Many Korean culture enthusiasts would like to study the language, but not everyone is ready to go to Korea. So how can you learn Korean at home and studying in your spare time? In this article, we give you some tips on how to create a good foundation of Korean through self-study.
For a basis in grammar
Of course, to learn a language, you don’t just need to watch TV series in the original language and learn random words and phrases, you also need a dose of grammar. If you’re still not sure and really want to try your hand at learning Korean, you can start with the free resources at Talk To Me In Korean. The lessons are explained in a very clear and helpful way. Each lesson contains a PDF and an audio file, so you can understand both the spelling and pronunciation of the expressions covered. In addition, if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to studying Korean, you can always listen to the audio files on your way to school or on your way to work. Though doing this alone won’t necessarily guarantee you to completely master the language, it is still a great way to approach the language.
If you prefer to have books at your fingertips, there are plenty of them. These include Talk To Me In Korean (which doesn’t add much to the resources you can find online) and Korean From Zero and Korean Grammar In Use, which are also very good. Once you’ve decided to take Korean seriously, books are a must, as you will need to do the exercises as well.
Grammar is not everything in a language, so you need to arm yourself with a good dose of memory and learn lots of words. Ideally, you should memorize new words every day, but of course this is not always possible, and it also depends on how much time you can devote to studying. Many people are happy with the good old-fashioned method of reading, repeating, and copying words into a notebook several times, while others find this system ineffective. Everyone has their own way of learning. In any case, there are apps that can help you learn new words. We would like to highlight three of them.
The first is the well-known Duolinguo, which allows you to learn new words by inserting them into sentences. Once you download it, you can set the duration of your daily learning (from 5 to 20 minutes per day) and the time at which you want the app to send you a notification to remind you to study.
Another very useful app is Quizlet. In this app, you can download some ready-made word sets or create your own sets; for example, by inserting new words found in the chapter of the book you are studying. There are several learning modes within a set: using flashcards, utilizing multiple choice questions and entering the corresponding translation. Mixed learning mode is also possible.
Finally, we would like to mention Naver Dictionary. This is one of the best online dictionaries for learning the Korean language. Every day, it presents you with a word or expression of the day and its translation. The application is also useful because it has a direct link to the Papago translator. Although you should always be wary and shouldn’t be too reliant on automatic translators, it can still be useful to get an idea of what you are talking about or how to set up a sentence.
Talking to native speakers
It is evident that learning a language requires a lot of practice, which is very difficult when you are self-taught. Fortunately, there are apps that allow you to meet native speakers who are also studying your language. You can meet Koreans who are studying other languages and want to exchange languages. By exchanging messages, you can practice speaking actively in Korean and receive feedback from a native speaker. In the same way, you can reciprocate by helping them in turn. Two great language exchanging apps are Hello Talk and Tandem. Both allow you to make calls, so you can practice speaking as well.
Many prefer to exchange languages face-to-face: after talking for a while via the app, if you live in the same area, you can arrange to meet up. Although this is one of the most effective ways of practicing, we recommend you to be cautious. These are people you have met through an app, so it is best to meet only in public places.
It is not always possible to strike up a conversation with native speakers. Fortunately, there are other ways to improve your listening skills. In addition to listening exercises in books, one very useful method is to watch Korean dramas or films with subtitles. You can find dramas on Viki.com where you can activate the learning mode, which shows subtitles in both Korean and your own language. This way you can concentrate on listening, checking what is being said in Korean and checking the meaning. If you’re interested in this topic, we’ve blogged about the most used words in Korean dramas.
Listening to Korean songs can also be useful for learning new words and improving comprehension. Also, if you listen to them often, you’ll probably learn a lot of common expressions and will gradually be able to recognize them between K-pop songs.
These are our tips on how to learn Korean on your own. It is true that, at a certain point, progressing on your own will become increasingly difficult. Therefore, the best method is still to study Korean in Korea by attending a school, especially if you want to pass the TOPIK Korean exam.
You can now also study Korean online, with our 10-week course in partnership with Hanyang University. Click on the course page and find out about the content of the lessons and how to enroll. The course is currently available in English.