This article is for anyone interested in Korean, whether you need it for work, study, travel, or to understand what V is saying to Jimin. The reason doesn't matter. The only thing that does is your love for Korean. Here you will find tips and materials for learning it. 파이팅!

Facts about Korean

Self-appellation
  • 한국어South Korea
  • 조선말North Korea
ClassificationLanguage isolatesdoesn't belong to any language family; some argue that it belongs to the Altaic group
Total number of speakers78 million
Dialects6in South Korea
CountriesRepublic of Korea, DPRK, ChinaYanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Japan, Russia
ExamsTest of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK)
Regulatory bodyNational Institute of the Korean Language
Location on map

Features of the Korean language

  • Two Koreas and two languages. The long division of the countries contributed to them forming their own dialects. North Korean is called 조선어 [chosono], and South Korean is 한국어 [hangugo]. Both languages ​​use the same alphabet, but the letters look slightly differently. Pronunciation is also different, the intonations change. Plus, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea have their own cultural and social peculiarities, so the same words can have different meanings. For example, the Korean War is called 한국 전쟁 in the South and 조국해방전쟁 in the North. The 해방 part means ”liberation.” Therefore, in the DPRK, the Korean War is associated with liberation, but in the Southern version of the word there is no such connotation. In general, Seoul and Pyongyang Korean are more dialects than separate languages. Residents of these countries can easily understand each other.
WordSouth Korean dialectNorth Korean dialect
Woman여자
Training연습
Cold water냉수
Korean Peninsula한반도조선반도
  • Learning to be polite. Respect for elders and a clear hierarchyreliant on the age and social status are exceptionally important in the Korean culture. There are seven styles of politeness in Korean, on which the conjugation of the verb depends. As a rule, the more respectful the attitude towards the person, the longer the resulting phrase will be. The styles differ not only in declensions, but also in the words used. For example, the word “home” in ordinary speech is 집, and in formal speech it’s댁.
WordFormal speech 존댓말Informal speech 반말
I
We저희우리
Home
Father아버님아빠 / 아버지
Mother어머님엄마 / 어머니
  • Variety in numerals. Koreans use two types of numerals: local and Chinese. The latter are actively used in everyday speech to designate the dates, amounts of money, addresses, phone numbers, and numbers larger than 100. Korean words denote age and number of objects. To make sure you do not get bored, even the time is pronounced with two numerals at once: hours — in Korean, while minutes and seconds — in Chinese.
DigitKorean wordChinese wordwritten in Hangul
1하나
2
3
4
5다섯
6여섯
7일곱
8여덟
9아홉
10
  • Hanja. China has had a huge impact on the culture of modern Korea. Hanja is the name of Chinese characters in Korean. They are rarely used in everyday life: as a rule, they are mostly seen in literature and newspapers. Some Korean words can be represented as hanja. For example, the verb 독서 하다 — “to read” — is written like this: 讀書 하다the 하다 part has no hanja equivalent.
  • Not mine, but ours. In Korean, it is common to use the possessive pronoun 우리, which means “we.” This is a display of the collectivist culture of the country. In Korea, you can often hear not “my father” — 나의 아버지, but “our father” — 우리 아버지, even if the person is the only child.
  • No gender — no problem? There is no concept of gender in Korean grammar. Sometimes it is not even clear whether we are talking about a man or a woman. For clarification, special words are used, denoting the sex of a person. For example, 자 is a man, 자 is a woman; 동생 is a younger brother, 동생 is a younger sister.
  • A language without a family. Korean belongs to a special group of “isolates.” This means that it isn’t a part of any larger language family. There are suggestions that it is related to Japanese and originates in the Altaic languages. However, these are only hypotheses.
  • Konglish. Modern Korean is filled with English words. So many of them have appeared, that they have been classified as a separate style with a funny name — Konglish. Moreover, they are written not in Latin, but in the Korean alphabet — Hangul. For example, “coffee” would be 커피 [khopi], orange would be 오렌지 [orenji], and sausages would be 소시지 [sushiji]. Congratulations, you now know your first Korean words.

