How long does it take to learn Korean?

Last Updated on October 13, 2020 by 90 Day Korean
Illustration of kids learning

Whether you’re already learning Korean or only just thinking about starting the journey, one question has likely popped up in your mind by now: “How long does it take to learn Korean?”

It’s understandably an important question for you to ask. After all, it influences your decision on whether to learn Korean or not. Like with many other languages, Korean is good to learn and work towards being fluent if you want to visit or live in South Korea. It’s also worth putting in some study hours if you are interested in K-Pop, K-Dramas, Korean movies, or Korean culture.

But on the flip side, it’s an entirely new alphabet, and the language is mostly spoken in Korea. So is it worth the time investment?

Illustration of kids learning

All great points! We’re going to tell you what you need to know about how long it takes to learn Korean so you can make your decision.

Let’s get to it!

Factors that affect how long it takes to learn Korean

Below we have separated into different sections some of the different factors that affect how quickly you can learn Korean. These are also relative to just how fluent in Korean you want to become!

1. Your native language

Depending on what native language you speak, learning Korean might be just a little bit easier or a little bit tougher for you. For example, it is thought that Korean is especially difficult for native English speakers to become fluent.

Illustration of people speaking different languages

Meanwhile, for Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic speakers, Korean can be an easy language to learn. It could take far few hours (or years!) to become fluent at the same level as a native English speaker.

Don’t worry, though! Your native language may slow you down a little bit, but it isn’t an obstacle you cannot overcome! For example, you can use associations in your native language for Korean words you want to learn.

2. Your previous language learning experience

You’re at an advantage with learning a new language if you were raised as bilingual. Having developed fluency with more than one language as a child over the years has made you naturally more adjustable to learning new languages.

Illustration of 3 kids studying at a computer

Aside from that, other languages you have learned will help as well. One reason for this is because your other language learning experiences will have helped you develop good learning habits. This will get you started quickly with Korean as well.

Your brain will have already adjusted to the type of learning that studying a new language follows. Thus you’ll have an easier time learning Korean as well. This is especially so if you’re adept at learning new languages!

3. The learning methods you are using

Learning Korean in a classroom setting is the best way to get clear information on grammar structures. It will also give you a well-thought-out plan to follow for learning vocabulary.

However, if you aren’t learning, practicing, or applying the Korean you learned in situations outside of the classroom, then your progress will be slower. Instead of just focusing on getting the minimal homework done, try actively watching Korean TV shows and movies, practice through apps or language exchanges, talk with native speakers, and use eBooks and Korean learning websites.

If you have the chance, then traveling to Korea to attend language school is the absolute quickest way to learn Korean.

4. How much of your time you are dedicating to learning Korean

The more hours you spend each day studying Korean, the quicker you can grow your fluency. Your time dedication is also connected to your general language learning ability and learning methods in use.

For example, you may be learning new Korean grammar or words on a daily basis. Spending more time doing reviewing this material is going to help you become more familiar with it.

If you know your pace of studying and the results it gets you, then you can calculate how much you will improve if you adjust your study time. Using calculations like this will be helpful if you want to measure how long it might take you to learn Korean at your desired level.

5. Your attitude and motivation towards learning Korean

It’s no secret that these two are the key to unlocking your language learning potential. Having a positive attitude towards learning Korean can help you keep highly motivated. And your motivation is what keeps you studying, day after day, even on the days where you’re feeling frustrated because you are working on some challenging new grammar.

How long does it take to learn Korean?

It takes 3 months (90 days) to learn enough Korean to have a 3-minute conversation in Korean if you study for 7-10 hours per week. After 1 year of studying at this pace, you can become conversationally fluent.

Below, we’ll go over how much each step of learning Korean approximately takes. Since learning something new depends on the person and the factors mentioned above, it’s difficult to give a specific numeral timeline.

However, we will give you some ballpark estimates for how long it takes to learn Korean. Then you can adjust to your own situation.

Learning the Korean Alphabet

With our Hangeul lesson, you will learn the alphabet as quickly as 60 to 90 minutes! This will teach you the basics of the alphabet so you can read most words. You will be able to start sounding out words, phrases, and sentences right away.

You’ll want to get a solid handle on Hangeul, so plan to spend another 30 minutes per day for the first week on it. Flashcards such as Anki are great for this. By the end of the first week, you’ll have a strong command of the Korean alphabet.

