Exploring the world of learning Korean opens up exciting possibilities!
Find out why picking up Korean is awesome, learn effective strategies, tackle challenges, measure your progress, get tips for choosing a great Korean course, and discover how to learn Korean fast —all in this guide.
- 1 What is the best way to learn Korean?
- 2 How to learn Korean by yourself
- 3 How can I learn Korean fast?
- 3.1 Learn The Korean Alphabet (Hangul)
- 3.2 Take Advantage of the Korean-English Union
- 3.3 Use Stories and Associations
- 3.4 Take Advantage of Korean Word Families
- 3.5 Break Down Words Into Simpler Parts
- 3.6 Don’t Rely on Korean Phrasebooks
- 3.7 Use Korean Flashcards Everyday
- 3.8 Use a Little Korean Daily
- 3.9 Screenshot Words You Don’t Know
- 3.10 Enroll in a Course
- 3.11 Get a Quality Korean Textbook
- 3.12 Go to Korean Language Exchanges
- 3.13 KakaoTalk Chatting
- 3.14 Ask Around
- 3.15 Make Studying Enjoyable for Yourself
- 3.16 Take Baby Steps
- 3.17 Get Some Accountability
- 3.18 Follow Fun Methods that Work
- 4 Wrap Up
What is the best way to learn Korean?
Each learner has a different method of learning Korean effectively. And when you hear the phrase “learn Korean,” what usually comes to mind? For many, it’s years and years of formal study in a classroom. For others, it means having to move to Korea to get familiar with how to speak Korean.
Those are all true to some degree, but overall, they’re unnecessarily difficult, excessive, and unrealistic. There are many ways to learn a new language like Korean, and they don’t require large tuition fees, lifestyle changes, or superhuman powers.
The people who get good at learning a new language usually aren’t any different than you or I. If you talk to them and find out in detail what they did, you’ll notice a pattern of activities that they have done that helped them to learn Korean. Below, you will be learning different approaches and ways in learning Korean and learning it fast.
How to learn Korean by yourself
With various Korean resources available, especially online, learning Korean by yourself isn’t as hard as it seems anymore. There are different online platforms that offer both free resources and paid courses that will help you bring your Korean skills to the next level.
You can follow a step-by-step guide on what you should study first and make modifications to it along the way. The important thing is to learn Hangeul first, and the next parts should be easier.
To further help you with learning Korean even by yourself, we’ve compiled some useful tips below. These tips are created for those who want to learn Korean fast and are equally helpful to people learning on their own.
How can I learn Korean fast?
To learn Korean fast and easy, you’ll need the correct tools, a well-organized study regimen, and (most importantly) a positive attitude. Too complicated? It’s actually much easier than you think!
You can get the same results if you optimize your studies and make sure each minute you spend studying gets you the maximum return on your study investment.
Check out our tips below, and start to speak Korean in no time!
Learn The Korean Alphabet (Hangul)
It’s much better and more precise than Romanized Korean. Learning Hangul will make it much easier to learn Korean faster in the long run.
The correct teaching material means having ways to connect Hangul with the English alphabet. Most people try to brute force their Hangul learning through memorization. This is both excessively difficult and boring.
Instead, it’s better to figure out easy ways to remember the Korean characters by connecting them with things you already know in English. That way, you’ll recognize the character much more easily, and you’ll know what sound it makes. We have another article dedicated to just that.
We can’t emphasize enough how important this is! Some people try to learn Korean by using romanized Korean instead of learning Hangul. For example:
Romanized Korean: keopi
This system works OK if you are only learning a few words here and there. However, the benefits of learning Hangul are massive, and it always makes sense to spend the extra minutes it takes to learn Hangul.
Take Advantage of the Korean-English Union
There’s a special union between Korean and the English language. Think of it as a kind of marriage.
A while back, Korean and English started dating, and they hit it off. After getting permission from each side of their respective families, they decided to make it official and get married. It was a wonderful ceremony, wasn’t it?
Well, they decided to have a kid. Both Korean and English wanted to pass on their family names, but they couldn’t agree on what to call the child. Finally, they made a compromise and called the baby “Konglish.”
Korean + English = Konglish
Fun story, isn’t it?
Well, Konglish is a very real thing. Just like the story of the “Korean English Union,” there are words in Korean that are a mix of the Korean and English languages. These words are called “Konglish.” We’ve got a complete list of Konglish here: Konglish: The Ultimate List
Generally, Konglish is a word in Korean that is similar to or the same as the English word. For example:
Studying Konglish is an easy way to learn Korean because you already know many of the words. Plus, the pronunciation of Konglish words is sometimes different than English, so it’s a fun way to say the same words you’ve been using for years!
