How to learn the Korean language

How to Learn the Korean Language Fast

**Want some free lessons to learn Korean fast? Go here for a four part Korean language series which will help you have conversations quickly.

 

Learn Korean in 90 days

Put that calendar away!

You don’t need a lot of time to start communicating in Korean. You can count in hours instead of days, weeks, or months!

That’s why it’s key to choose the best strategy.

If you’re looking for a plan for how to learn the Korean language, you need to start with the basics. First learn the fundamentals in a strategic way. You can do this by focusing on the parts of the language that give you the best results.

In this article, we will give you an overall road map to follow so you know how to learn the Korean language. It’s up to you which tools and resources you use to get to your end goal. Use whatever suits you best!

This page is broken down into three sections. Each section gives you an overall framework of what to do.

  1. The first section is called “Just the Basics Korean”. Start here to learn the essentials of the Korean language.
  2. The second section is called “Beginner Korean”. If you’re excited and you want to keep learning Korean, this part will help you to read better and have more conversations.
  3. The third section is  “High Beginner Korean”. Head over here when you’re ready to make some serious progress with your Korean skills!

Do only as many sections as you want, but don’t skip steps!

Along the way, we’ll give you resources to help you get through each part. You can also check out our Amazing Resources for Learning Korean page for more options.

Grab your stopwatch, and buckle your seat belts. It’s time to learn the Korean language fast!

1. Just the Basics Korean

This part will explain what you need to get up and running with the essential communication tools to have you interacting with Koreans. After going through this section, you will be able to answer simple questions, make polite requests, and order at a restaurant. You will even be able to write your own name in Hangul!

Here are the first five steps for how to learn the Korean language.

a. Hangul Hour

You absolutely must learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet)! It’s really hard to make any significant gains without it.

Hangul is only 24 characters in total, and most people can learn it within 60 minutes if they have the right material. Associations and stories make it easy to remember the Korean characters. If you use this strategy, not only will you learn the Korean alphabet fast, but you’ll also be able to recall it more easily later on.

You can download an excellent free Hangul guide here that will teach you the Korean alphabet in less than one hour.

90 Minute Challenge 90 Day Korean

There is Hangul on this page, so make sure you learn the characters so you can follow along!

b. English to Konglish

Thanks to Konglish, you already know more Korean than you probably realize!

Konglish are Korean words that sound similar to the same words in English (Korean + English = Konglish).

Sometimes they are very similar, such as:

  • Wine = 와인
  • Chocolate = 초콜릿

Korean Konglish words

And sometimes they are not so similar:

  • Apartment = 아파트
  • Ballpoint pen = 볼펜

Quite a few modern words that are used in the Korean language today come from English. The word has either been adapted to fit the Korean language, or a similar word is used.

If you’ve downloaded the free Hangul guide from part (a), then you will also get a free Konglish lesson sent to you as well. Keep an eye on your inbox!

If you haven’t done so, you can get the Hangul guide for free here.

c. Essential Korean Phrases

To get interacting in Korean as soon as possible, you want to make sure you know some essential phrases. That way you can communicate with Koreans immediately.

Since these phrases are fairly simple, you can just memorize them and get to practicing. Here is a good list to start with.

For example, three essential Korean phrases you may want to start with are “thank you”, “sorry”, and “hello”.

d. Writing for Retention

You’ve already learned Hangul, so you know how to read words now. Congrats on the fast progress!

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s a bit challenging to read Korean quickly. You may also occasionally forget or confuse some of the characters here and there. That’s totally fine!

You can sharpen your kills by starting to write Hangul as well as read it. You can learn about stroke order here and then start practicing writing things in Korean.

Some things you can begin writing are:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your home country

You can also trace out the stroke order on words you are reading for additional practice as you read.

It’s not critical that you learn stroke order, but it’s better for writing efficiency. Your hand will thank you!

e. Counting in Korean

The Korean language has two systems for counting numbers. We’ll call one the “Chinese System”, and the other the “Korean System” for simplicity.

They are used for slightly different purposes. For example:

  • Chinese System: Used for days, months, years, and money.
  • Korean System: Used for counting age, people, animals, bottles, and time.

Here are the numbers for the Chinese System:

English 한국어 (Korean)
one
two
three
four
five
six
seven
eight
nine
ten

Here are the numbers for the Korean System:

English 한국어 (Korean)
one 하나
two
three
four
five 다섯
six 여섯
seven 일곱
eight 여덟
nine 아홉
ten

Don’t worry if you confuse which numbers to use in which cases for now. It may sound a bit strange to Koreans if you use the wrong set of numbers, but they will understand you. Keep at it, and eventually it will come to you naturally.

