Warning: Do Not Learn Korean This Way

When learning a language, it is very easy to struggle or become demotivated because of the way that you are studying.

Think back to when you learned a language in high school. Many people can’t remember much of the languages they learned at school despite spending many hours studying them. And as a result, they believe that they are naturally bad at languages.

The good news is that usually that’s not true, and now you have a second chance. If you make use of better techniques you will find that language learning can be surprisingly fun, simple, and effective!


Cons of studying Korean

Don’t use Romanized Korean

When studying Chinese or Japanese, students are often advised to avoid learning any characters at the start and focus on learning the basics through Romaji or pinyin. For those languages, the huge effort required to learn how to read characters makes this approach a good one.

But you’re learning Korean! Korean has an incredibly simple writing system that can be learned in less than 90 minutes. With this in mind, the time costs of learning Hangul (the Korean writing system) are minimal.

The advantages of learning Hangul are huge.

Firstly, it will help you pronounce words properly so when you speak Korean you can actually be understood.

Secondly, it allows you to start noticing patterns as soon as you start to learn Korean. For example you might start noticing that lots of words to do with school have 학 in them. Some examples are 학원, 학교, and 수학. Noticing these things can help you learn new vocabulary easily.

Thirdly, it will allow you to learn Korean while you are just walking about on the street as you can read signs, this is a far more interesting way of learning words like 약국 or 안과 than using learning them off a vocabulary sheet.

2. Don’t only memorize Korean phrases

Don't only memorize Korean phrases

The first purchase for many travelers is the Lonely planet phrasebook. While this might be able to help you out in a tricky situation, it isn’t a good method to help you learn Korean. This is because when you first start studying, all of the words in the phrase are unknown, so learning a phrase is like trying to remember a fifteen digit telephone number. It is too long and you are likely to make a mistake when saying it.

Due to the hierarchical nature of the Korean language, the phrase that you are learning might be wrong anyway as phrasebooks don’t explain when to say 안녕 and when to say 안녕하십니까, for example. Once you have enough knowledge to understand the phrases, then learning them will be much easier!

3. Don’t just read Korean without implementing. Practice!

Practice learning Korean

Using the Korean you learned allows you to test how it is used naturally. For example, try saying something that you have studied out loud to someone.

If you get a positive reaction from that person, then you will remember it better.

If you get a negative reaction then you know that your study materials didn’t explain the context properly.

For example, there are two words that mean etiquette, 예의 and 예절, to find out the difference you have to actually try to use the language and see if you are understood or corrected. It’s a great way to learn the subtleties of Korean!

4. Don’t think more Korean material is better

Don't study too much Korean material

With all of the available free content on the internet, people inundate themselves with too much vocabulary and grammar. It is better to know 1000 words really well than to ‘kind of know’ 5000 words.

To use words, they need to be able to jump out of your brain quickly. If you study too many words, then this can be a problem. It is better to focus on the structure of the language so that you can easily understand sentences despite the word order and nuances being different from English. Being able to guess words from context is a much more valuable skill than just knowing thousands of words.

5. Don’t rely on willpower – have a Korean study plan

Don't rely on willpower to study Korean

If you have a plan for learning Korean, then you can learn much faster. Without one, you can easily get bogged down and lose motivation. Even with all the willpower in the world, you wouldn’t run a marathon without a training plan, would you? So why study a language without a plan?

With all of these “don’ts”, you may be wondering where the “do’s” are. Here we go!

Here is the solution, 5 things you should “do”

Pros of studying Korean

1. Do study Korean consistently, even if it’s for 5 minutes a day

Study Korean 5 minutes a day

Even 5 minutes helps!

By making something a habit, it becomes much easier to do. It allows you to break down big tasks like learning 1000 words into small tasks like learning 20 words a day. It also prevents you from forgetting what you have already learned.

2. Do have a Korean langauge target or goal

Korean langauge target

And focus on that target! Learning a langauge is no small task. Native level fluency is so far off for beginners that without a target or goal, you can easily lose motivation.

Where do you want to be in 1/3/6/12 months from now in terms of Korean langauge skills? How much time are you willing to put in order to achieve your target skillset?

Choose a realistic target and then focus on it. Start small. Once you achieve your small goals, this success will bring you the confidence to aim higher.

3. Do balance your Korean studies

Balance your Korean studies

Balance helps you learn faster

The combo of reading, writing, speaking, and listening all complement each other. It is natural to be better at one of these than the others, but you shouldn’t let your strengths and weaknesses affect your study. Keep working on each part of the language a little bit each day and you will see your weaker skills improve.

4. Do learn the Korean language  fundamentals

Building Blocks for Learning Korean

The fundamentals will be your building blocks for learning any language. A strong foundation is key!

The biggest differences between Korean and English are the sentence structures and grammar. Practice is needed in order to understand sentences, so you should focus on this in order to improve your understanding. This will allow you to participate in conversation and to guess the meaning of unknown words.

It is tempting to just study more words, but that can only get you so far. If you can’t make a sentence quickly enough, you can’t join in a conversation, no matter how many words you know. That’s no fun!

5. Do focus on a reliable way to learn Korean, and follow it

Jumping around from program to program and using multiple resources can actually make learning more difficult. Programs are designed so that each chapter reinforces the previous one, allowing students to naturally build on and retain what they have learned.

If you study Korean by using multiple programs then you will likely cover the same material multiple times in an inefficient way or end up forgetting what you have learned.

Using a single program can also help you by giving you concrete goals to aim for, such as passing level one of the program. Make a plan that you can stick to, and you will find studying Korean to be both easy and fun!


What are your do’s and don’ts for studying Korean?

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