Geographic distribution of the Korean language
Geographic distribution of the Korean language

How to learn Korean on your own?

The answer to this question depends on your goal. If you are planning to study or work in Korea, the answer is "No way." Seriously. Find a good tutor right away or sign up for a language course. Korean is not the language that you can master yourself to a decent level. However, for the amateur level, you can try. How to do it?

  • Learn the alphabet. We start from the basics, like preschoolers. The Korean alphabet is fundamentally different from the usual Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Before embarking on your language-mastering journey, you need to learn the Korean alphabet — Hangul. This is not as difficult as it seems. We'll explain why below.
  • Try different things. Learning mustn’t be boring, otherwise there is no hope of succeeding. Look for what will be of personal interest to you. Came to Korean from K-pop and want to understand what are they saying on Bangtan Bomb? Great. You can learn the language from songs, TV shows or interviews. But even if you have a more serious goal, such as passing TOPIK, choose the study materials that you like. Fortunately, Korean has a lot of them — its native speakers know how to make even the simplest things extremely exciting.
  • Set a goal. Perhaps the hardest part of learning a language on your own is discipline. No one is following you around, giving you homework, or checking your progress. It gets especially hard when you are faced with difficulties — you feel like giving up, and a little nasty voice inside says: “I'm tired.” To avoid such situations, try setting a goal for yourself in advance. Not just a vague “I want to know Korean,” but something more specific. For example, pass TOPIK on the 3rd 급 (gyp)one of the Korean proficiency levels by the end of the year.
  • Immerse yourself in the culture of Korea. Learning a language without understanding the culture behind it is difficult because the two are inseparably connected. This requires reading and listening to a lot of content in Korean. We describe how to do it correctly below.

Hangul — the Korean alphabet

Start learning Korean with its unique alphabet called 한글 [Hangul]. It did not appear naturally in the process of language development, but was created by scientistsin 1446. Hangul is simple and logical. This again has to do with its origin. Initially, it was invented for the population who could not write and understand hanjaChinese hieroglyphs. Therefore, the Korean alphabet is one of the easiest ones to learn. Unlike Japanese and Chinese counterparts, it is composed of letters. They look unusual, but are still understandable. If you are already preparing to relearn to write from right to left, relax. In Korean, writing is done horizontally, from left to right.

Hangul consists of 14 simple consonants and 10 vowels. Additionally, there are 5 doubled consonants. It will take no more than one or two days to master the entire alphabet. Next is the writing practice, which is also quite simple in comparison with other Asian languages.

Hangul
Hangul

Now that you know that Hangul is not that scary, you can move on to practice. Let's take a look at how Korean words are spelled using the example of the adjective "happy" — 행복한. The word consists of 9 letters, which are grouped into blocks: 행 + 복 + 한 (somewhat similar to our syllables). You just need to understand the logic of how they are composed, not memorize them like hieroglyphs. Each block is formed from 2-3 lettersless commonly — from 4. Let's say we have: ㄷ, ㅏ, ㄹ. It looks strange, right? Now let's put them together and get the word 달 — “moon.”

Hangul is easy enough to learn. You can do this on your phone through dedicated apps. For example, Write Korean or Easily Speak Hangul. But we advise you to go the traditional way and write everything by hand. This is how you develop motor skills. In addition, later it will be easier for you to recognize the words you’ve written in other texts.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecificities
National Institute of Korean LanguageA1Basics of Hangul and pronunciation on the National Institute of Korean Language website.
How to Study KoreanA1Korean lessons. Everything is structured to allow learning from scratch.
Write KoreanA1App for learning Hangul with writing practice.
Korean LetterA1The app teaches you to pronounce the Korean alphabet.
Learn HangulA1A good site with a comprehensive alphabet breakdown; also explains the rules of formation of letter blocks.