Sign up to receive the Korean alphabet guide, and we will send you a free bonus Korean lesson on Konglish, too.
Use Stories and Associations
Everyone loves a good story. If they’re interesting, they get passed down from generation to generation, and no one ever forgets them.
The same concept can help you learn Korean fast! Learning a new language usually involves creating associations between the new language and your native language. Associations and stories are great for remembering Korean words.
Let’s come up with a story for “이쑤시개 (issusigae),” which means “toothpick.”
“I love sushi. Every time I eat it, I get sushi (“쑤시 | ssusi”) stuck in my two (“이 | i”) front teeth (“이 | i”). I need a tool (“개 | gae”) to remove it. I’ll use a toothpick.”
In this case, “쑤시 (ssusi)” sounds like “sushi,” and “이 (i)” can mean either “two” or “teeth.”
An easy way to learn Korean is to come up with associations and stories to help remember the words.
The reason why this is effective is that most Korean words are not similar to English words.
For example, the word for “desk” is “책상” (chaeksang).
The words “desk” and “책상 (chaeksang)” sound nothing alike. What should we do?
This is where a story will come in handy.
Imagine that you know a student. His name is Sang (상). Well, Sang is a hard-working student, and he always gets A’s. But those A’s don’t come easy! He makes sure that his homework is 100% correct every day. So after he finishes it, he goes back to “check” (책 | chaek) it. In other words:
Saang checks his homework at his “책상” (chaeksang).
You can use pre-made associations or come up with your own—whatever works best for you!
You may also want to make some visuals to help you remember words. Let’s say you want to remember the word 비누 (binu), which means soap.
In this case, you come up with the association that when you shower with 비누 (binu), it makes you feel refreshed and “be new.” Or, more simply:
비누 (binu) makes me “be new”
Look for ways to simplify Korean through interesting stories. If you can’t find any, then make up your own!
Take Advantage of Korean Word Families
For example, the world languages all end with the same “어 (eo)” syllable in Korean.
The people from respective countries of those languages all end with the same “인 (in)” syllable:
|A Korean person
|A Japanese person
|A Chinese person
|A German person
|A Spanish person
The roots of those words represent the countries’ names in Korean:
You can spot the Korean colors because they end in 색 (saek).
The word families become easier and easier to spot as you learn the language, so keep an eye out for them. It’s an easy way to learn Korean!
Break Down Words Into Simpler Parts
One fun way to help learn Korean words quickly is to break them down into components. You end up learning a bunch of new words all at the same time!
For example, let’s say you want to learn the word “지우개 (jiugae),” which means “eraser” in Korean. This word doesn’t sound ANYTHING like “eraser.” What to do?
Well, you can try breaking the words down into simpler forms.
- 지우 = jiu | means “to erase” (지우다 | jiuda is the base verb)
- 개 = gae | means “tool”
If you put them together, it means “erase tool” or “지우개 (jiugae).”
Then, you can start recognizing other words that have similar parts.
- 이 = i | tooth
- 쑤시 = ssusi | to poke or pick (쑤시다)
- 개 = gae | tool
Any guesses what an “이쑤시개 (issusigae)” is? (answer below)
There are many other “개 (gae)” (tool) words in Korean. Once you start to learn elements of a word, they start to become a lot more familiar right from the start.
Note that this isn’t always easy to do when you’re first learning the language, but it becomes easier the more you do it. The main point is to be aware of this trick, so you recognize it when you see it!
Answer for above: 이쑤시개 = issusigae | toothpick
Don’t Rely on Korean Phrasebooks
If you’ve ever bought a phrasebook in a foreign language and had trouble getting native speakers to understand you, then you already know all about this.
Korean phrasebooks are full of awkward words and expressions that Koreans don’t use. If you’re unsure of this, take a Korean to a local bookstore and look through the phrasebooks.
The other issue with phrasebooks is that many English expressions don’t translate into Korean the way you’d think they would. The phrases in these books sometimes are direct translations instead of taking into account the differences in the languages.
Therefore, you end up in mass confusion when you try to say even the simplest things. This is the same issue we have with using Google searches on Korean words and getting awkward translations.
You can use Korean phrases to compliment your studying, but make sure they are up to date so people will definitely understand you. You can improve your Korean fluency better by learning Korean, which is used in everyday conversation.
If you memorize some common phrases while you study, you’ll be able to learn Korean much faster. You’ll double up on your study effectiveness because you’ll 1) be studying the correct structures of the phrases and 2) you’ll understand the structures of the phrases, allowing you to make changes and adjustments for different situations.
Use Korean Flashcards Everyday
Mom always said, “Practice makes perfect.” She was right!
