How to learn Korean effectively and quickly in 2024?

If you are reading this article, it means that you have an interest in the Korean language. I do not pretend to give you a miracle method. But in view of my own experience, I thought that I could perhaps give some hints to those who are starting out and encourage others to think about their learning in a more global way. Learning as an adult is not intuitive. There are even courses to learn how to learn! To avoid getting overwhelmed, let’s ask ourselves the right questions and consider an effective strategy for learning Korean.Contents

  1. First of all, is Korean difficult?
  2. 1. Learn Hangeul first
  3. 2. Be motivated
  4. 3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone
  5. 4. Start at the beginning
  6. 5. Decide on your goal
  7. 6. Integrate what you have learned into a larger learning system
  8. 7. Use advanced learning techniques
  9. 8. Leverage Youtube
  10. My resources for learning Korean effectively
    • Manuals
    • Grammar and Vocabulary
    • Bilingual works
    • educational manhwa
    • Sites web
    • YouTube channels
    • Applications

First of all, is Korean difficult?

A priori, NO. I would like to debunk the belief that Korean is one of the most difficult languages ​​in the world. No more than French. Try to put yourself in the place of a Korean who is learning our language: how would it be easier for him and more difficult for us? What is true, on the other hand, is that it is a linguistic world totally different from ours , and that we will have to make our neurons work. But there is nothing insurmountable either. It’s all about method and acceptance.

Don’t ask yourself a thousand and one questions, don’t try to understand everything . Accept this language as it is. First, agree that the sentence order is subject-object-verb. It is not complicated in itself . What is difficult, on the other hand, is the gymnastics that your brain will have to do to perform this inversion. Gymnastics, at the beginning, it hurts. But by dint of doing the same movements, the pain disappears. It’s the same with your brain. He’ll get used to it eventually. Just give it time to get there and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Accept that there are particles, even if it seems like a puzzle. When you think about it, they have their uses since they indicate the position of a word in a sentence. This word is the subject, that word is an object, etc. It is true that they are sometimes twisted, when for example the subject becomes “i” (이) or “ga” (가) depending on whether the preceding word ends in a consonant or a vowel. Or that the “e” (에) indicating location becomes “eseo” (에서) before an action verb. The solution ? Don’t learn word lists, always try to learn whole sentences, which include at least one word, one particle and one verb . Make it short.

I’m listening to music J’écoute de la musique.
I will meet my friend at the park Je vais rencontrer un ami au parc.

In general, rather than using apps like Memrise or Anki to try to swallow lists of words, use them to learn phrases. Remember to add an image , as it helps memorization. Another very effective way to quickly retain common vocabulary: post-its. Stick post-its everywhere in your home , and in less than 48 hours, without even thinking about it, you will know how to name the table, the toilets, the vacuum cleaner and many other things! I guarantee you, it works. Because by linking a word to its object, you give it meaning .

1. Learn Hangeul first

Do I really have to go there? This is the question that many are asking. And the reasons are surely good for not wanting to learn Hangeul . So yes, you can do without the Korean writing system if you only plan to learn basic expressions. But if you really want to speak this language, you can’t ignore writing. In addition, you will need to go through written resources to progress in your learning.

Another reason, and not the least, is that only Hangeul will allow you to pronounce Korean words well. Let’s take the following word: Hahoe. This is the name of this authentic traditional village that UNESCO has placed on its World Heritage List . For a long time, I pronounced this word: Ha-ho-é, thinking that it was written with two syllables and a vowel. But if I had been able to read it in Hangeul , I would have understood that it was actually written using two syllables, “ha” (하) and “hoe” (회). And “hoe” being pronounced “hwé”, it gives “Ha-hwé”. Not that it’s serious, but this simple anecdote is representative of the importance of hangeul. Pronunciation errors can be sources of misunderstanding, believe my experience!

In the same vein, know that there are at least seven ways to transcribe Korean into Roman letters: the Revised Romanization of Korean (official since 1984), the McCune-Reischauer, Lukoff, ALA-LC, Yale etc. . Try reading the following sentence. She means: “Where can I take a taxi?” “.

Are we a taxi driver?