Basic Korean pronunciation

The second element that is pivotal to learning the Korean alphabet is pronunciation rules. English speakers have difficulty with it because of the unusual sounds. Our advice is that it is better to study immediately with a Korean or with someone who speaks the language at a high level. Only with their help will you really understand the difference between the letters ㅗ and ㅓ, ㅍ and ㅂ, etc. Among other features of Korean phonetics are:

  • ㅎ, which is often muffled a lot;
  • Double patchim — two consonants at the end of a syllable. There are separate reading rules for them;
  • Doubled and aspirated consonants. For example, the letters ㄱ, ㅋ, and ㄲ. There is not even a transcription that can show the difference in pronunciation. You need to listen to this;
  • Diphthongs are compound vowels consisting of two simple ones: ㅜ + ㅣ = ㅟ, or ㅕ + ㅣ = ㅖ.

The pronunciation in Korean must be done correctly right away. Otherwise, you may end up with completely different words. For example, 18 in Korean is 십팔 [shiphal]. It is similar to another very bad noun, the translation of which will be inappropriate here — 씨발 [shibal]. You don't want to confuse them in speech with a native speaker. To the same bunch, you can add "shoes" — 신발 [shinbal]. There are a lot of such words, so take pronunciation seriously. Moreover, it is necessary not only to passively listen to Korean speech but also to say everything aloud. This can be done by repeating after native speakers. For example, on the channel Conversational Korean.

Second life hack — pay attention to where you put your tongue and teeth in order to get the right sounds. How accurate your pronunciation will be, depends on it. Not only listen to what Koreans are saying, but also watch their articulation. You can find special study materials, where the position of the tongue is explained in detail. For example, here.

The main rule is to never memorize Korean words through English transcription. In this article, we provide it only as an example for beginners. This is actually bad practice. If you associate Korean sounds and letters with the English ones, then you will only get something in between — not the proper pronunciation.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecificities
Korean Class 101A1A selection of Korean pronunciation episodes from the Korean Class 101 YouTube channel. All videos are in English.
90 Day KoreanA1The most detailed explanation of Korean pronunciation.
ForvoA1-C1Korean audio dictionary — learn how to read correctly.

Korean grammar

In this section, we will talk about the main features of Korean grammar and give some tips on how to master it.

The verb at the end of a sentence

Korean language is surprisingly logical in its structure. The verb is always placed at the end of the sentence. The phrase is built according to the following scheme: subject + object + predicate. It doesn't matter how many other parts of speech you use, the verb will be at the end. The advantage of that is the predictability and clarity of grammatical structures. The downside is that to understand someone, you have to wait until they finish.

SubjectAdverbObjectSecond objectPredicate
- 고양이- 봐요
I-catsee
저는 - 회사원 이- 아닙니다
I-office workernot (be)
저는어제어머니를 위해거울을 샀습니다
Iyesterdayfor mothermirrorbought

The written and spoken grammar in Korean is slightly different. In ordinary speech, it is simplified as much as possible: the subject or predicate is often omitted. For example, when Koreans order food, they say "I chicken" — 나 치킨, or “I pizza” — 나 피자. Everyone perfectly understands what the phrase is about, without the need for a verb. The same thing happens with subjects. There are phrases in Korean that express a whole sentence in one word. For example, 어떡해 can mean a lot of emotions at once and translates to “what am I supposed to do?”

More on speech levels

Judging by their grammar, Koreans should be the most polite people on the planet. Indeed, they have invented as many as seven different styles to express grades of respect. It is important to know them (at least 3-4 basic ones). First, because the ending of the verb in the sentence depends on them. Secondly, so as not to embarrass yourself when communicating with a Korean. Addressing someone older than you in a disrespectful manner can be insulting. Of course, a foreigner will be forgiven and explained, but it is better to know the theory in advance. Here's how the word "do" looks in different “polite” styles:

  • 나이다 — very formal polite (archaic, not used in life);
  • 니다 — formal polite (addressing strangers or people of higher status and age);
  • — casual polite (most common in the modern language);
  • — neutral or semi-formal (used by the older generations);
  • — so-called familiar style (not very common in communication, used by people over 60);
  • — formal impolite (simple conversational style, third-person expressions);
  • 해 — casual impolite (conversation with children and close relatives)[1].