We strongly recommend going with an SRS system so you can make your flashcards as efficient as possible. No matter how well you learn, you’ll have to build a solid foundation of Korean words to have meaningful conversations.
Use a Little Korean Daily
No matter where you are in the world, you likely have chances to use Korean daily. Some situations may be easier than others, but it’s always possible. You just have to be creative!
Here are a few ideas:
- Commute: If you live in Korea, make sure you engage with people in Korean on your way to and from work. You could be ordering at the cafe, asking for your gimbap to go, asking the bus driver if the bus goes to your stop, or greeting the people at the front desk at your workplace.
- Spouse or partner: If you are dating a Korean, ask them to speak Korean as much as possible. Express your interest in learning the language, and make an effort to learn at least a new word or two each time you see him or her. Speaking Korean with them can improve your vocabulary and speaking ability in no time!
- Pen pals: This will be explained more in detail in #9, but thanks to the Internet, you can connect with Koreans no matter where you live. Talk over email, the KakaoTalk messenger, or Skype.
- K-Pop: Download some Korean music and listen to a few songs each day. Make it active listening instead of passive by downloading the lyrics and singing along.
Screenshot Words You Don’t Know
If you want to learn Korean fast, it’s important to use the words you’re studying.
And on that note, you’ll want to make sure to study the words that you’d use most often.
Let’s say that you’re out and about one day, and you realize you want to know the word for “receipt.” You look it up in the dictionary on your smartphone, say “영수증 (yeongsujeung)” to the cashier, and then go on your way.
It’s very likely you will forget that word unless you use it on a regular basis! A good strategy for helping you remember this word is to add it to your flashcard deck.
But we all have busy lives, and it’s hard to do this during the busy parts of your day.
So, instead, make sure you take a screenshot of the word when you look it up in the Korean dictionary. If you’re afraid of losing track, you can even email them to yourself.
Then, when you have focused time to sit down and study Korean, you can go through your screenshots and add them to your deck of flashcards.
Enroll in a Course
If you want serious results from your Korean studies, then you need a solid plan.
As good ole’ Benjamin Franklin says: “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.”
He made it onto the US $100 bill, so we trust his opinion!
There is a paradox in learning Korean. In order to learn Korean, you need to know the language so you can choose what content to study and how to study it. In order to know Korean, you have to learn it.
Just like the chicken and the egg, one is required for the other.
Or you can choose a Korean course from the chickens who know how to lay eggs!
We’ve crafted an effective program for learning Korean quickly, but there is a whole range of Korean learning programs out there, so make sure you pick one that supports your learning goals. If you’re interested in knowing how to study Korean in a fast and efficient way, you can check out the 90 Day Korean Membership program.
You can also piece together a course from various Korean learning resources. Just make sure that you know what you’re doing so you can use your time most effectively.
Get a Quality Korean Textbook
If you don’t intend to do an online or in-person course, at the very least, you should consider getting a reputable series of Korean textbooks.
Here are three popular book series:
All of the books have their strengths and weaknesses, but generally, you can’t go wrong if you pick a book that has a good reputation. Stay away from books that don’t have good reviews or are too dated. You don’t want to get embarrassed using old expressions!
Go to Korean Language Exchanges
A language exchange is a fun and interesting way to practice your Korean. Not only do you get to exchange languages, but you can also exchange interesting points about each of your respective cultures.
Plus, they are free! Your only cost is your time.
If you haven’t done a language exchange before, they’re typically done in a cafe for a set period of time at regular intervals. For example, you may meet for coffee twice a week for two hours. During the first hour, you may speak only in English. During the second hour, you might speak only in Korean.
There is an art to doing successful language exchanges! Here are a few quick guidelines:
- Have the material prepared. Bring books from your course or content that you want to review. If you promised to prepare something for your partner’s study time, make sure you follow through.
- Be reliable. Show up early and consistently. Give plenty of notice beforehand if you need to cancel.
- Don’t count on learning through dating. Although some people end up in romantic relationships as a result of language exchanges, it’s not always great for learning the language. The reason is, usually, the two of you will only talk in the language that is most comfortable for both of you (probably English). Choose your partner wisely.
So, how to set up a language exchange?
With the increasing popularity of sites like meetup.com, it’s becoming easier and easier to do a language exchange anywhere in the world. A few ideas:
- If you live in Korea, you have no shortage of language exchange partners. Ask around through your social circle or go to language meets.
- Look for Korean language events on Meetup.com
- Search for English academies that have international students in your area. Tell them you want to do a language exchange with any Koreans that are interested in practicing your native language.
- Talk to the study abroad department at local universities and ask them to get you in touch with native Korean students.
- Find a pen pal and do Skype chats.
