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Where to Learn Korean in Chicago

Updated on May 27, 2016
Sherri Ter Molen profile image

Sherri L. Ter Molen is a Ph.D. candidate, a published author, and the organizer of Korean Meetup groups in Chicago and Detroit.

Why Study Korean?

According to a 2015 UPI article, the popularity of Korean pop culture is inspiring more and more non-Koreans to enroll in Korean language classes at universities across the United States. Being able to watch Korean television dramas without the subtitles is certainly a benefit of language learning, but there are other reasons to study Korean as well. The website of Boston University's Department of Modern Languages & Comparative Literature states that "Korean is the sixteenth most widely spoken language in the world, spoken by more than 78 million people." In addition, South Korea is consistently one the United States' largest trading partners, and North Korea-U.S. relations have historically been strained. All of this means that there are a variety of career opportunities open to those who can speak Korean. Whatever your reason however, there are several options for studying the Korean language in Chicago.

For-Credit or Not-for-Credit, That is the Question

A Mass of Korean Hangul Alphabet Magnets
A Mass of Korean Hangul Alphabet Magnets

For-Credit

If you're currently enrolled in a university or college or if you plan on going back to school soon, you may want to study Korean for college credit. The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at The University of Chicago offers what is surely the most rigorous program in the area. The challenges are that the classes are scheduled during the workday; each course meets multiple times a week; and the classes are rather pricy since they are for-credit courses at a prestigious university. The University of Chicago also hosts a Summer Language Institute for intensive training in a variety of languages including Korean. For a slightly more affordable for-credit option, check into The City Colleges of Chicago. These community colleges have offered Korean language classes on occasion.

Not-for-Credit

A less expensive alternative to the for-credit model are the classes offered through the Korean Education Center (KEC), which is supported by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago. The KEC offers semester-length classes that meet one evening each week: Basic (for beginners who don't yet know how to read the Korean alphabet), Beginner (for those who are able to read Hangul but who are otherwise beginners), Intermediate, Advanced, and Conversational (for students who have been in the program so long that they've passed the Advanced course and/or Korean Americans who aren't quite fluent). These classes are offered at three convenient locations: Korean American Community Services and the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago within the city as well as the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago in Wheeling. "Like' the Korean Language Classes in Chicago by KEC on Facebook for all the latest class information. Other not-for credit opportunities include classes offered by Korean American Community Services (KACS), which tends to schedule Korean classes in the winter and in the summer between the KEC semesters; Youth Evangelical Fellowship, which has offered Korean classes on the South Side; and Northwestern's Norris University Center, which offered a 6-week Beginner Korean class in the Spring of 2016.

Join Korean Meetups!

The Chicago Korean Language Meetup Group's 2014 K-Pop Brunch
The Chicago Korean Language Meetup Group's 2014 K-Pop Brunch

The Chicago Korean Language Group is a club for Koreans and non-Koreans who are interested in the Korean language as well as Korea's pop and traditional cultures. (Full disclosure: I'm the organizer of this group.) On this group's website, you'll find events such as Korean language practice sessions as well as Korean culture Meetups at restaurants, film screenings, concerts, festivals, art exhibits, and much more. There is a new Meetup group called Learning Korean in Chicago, and Chinese Language Excitement (C.L.E.) offers Korean classes as well as Kpop dance classes and a brand new Kpop exercise program called "WKPOP" for women. For those of you out in the suburbs, may want to check out C.L.E. Korean Zone Northwest Chicago Meetup and C.L.E Korean Zone S.W. Chicago Meetup.

Take Advantage of Chicago's Korean Media Resources!

The Author in Front of a KBC Banner at K-Fest 2015
The Author in Front of a KBC Banner at K-Fest 2015

Of course, there are a vast number of resources available online from Viki to SweetandtastyTV, but there are some Korean language resources with a local Chicago flavor as well. KBC-TV is Chicago's Korean television station with local news and programming as well as imported programming direct from South Korea. Depending on where you live and your cable system, you may also get MBC Chicago, and Chicago is lucky enough to have a Korean radio station, WKTA AM 1330. In addition, those with advanced Korean reading skills can peruse the newspaper, Korea Daily Chicago.

Of course, we shouldn't forget that the Chicago Public Library has a collection of Korean language learning books with audio instruction, other Korean language books such as novels and modern literature, Korean movies on DVD, and Korean music on CD. A little-known resource available to patrons of the Chicago Public Library is also Hoopla Digital, a digital library where you can borrow audio books, music, and movies including a number of Korean titles.

Learning another language can be challenging and even a little overwhelming, but the combination of for-credit and not-for-credit classes, the vibrant Korean Meetup community, and the rich materials available through the local Korean media along with the Chicago Public Library give Chicagoland's Korean language learners a foundation for success. With some dedication and hard work, you'll be able to hold a conversation with your Korean chingus (friends) before you know it!

The Korean Alphabet, Hangul or Hangeul

© 2016 Sherri Ter Molen

Do You Know of Other Korean Language Resources in Chicago? Comment Here!

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