The pros who have figured out how to learn Korean fast use certain tips and hacks to make their study time extremely effective.
And you can do the same! We’re going to show you ten tips they use so you can add it into your learning repertoire.
But first, there are some things that need to be in place or none of this advice will help you at all.
If you want to know how to learn Korean fast, then you need to first decide on your goals and strategies.
Define what you want to be able to use Korean for. Then, figure out what strategies you should use to get you there the fastest.
The reason most people fail at learning Korean fast is because they don’t have a strategy in place. They do a little of this, and a little of that, and piece together a plan of attack.
Often times this is because they’re not sure what they want to do with the Korean they learn. A lack of goals leads to a lack of progress.
Once you figure out your goals, then you can laser focus on the how to learn Korean fast!
We know you’re a go-getter, so we’ll assume you’ve already got a goal and a strategy in place. Now it’s time to take your strategy to the next level by refining each step along the way.
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Let the games begin!
1. Be a Hangul Hero
You need to learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet) as soon as possible. Don’t waste your time learning Romanized Korean. This is a critical piece, since your ability to learn Korean quickly depends on knowing Hangul! Not only will it help you learn Korean quickly, but the process of learning the language will seem much easier. You’ll wonder if you possess some kind of Korean language superpowers that you never knew you had!
The exciting part is that it only takes about 90 minutes to learn to read Hangul. Having the right learning associations in place makes it much easier to learn the 24 character Korean alphabet. You can download a free guide here that uses stories and associations to make Korean language learning a piece of cake.
2. Your Dictionary Sidekick
Naturally once you become a Hangul Hero, you’re going to need a good sidekick!
A good Korean dictionary will be the perfect companion to be always by your side. This seems obvious, but many people don’t make their dictionaries easily accessible enough. You should have one bookmarked on your computer browser, and also a dictionary application on your smartphone or tablet.
You don’t need to pay for dictionaries, they have great free versions from Naver. Use the Naver dictionary site or download the application from Google Play or iTunes.
The key is to be able to look up words when you need them. As you go about your day you might have a brief thought about a word that you’ve wanted to learn in Korean. However, because of your busy schedule you keep forgetting about it.
As soon as you look it up in the dictionary, make sure you take a screen shot, or write it down somewhere that you’ll remember. Then you can add it to your vocabulary list (more about that on #5).
3. Grandpa’s Stories
Remember the stories that Grandpa used to tell you as a kid? They’re hard to forget, aren’t they? That’s because they’re interesting stories that stick in your head.
The same thing goes for learning Korean! You should make the difficult parts of the language stick in your head with stories.
For example, let’s say you have a difficult time distinguishing between the two verbs “있어요” and “없어요”. You could make a story about how they are twins. One is the positive twin, and the other is the negative twin.
- 있어요 = positive twin
- 없어요 = negative twin
And the meaning of the words follow the personalities of the twins nicely:
- 있어요 = positive twin = means “to have”
- 없어요 = negative twin = means “to not have”
And you can associate an English word to help remember which one is positive and which one is negative:
- 있어요 = beginning of 있어요 sounds like “is” in English, which is a positive word
- 없어요 = beginning of 없어요 sounds like “upset” in English, which is a negative word
Turn those difficult words into fun stories, and you’ll be all set!
4. The Compound Families
Compound words in Korean are known as “합성어”. They are words that are made up of two separate words (or parts of words). The same exists in English. For example:
sun + light = sunlight
There are groups of these words that are part of the same word “family”.
As you can see, the words all share common parts of the compound word. The benefit is that if you learn all three parts of the word “sunlight”, then your vocabulary knowledge triples!
More importantly, recognizing these pieces make it’s easier to understand all three versions.
Let’s look at a Korean compound word from the “개” family, which means “tool”.
- 병 = bottle
- 따다 = to open
- 개 = tool
- 병 + 따 + 개 = 병따개 = bottle opener
It’s not critical that you know word families right from the start. However, as you start to notice different pieces of words, note the parts to help you remember vocabulary more easily.
Plus it’s more fun! You’ll notice that’s where a lot of Korean slang comes from, too.
5. Flashy Flash Cards
One important thing to understand when learning how to learn Korean fast is that there is no substitute for word recognition.
Meaning, it’s hard to understand what you hear or say in Korean if you don’t know enough vocabulary!
Therefore, it’s critical that you get a strong word base.
Daily flash cards are one of the best ways to accomplish this. You can do ordinary manual index-style flash cards. However, they aren’t as efficient as the newer SRS smartphone applications. SRS means “spaced repetition software” and they allow you to view cards based on how well you know them.
6. Easy Recall
Now that you’ve got flash cards implemented, you will be able to recognize words when you see them.