Make sure you use language exchanges as a supplement to a regular language-learning course and not in place of it. Otherwise, you won’t learn much, and you’ll quickly feel like you’re wasting your time.
On the flip side, if you follow the suggestions above, you’ll see that it’s quite easy to learn Korean fast!
KakaoTalk is the most widely used messenger application in Korea. Koreans use it as their main means of contacting people. Phone calls and SMS messages have rarely been used anymore since KakaoTalk came into use.
This is the perfect way to practice your Korean! Since Koreans are already using the app, you can easily communicate with your Korean friends all the time.
How to look for Korean friends
If you don’t have Korean friends, there are ways to make them. Joining language exchanges or introductions through friends is one way. You can also look for a Korean pen pal.
When you’re finding pen pals to communicate with, the key to success is to make sure you are bringing value to the other person. If you simply say, “I want to practice my Korean,” that’s not very valuable for your pen pal. He or she may be nice and talk with you for a short while, but you may not get many responses soon after.
A better strategy would be to say something like:
“Hey future pen pal, I noticed you’re learning X language! Very cool, that’s my native tongue, so I’m happy to hear you’re learning it. I’m learning Korean and I’m looking for a practice partner. Would you be interested in doing a language exchange?
We could be pen pals over KakaoTalk since I know that’s what is popular in Korea. If you ever want to practice X language or have questions about my country, I’d be happy to answer them. And, of course, if you are ever coming here for a visit, let me know, and I’ll show you a great place for lunch!”
It is much more appealing, and both people benefit. You will learn Korean fast, and your partner will get access to an expert in your native language (you!). By interacting with native Korean speakers, you’ll be able to add vocabulary and phrases that Koreans actually improve and understand the Korean you’re studying much better.
Don’t just join a Korean language course because it has a flashy smartphone application or because it is the first one you saw on a Google search.
Instead, figure out what has worked for other people you know. Ask friends, participate in Facebook groups, and search on the internet. Give Korean language programs a test drive before you enroll in them. You want to make sure that the program fits your goals and that it’s taught in a way you find interesting.
Make Studying Enjoyable for Yourself
Read Korean books or comic books, watch Korean movies, Korean Dramas, YouTube videos, and TV shows, and talk to Koreans! We also have a separate article focused on helping you to learn how to read Korean faster through these fun ways.
And even if you don’t have Koreans to chat with, find a language partner who is studying Korean so you can help each other practice.
Take Baby Steps
Learning a language is very similar to going on a diet or starting an exercise plan.
Many start off too big, get overwhelmed, and then quit.
You’ll be much better off starting off slow, one habit at a time, and ingraining them into your routines. Not only will you learn Korean fast, but you’ll have a fun time in the process!
You can do something simple like asking yourself why you should learn Korean. What are your motivations, and what would make it fun for you?
Get Some Accountability
In order to learn Korean fast, make sure to set up some kind of accountability system.
This means having some plan in place to make sure that you continue to study even when you don’t want to!
This could be in the form of:
- An in-person language program that requires attendance
- A friend who you will buy dinner for if you fail to hit your study goals
- An online language course coach to keep you on track
- Flashcards with daily minimum study requirements
- Posting your updates on Facebook or Coach.me
It doesn’t matter all that much which one you choose as long as it’s effective for you. The main point is that willpower often fades, especially when the going gets tough.
When the going gets tough, it’s important to have someone or something there to support you. It’s easy to be excited when you first start learning a language. But what happens on day 60 day 85, or day 285 when your willpower starts to fade?
It’s times like this where having an accountability system or person will pay off. You’ll be able to push through those challenges and keep moving toward your dreams of speaking Korean!
Follow Fun Methods that Work
The key to learning Korean is to choose the right material so it becomes simple to learn. That way, you become more motivated, and you stick with it. It should always be fun and interesting!
When you’re choosing your Korean study material, make sure you have a plan in place that will teach you Korean using effective methods. It is a shame to hear about people spending weeks learning the Korean alphabet when they could have learned it in 60 minutes with the right resources!
There are many Korean language learning programs out there. They range from light to intensive, free to expensive, online to 1:1, and boring to thrilling.
Make sure you evaluate courses properly and pick the one that matches your style and goals best. They should be using up-to-date techniques and material and taught in a way you can easily understand.
Most importantly, they should be F-U-N! You want to be excited to open up the course material and start studying!
Take the Korean programs out for a test drive before you commit to the program. The better developed the program, the smoother your Korean language learning ride will be!
What are your favorite Korean study habits? Share your advice with us in the comments below!
If you’ve ever considered having a Korean tutor help you learn the language, you can read this article for the things you should consider as you search for one. Happy learning!