Did you succeed ? Are you sure of the pronunciation? Now try this:

Teekshi ŏdiesŏ t’ayo?

Ouch. It’s the same sentence, but it’s written differently… So how is it pronounced? To be sure, you will have to learn several things: the pronunciation of Korean, but also the way in which the transcription used is read! Knowing that there are resources using the revised romanization and the McCune-Reischauer system interchangeably, you are free to at least learn both. And since, anyway, there is a good chance that you will end up learning Hangeul as well , you will have learned three of them. What a waste of time! Why not just memorize hangeulfrom the start? It is possible to learn it in just a few days, two or three weeks at most. There are only 14 basic consonants and 10 vowels, and the 5 double consonants and 11 compound vowels that complete it are easy to remember once you know the former well.

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Comparative transcription tables of Korean. One line is better than five! ©Wikipedia

To begin, I invite you to watch this very complete 90-minute video of Go! Billy Korean . She is in English, it’s annoying, I grant you, but her approach is excellent. Once you understand how Hangeul works , I encourage you to practice every day for at least thirty minutes. To do this, flashcards are useful as an effective means of recognition. Combine them with written exercises to walk the talk . Copy any words, no need to know them in advance. Copy each syllable and say it at the same time. The key ? Focus and focus. Be 100% in what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

2. Be motivated

Or rather, do not start anything if you are not sufficiently motivated. Because Korean is a language that requires time and self-sacrifice . No, you won’t be bilinguali in two years, unless you live there and practice it on a daily basis. And even so, you will be far from having done the trick! You will realize very quickly that learning a foreign language is like taking a long, very long journey that has no end . We never stop learning. Let it be his own language and, a fortiori, a foreign language. So be motivated, but don’t have too many expectations either. You would risk giving up along the way, it would be a shame. Set yourself small challenges , if necessary, but don’t set the bar too high either.

Me, I really liked confronting myself with TOPIK , the Korean language proficiency test which gives you a level certification. It was kind of my carrot. I realized that this challenge really allowed me to progress, and moreover, I obtained level I.2 fairly quickly (old formula). But TOPIK was not my primary motivation, and when I lost it, what had to happen happened: I stopped taking Korean lessons.

So I repeat myself, be sure of what motivates you, and don’t give up despite the difficulties. The journey is long, sometimes tedious, often discouraging, but stay the course. You will manage to pass slowly, but surely, all the stages.

3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone

Take your time ! The summit is within everyone’s reach with a little effort and a lot of motivation.

And when I say that, I mean two things.

First of all, stop believing in the miracle methods which make you dangle a pseudo bilingualism in a few weeks, it is quite simply impossible for the Korean. Maybe there are a few people on Earth with superhuman intellectual abilities, but you, a priori, are a very normal person. Give yourself two years to assimilate the beginner level , because that’s what it takes on average for the vast majority of us.

Then, have a critical mind  : when some of your acquaintances tell you that they became bilingual in six months and amaze you with original twists delivered at lightning speed, don’t take everything at face value. As a priori, you do not have their “level”, it will be difficult for you to contradict them. And it’s useless to ask a Korean for confirmation, he will always tell you that such and such a person speaks very well, even if it is far from being the case.

Why ? Because a Korean will always be amazed by someone who can even say kamsahamnida , and because a Korean is polite by nature. So yes, your friend or your acquaintance may be doing well for small everyday phrases, but ask him to translate a TED talk for you ( sebashi in Korean) and there, right away, it becomes more complicated … So don’t overestimate the level of others, and don’t let yourself be impressed either . Those who speak Korean well today are those who worked hard to get there. You can make it happen.

4. Start at the beginning

Do not immediately dismiss the so-called “traditional” methods, under the pretext of innovation. Indeed, you will not be able to do without what is called a curriculum at the beginning, that is to say a progression and a structured content , where each new concept addressed takes into account your previous learning. With a curriculum, we give you the procedure to follow. Every day, you have something to do, you are accompanied (whether by a teacher or alone, with a method). You save a lot of time, because the material is already there, you don’t have to look for it yourself.

