With the increasing popularity of Korean pop culture, the world is catching on the Korean fever. A lot of my friends are interested in learning Korean, but have no idea where to begin.
Korea originated as an autonomous region of China, and its language evolved from a system of Chinese characters called hanja to its own system of hangul created by King Sejong. Hangul features 24 consonant and vowels that is very similar to the phonetic system in English. The formation of each character consists of a combination of vowels and consonants.
The Korean language is easy to read, but not necessarily easy to pronounce. Especially if this is your first Asian language, it’ll take some time to adjust to the phonetics. Don’t get discouraged, because everything comes more naturally with practice.
Learning by Yourself
If you decide to learn by yourself, there are a lot of online resources that are fun and free. My personal favorite is TalkToMeInKorean, which provides a systematic system of grammar lessons from Level 1-9 takes you from the basics to daily conversation. Each lesson is a podcast, so you’ll can listen to how the pronunciation of the sample sentences. In addition, there are a variety of other fun lessons like learning idiomatic expressions and video lessons that making learning much more enjoyable. The lessons are created by a group of young teachers, which means the material is relevant to everyday situations.
You can also try other Korean language sites like GengiKorean, Byki, and Sogang Korean.
Korean Language Classes
I think with any language, in-person instruction is vital to get the ball rolling. I tried to learn the Korean alphabets on my own but failed many times. After taking an introductory course for a month at the Korean Language Center in New York, I was able to read, write and speak basic Korean. My instructor was very thorough and engaging. The class size was small with only 8 people, so everyone had ample opportunities to speak Korean.
If you’re lucky, there might be free Korean classes in your city provided by the Embassy of Korea like in Toronto and Washington D.C. You can also get a private tutor online through registered websites or Craigslist.
Get a Study Buddy
The fastest way to drive yourself down the learning curve is to practice with an actual Korean. But be aware that there are many accents of Korean, such as the Daegu accent that is akin to the Texan accent. The standard accent spoken is the Seoul accent, which is what they usually teach you in school.
Whenever I go out with my Korean friends, I make them speak Korean with me at all times (even if I don’t understand it) so I’ll get used to the sounds. I personally haven’t had much luck with the online language exchange programs, but that could just me be.
Practice Makes Perfect
At the end of the day, it all comes down to practice. When you go home, practice in front of the mirror. Listen to Korean music, watch Korean dramas (a great excuse for my K-drama addiction), and try to use Korean in your everyday life. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your Korean dry cleaner – Koreans love it when foreigners speak their language!