How to Learn Korean: A U.S. News Guide

When Hanae Kim started educating Korean 9 years in the past, most of her college students had some form of private or household connection to the area. However as South Korean popular culture exports have surged in reputation, so too has curiosity in studying Korean, she says.

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“Lately, loads of my college students are actually inquisitive about Okay-pop and Korean dramas,” says Kim, the Korean primary language program coordinator on the College of Illinois in Chicago, the place she can be an adjunct lecturer. “They wish to go to in the future, and so they need to have the ability to learn indicators and order meals in eating places.”

Throughout the nation, curiosity in studying Korean is rising. U.S. enrollment in Korean language programs on the college degree elevated 95% between 2006 and 2016, to greater than 13,900 college students; Korean is the eleventh most-studied language in U.S. faculties, in response to a 2019 report from the Fashionable Language Affiliation.

Learn on for an summary of the fundamental elements of studying Korean and see how on-line courses, apps and different assets can support you in your quest to talk the language.

Because of Korean movies just like the Oscar-winning “Parasite,” Korean pop teams just like the boy band BTS and even Korean cosmetics, worldwide curiosity in Korean popular culture has spiked. This so-called Korean wave, referred to as “hallyu,” has been a motivator for a lot of aspiring audio system.

Past popular culture, South Korea’s financial energy – it’s the world’s eleventh largest economic system – makes Korean a sensible language to study if you happen to’re inquisitive about enterprise, says Yeonhee Yoon, a Korean language and tradition professor and the Korean language program coordinator on the College of Notre Dame.

“If individuals know the Korean language and tradition, they will get a job in South Korea at a number one globalized firm, resembling Samsung, Hyundai or LG,” she says. “They’ll additionally get authorities jobs within the U.S. as a result of Korean is likely one of the United States’ strategic languages.”

Studying to learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet, is a good first step for newbies, Yoon says.

“Hangul is a phonetic alphabet whose letters signify the person sounds of consonants and vowels,” she says. “The person consonant and vowel letters of Hangul are mixed into syllable blocks to spell Korean phrases and sentences.”

The Korean alphabet has 24 particular person letters – two fewer letters than the English alphabet – and 16 letters fabricated from combos of particular person letters.

In contrast to the English alphabet, Hangul letters are mixed into syllable blocks, inside which letters will be positioned each horizontally and vertically. Each block represents one syllable.

For instance, South Korea is named Hanguk in Korean. It’s spelled 한국. The primary syllable, 한 (han), incorporates three letters, two on high and one beneath. The second syllable, 국 (guk), incorporates three letters positioned vertically.

Earlier than Korea’s King Sejong the Nice invented Hangul in 1443, Koreans learn and wrote utilizing difficult-to-master Chinese language and Chinese language-based characters, Yoon says. Hangul was meant to function a better different and a method to increase the nation’s low literacy price.

At present, Hangul is a supply of nice satisfaction amongst Koreans, who also have a vacation to rejoice the alphabet: Hangul Day, which is Oct. 9.

To follow studying and writing Korean when you study Hangul, you may make the most of quite a lot of free assets. Yoon recommends these Korean newspapers for extra superior readers:


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North and South Korea have seven geographically primarily based dialects, that are related sufficient that audio system from totally different areas can perceive one another, Yoon says.

Richard Yoon, a Korean language educator on the Chicago Korean Schooling Heart, recommends studying Seoul Korean.

“Seoul Korean is what’s taught all through South Korea,” he says. “Seoul can be the cultural, monetary and governmental middle of South Korea. It’s like New York, D.C. and Hollywood mixed.”

Greater than half of South Korea’s inhabitants lives within the Seoul metro space.

Formal vs. Casual Speech

Korean is an honorific language, which means that audio system use totally different types of expression and totally different speech ranges, relying on the particular person they’re speaking to and the particular person they’re speaking about. Due to this, when talking Korean, you will need to perceive your social relationship with the particular person you’re talking with in addition to anybody you’re speaking about by way of age, social standing and kinship.

In complete, Korean has seven speech ranges, however nonnative audio system don’t must study all of them, particularly when first studying the language, Kim says.

Kim teaches a casual degree that can be utilized with colleagues, at shops and at eating places and an honorific degree that somebody would use when talking with a buyer or instructor. “However it’s nonetheless onerous to study two ranges of ritual for talking,” she says.

Working towards Talking Korean

Discovering a local language associate is one of the best ways to follow talking Korean, says Richard Yoon.