As you can see, there is no shortage of material to learn here. Therefore, the best option is training with a native speaker. Find yourself a pen pal online. You can do this in apps like Hello Talk or on the website Friendly Korea. If possible, visit Korea as a tourist or as a student of language courses. You can study the styles of politeness at home, but you can fully understand the logic of their use only through immersion in the language environment.

Basic constructions

When learning Korean, one should progress gradually. Start your studies with the most common constructions:

  • 이다 — linking verb meaning “to be”infinitive. The root of the word is 이. Its ending will change depending on the conjugation (level of politeness, tense, form, etc.). Example:
NounVerbSentence
이에요책 이에요
BookTo be (polite form)This (is) a book
  • 있다 — the verb “to have”infinitive. The root of the word is 있. Example:
NounVerbSentence
연필있어요연필 있어요
PencilHave (polite form)I have a pencil

However, the "I" part is not pronounced in Korean. It is clear from the context. And if you say the same sentence with an interrogative intonation, you get a different meaning: 연필 있어요? — “Do you have a pencil?”

  • 하고 싶다 — a form for expressing the desire to “want”infinitive. The 고 싶다 part is added to the root of another verb. The result is 먹고 싶어요 — “I want to eat.”

Korean has many similar morphemes that are added to the root of the word. They are used for the formation of tenses, casesthere aren't cases is Korean per se, but there are particles with similar meanings, expressions of different shades of emotions, desires, denial, and so on. The time will come for them to give you a good beating. The main advice here, as with all languages — understand the logic. As soon as you understand the uniform typology for phrase construction (and it is there), everything will become easier. If you can’t understand it yourself, ask the sonsennim"teacher" in Korean for help.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecifics
How to Study KoreanA1Beginner lessons 1 through 8. Cover the basics of the alphabet, pronunciation, and grammar. Each of them contains words for memorization.
Learn Korean — GrammarA1-B1An application with basic grammar structures of the Korean language. Translations and descriptions of the rules are given in English.
Dongsa Korean Verb ConjugatorA1-C1A convenient application that shows different conjugations of verbs.
Korean Grammar in UseA1-C1Textbook on Korean grammar. There are books for Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.

Learning Korean words

It is impossible to master a language without expanding your vocabulary. The secret is to make it fun and interesting. This makes Korean words easy to remember. What to look for when learning vocabulary?

Konglish

There are three major word groups in Korean: local, Chinese, and English. The latter are the easiest to learn because they sound similar to the original forms. Some Korean words are already familiar to you. However, do not forget about their special features. After all, they are written in Hangul and pronounced in the Korean manner. In addition, sometimes they gain new meanings:

Korean wordTranscriptionEnglish originsTranslation
파이팅[pheitin’]FightingGo on, everything will work out
셀카[selkha]SelfieSelfie
서비스[sobisy]ServiceService
아파트[ap’hat’hy]ApartmentApartment

Flash cards

Korean words are easy to memorize using flash cards. If you have already had experience learning another foreign language, you have heard of this method. These are sets of cards organized by topic. Each of them has a word written in English on one side and that word in Korean on the other. If you prefer visual learning aids, we recommend looking for picture cards. You can buy them in a store, make them yourself, or find them on the Internet. In terms of efficiency, it's best to write (or even draw) them yourself. As you make them, you will already memorize new words. However, this takes time and energy. If you don't have either, check out Quizlet.

Word formation

Look for patterns that make it easier for you to memorize new words. For example, in Korean, "eye" is 눈 [nun], and “water” is 물 [mul’]. Can you guess what happens if you put them together? The answer is 눈물 [nunmul], which means “tear.” All the names of the months are based on the same principle.

The numberThe word "month" — 월Name of the monthTranslation
1 — 일일월January (1 month)
2 — 이이월February (2 month)
3 — 삼삼월March (3 month)
4 — 사사월April (4 month)
5 — 오오월May (5 month)

As you can see, Korean is quite an understandable language even in terms of vocabulary. Of course, it is not easy to learn, largely due to the unfamiliar writing rules, phonetics, constructs, and structures. However, you can make it easier for yourself. There are two ways: mindlessly memorizing words or paying attention to their structure, thinking about their origins and application. The second method requires more effort, but it will pay off over time.