Now that we have the first few hours covered, let’s dive into learning vocabulary, grammar, and sentences.

Have a 3-minute Korean conversation

If you spend about 1-2 hours per day studying Korean, you should be able to have a 3-minute conversation in the first 90 days (about 3 months). In order to do this, make sure you pick the right materials and focus on the parts of the language that will give you the best results. Otherwise, you may ways months or years learning things that you will rarely use.

In other words, you want to focus on the Korean words, grammar, and phrases that are used most often. In other words, follow the 80/20 rule of focusing on the 20% of the language that will give you 80% of the results. Skip the specialty words and the extra formality for later.

This is exactly the way our Inner Circle online structured Korean language program is designed. You get the most useful grammar, words, and phrases to help you speak from the very beginning.

There are many excellent resources out there. Just make sure you pick one that will support you hitting your goals on your desired timeline, which should be about 3 months to get the basics down.

Conversational Fluency

You should be able to have conversational fluency in less than a year. Again, you want to follow the parts of the language that are used most often. By the time you are able to have a 3-minute conversation in Korean, you can start to direct the focus of your studies. Then you can talk to people in Korean in the situations that interest you most.

For example, if you want to talk to Korean in-laws, then you’ll want to learn Korean honorifics and use them more often. If you’re talking with friends, you can put more slang into your vocabulary. And if you’re a Korean drama fan, then you’ll want to focus on listening in everyday conversation so you can watch K-Dramas without subtitles.

You could define conversational fluency as roughly being at an intermediate level. However, it all depends on your goals, and what kind of Korean language skills that are most important to you.

How many hours a day should I study Korean?

This is really a personal call and depends a lot on your goals and timelines. If you’re studying part-time or as a hobby, a good target to start out with is 1 hour a day, and then make adjustments as you go. Keep in mind that you will likely be more excited and motivated to study at the start. The real test comes when you don’t feel like studying.

In those cases, we usually recommend adjusting your study time. You may also want to come up with a small minimum to do each day, even if it’s only 5 minutes. That way you still get some practice in, but also leave yourself open to study more when you’re motivated.

If you’re studying as a full-time student, then you should aim for about 4-7 hours of study per day.

How many hours a week should I study Korean

For part-time students or if you’re studying for fun, then make a goal of 5-8 hours per week. Then make adjustments as you go. You can always add more to it, but make sure you’re keeping at a comfortable pace.

If you’re a full-time Korean student, then about 20-25 hours per week is a good target.

How long does it take to become fluent in Korean?

It will take about 1200 hours to reach a high intermediate level. You’re going to need additional practice, so you may want to double that number to 2400 hours to get towards fluency. That would be about 23 hours of study per week for 2 years.

The Fastest Ways to Learn Korean

The quickest way to learn Korean is to be around the language as much as possible. There are many ways to accomplish this, so we’ll give you some suggestions.

One option is to move to Korea and attend a language school here. In these language schools, if you start from the bottom, you will typically study through 6 levels, with 4 levels a year. In total that would take you 1.5 years from the basics to graduating the program. Each level lasts for 10 weeks and includes 20 hours of classes per week. That means it will take 1200 hours in total to learn Korean using this method.

This estimate of hours estimate does not include homework and time spent outside of class practicing your skills.

A second option is to learn Korean online. You could do this by joining an online Korean language learning program. Alternatively, you can create your own program with various online resources.

In either case, you can use the 1200 hours in total as a basis for how long it takes to learn Korean at a high intermediate level. How many hours a week are you prepared to study? When you know your weekly amount, you can have an estimation for reaching the milestone of Korean fluency. Take your time, and make sure you enjoy the process.

We hope this was helpful. Let us know how far you are with your Korean studies in the comments below!

    13 replies to "How long does it take to learn Korean?"

    • Avatar for Jana Tatu Jana Tatu

      Just a question but after I learned Hangul… what should I start learning after I mastered Hangul ? Should I first start introducing myself or something ?? My dream is to visit Korea when I’m 18 (I’m becoming 17 in January 2021, so it’s not that long anymore) and move to Korea when I’m 24 or something. But I really have no idea what I have to study after I master Hangul. Please someone help me.

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