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
Italki: There are dozens of excellent online tutors for Korean on italki. If you are new to italki, get $5 off using my link here!
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:
Memrise: TOPIK (Korean Proficiency Test) Vocabulary
ONLINE SELF-STUDY PROGRAMS
Pimsleur (I love to listen to their audio lessons while I workout or while I get my eyelashes done ㅎㅎ ) Get 10% off with this link
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.
Seogang Book 1a Student’s Book
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!
The one textbook that saved me was “Korean Grammar In Use” you may know this already but since I didn’t see it on your list I figured it was worth mentioning.
I have a lot of Sogang books but KGIU beats them hands down with their explanations.
Great Website…All the best!
Great list ^^ I personally found sone success after using several of these. I think i have a better text book option though. Koreanfromzero.com has a text book you can simply download and print out. Or you can go paperless and just visit the website. Also, wiki books has a korean language course. But i warn you all not to use the language course released by the u.s. government. It is WAY too old fashioned.
Never mind. The pdf download was discontinued.
I came across Englishkorean101 on YouTube and like her explanation of Hangul and how to make words and read however I cannot find her website
Do you have any tips for someone like me who can’t learn it at all? Or should I basically give up? lol
Don’t give up! It has been a struggle for me as well. If you feel like you’re not making progress, change up your methods. Most importantly, make sure that you’re using more than one method and not relying too much on any one textbook or app. And keep consuming Korean media (TV, books, news) as much as you can. Good luck!
Unfortunately I think giving up is the only option I haven’t tried yet. I have tried apps, games, websites, youtube, etc. You name it I’ve tried it. And for some reason I just can’t seem to get it at all.
I even had someone try to help me and they gave up-told me teaching me was pointless basically. It just is frustrating struggling so much with something so many people can get, and so many people find simple.
I’m sorry-this was not supposed to turn into a whiny rant! Thank you for your encouragement, and thank you for this site-it has helped many people even if it can’t help me.
I recommend starting with the alphabet. Practice writing it down and buy a dictionary in Korean so you can at least practice knowing and writing down words. I recommend once you know the alphabet well and feel comfortable with it, why not label things around your house with Korean words? Try to integrate the language as much as possible and practicing how natives pronounce words. Once you have this then you can move on to sentences and structure, grammar, etc… I know it can feel really intimidating to learn a new language, especially when it doesn’t just “click”, but please keep trying if you truly want to learn, you WILL have a moment of clarity, trust me. Even in class it was like a couple months until it clicked and then I had it! Once you get it you’ll look back on this time and thank yourself for spurring on. What are we without a little fight in us to learn? I wish you luck and tenacity, never give up on learning and more importantly, never give up on yourself.
I’m a beginner, im struggling to understand alot of stuff learning by myself.
I cant afford alot of text books and are out of my price range.
I cant afford tutors either.
I feel that all I can do is keep pushing. I watch k dramas, listen to k pop, watch korean cartoons. I go on you tube get different lessons too.