Do you ever wonder how some people are able to learn Korean fast, while others struggle with little success?
If you talk to people who are great at Korean, there is a secret trick that they probably don’t even realize they’re doing.
They utilize every spare minute of their day.
Even if it’s not a conscious thing, the are constantly exposing themselves to the language. If you’ve ever read the book “The Compound Effect”, then you know that those small bits of study add up to tremendous results over time!
Unless you live next to your work or school, then chances are that you have a commute ahead of you at least a few times a week. This is the perfect time to utilize those spare minutes!
Whether you travel by bus, subway, train, or carpool, we’ve got eight time maximizing tips to help you crank up your study progress to learn Korean fast! Extra bonus if you live in Korea, since you have access to blazing fast internet speeds even on public transportation.
If you drive your own vehicle, then we highly recommend that you stay focused on the road. Arriving safely is far more important than any Korean language gains!
However, you may be able to do a bit of time maximizing tip #4 below if you are commuting by car in Korea. You can definitely do #7 no matter where you live!
For the rest of us who enjoy the benefits of mass transportation, here are eight things you can do to help learn Korean fast on your commute.
1. Avoid Romanization of Korean
Normally, Korean is written in the Korean alphabet, known as Hangul. Romanization of Korean means writing the Korean word in English letters based on word sound. It’s extremely imprecise, confusing, and time consuming.
Not only that, but it’s almost impossible to make any significant gains with the Korean language if you’re using Romanized Korean. If you’re concerned about not being able to type or read Hangul on your devices, there is good news! Most computers, tablets, and smartphones support Hangul as long as you adjust a few settings.
Best of all, you can learn to read Korean in about 60 minutes by taking the free 90 Day Korean alphabet guide. Some people finish it in far less time!
If you haven’t learned Hangul yet, then you can download the PDF and be done before you get to work or class. The tips that follow work much better if you know Hangul.
2. Read Korean Lessons
This is a great time for you to get ahead (or catch up!) on your Korean lessons.
If you are set up with a Korean language program, such as one that lets you download PDFs, then you can read them on your daily commute.
View them on your smartphone or tablet, or print them out to make notes.
3. Study Korean Advertisements
Pubic transportation in Korea is chock full o’ advertising, which is study gold for for learning Korean fast! Instead of ignoring the contents of the sign and playing your favorite game, try figuring out what the advertising is saying.
Even if you don’t know what the words mean yet, get used to sounding them out. This can be doing this as soon as you know Hangul (possibly 60 minutes from now!). Once you start sounding them out, you’ll start to pick out familiar words, such as Konglish (Korean-English) words.
4. Interact In Korean
If you live in Korea, you probably run into Koreans at some point in your day. Whether that’s to ask the bus driver if the bus goes to your stop, to order a breakfast sandwich, or to ask someone to politely move out of your way, you’re interacting with Koreans.
In these cases, make it a point to use Korean. If you’re not sure what to say, prepare ahead of time!
Figure out the phrase you need, write it on an index card, and then be ready to use it when you have the chance.
If you do one new phrase once a day, 5 days a week, you’ll have practiced 260 phrases at the end of the year!
Commuters who drive in Korea may have a chance to do this also. If you order a coffee in the morning or park your car in a parking garage, this is a great chance to use some Korean phrases to polish up your Korean skills. Try ordering your coffee or greeting the parking garage attendant in Korean.
5. Korean Flashcards
Flashcards are your best friend when it comes to learning Korean fast.
That’s because it allows you to study custom-tailored vocabulary words in different forms and contexts, as many times as you need.
Thanks to the invention of smartphones, there’s even better news! SRS (spaced repetition software) systems allow you to review flashcards according to how well you know the contents of the card. If the card is difficult for you, you’ll see it often. If it’s easy, then you won’t run into it often.
Check out these three flashcard programs to see what fits you best. We recommend Anki, but they’re all excellent!
6. Listen to K-pop Songs
Learn Korean fast AND brush up on your singing skills?
What a great idea!
Listening to Korean music is a fantastic way to boost your language skills. Combining a listening element along with reading Korean lessons and reviewing flash cards will make it easier to learn Korean fast.
Not only that, but it’ll give you something to talk about with Koreans. They’ll be happy to hear that you know music from their country, and they’ll also be impressed when you show off your singing skills at the 노래방 (singing room)!
It doesn’t have to be limited to Korean pop music, either. You can do this with any music in Korean.
There are a few ways to get your hands on Korean music and lyrics:
A) Buy the music off a site such as iTunes.
When you’re searching, you might want to enter the artist’s name in Hangul if you’re having trouble finding it using English letters.
For example, maybe you’re looking for Loco’s hit song “Thinking ‘Bout You”. When you type “Loco” into iTunes’ search box, you’ll notice that there are results from a few different artists named “Loco”.
