Guide to Learning Korean On Your Own
These are resources that you can use on your own time, and go at your own pace, whether you’ve got a full-time or part-time job, work mornings, afternoons or nights.
This is obvious to anyone trying to learn a language. To hear and understand, speak and write any language takes discipline. There is the daily discipline of learning vocabulary and grammar (see resources below), and the discipline of making yourself listen to and produce the language you’re studying. If there’s one thing Megan and I have found in our short time in Korea, especially living so close to Seoul, you can go all day without having to speak or read a word of Korean. Signs are in English everywhere, more than a few strangers speak English, and body language can go a long way. Putting myself in a situation where I am forced to comprehend and produce Korean will be essential to language acquisition And, since these situations are something I can easily avoid, it takes discipline to get in there and speak what little I can right now.
Ok, enough of me pontificating; to the language resources!
Resource #2: Talk to Me in Korea (TTMIK)
TTMIK is becoming a phenomenon, riding the KPop and Podcasting tide and arriving in the hearts and MP3 players of the masses. In just four years, they racked up over 15 million downloads of their content, and over 100,000 followers, so you know they’re doing something right! TTMIK currently has nine levels of Korean, with around twenty-five lessons in each level. Each lesson is about 10-15 minutes long and is typically a combination of audio (the podcast) and a information sheet about the lesson (in PDF format that can be downloaded along with the podcast. I typically listen to these podcasts and follow along on the PDF in the morning before I head out to work. It’s a fun and refreshing way to start off my Korean days. Hyunwoo, Kyeong-eun and the other teachers are very conversational and make Korean seem a lot easier than it actually is (which can be difficult to do. You can subscribe to them in iTunes here, or find their YouTube channel here.
Resource #3: Live Mocha
Live Mocha is an online language learning community that encourages collaboration and constructive feedback from its users. It’s social networking for language learning. You can sign up for free, and there are plenty of free language levels and units. For Korean, there are four levels with ten total units of language. They are all broken up into four sections per unit: Learn, Review, Write and Speak. You cannot move on to the next unit until you have completed all the sections. The kicker is that you can write out your exercises and record yourself and other Korean speakers in the community will review your work and give you pointers. You can also review others’ English (or whatever language you speak proficiently) and earn tokens for use on the paid language levels. It’s a great community for helping and being helped along the way in your language acquisition.
Resource #4: YouTube
There are a TON of resources for just about everything on YouTube. With tens of thousands of new videos uploaded everyday, there is always a new take on learning Korean, and plenty of people making their presence known. Once helpful place to start is here to learn the alphabet. Follow the links to learn more about writing the alphabet, double consonants, and complex vowels (yes, Korean is a whole new world of fun, even in the way letters are combined!). Let’s face it, audio is good (see resources #2 and #3), but video is typically more engaging, and you can find plenty to learn on YouTube, from how to say “Hello!” to tell people that you can’t speak Korean (in Korean… Haha… Get it?!)
Resource #5: Anki Flashcards
If you’re interested in learning ANYTHING (but especially Korean) you will have to do some memorizing. Anki Flashcards is probably the best program out there for flashcards and memory repetition. Create your own flash cards, or download from thousands of shared decks. I flash through these guys pretty much every day, and I’m surprised at how well the repetition and algorithm work, even when I feel everything I’m learning is leaking out of my brain! Note: Anki is free for use on desktops and Android mobile devices, but is a paid application on iOS devices.
The last thing I will say is that language learning is HARD! This leads us to…
Resource #6 (Commisurate with) Others!
“No man [sic] is an island” and “misery loves company” are essential phrases to remember for learning a language. While you might from time to time, talking to yourself is not the best way to learn a language. You need others to chat with, correct you, encourage you and get frustrated with you. Language is about communication; arguably the most important part of learning a language is to understand–and be understood by–others. Whether you’re hitting a wall in your learning or frustrated beyond imagination (or both), other people will help you along the way. This last resource might not be free, and definitely might not be on your own time, but it will be worth the bill and travel time.