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Tips for Learning Korean

Updated on March 20, 2013

Learning other languages does not take overnight. Being a learner, you need to study a lot and spend much time and effort for you to get what you aim for. On the other hand, you can just enjoy while you learn.

If you are just starting to study other languages, specifically Korean – one of the most famous languages nowadays – then, here are some tips for you:

1. Learn their culture.

In order for you to learn other languages easily, you need to understand first the culture of the language you are trying to learn. In the case of Korean language, respect for elders or for other people is really important for them. In fact, there are lots of words with just one meaning. Koreans are really mindful of seniority and formality so when you speak, you need to do so with different levels of speech. Thus, if you want to say “Thank you” to your boss, you can say 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida). If you want to say it to someone older than you or a person you just met and you’re not sure if that person is younger or older than you, you can say 고마워요 (gomawoyo). You can just say 고마워 (gomawo) to your close friends, or someone who is younger than you. These are just some Korean words which have the meaning “thank you”.

2. Learn their alphabet.

Though Korean Romanization is quite helpful when reading Korean, believe me, don’t just rely on it. Korean Romanization is usually common in phrasebooks for travellers and quite useful when one is not familiar with the Korean alphabet or 한글 (Hangeul). If you learn Hangeul first, then learning Korean will be easier for you.

3. Build your vocabulary.

What’s the use of learning how to read and write Hangeul if you can’t understand what you read and don’t know what to write? You need to learn vocabulary words, too. Well, for beginners, it is okay to learn simple words and phrases that can be useful to you. Make sure that when you learn some words, you use them often or else, you’ll forget. Don’t just memorize a ton of words everyday then not know to use each one of them. In my case, I learn 10-20 words a week and practice writing them everyday. (I learn this from my students. When they memorize vocabulary words, they practice writing them over and over again until they can spell them correctly and memorize them as well.)

4. Watch Korean dramas, Korean movies, and Korean TV programs.

You can learn a lot from doing so.

I remember my first language trainer when I was just starting my ESL (English as Second Language) teaching career. She usually said that if we want to be fluent in speaking the English language, we should watch a lot of English movies and English TV programs. It’s just same with the Korean language. If you want to sound like a native Korean speaker, you need to watch a lot of Korean dramas, Korean movies, and even Korean TV programs. In doing so, you can hear a lot of words and expressions for different situations. Also, you can adapt their way of speaking, their accent and intonation.

You can also listen to K-pop songs. Though maybe you can’t understand them at first but as you continue to listen day by day (you also need to build your vocabulary), you will just find yourself memorizing the lyrics of the songs and what they are all about.

5. Get a language partner.

Practice is the best way to learn. Don’t just study. Don’t just memorize. Practice what you learn!

There are lots of language exchange sites where you can meet Koreans who are willing to help you mastering their language. Find one. No. Find at least one. I gained a lot of Korean friends since I started studying their language. They are so friendly to foreigners and will exert much time and effort to be friends and enjoy while learning at the same time. Having Korean friends who can talk and chat with you is really a good thing. They can correct your simple mistakes and even help you construct appropriate sentences for a certain situation.

Of course, you can learn if you have the heart to do so. Learning is not that easy and you will surely have those times when you feel like giving up. Just know first what you want to do and your reason of doing it, find a motivation, and do it!

As the Korean saying goes, 아자,아자! 파이팅! (Aja,aja! Paiting!) which means “Never give up, never stop fighting! ^_^

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