The Best Way to Learn Korean: Your Ultimate Guide

By OptiLingo • 12 minute read

best way to learn korean

Learning Korean is very useful and a lot of fun. Thanks to an abundance of learning materials, there are a number of different ways you can master this language. But what’s the best way to learn Korean? Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate learner, these tips for learning Korean will show you how to learn the language fast.

With over 75 million speakers worldwide, speaking Korean fluently could bring you various opportunities. This East-Asian language is useful for business and culture alike. You may have noticed that Korean culture is becoming increasingly relevant internationally. K-Pop and Korean cinema are popular worldwide, so learning Korean has never been more beneficial.

As an Asian language, many language learners worry about how long it takes to learn a new language. The different writing systems can seem especially daunting for beginners. While learning how to read and write Korean letters isn’t difficult, the time it takes for you to master the language depends on a lot of variables. 

How Long Does It Take to Learn Korean?

The truth is, there’s no clear number that tells you how long it takes to learn a language. Your speed depends on your native language, your target language, what kind of learner you are, and what learning methods you use. 

If you’re an English native speaker, Korean would be considered a relatively harder language to learn. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) estimates 2200 hours or 88 weeks for learning Korean. So, you should be prepared that reaching fluency in Korean may take a while. But fear not! With the best tips to learn Korean, you can fast-track your language learning journey

tips for learning korean fast

Before You Begin Learning Korean:

1. Define Your Goals and Motivation

Before you begin to learn a language, you must know why you’re studying, and what your end goal is. Whether you want to travel to Korea, impress a business partner, or understand K-Pop songs better, you must be willing to put in the effort to master the language. Goals help with that. Once you determine why you desire to learn Korean, you’ll have the motivation needed to succeed.

A common goal language learners have is to reach fluency or proficiency. But you also need to set smaller goals to keep your motivation up. Achieving smaller results can keep you going for bigger milestones, then it’s just a matter of willpower.

It’s important to keep working for your goal. Once you reach a certain language level in Korean, you may experience dwindling interest in your studies. This happens to everyone. But, if you overcome this intermediate language learning plateau, you can surely succeed on your path to speaking like a local.

2. Create a Language-Learning Schedule

Being well-organized is very important for language learning. By creating a language learning schedule with your goal in mind, you can learn Korean faster. When you’re making your schedule, make sure you include these tips to learn Korean to maximize your success.

You’ll be surprised how much study time you can fit into your regular day. You only need 20 minutes each day to reap the benefits of being bilingual: 20 minutes of your daily commute, your appointments, or your gym sessions.

Once you have your schedule, and you stick with it, you’ll make studying Korean second nature.

best way to learn korean

3. Choose the Right Korean Language Resources

Having the right resources and study materials is the key to language learning success. When you’re choosing, keep in mind that your resources need to work for you. No matter how great a Korean textbook or podcast is for other people, if it doesn’t get you closer to your goal, it’s useless. And you’ll know you’ve chosen the right resources if you’re going to enjoy learning any language

There are a number of reliable methods you can use to learn Korean. Some are free. But, others can cost a pretty penny. Make sure you keep value in mind when you set your budget for Korean language learning. Here are a few types of resources you can use:

  • Join a Korean Class: Whether it’s a university program or a local night class, studying with a group of people has a lot of advantages. It’s great for motivation and discipline. However, it can also be very expensive. Not to mention that you’re sharing the attention of the teacher with a number of people. So, choose wisely.
  • Hire a Private Korean Tutor: You can find Korean native speakers to tutor you locally or online. Either way, you should expect to pay them well for their time and expertise. These lessons will be tailored to you and will help you learn how to speak Korean quickly.
  • Purchase Korean Textbooks: If you prefer to learn Korean from the comfort of your home, you’re probably saving yourself a lot of money. Luckily, there is no shortage of home study aids available. You can always use the best Korean textbooks to give you a solid foundation for the language.
  • Use a Korean Language Learning App: The convenience of having your classes in your pocket makes language learning apps incredibly useful. The best language learning apps are built on proven methods. Choose the one that gets you speaking (not just typing) Korean.

4. Focus on Comprehensible Input

Comprehensible input is the key to learning Korean successfully. It’s a language learning theory by Stephen Krashen. Having comprehensible input in your studies comes down to two components: 

  1. Your study materials are exactly one level above your current knowledge.
  2. You understand everything from context.

The first point is very important when you’re learning Korean. If you keep your studies at an optimal level, you won’t be bored, and you won’t be frustrated. Aim for material that is not too hard and not too easy. The second aspect is a reflection of your comprehension. You can only enhance your vocabulary if you understand the meaning. This is one of the most important of these tips to learn Korean.

learn how to read and write korean

The Best Way to Learn Korean

Now that you’re well prepared for the journey ahead, it’s time to dive in. Learning Korean is just like learning any foreign language. You need to learn grammar, enhance your vocabulary, and practice speaking skills. But, there are a few steps that you need to take that are specific to Korean. Follow these, and reach Korean fluency fast.

1. How to Read Korean Hangul

The first step to learning Korean is to learn its alphabet: Hangul. Although Romanized Korean exists, you won’t fully engage with the language without its traditional letters. Don’t worry, learning Hangul is easy. All you need to start is a list of all Hangul letters in the alphabet.

An easy way to learn Hangul is to categorize the letters. This method is called chunking. Divide the consonants and vowels into smaller groups, and go through and review them one by one. First, learn the consonants, then the vowels. You’ll learn them faster and more efficiently.