You'll learn the Korean numbers in no time

You’ll be finished with the Korean numbers before you know it!

2. Beginner Korean

Just the basics Korean Graduate

You’re now a “Just the Basics Korean” graduate. Congratulations, Mom and Dad will be so proud!

You can now read, write, count, and say some essential phrases in Korean.

In this next section, we’ll give you additional tips for how to learn the Korean language fast. They will beef up your verb, listening, and keyboard skills for heavenly Korean communication!

a. Core Korean Verbs

There are a few core verbs that you should learn first to help you accelerate your Korean learning. Some examples are:

  • To have: 있다
  • To not have: 없다
  • To give: 주다

However, those are the base forms, so you’ll want to know the conjugated forms. A conjugated verb simply means that you dressed the verb up in another form so that it fits a specific purpose. Kind of like wearing a trainers to the gym or a dress to a wedding. The common forms of the three verbs above will look like this:

  • To have: 있어요
  • To not have: 없어요
  • To give: 주세요

Here are examples of the core verbs in action:

  • 동생 있어요: I have a sibling
  • 시간 없어요: I don’t have any time
  • 콜라 주세요: Please give me a cola

To get lots of use out of these verbs, substitute other words in the blanks and use them for different situations.

Soon you’ll have a lot to talk about!

If you’ve signed up for the free learn Hangul guide above, then you will also receive a lesson teaching you these verbs.

But don’t stop there! Make sure you add in more targeted core Korean verbs. You should pick out the verbs that are used the most often in the Korean language. These will be the building blocks of your Korean langauge abilities. Using these verbs as much as possible so you become accustomed to them!

Building Blocks for Learning Korean

b. Korean Dictionary

Naver Korean dictionary

Now that you’ve got your core Korean verbs handled, it’s time to learn more vocabulary.

Having a Korean dictionary handy while you’re studying and talking with Koreans will boost your learning speed. You’ll be able to learn the words that you want, which will make Korean learning more fun.

Try using the Naver dictionary in your browser or download the application for your smartphone through iTunes or Google Play.

c. Active Listening

Listen to Korean learning secret

At this point, you can read, write, and speak Korean.

It’s important to balance out your skill set by getting some listening practice in.

The key here is to make sure that it’s focused active listening. There is a difference between active listening and passive listening.

An example of active listening would be when you’re listening to an MP3 of a conversation where you know about 50% of the content. You focus on the other 50% to actively understand what the people are saying. Then you go back and listen again while following the script.

Passive listening would be if you had K-pop playing in the background as you cleaned your house.

Both active and passive listening are good, but you’ll learn Korean faster if you do more active listening.

You should find Korean audio that matches your skill level. Since you’re likely just starting out, you can listen to single vocabulary words being pronounced. Naver has a page called “국어사전” (Korean Dictionary) where you can listen to the correct pronunciation for many Korean words.

Naver Korean Dictionary

Naver Korean Dictionary

d. Dressing Up the Verbs

Learn Korean by dressing up verbs in conjugations

After you get comfortable using the core Korean verbs, you need to learn how to dress them up for different situations.

In other words, you need to learn the conjugation rules.

There are various conjugation rules for Korean, so don’t worry about learning them all. Start off with the simple present standard form.

For example:

  • 가다 = 가요
  • 오다 = 와요
  • 주다 = 줘요

You can learn the conjugation rules here and then check them in the Dongsa Korean verb conjugator here.

Once you learn these rules, you’ll be able to conjugate any verbs you want. Total verb freedom!

e. Keyboard Connections

Get yourself typing in Korean in emails, web searches, forums, and the KakaoTalk messenger as soon as possible.

Knowing how to type in Korean is simpler than you think. Here is a great resource to get you typing in no time

Once you can type your computer keyboard, it will be even easier to type on your smartphone.

Soon you’ll be searching and navigating Korean sites like a pro in no time!

Learn to type in Korean

You can type in Korean without a Korean keyboard!

3. High Beginner Korean

Congratulations, you’re moving up in the world!

If you’ve done the previous two sections, then you already know how to count, make basic sentences, and communicate over messenger.

This section will help build on those foundations, as well as introduce some valuable tools that you can use throughout your Korean language learning journey!

a. Formal and Informal Korean

Korean is a hierarchical language. There are various levels of the grammar and vocabulary based on the relative rank of the people communicating. In most cases, rank is determined by age.

In short, younger people have to use the respectful Korean forms when talking to older people.