Also, be sure to pronounce all new words. Learning Korean while silently moving your lips is not an option. Each phrase must be said aloud. You will tune your speech apparatus, and it gradually gets used to new articulation.

Korean songs

Diversify your learning — memorize the lyrics of your favorite songs. Not everyone, but many people become addicted to Korean because of its culture: music, TV series, manhwa, cuisine, etc. If you are one of such enthusiasts, use it to your advantage. As you probably know, Korean is not all about K-pop. There are many other genres out there: ballads, hip-hop, rock, etc. Take any song that you like, dissect it and translate all the words.

This method is more suitable for those who already have knowledge of Korean because it will be difficult to do from scratch. There are even special textbooks for learning the language from K-pop.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecificities
linguasiaA1137 Konglish words sorted by topic.
Fluent Korean from K-popA1-B1Korean language self-study book for the lovers of K-pop and K-dramas. Grammar is explained through the popular songs by GFriend, Apink, Big Bang, and others.
Learn KoreanA1-C1Korean language learning app covering 15,000 words.
QuizletA1-C1A platform for vocabulary learning using flashcards. You can create sets yourself or use ready-made ones.

Listening in Korean

Moving on to the most enjoyable part of learning Korean — listening. Be prepared that it will be tough at first. Not understanding up to 40% of speech is normal. The more you practice, the clearer Korean speech becomes for you. What can you do to develop your language comprehension skills?

Dramas and films

Watch Korean dramas and films untranslated, with English or Korean subtitles. The latter option is for advanced-level learners. And in general, this method is suitable for those who already have knowledge of the language. Of course, you can start studying with films, but they will work best for the consolidation and expansion of the existing vocabulary.

Korean dramas come in great variety. You can start with classics like Reply 1997 and Boys over Flowers, or move on to the recent Descendants of the Sun and World of the Married. Sometimes Korean dramas can get extremely boring: episodes are 60 minutes long and there are up to 25 episodes per season. If you can't stand such dragged-out flicks, watch web dramas instead. They are shorter, comprehensible, and generally easier to understand. There are many websites for watching Korean TV shows.

As to Korean cinema, it’s easy to find what to watch. The name of director Bong Joon Ho and his Parasites are on everyone's lips right now. But this is far from the only movie from Korea worthy of attention. Watch Oldboy, Mother, Train to Busan, and so on. Original TV shows and movies make good practice for understanding Korean. The main disadvantage of this method (especially in dramas) is that colloquial vocabulary is often used thereor conversely — outdated words in case of historical dramas. If you plan to take TOPIK, pay more attention to news and podcasts.

Podcasts and radio

For those looking to work or study using Korean, it is better to take the more serious approach of listening to radio and podcasts. They improve your knowledge of specific topics. There are various platforms on the Internet specifically for Korean language learners. For example, Sponge Mind or the app Korean Listening Practice. Easy podcasts for beginners like Real-Life Korean Conversations and Survival Korean Phrases are also goodboth in English. Listen to radio KBS, MBC, or Arirang. Remember the main part — select the material according to your level. Start with small recordings, no more than 3 minutes long. At advanced stages, you can try writing down what you hear. It is difficult, time-consuming, but extremely effective. This is how you understand every word in speech and practice your spelling skills.

K-Pop

Listen to Korean music. We have already mentioned this method as an option for vocabulary learning. It can also be used to get accustomed to Korean speech. However tempting this may sound, you won't be able to learn a language just by listening to K-pop. Plus, English words are actively used in songsand lately even Spanish. And the pronunciation is sometimes incomprehensible to the Koreans themselves.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecifics
Korean Listening PracticeA1-B2Application for practicing listening skills. You can choose materials according to your level, from Beginner to Advanced. For each recording, there is a script.
IYAGIB1-B2Podcast from the resource Talk to me in Korean. Designed for an average level of language proficiency. Each entry has its script attached.
Sponge MindB1-B2 AA podcast specifically for language learners. All audio is dubbed both in Korean and English.
KBS PodcastsB1-C1List of the best podcasts from KBS on different topics.
PodbbangB2-C1Platform with different podcasts in Korean. You can adjust the speed of recordings.