2. Start Counting in Korean

Numbers are an important part of everyday communication. They can help to recognize and decipher symbols. Numbers are also a shortcut to basic syntax and context. Learning numbers early on can help you understand the logic of the language. 

However, the Korean number system is much different from what English speakers are used to. It utilizes two different sets of cardinal numbers. These two sets are Korean and Sino-Korean.

  • The Korean form only ranges between 1 and 99. It’s used for counting items and age. So, you would use Korean form to describe how old you are, how many glasses of water you drink, or the number of cats residing in your home.
  • Sino-Korean is used to count dates, phone numbers, money, addresses, and any number over 100. 

The most complicated part of counting in Korean isn’t the different number systems. It’s the grammar that follows. Every time you count a noun, you need to put the appropriate counter word afterwords. This depends on what category the thing your counting falls into. There are different counter words for most inanimate objects, people (formal and informal), animals, months, and even socks. 

best way to learn korean

3. Target High-Frequency Words

Having a decent vocabulary is crucial to foreign language fluency. But it’s not about how many words you know, it’s about which words you know. The fast road to fluency is by focusing on the most common words and phrases.

Did you know that 80% of our everyday speech comes from 20% of our vocabulary? This is called the Pareto Principle. And it’s true for all languages. If you can learn the most common expressions, you’ll reach fluency in record time

A great way to learn Korean fast is to learn basic conversational phrases. One of the first things one learns when studying a language is how to say hello and goodbye. An example would be phrases like 안녕, which is pronounced “anyeong”. This is the casual way to say hello. There is also a formal way derived from the same character pronounced “anyeong-haseyo”. By mastering such rudimentary conversational phrases,  you can create a foundation to help you learn the rest. 

4. Use Spaced Repetition Systems

Now that you have your high-frequency words and number, it’s time to commit them to memory. If you want to fast track your Korean language studies, you need spaced repetition. These study tips to learn Korean won’t get any more straightforward.

Your brain is always actively forgetting. When you learn something new, you’ll forget most of it within a day. A week later you’ll have less than 20% of your material memorized. This is called the “Forgetting Curve”.

The only way to combat the “Forgetting Curve” is with spaced repetition. This means that whenever you’re about to forget your material, you’ll repeat your lesson and reinforce your memories. In time, you can decrease the frequency of these reviews. And through spaced repetition systems, you’ll have committed all your Korean study materials to your long term memory.

how to learn korean fast with culture

5. Understand Korean Formalities

Showing respect is a very important part of Korean culture. And the language reflects that. The Korean language has several degrees of formality. These change depending on who you are talking to. Learning the differences is one of the most crucial tips for learning Korean. Here are the different addresses and when to use them: 

  • Informal when you’re speaking to your friends or peers.
  • Formal when you address people older than you.
  • Honorific when you’re making major addresses (like a newscaster or military presentation).

6. Master Korean Pronunciation

Learning how to read in Korean is simple enough. But to reach fluency in Korean, you need to speak. And the greatest source of language learning anxiety comes from worrying about pronunciation. But the truth is, the only way to learn is to practice.

Unlike a lot of Asian languages, Korean is not a tonal language. This makes it a little bit easier to master Korean pronunciation. To learn how to pronounce Korean words, there are some great online resources available. Most language learning apps feature guides to help you with this, but you can also turn to Google Translate or Forvo when in doubt.

Seou, Korea at night

7. Create an Immersive Korean Experience at Home

Traveling to Korea to learn the language is a luxury for many of us. Luckily, we can always create our immersion experience at home. These activities aren’t just fun and enjoyable, they also complement your Korean studies perfectly. Learn about Korean culture and society while you master the language.

  • Watch Grammar Videos on YouTube: If you’re confused about Korean grammar, there are a number of great instructional videos on YouTube. These vlogs are usually run by Korean natives or fellow language learners, so following their channels may be a good idea.
  • Listen to K-Pop: K-Pop is Korean pop music. Its popularity is not just limited to Korea. Audiences adore these singers worldwide. Listening to K-Pop songs is not only great entertainment but these lyrics can also help you learn the sounds of Korean faster. If you’re looking for recommendations, these are the best K-Pop songs to learn Korean with.
  • Learn About Korean Culture: Korean culture is rich in customs and traditions. Learning about its history, people, and holidays can give you a great insight into the Korean mindset. It can also be a great motivation to keep learning Korean.
  • Watch Korean Dramas: Korean cinema is internationally respected for its high-quality and engaging stories. But if you want to learn Korean, watching Kdramas can help you master the language. These exciting stories are filled with everyday Korean speech, so you can discern the high-frequency phrases.
  • Make Local Friends: The best way to learn Korean is with a native Korean speaker. Whether it’s a penpal or someone you regularly video chat with, having a Korean speaking friend can be very beneficial. They can correct your grammar or pronunciation, and give you pointers on how to improve. There’s no better way to learn how to read and write in Korean than practicing.

best way to learn korean with culture

The Best App to Learn Korean

There are a number of different ways to learn Korean. The best option is to use a combination of these ideas and resources. You need to enjoy your lessons, but they also have to bring you closer to your goal. If you’re learning Korean on a budget, your best option is to download a reliable app that can guide your overall journey. One that’s based on scientifically-proven methods. And that’s OptiLingo.

You can trust OptiLingo to get you to fluency fast. By presenting you with high-frequency words, you can learn how the locals speak. OptiLingo’s learning resources teach you about Korean culture and society, while you master the language. Most importantly, OptiLingo gets you speaking the language, not typing. We know that practicing your pronunciation is the only way to complete fluency. Try OptiLingo today to discover why it’s the best way to learn Korean!