Everyone has different reasons for why they’re interested in studying Korean. K-pop, Korean dramas, talking to locals, dating, communicating with the in-laws, and living more comfortably in Korea are just a few.
While those are some of the more typical reasons, today, we’ll cover some additional reasons that may not be as obvious, especially for non-native Korean speakers living in or traveling to Korea. Hopefully you’ll see some as potential major benefits to your life, and get that boost of motivation you need to upgrade your Korean skills.
Once you can read, write, listen, and speak at a basic conversational level, the payoffs of speaking Korean will become much more apparent. And with reading Korean, it’s important to learn the Korean alphabet (Hangeul), not just the English equivalent of the characters. If you have yet to study the Korean alphabet, get the free 90 Minute Challenge guide and learn the learn the Korean alphabet in one hour. P.S. It’s a lot of fun and it’s easy, so there’s no excuse not to learn them!
What are the payoffs once you get to this point, you ask? Let’s find out. Here we go!
#10. Lords of the Land
Often times, expats in Korea are responsible for communicating with their landlord if there are any problems with their housing. However, a large majority of the landlords are from the older generation and don’t’ speak much English. Imagine, the first heat wave comes into Korea, and you reach for the air conditioner remote control for an icy blast of air to cool you down. As you step towards the air duct mounted face level on the wall, you feel as though you accidentally pointed a hair dryer at your face. Normally you would call your Korean friend and ask them to help you make the call to the landlord to get the air conditioning repaired, but he is on vacation in the Philippines. Your choices include sweating it out your personal sauna for the next few days or camping out at the nearest Starbucks. However, you made the decision to study Korean, so you call the landlord yourself, request the repair, and are sipping a mojito in your refreshing arctic apartment by the time you get to #2 on this list.
#9. Mega Messaging
How many texts should you send a day? 100? 500? 2500? It doesn’t matter, because Kakao Talk is everywhere, and so is wifi! It’s hard to walk down the street and find someone who doesn’t have their head buried in their phone, pounding away at their touchscreens. Why should they get to have all of the fun? Sure, you may have downloaded Kakao talk and can communicate in English, but that will severely limit the number of people you can talk to. Have you ever tried to type in Korean on a smartphone? It’s a lot of fun. You made the decision to study Korean, so not only can you impress your Korean friends with your supreme texting abilities, but also now you can add some personalized text to the hilarious Kakao Talk emoticons. 깜짝이야!
#8. Delivery Delight
Korean cuisine is definitely one of the strong points of living in Korea. It’s tasty, often healthy, and there are a ton of choices depending on what you’re in the mood for. While the Korean delivery service may not have exactly the same quality of food you may find at a restaurant, they certainly do make up the quality difference through fast and inexpensive delivery services. Some people may be reluctant to order over the phone in Korean. But not you. Since you study Korean, you push aside the limited restaurant selection with English menus and go straight for the stack of Korean takeout menus. 맛있게 드세요!
#7. Taxi Trips
The taxi situation in Korea is fantastic. They’re fast, clean, inexpensive, and they’re everywhere. However, the majority of taxi drivers aren’t fluent in English and navigating the chaos of Korean roads can be challenging. Explaining the directions to your house or reciting your address for the navigation unit can be frustrating. However, you’re different. On your rides back home, you recline in the taxi seat and confidently instruct the driver where to go. That time you set aside to study Korean is paying off!
#6. Travel Trouble
If you have driven a car in Korea, then you know how important it is to know Korean. Although many signs are in English, traveling outside of the larger cities or using Korean navigation systems can slow down your trip. For many that’s a problem. Not for you. You study Korean, so each signpost is source of gratification. You are rewarded for your efforts with saved time and reduced stress.
#5. Online Opportunities
Even though many websites in Korea now have English menus and search functions, not knowing Korean will still limit what you can order. For example, let’s say you’re searching for a desk to furnish your new place on Gmarket. Searching for “desk” in English and searching for “책상” in Korean will get you different results. On top of that, knowing Korean will allow you to search on Korean sites for airline tickets. All of that Korean study is paying off!
#4. Deft Delivery
You’ve mastered online ordering and are now waiting to reap the benefits of your new dehumidifier that’s on its way (Korean apartments can get dry in the winter). You’re a mover and a shaker, so you’re only at home for a small portion of the day. That portion happens to be at a time when deliveries are unlikely to happen. On delivery day, you get a phone call from the package carrier. It’s unlikely that the person on the other line speaks English, and your Korean friends are nowhere to be found. However, that doesn’t matter. You’re part of the elite group who study Korean, so you confidently pick up the phone to direct the delivery person to gently place your package in front of your door so you can grab it when you get home.
#3. Master of Menus
Not all restaurant menus have pictures or English explanations, especially when you leave the big cities. While some restaurants may be able to explain what is in the food, you may end up being in situations where you don’t know what you’re ordering. Korean food is becoming better known, but there are some ingredients in certain foods that some people may object to. However, you study Korean, so ordering is not only easy, it’s a pleasure! The added bonus to this is traveling to Koreatowns in other countries. The next time you’re in Bangkok, you may find yourself having a conversation with a Thai employee at a local Korean restaurant!
#2. Local Logistics
Korea is changing, and there are more and more international areas popping up everywhere. However, there is still a massive part of the population that either doesn’t speak English or doesn’t want to. If you’re sticking to only your native language, you may be missing out on lots of interesting experiences and local information that you wouldn’t be able to find out through your current social circle. It could be as simple as being able to ask where to buy a light bulb or an extension cord in your neighborhood. The time you took to study Korean pays dividends as you navigate your way to the local hardware store, which has both. Plus you can use the saved time to explore a new café that has Wi-Fi and sample all their unique coffee selections. Another win!
#1. Independence for I
As you get more experience living in Korea, you’ll notice that some things tend to get easier and some things somehow seem more challenging. When we first get here, most of us are quite reliant on other people. Time passes by, and we figure things out. However, having to rely on others for translations and help finding places we need to get to can become an unconscious barrier to getting things done. Probably the most valuable part of your Korean study is the feeling that you can handle most situations on your own. You can accomplish more, and it makes Korea feel more like home rather than a foreign land.
As you can see, most of the items on this list don’t require you to be fluent. If you focus on learning the most commonly used parts of Korean plus some key vocabulary, you apply your knowledge to all 10 items. If you haven’t learned the Korean alphabet yet, now is a great time to start. You can be reading Korean by the end of your next work commute. 화이팅!
What motivates you to study Korean? We’d love to hear your comments and opinions, so please leave some below!