In this case, you’ll get more targeted results if you type in “Loco” in Hangul. To get his name in Hangul, type in the word “Loco” into Naver’s search box, and then look for Loco’s profile towards the middle of the page. You can see his name is written in Hangul as “로꼬”.
When you cut and paste “로꼬” into the iTunes search box, you get all songs by Loco.
B) Listen to the Music from internet radio.
Kpoplove features streaming Korean music from your browser or through their app for iOS and Android. Click on “Apps” on their main page to get the smartphone application.
C) Download song lyrics
If you search in Google for K-pop lyrics, you’ll come across sites such as Kpoplyrics. Sites like this have the lyrics in English and Romanized Korean, which won’t help you learn Korean fast.
Instead, go to a site like Gasazip (가사집) or CIX where you can view the lyrics in Hangul. Let’s use Gasazip to search for Loco in Hangul (로꼬). You can search by typing “로꼬” in the bottom right. This can be done without logging in.
Once you search, scroll down to find the song “Thinking ‘Bout You”. Click on it.
The lyrics are listed on the left side. You can cut and paste them to help you learn Korean fast.
Take some time and go through the lyrics piece by piece. Maybe you want to learn a few of the Korean words that are repeated often, especially in the chorus. Or you might want to study the Korean lyrics from your favorite parts of the song.
To study the Korean song lyrics, you may want to print them out and carry them with you. Another option would be to cut and paste the lyrics into a program that you can use on your phone, such as Evernote.
Or, if you’re good with technology, you can cut and paste the text into the MP3 so it appears on your smartphone while you listen to the song. Anything to get you singing along!
After you know a parts of the song, you can try to translate the meaning of the lyrics. This is where the English translated versions of the song will come in handy from sites such as Kpoplyrics. This will help you confirm your translation of the song.
7. Watch Korean Dramas
Pack up your headphones and charge up your smartphone battery, because you’re going to get some drama-watching done while you commute!
Korean dramas are a great way to boost your listening skills. Even if you don’t understand everything the actors are saying, it will help improve your listening ability.
However, you need to make sure you’re using a good strategy when you watch Korean dramas. If you simply watch the drama and read subtitles in your native language, then you’re not going to accomplish much.
Instead, you should be watching it with either Korean subtitles or without any subtitles. Then, you can focus on listening and look out for familiar words.
When they use unfamiliar Korean words in the episode, make a note of those words and later add them to your flashcard deck.
If you’ve watched the drama a few times without subtitles and want to know what they are saying, then try watching it with English subtitles from a site like Drama Galaxy. That way you can confirm your understanding of the show.
Many sites offer streaming and downloading of Korean dramas. However, it’s tricky because your access may be blocked depending on where you live. Here are three popular sites to get you started.
- Naver TV Cast – Use Naver TV to Korean dramas streaming to your computer or smartphone. Shows can also be purchased for download. While a bit confusing to navigate, it’s one of the best sources for Korean dramas if you live in Korea. Try searching for “TV 프로그램” or “웹드라마” in the menu bar. Some even have Korean subtitles!
- Soompi TV – Soompi teamed up with kdrama.com to give you access to various Korean dramas and TV shows. These shows are restricted by region.
- Drama Galaxy – Most shows have English subtitles. Smartphone application is available for download. Make sure you don’t have ad block on. Try clearing the cache and restarting the browser if it doesn’t work.
8. Use KakaoTalk
Last but not least, we’ll show you how you can keep in touch with friends while learning Korean fast at the same time.
KakaoTalk is the most popular messaging application in Korea by far. If you’ve visited or lived in Korea, then you know that many people spend the majority of their day on this colorful and hilarious messenger.
It’s a great phone messenger because it allows you to communicate with anyone inside or outside of Korea using the Internet. Group chats, voice notes, video messages, pictures, and voice calls make it possible to talk easily with people no matter where they are. Best of all, you get to express yourself using the Kakao Friends emoticons.
Say “hi” to Frodo and Neo, two of the many Kakao Friends!
Message carefully! Using KakaoTalk is definitely not recommended if you drive to work.
For those taking public transportation, this is an excellent way to beef up your Korean skills.
Although you may already be using KakaoTalk on our commute, think about how often you are using Korean. You can learn Korean faster by using Korean as much as possible. This doesn’t have to be limited to speaking with Koreans, either! Help your other fellow Korean learners out by sending your KakaoTalk messages in Korean.
For beginners, start small and pepper a few Korean words in here and there.
For you advanced Korean learners, 꼭 한국말로 메시지 보내야 해요! ^^
You can also look for some Korean pen pals to communicate with over messenger. Here are three sites you can use to meet Koreans:
No matter what methods you use, make sure you are making the most of your commute time. It might just be that extra boost to help you learn Korean fast and get to your goals sooner than you expected!
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