Want to learn Korean? Fascinated by its legendary grammar, or just want to understand BTS and BlackPink? Even if you’re just here for the k-pop, you can definitely study Korean on your own.
Here’s your free starter kit, everything you’ll need to fall in love with the Korean language: some online resources which I have found to be particularly helpful.
I started studying Korean about four years ago, when I moved to Seoul. You might think that being "immersed" would lead to automatic fluency, but I can assure you that is not the case. Even while I was living in Korea, I had to be very diligent about studying, and I had to use many different strategies and tools in order to be successful.
Here is what worked for me!
LEARNING THE ALPHABET
Teaching yourself the Korean alphabet is EASY. There is no excuse not to learn it, in fact, it will be much harder to learn the Korean language if you try to stick to using the Roman alphabet, as the Korean language really doesn’t Romanize very well. Even if you are just learning Korean for a quick vacation to Korea, you should still learn Hangul! You’ll notice a few irregularities along the way, but mostly, it is an ingenious design. Here are some apps you can use to learn Hangul!
My course on How to Read Korean! This online course takes under an hour to complete, and can be done at your own pace! Let me walk you through the Korean alphabet, step by step.
Innovative (KoreanClass101) - 7 day free trial, has a section on just the alphabet
FINDING A TUTOR
Someone recently asked me what strategy or resource has been the most helpful for learning Korean. Honestly, it is italki. This is because Korean grammar is very complex and to be honest, most schools and textbooks don't teach it very well. The best way to learn Korean is to speak it and hear it as much as possible. italki has been my best source of this practice (even though I live in Korea!) because it is structured, it keeps me accountable, and the tutors are great.
Mondly: This is a great introduction before you learn Hangul (the Korean alphabet), but oddly, the lessons use the Roman alphabet. There is no need for this, as Hangul is very easy, and in fact it is pretty hard to learn proper pronunciation if you use the Roman alphabet. So start with this, but transition to Memrise once you’ve learned Hangul!
Memrise: Great for learning vocabulary on the go. Try these packs:
ONLINE SELF-STUDY PROGRAMS
I recommend getting a tutor on italki (see below) to sit with you (on Skype) and listen to you do your Glossika reps, sort of like a personal trainer. This is great for mastering Korean prosody (the unique sentence level musicality) of the Korean language. Get your discount for Glossika here
A great way to learn colloquial language.
FINDING A TEXTBOOK
Not everyone likes to learn Korean from a textbook, and you certainly don’t need to, but I found Seogang’s textbooks and CD’s to be really helpful (the following links will get you my discount!)
Seogang (also spelled Sogang) uses a textbook (they call it a Student’s book) that explains the grammar and includes everyday conversations, as well as a workbook to practice what you know.
FINDING A LANGUAGE PARTNER
If you want to practice your language, here are some places you can go to find a partner!
TV SHOWS TO WATCH
Hello, k-dramas!! Here are some of my favorite Korean dramas, and some that are not my favorite but are part of the K-drama canon so you should watch them anyway. Depending on where you live, try looking for them on Netflix, Viki, Tudou, Youku, or Youtube. Painfully, if you're living in Korea, Netflix does not provide English subtitles for its Korean movies and tv shows. However if you're living outside of Korea, you should be fine!
My Love From the Star
Strong Girl Bong Soon
Boys Over Flowers (k-drama canon, although I'll be honest, I didn't love it)
Winter Sonata (k-drama canon)
MOVIES TO WATCH
Try looking for them on Netflix, Viki, Tudou, Youku, or Youtube.
Parasite (an award-winning comedy/thriller)
Ode to My Father (a bit cheesy, but a must-watch to understand Korea today)
The Handmaiden (do not watch this with your parents)
Joint Security Area (a touching film about friendships at the North-South border)
STUDYING KOREAN IN SEOUL
Seogang University Korean Language Education Center (semester-long courses open to foreigners)
Ganada Hagwon (monthlong courses open to foreigners)
By the way, this post includes affiliate links, but I’ve only included products that I’ve tried myself and stand behind. If you purchase any item using my links, I get a small commission, but the price is the same for you. This commission helps me run this blog, so thank you!
Have any more suggestions? Please leave them in the comments! I’ll update this post as much as I can as I come across new resources!