At the same time, we also want to make sure you can recall words. You can do this by practicing activities that will require your brain to search for the words you’re looking for.
That way, when you’re trying to say or write something, you can find the words to express yourself.
You can do this a number of ways. For example:
- Writing activities
- Sending text messages via KakaoTalk
- Speaking to people
We’ll cover more of this later, but the main point is to make sure you’re doing recall activities in addition to your recognition activities.
It’s okay for your recognition ability to be stronger than your recall ability. Likely it is that way in your native language, and that’s a good thing. It means you can recognize many words, but you don’t necessarily need to use them all regularly.
The most important thing is to be sure you’re developing both recognition and recall at the same time!
7. 80/20 Your Efforts
Also known as the “80/20 Rule”, Pareto’s Principle states that for many events in life, 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.
- 80% of a country’s land is owned by 20% of the people
- 80% of the peas in a garden come from 20% of the pea pods
- 80% of a companies sales come from 20% of it’s products
We can apply this to languages:
- 20% of a language is used 80% of the time
Although the percentage splits may be 70/30 or 90/10, the principle still applies. By focusing on the 20% of Korean that’s used most often, we can effectively communicate 80% of the time.
This is a great trick, because even if you don’t know the other 20% of what you hear or what you want to say, you can usually work your way through it.
For example, you can understand a word’s meaning by the context around it.
Or, you can express words you don’t know by explaining what you mean in simpler terms.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
To get a fast start to learning Korean, make sure you focus on the part of the language that’s used most often. That goes for vocabulary, grammar, expressions, listening, speaking, and writing. You will be communicate much faster, which will snowball quickly into an avalanche of amazing Korean knowledge!
8. Essential Structures
Phrasebooks are often an extremely inefficient and ineffective way to study.
To start, the phrases in those books are often outdated or awkward. If you try saying some of the phrases to a native Korean, they will tell you that’s not how Koreans typical speak. This could be because the phrasebook is ancient or because it was written by non-Koreans.
Also many Korean learners simply memorize the phrases in a book instead of understanding what they mean. This is unnecessarily difficult.
It’s far better to learn the essential structures of sentences, and then figure out the components of the sentence that you can switch out. That way, you can use the same structure to express different ideas.
It is a good idea to pepper in phrases here and there as a compliment to learning essential sentence structures. That way, you can learn the phrases and the components of the phrase. The main point is to avoid having to memorize the phrase.
Make sure you get some up to date Korean phrases to study, fully understand the meaning of them, and then add them to your flash card deck.
9. Fantastic Four
Now that you’ve learned the Korean Alphabet and have become a Hangul Hero, it’s time to meet a few other heroes with powers that will help you to learn Korean fast.
Theses four aren’t the normal Marvel comic book characters you’d expect. However, they do work together as a team to make sure that you get your Korean skills polished as fast as possible!
Say hello to “reading”, “writing”, “listening”, and “speaking”!
The main takeaway to remember from these four is that you want to try to expose yourself to all four elements of the language so you can recognize, recall, and reinforce what you’ve learned.
For example, let’s say you want to learn how to say “I’m hungry”. The expression is: “배 고파요”.
Here is how you can team up with the Fantastic Four to learn this expression:
- Writing: Write it down. You can send your friend a text message that says “배 고파요”
- Reading: Read “배 고파요” in your flash card deck
- Speaking: When you are out with your friends, tell them “배 고파요!”
- Listening: If you’re out with Koreans during dinnertime, listen for someone to say “배 고파요”
Suddenly, you’ll be able to recall and use the expression a lot more often!
If you do this for new vocabulary and expressions frequently, you’ll be able to learn Korean quickly.
10. Conversation Comfort Zones
Most people think you need to have lots of conversation time to get good at Koran.
While spending more time talking is a good thing, that alone won’t be enough.
Some Korean learners talk all the time, but they never develop their conversation skills. They rely on the same grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structures over and over. This leads to stagnation and learning plateaus since they don’t leave their comfort zones.
It’s much more rewarding when you prepare something new each time you have a chance to speak to someone in Korean!
This could be a simple question that you ask at the convenience store. It could also be a compliment that you give to your Korean spouse or significant other. Maybe you want to greet your coworkers when you see them in the morning!
If you have a conversation partner, such as through a language exchange or a private tutoring lesson, then this is the perfect time to prepare new material to practice. That is golden time you have with a native Korean speaker, so it’s best to use it to your advantage.
These are some of the techniques that you can use to help speed up your Korean learning process. You don’t need to implement them all at once. Instead, figure out what works best for you, and start doing them one by one. Evaluate your progress, and continue using the strategies that help you learn Korean the fastest!
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