“My objective is to have all my college students discover a language associate,” he says. “When you’ve got a language associate, you’ve got an incentive to enhance. You possibly can assist them with English, and so they might help you with Korean.”

Newbie, intermediate and superior learners can strive buying and selling with their associate: one hour of Korean adopted by one hour of English, he says.

To discover a language associate, Richard Yoon suggests Korean language learners search for an area Meetup group to affix. They’ll additionally create a profile on the free HelloTalk app, which works like a courting app that helps individuals discover language companions.

“The grammar could be very totally different,” Kim says. “And the sentence construction could be very totally different as effectively. In Korean, the verb is all the time on the finish of the sentence. It’s very tough for individuals to do not forget that.”

She provides that her college students typically battle with Korean noun particles – an additional a part of speech to recollect and embrace in sentences.

Whereas Korean is a difficult language, Yeonhee Yoon says it’s not too onerous to study if college students are motivated, have good academics and discover enjoyable methods to follow, resembling by making Korean buddies and listening to Okay-pop.

Turning into proficient in Korean takes a mean of two,200 class hours, or 88 weeks of finding out a number of hours per day, in response to the FSI. To match, the FSI says you may study Spanish or Italian in a fraction of the time.

Whereas totally different individuals will study at totally different paces, Yeonhee Yoon offered normal timelines for studying Korean at 4 ranges:

  • Newbie: At the least two semesters (32 weeks or 180 hours of classroom instruction). That is usually sufficient time to choose up the fundamental phrases you have to talk in Korean whereas touring, resembling ordering meals at eating places and studying indicators.
  • Intermediate: At the least six to eight semesters (96 to 128 weeks or 540 to 720 hours of classroom instruction).
  • Superior: At the least eight to 12 semesters (128 to 192 weeks or 720 to 1080 hours of classroom instruction).
  • Fluent: Greater than 12 semesters.

Those that are extremely motivated, take part in an immersion program or examine in South Korea will doubtless study extra rapidly than those that don’t dedicate as a lot time to finding out.

In case you’re trying to study Korean quick, Kim recommends in-person courses. Having a instructor to reply questions and a peer group to assist you’re enormously useful, she says.

Interactive on-line courses could also be an excellent different if COVID-19 social distancing makes in-person studying inconceivable. And if courses aren’t out there the place you reside, Kim recommends discovering a language associate who can verify your pronunciation and reply questions.

Learning a language in a rustic the place it’s the official language will be one method to study it extra rapidly. There are a number of Korean immersion applications in South Korea, resembling Yonsei College’s Korean Language Institute and Korea College’s Korean Language Heart, however Kim recommends finding out the language a minimum of a bit of bit within the U.S. earlier than starting them. She says a few of her college students who did them with out finding out Korean beforehand discovered the immersive educating setting tough to comply with.

Watching Korean dramas might help, too. “I had one pupil who took 4 Korean courses at my college,” Kim says. “I used to be amazed by how good she was. I requested her how she obtained so good, and she or he mentioned she watched loads of Korean dramas.”

A few of the hottest dramas are “Mr. Sunshine,” “Goblin” (often known as “Guardian: The Lonely and Nice God”), “Crash Touchdown on You” and “Kingdom.”

Yeonhee Yoon says college students attempting to study Korean rapidly shouldn’t be afraid to make errors and attempt to use new phrases and new grammar factors day by day.

Many Korean language assets can be found on-line, from formal programs to apps to tutorial movies.

In case you’re trying to complement an in-person or interactive course, a Korean language app might be an excellent match.

  • The King Sejong Institute’s cell app. Created and operated by the Korean authorities, it has tons of free supplies for studying Korean.
  • Duolingo. This app gives brief, personalised classes. Its primary model is free, and it prices $6.99 a month for a premium account, after a free trial.
  • Memrise. It gives each free and paid classes. A subscription to the app prices $89.99 yearly.

One other useful resource is the Arirang TV present “Let’s Converse Korean,” which gives primary Korean studying and talking classes. You possibly can stream episodes totally free.

In case you’re in search of a proper course, listed here are some free choices:

  • The King Sejong Institute gives lectures for newbie and intermediate learners.
  • The Cyber College of Korea gives a Korean language curriculum.
  • Important Korean programs can be found totally free by Speak to Me in Korean. Premium classes and different assets can be found through a subscription, which prices $12.99 per thirty days or $93 yearly.
  • Loecsen gives a course that’s geared towards newbies.

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