Reading in Korean

For many people, working on their reading is the last thing to do. Usually, first you want to learn to speak and understand, and only after that — to read and write. This path is suitable for those who are learning Korean for travel or just for the love of culture. If your goal is to study and work there, you need to start reading right away.

Children's literature

Initially, books for children and fairy tales are most often read by learners. They help you understand how sentences and text in Korean are constructed in general. The easiest option is the stories that you already know: Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, etc. They can be found in Korean translation. A more difficult option is original Korean fairy tales. They are surprisingly interesting. Plus, it will be useful for you to learn the country's folklore, because it is reflected in many aspects of its modern culture. At levels A2-B1, look at literature for older children: primary and secondary school compulsory reading.

Our tip for learning Korean is to read aloud. Of course, first make sure that you got the pronunciation rules right, otherwise you’ll just reinforce your mistakes.

News

News is a good way to improve your reading skills. It is especially useful to those who want to take TOPIK. Through the news, you will learn relevant vocabulary, important events in the country, and immerse yourself in the life of Koreans. The advantage of news is that they are short and follow a uniform pattern. Start with the resource 어린이 동아. This is a special newspaper for children, so all texts are written in a simple language. Yes, the topics there are not the most interesting for an adult, but for practice, it will do. At a higher level, you can read other materials: Naver News, Seoul Newspaper, Daily Economicsfor levels B2-C1.

Korean authors

At the Upper-Intermediate level, start reading full-length works. You can pick a book translated into Korean. Alternatively, choose something you've already read in English.

We also advise you to read Korean authors. It's much better than translations. This is how you get to know the literature and culture of the country. Among the modern writers, Lee Moon Yeol, Kim Seung Ok, Kim Yong Soo, and others, are worth checking out.

When choosing material for reading, remember three important things:

  • Language level;
  • Genre;
  • Book length.

Choose a book not only by your interests but also by your ability.

Manhwa

To put it simply, manhwa (만화) are Korean comics. They are convenient because the plot is delivered through pictures more than through text. Therefore, even if 80% of words are unfamiliar, the plot will be clear to you. There are genres for every taste: horror, romance, history, school life, and so on. You can read manhwa in Korean on the Naver website.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecificity
어린이 동아A2-B1Children's newspaper. Articles are written in simple language, plus the presentation is interesting, with many pictures.
KBS NewsB1-C1KBS application where you can read news in Korean.
RidiBooksB2-C1A website with books in Korean. There are both paid and free options. Registration is required.

Speaking Korean

So we finally came to what many people learn Korean for — speaking. What do you need to know about spoken Korean? First, it is easier than the written variant. Korean themselves simplify it. We have already said how they omit the subject and predicate. Secondly, Korea has six regional dialects called saturi — 사투리.

Choose a dialect

Although Korea is a small country, each region has its own accent. And native speakers clearly distinguish between them. The most unusual dialect is that of the inhabitants of Jeju Island. It is so different from mainstream Korean that some researchers have identified it as a separate language related to it.

Standard KoreanJeju dialectTranslation
안녕하십니까?펜안 하우과?Hi, how are you?
할머니할망Grandmother
할아버지할루 방Grandfather

Seoul Korean is considered the norm in the country. It is what a foreigner should look up to. Therefore, pay attention to what materials you are listening to. Immediately accustom yourself to the norm accepted in the country.

Communicate in Korean

The key part of speaking is practice. Or, since we're learning Korean, 연습. Find a conversation partner with whom you can practice your speaking skills. It is good if they are Korean, but a person who speaks the language at a high level will also do. To chat with a native speaker, use HelloTalk, Slowly, or Tandem. Specifically for finding Korean speakers — Korean Friends and KakaoTalk. The latter is Korea's mega-popular messaging app. There you can simply connect to the general chat and meet people.