What are the best methods then? Hard to say, everyone is receptive in their own way. What will work for one will not necessarily work for another. To start, I would tend to recommend choosing a French method first , which saves your brain the double effort of going through a foreign language to learn another, but resources in French are scarce. However, I will mention “Let’s learn Korean” and “Korean lessons”. Afterwards, you can also choose online Korean methods , such as the French platform Parlons korean or the English site Talk to me in Korean . They have the advantage of being a little more dynamic, thanks to their audiovisual resources.

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If English does not scare you, there are also completely free manuals on the net , in pdf format. I am thinking, for example, of the first volume of Korean from Zero or of the two manuals My Korean 1 & 2 . There is also no need to buy a paper dictionary. Naver’s is more than enough. However, if you want a thematic dictionary, I recommend Essential Korean Vocabulary (I give you all the links at the end of the article).

Only one rule, fundamental: be regular . It is now well established that studying 30 minutes a day is better than studying once 2 hours a week. And that repetition is the only way to embed your knowledge into your long-term memory. So always start with a short review of what you saw the day before before starting the next one.

5. Decide on your goal

Cover of Situational dialogues in Korean

The basics of a language to be acquired are the same for everyone and I strongly advise you to follow a “classic” method at first. Then it’s about being efficient and continuing according to how you intend to use Korean. This will allow you to choose the best resources based on that usage and focus on those only. Think strategically.

Are you planning a trip to the country and would you like to be able to order a meal or discuss the way with the taxi driver? Maybe dialogues in situation will be a good method. Talk to me in Korean ‘s latest Situational Korean Quiz video series is perfect for learning while having fun. In two minutes, you will remember short sentences adapted to different everyday situations: ordering a coffee, asking for directions, arriving at someone’s house, etc. If you want to go further, I recommend the ebook Situational dialogues in Korean , still at TTMIK. For each situation, you have four different dialogues. What to approach with confidence all the situations of the daily life.

Do you have business to do in Korea? You may not plan to do it in Korean, but you would like to be able to exchange a few words with your interlocutor to show your good will? Focus on the politeness formulas and social codes used in the world of work. If you want to go further, there are specific manuals, such as Business Korean or Language Korean for a Good Job . They can be ordered via the TwoChois online bookstore .

Want to read a novel in Korean or attend a pansori performance  ? A more sustained learning should suit you, with an important place to give to grammar and vocabulary. Why not buy a Korean novel and its English translation and study both simultaneously? You will need a lot of rigor and patience. If you are still a student, consider studying at an institution of higher learning .

In any case, without an objective, there is no methodology. And without method, no results. Do not scatter , focus on your goal and move forward.

6. Integrate what you have learned into a larger learning system

Reuse phrases learned from talking with people, even if you’re not very comfortable. No one will judge you. ©Korea.net

When you feel sufficiently armed, in grammar and vocabulary, vary the pleasures by exploring other methods: read bilingual books for young people for example (you will find some at L’harmattan or LingAsia editions), tales, manhwa . Actively listen to music, watch a series or a movie, with subtitles, then without subtitles. Reuse phrases learned by talking with people. Write a few lines in a journal every day. The idea is to balance the four pillars which are: writing, speaking, reading and listening .

When we learn a foreign language, we tend to study only what brings us satisfaction and pleasure. We are good at writing, so we neglect speaking. Or vice versa. Because we need rewards. But it is very important to force yourself to work on the aspect or aspects that are causing the problem . Similarly, it is not only necessary to expose oneself to the language (what is called “input”), one must also produce (“output”). So listen, immerse yourself in Korean as much as possible, but don’t forget to write, to speak, in order to test things and develop automatisms .

7. Use advanced learning techniques

Do you know Shadowing  ? Simply put, it’s a method of repeating what you hear, when you hear it. By practicing day after day, by imitating the speaker’s phrasing and intonation, you end up gaining in fluidity and naturalness, the idea being to be able to repeat almost simultaneously. It is not obvious at all! But thanks to this technique, we improve our pronunciation frankly, and in the case of Korean, it’s a plus, because the pronunciation is not easy!

Along the same lines, you have Repetitive listening . Jeremy from Motivate Korean made it his motto. Again, you have to be very motivated. You have to take a spoken extract, from 5 to 20 minutes maximum, and listen to it 10, 50 or even 200 times, until everything seems clear and clear to you. It sounds simple, but it is far from it.

