How I'm learning Korean
Korean is the fifth language that I have attempted to learn after Spanish. I can string some short, coherent sentences together like a child and I'm most pleased with my intonation. On the other hand, my knowledge of grammar is poor and my vocabulary bank is as basic as you would expect from a beginner.
Comedic YouTuber David So was my first impression of South Korea. My interest in Korean music was born through SHINee. My knowledge and understanding of Korean culture grew through watching eatyourkimchi's TLDR series. Finally, I got to see for myself if Korea warranted my interest during my first trip to Seoul in 2016 and fell for the beautiful sound of Korean, the food, the culture, and the simplicity of the writing system - especially compared to Chinese and Japanese. I went during my study abroad program in Kyoto and took a Korean class in Japanese shortly after my return. Prior to that, I had self-taught myself hangul, the writing system, thanks to Mina Oh, and after a short Japanese-Korean class every Friday for a few weeks, I could babble and somehow make a sliver of sense. Unfortunately, I put Korean aside to focus on my Japanese studies degree. It was after my second trip to Seoul in 2018 that I decided to pick Korean up again.
In this post, I will share with you my language goals, resources and techniques that I'm currently using to learn Korean. From one beginner to another, I hope you find this helpful!
My Korean-language goals
Speaking: To sound feminine (I purposefully choose to sound masculine in Japanese because feminine Japanese makes me cringe)
Reading: To understand and be able to fluidly read a chapter of my Korean comic book
Listening: To watch a TV show or drama episode without English subtitles and understand at least 50% of it
Vocabulary: To maintain a conversation without struggling for words, and have good spelling
Testing: To make a good Korean friend that doesn't speak English
I prefer dictionaries with example sentences and audio so I use Naver (like everyone else, I'm sure). I read the example sentences aloud and practice speed-reading by shadowing the recordings. Any new vocabulary goes into my vocab list. If I have time, I will watch a V Live video through the Naver app to hear the word or phrase in context, as well as to practice my listening skills.
I wrote a whole blog post on the top 5 songs to learn Korean so check that out!
I have 2 Korean textbooks, and a basic Korean vocabulary book (all come with CDs). They are all in Japanese. They allow me to practice both languages simultaneously, and I am able to better grasp the grammar since Japanese and Korean grammar share many similarities. However, there are times when I focus more so on the Japanese, or days when I don't even want to look at the Japanese alphabet.
When that happens, I read my Korean comic book. During my wait at Incheon airport, I bought a cute, slice-of-life comic about an old man and his cat. Though I don't understand much and can't check my pronunciation against a CD, it is a more pleasant way to see grammar and vocabulary used in context while admiring the artwork.
Apps and Websites
I use Instagram the most out of these apps and websites, and so I follow a few Korean-speaking accounts (@mykoreanchildhood) and @eggbun_education). I practice reading when I'm scrolling through my feed or watching Instastories.
I also add helpful vocabulary and grammar pictures to my Pinterest board.
I mainly use HiNative (level 31, top 0.2% for English natives, just saying) for Japanese but every so often I will ask for Korean help on using a word in a sentence, or sounding more natural.
In terms of websites, howtostudykorean.com is an incredible grammar resource that is more convenient and quick to access than my textbooks, however I am using my textbooks as often as I can to do the exercises.
I used to use HelloTalk and had a few basic, short and banal conversations. However, now that I live in South Korea, I chat to people on Tinder and Instagram Messenger. An Instant Messenger gives me a little kick to learn and retain the language quickly in order to keep up with a native. We all know that seeing that a message was read but getting no reply is one of the worst feelings ever!
YouTube has been a game-changer in my language-learning journey. I follow a daily vlog channel called ondo_vlog for everyday vocabulary and phrases (e.g. I just took a shower, I stopped by the supermarket, I'm making this for dinner). I listen and repeat after she speaks, and read the subtitles aloud to practice speed-reading. A daily vlog channel encourages me to, you guessed it, practice Korean daily. Hopefully I get better at the whole daily thing!
'Happy Together' is a funny and entertaining show on KBS. As a beginner, I rely heavily on the subtitles but since I like the show so much, I tend to re-watch certain episodes and pay closer attention to the language, repeating whatever I pick up, and doing my best to imitate the intonation and gestures. Thanks to this show and the celebrity appearances, I can stay updated with the Korean entertainment industry. I actually discovered my favourite Korean drama 'Remember: War of the Son' through Namgung Min's guest appearance.
I also watch ‘My Neighbour Charles’ for the host’s lovely, clear voice, and for a confidence boost seeing non-Koreans speak fluent Korean.
The missing link
What I wish I had more of is speaking practice. Sure, I talk to myself, repeat after CDs, and yes, I did get to practice throwing words together with older ladies at a Korean spa a few months ago, but I don’t have daily conversation practice…is what I wrote before I moved to South Korea in January 2019! Now I have the opportunity to chat to my co-workers, answer shop-keepers when they ask me if I want a bag or a receipt, and I’ve been making lots of great, new friends since I moved here!
So, that's my rather detailed walk-through of how I'm learning Korean! I had a bunch of resources before that were great and you probably already know of them! However, some methods, like flashcards and podcasts just don't work for me. I've also found that the fewer resources I have, and the more I focus on certain activities, the more likely I am to study a little bit every single day out of habit.
All images are my own and are subject to copyright.