Speaking clubs in Korean are also an option. As a rule, they are found at language schools. Remember that you must already have at least A2-level proficiency in Korean to communicate properly.

Speak out loud

You don't need a conversation partner to speak Korean. It may look strange from the outside, but who cares. Especially if it helps improve your language skills. The vocal apparatus must get used to correct articulation. To do this, it needs to be constantly trained. Get in the habit of calling things around in Korean. You can do this as a game. For example, a friend says to you: "I see something metallic on wheels," and you answer — 차car, etc. Another option is to simply walk around the house and announce your actions out loud. If you don't want to come up with sentences, open a book or tutorial and read from there.

Record yourself

Who likes to listen to themself in a recording? No one. But when you're learning a language, having a voice recorder is extremely useful. It is difficult to objectively assess your pronunciation during a conversation, so hit record on your mobile, and then listen to your beautiful voice. This is a good way to test yourself.

Resources

ResourceLevelSpecificities
TandemA1-C1Platform for finding a native speaker to communicate with. You can set the language and level.
HelloTalkA1-C1App for finding friends around the world. You can chat with native speakers there.
SlowlyA1-C1An interesting application that simulates the delivery of physical letters. The communication process is slower because the message arrives after a few hours or days
Korean FriendsA1-C1The app looks similar to Instagram. It was made specifically for finding friends among Koreans.
VerblingA1-C1An online language learning platform that connects teachers and students. You can learn from a native speaker there.

Where to learn Korean?

Recently, Korean has become quite popular, so you can find a variety of options for learning it:

In case of Korean, pay greater attention to the first three options. You can learn the language on your own, but the chances of doing so at a decent level are small.

CityCourse feeswithout accommodation
Seoul314 USD
Busan461 USD
Jeju665 USD
Namjeju County304 USD
Hong KongChina399 USD
More
ResourceSpecificities
Korean Grammar in UseA textbook of Korean grammar. There are books for beginners, intermediate and advanced.
90 Day KoreanA platform for learning Korean. There is a paid course, but you can just read blogs with tips and explanations.
Talk to me in KoreanThe most popular resource for Korean learners. Includes paid courses, textbooks and lessons. You can also check out their YouTube channel.
How to Study KoreanA selection of grammar rules for the Korean language. They are broken down into courses from beginner’s level and up. All materials are posted in several languages, including English.
FluentULanguage learning platform with video and audio recordings. Requires a subscription, but has a 14-day trial period.
DropsColorful app which helps to learn Korean words and Hangul. The study process is constructed like a game.
MemriseA resource with interesting content for foreign language learners.
KoreanClass101YouTube channel for Korean language learners. The videos contain information about the basic rules, the most used words, phrases, etc.
King Sejong InstituteWebsite of the King Sejong Institutefounded by the Korean government. There are a lot of study materials: books, textbooks, audio and video for learning Korean.

Why learn Korean?

In 2020, Korean became the world's second fastest-growing language by popularity[2]. More and more people are eager to study it. This is largely due to the "Korean wave" — ​​Hallyu. However, this is far from the only reason why people want to learn Korean. Proficiency in this language is a useful skill for work, study and travel.

Korean for study

In South Korea, education is excellent, so local universities attract even those who are not interested in the culture of the country. Two Korean universities are ranked 37th and 39th in the top-100 best universities in the world (Seoul National University and KAIST Korea Institute of Advanced Technology, respectively)[3]. The most developed research areas in the country are technology and engineering. In them, KAIST does better than the best Beijing and Tokyo universities.

The government of the Republic creates good conditions for foreign students. It provides dorms, financial support, job opportunities, and more. In addition, South Korea offers one of the best study scholarships — the Global Korea Scholarship. It fully covers the costs of accommodation, meals and tuition.

To enter a university, you must prove your Korean proficiency level. This can be done by passing the TOPIK international exam. The standard requirement is Level 3for Bachelor's degree programs. If you are studying Korean to go to a university, study with a teacher — in courses or individually. It is much better to entrust such an important matter to a professional. You will need to take TOPIK in any case, and it is not easy to prepare for it on your own. Find a person who has already passed it — let them share experience and give you advice.