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Because you should not use the written medium, you have to guess the words and the meaning alone. And listening to the same excerpt over and over can become terribly boring. It must be integrated into a daily routine, for days or even weeks. According to Jeremy, the progress is impressive. If you want to learn more, watch this video aptly titled How to Use Repetitive Listening to Rapidly Improve Your Korean Listening Comprehension

I myself have tried both of these techniques. I haven’t practiced the first enough to give you a feedback, but I’m rather convinced by the second. I searched online for a Korean podcast and found one that I liked. This is a podcast for Japanese learners, produced by a Korean language institute in Tokyo, Hangyosil .

I’m telling you about it because, apart from the title which is in Japanese, the whole podcast is in Korean (but I’m cheating a bit, because there is a Hangeul transcription ). It can be suitable for any intermediate level learner. I appreciate it because there are already more than 220 episodes, around 3 minutes long. It is regularly updated and the content is varied (although centered on Korea and Japan). The phrasing is not too fast and the difficulty is just enough to motivate me without discouraging me. I usually don’t understand more than 20% of what is said.

But repetitive listening “à la Jeremy” really works. By dint of always listening to the same episode, I perceive the words better and better. I even managed to remember a few expressions. And that, without apparent effort. So try it, and tell me about it.

8. Leverage Youtube

In my opinion, YouTube is a very good resource, but to be effective, you will have to learn to sort it out. Not that the videos aren’t of good quality, but there are just too many of them, and they might not serve your purpose. Worse, they even surely divert you from it. By watching these very nice videos, it’s as much time as you don’t spend really learning Korean! I’m not saying rule it all out, but stay focused on the goal.

For example, I really enjoy Talk to me in Korean . Lately, they have offered five videos per week, which averages 35 mins of viewing. It’s not much, you will say, but do I need all these videos to improve my current level?

The Situational Korean Quiz is too easy for me, I can’t take their “Advanced Intermediate” course (too difficult for now), I don’t see the point of learning hanja (Chinese characters), and Korean Q&A by Hyeonwoo doesn’t necessarily concern one of my issues at the moment (which won’t prevent me from coming back to it one day). In short, I realize that in the end only the Korean Dictation test is useful to me, since I have difficulties in writing and I have to work on this aspect (see point 6) . That is 8 minutes instead of 35.

Well, I sincerely think that it is better to use these 8 minutes efficiently than to watch everything and “clutter” my mind with too much information. In any case, favor videos with subtitles and really work on them .

My resources for learning Korean effectively

I give you here the list of the main resources that I recommend. It is far from complete, but as I said above, try not to spread yourself too thinly, it would be counterproductive. Choose one method for each of the four pillars (writing, speaking, reading and listening) and try to complete it before starting another.

Manuals
My Korean 1 & 2
Korean from Zero
Situational dialogues in Korean

Grammar and Vocabulary
Korean : a comprehensive grammar
Essential Korean Vocabulary

Bilingual works

Korean culture in 100 words

educational manhwa

Dana eui hanguk senghwal ilgi : Diary of Dana in Korea

Sites web


How to study Korean
Talk to me in Korean
Topik Guide
Naver dictionary

YouTube channels

Talk to me in Korean Very (too?) rich in content. Intermediate lessons have Korean subtitles.

Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean Common sense tips for learning Korean effectively.

션 파블로 Sean Pablo This American is fluent in Korean and all of these videos have English subtitles. He offers a fun way to study the language through his countless interviews across the country. He often tests people’s language skills, and he can talk about light things (like romantic relationships) or more serious things (Korean history).

하이채드 Hi Chad Another American, but who, unlike Sean Pablo, speaks English and subtitles his videos in Korean. By following these two chains, we make the theme and the version! His favorite subjects are cinema and dramas.

Applications

Hello Talk Ask native Koreans to correct your writing and learn to communicate more naturally.
Naver dictionary ( Iphone or Android )


There, that’s about it ! I would still have many things to say, such as the interest of doing linguistic exchanges for example. In short, do not hesitate to comment if you have other tips for learning Korean effectively. And to all those who want to get started, fighting!

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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