The rules for formal and informal Korean can seem confusing, especially to someone first learning Korean. If you want to learn Korean fast while still maintaining politeness, your best bet is to break down the ranks into three levels:

  • Formal: High level respectful Korean. Used when speaking to customers or grandparents
  • Standard: Regular everyday Korean. Used to speak to to most people in normal situations
  • Informal: Casual Korean.  Used when speaking to younger people who you’re close to

Some examples of these three forms using the verb “가다”, which means “to go”:

  • Formal: 가세요
  • Standard: 가요
  • Informal: 가

It’s likely you’ll run into all three forms while you’re learning Korean. Here’s a strategy to help you learn Korean fast:

  • Formal: Learn this form so you recognize it, but don’t use it
  • Standard: Learn this form to recognize and use it
  • Informal: Learn this form to recognize it, but don’t use it

You’re welcome to use the higher and level forms of the language. However, you may want to stick to the standard form for now so you don’t have too many things to focus on at once.

b. Korean Flash Cards

As your vocabulary learning rate starts quickly picking up, you’re going to want to make sure you keep those words fresh in your mind.

Flash cards are a great supplement to your normal Korean study plan. Use manual flash cards, or download a smartphone application such as Anki, Memrise, or Quizlet. Using an SRS system is highly recommended!

c. Power Korean Phrases

As your grammar and vocabulary skills get better, you’ll want to add more phrases into your repertoire.

You’ve already learned Essential Korean phrases earlier. Now you want to focus on Power Korean phrases. These are phrases that have components that can be used in various situations by substituting in different words. There is a reason for this.

You don’t want to strictly stick to memorizing phrases. Memorizing isn’t that useful, and it’s much harder to do. Instead, learn versatile Power Korean Phrases that you’ll be able to adapt for different situations.

For example, let’s take a Korean phrase from this list.

If you want to ask the question “can you speak Korean?”, you could ask:

“한국말 할 수 있어요?”

Once you know this Korean phrase and it’s components, you can substitute other parts in. For example, if you know the word for “Chinese”, you can ask:

“중국말 할 수 있어요?

which means “can you speak Chinese?”

Power Korean Phrases will differ depending on each person. Choose the phrases that you will likely use in your daily life so you can get the most out of them!

d. Practice with a Partner

Make sure you have someone to practice speaking and listening with. This could be a friend, pen pal, spouse, significant other, formal language partner, or 1:1 tutor.

Use this time wisely by practicing a new piece of Korean every time you talk. It may be a new grammar point, a Power Korean Phrase, or some new set of vocabulary words. Speaking and listening will help reinforce the things that you read and write.

If you don’t have a practice partner, check out this resource page for language meet ups and pen pal sites.

e. K-pop and Korean Dramas

Add some fun to your studies while learning about Korean culture by listening to K-pop and watching Korean dramas.

You will hear more slang and unique expressions when you study this way, so be prepared for some unusual words. Here are some resources for watching Korean dramas and listening to music.

Remember, learning Korean should be fun. Make sure you choose the right material to focus on so you stay motivated and learn Korean fast!

4. Frequently Asked Questions

Question And Answer

Q: How long will it take to learn the Korean language?

A: The rate at which you learn largely depends on three things: 1)how much time you have to study, 2) how focused you are when you are studying, and 3) the quality of the material you are using. Limit your distractions while studying and make sure you choose highly targeted material that will help you achieve you Korean language learning goals.

Q: Do I need to take formal Korean classes?

A: You don’t need to take formal Korean classes. There is lots of Korean language information on the internet that you can organize to help you study. However, there is a time cost associated this, and you do need to know what you’re doing when choosing material.

Q: Do I need a Korean language partner?

A: You’ll progress much faster if you have someone to communicate with in Korean. You can have a study partner in another country thanks to technology. You can also practice with non-native speakers, but you’ll get better results if you talk with a Korean. 

Q: Are some people naturally better at learning Korean than others?

A: Yes, there is some truth to this, but it can be misleading.

For example, it’s obvious that some people have natural inborn talents that give them an advantage. A tall basketball player has an inherent advantage over a short basketball player.

However, if the tall basketball player doesn’t practice, then it doesn’t matter much.

An example would be to compare a native English speaker to a native Chinese speaker.

The native English speaker has some natural advantages, because Konglish is often derived from English words.

However, the native Chinese speaker also has some natural advantages since a large number of Korean words are based on Hanja (Chinese characters).

To be successful with learning Korean, it’s really important to choose the right material and practice on a regular basis.

LEARN TO READ KOREAN IN 90 MINUTES (OR LESS)!
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