Seoul National University
Seoul National University

Korean for work

The good news is that you don't have to be fluent in Korean to find a job in Korea. Being above the basic level is enough. The bad news is that you will only get odd or poorly paid jobs this way, often involving manual labor. Therefore, if you want a managerial position in a Korean company, learn the language, take TOPIK, or even better, enter a local university. After graduating from a Korean university, the chances of finding a good job are greater. First, as a result of your studies, you will have experience of interacting with Koreans. Secondly, it will help you regularly practice the language and become fluent.

If your country is mostly familiar with European corporate culture, keep in mind that Korean companies are not like that. Many foreigners cannot handle work there precisely because of the differences in mentality. For example, in Korea there is such a phenomenon as nunchi — the ability to understand the non-verbal signals of other people. Locals have been learning it since childhood. For example, if your boss calls you, you need to speed up. Or you must lower your eyes when you are being reprimanded[4].

Koreans are also an extremely hardworking nation. It is a characteristic of their culture that allows them to constantly evolve. But sometimes it also manifests itself negatively. For example, employees of a company are expected to remain in their places until their boss leaves the office (even if the work day is long over). Not exactly comfortable. Therefore, if you want to work in Korea, be prepared to work hard.

Korean for immigration

Life in South Korea attracts many people. It is a developed, technologically advanced country with high quality of education, medicine, and social security. However, moving there for permanent residence is not so easy. If you graduate from a Korean university, you will have more opportunities. Student visa holders are allowed to change their status after graduation and stay in the country to look for work.

Another type of immigration is skilled labor. Then you move there as an "on demand" specialist. To do this, you need to obtain an invitation and permission from a Korean employer.

Migrants in Korea face a number of challenges. Yes, Koreans are known as a polite and welcoming nation. But at the same time, their culture is extremely homogeneous. Migrants make up only 2.3% of the country's population — a very insignificant figure[5]. The main question is your level of language proficiency, your willingness to work and assimilate in a foreign culture. The latter is the biggest obstacle for many.

Korean for travel

Learning Korean for traveling might not seem like the brightest idea, since there are only two countries where you will need it. And one of them is, well, you know — that one. Besides, it is extremely difficult to get a visa to the DPRK. However, though in practice only South Korea is open before you, do not underestimate its diversity. This is a country with beautiful nature and unusual landscapes. Each region has its own charm. Do not forget that there is also Jeju Island, which is significantly different from mainland Korea. Many Koreans see it as a different world.

For traveling in Korea, A2 speaking skills will be enough. For those who like to travel, the option of language courses in the country is perfect. You can choose Seoul or see "other" Korea, such as Busan or Namjeju.

Jeju island
Jeju island

Korean for yourself

You don't need a practical reason to learn Korean. Interest in a language can arise from its sound, the culture of the country, its cuisine, or music. Whatever attracts you to Korean, it’s great. After all, it gives you the motivation to learn another language. This will at the very least help you develop your miscellaneous skills, train your memory and just learn new things.

TOPIK — International Korean exam

To confirm the level of proficiency in Korean, you must pass the international exam TOPIK — Test of Proficiency in Korean. It is divided into two levels: TOPIK I and TOPIK II. Each has sublevels called gyps (급). There are six of them.

TOPIKGyp — 급CEFR comparative level
TOPIK I1A1
TOPIK I2A2
TOPIK II3B1
TOPIK II4B2
TOPIK II5C1
TOPIK II6C2

To obtain a level, you need to score a certain number of points. If you take TOPIK II for the 5th gyp, but do not do well enough, you will be given a confirmation of the 4th gyp.

TOPIK I consists of reading and listening, while TOPIK II adds writing. There is no speaking part in the test. But even without it, preparing for the exam takes effort and requires the help of a specialist. Find a tutor or sign up for a course. Especially if this is your first TOPIK — in addition to the material, you need to study the very structure of the exam.