned more about the conversations, the back-and-forth of language exchange between dialogue partners. The course is very good at anticipating conversation dynamics, and understands that conversations rarely go exactly as written in textbooks. So it provides plenty of alternatives and detours instead of just assuming that an actual conversation will faithfully mimic what the textbook says.
Beeline is very good at giving you the two sides of the conversation, so you don’t just memorize your side of the dialogue. Many possible responses are offered so that you can immediately apply what you learn in the real world, where people can say so many other things than a simple yes or no.
Go here if you need to speak Korean, fast.
Language Exchange Sites
Language exchange sites are special entities online that pair people who want to learn each other’s language. So you want to learn Korean? There’s a whole nation of Koreans who also want to learn English! So you find them on these sites and agree to help each other, often via Skype or some third party software.
Judging by the way it looks, you’d know that the site is one of the pioneers of language exchange. But regardless, it still does the job of finding you a native Korean speaker who’s interested in learning English (or whatever your first language might be).
This online practice tool gives you the opportunity to converse with multiple people. Having several people to talk to means you’re constantly kept on your toes, and you have lots of opportunities to practice the same conversational lines, fine-tuning each time.
You have more input on those linguistic questions percolating in your head. You get a slightly different perspective each time and, as a result, your take-up of the language is more textured, nuanced and has a richer substance.
The previous site is a general language exchange platform. This one is all Korean, so you get a more closely knit community and a more engrossing environment.
You don’t really have to be in Korea for a deeper dive into the ins and outs of the country. You can hang around here and feel like you’re actually in the middle of Seoul. There’s a community board that displays all sorts of topics—from restaurant reviews to invitations to join organizations, so you can actually get the feel of what it’s like to be in the country.
If you’re hoping to visit Korea one day, then this would be a great place not only to find language exchange partners but also friends who will help you when you finally get there. It’s worth the investment of your time. You can reach out to other expats who went before you and learn from their experiences.
There’s a Facebook page that’s become a dedicated meeting place for those who want to learn Korean and are willing to dish out English tips. The page has all sorts of content, from actual Korean lessons and practice material to interesting tidbits about the culture and country.
You probably feel at home on Facebook, so put that to good use and practice Korean online! This is really another testament to the fact that as long as you’re open and ready, the online world will hit you with opportunity after opportunity to learn something new.
After you’ve found a language exchange partner, it’s important to take full advantage of everything the interface has to offer. One thing I’ve found to be really useful is mirroring the questions of my partner during our sessions. For example, if he asks me how to nicely say “no” to an offer of food without offending or insulting the other person, I’ll automatically throw the question back to him. I ask him how it’s done in Korean. Now, I’ve never thought of asking him that, but when such learning opportunities come, I pounce on them.
Later I discover that those conversations stick in my head because there’s a context to help me remember. It’s really being able to see these little opportunities that make for more efficient practice online.
Getting a language teacher or tutor is one of the most effective and efficient uses of your online language-learning time. You then know that the sole purpose of the session is to teach you Korean. The whole interaction is tailored to your learning style, language skill focus and topics of interest.
When you want to take your learning to the next level, visit Live Lingua and let them know. A class coordinator will contact you, ask some questions and set up a trial lesson. According to what they can find out about your personal preferences and schedule, they’ll get to work and pair you up with a professional teacher that best meets your needs.
You’ll then get an email containing the trial lesson schedule as well as the details of your teacher.
The lesson will be conducted via Skype and takes about 60 minutes—after which you can inform Live Lingua if you’re happy with your teacher. If not, the class coordinator will find you another.
Live Lingua goes through all this trouble because it believes that each student is unique and has different backgrounds, goals and motivations. They work hard to find a teacher that best meets those needs.
Give their trial lesson a try. That experience alone will greatly improve your Korean listening skills.
Verbling has a healthy ratio of both professional Korean teachers and native speakers. Unlike the previous site, you have a freer hand in picking your teacher.
You can basically find out everything you need to know about your teacher before meeting him/her on Verbling Video (no need to go to Skype). You not only get to read a written introduction from the teacher, they actually make video introductions so you can see them in action. Cool, huh?
You can also see their rates per hour as well as the number of lessons under their belt. You can read what previous students had to say in the review section. And to top it off, you’re given a schedule table that clearly gives you information about availability to be able to conveniently book a class.
All the info Verbling gives you means you won’t have to fly blindly. You have an idea of what you’re getting into. But of course, there’s nothing like sitting for the one-on-one session. So why don’t you book one now?
There you go! Fourteen places on the web where you can practice and sharpen your Korean.
Everything presented here is a testament to the myriad tools and opportunities online. But they can only do so much. You have to make the move. You have to sign up. You have to actively watch the videos. You have to read the post a few times.
You have to make that personal commitment. And it starts now.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.