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10 Steps on How to Start Learning the Korean Language

Korean 한국어, Hangugeo is the official language of South Korea, North Korea, and China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. 

Whether you are trying to learn the Korean language to understand K-drama’s, K-pop music, planning a trip to Korea, or even learning for work purposes, just follow these simple steps and you will be on your way to speak Korean fluently.

Learn Hangul [The Korean alphabet]

10 Steps on How to Start Learning the Korean Language 1

Learning Hangul is a good place to start if you want to learn the Korean language. This is important especially if you are hoping to progress to reading and writing Korean later on.

Surprisingly, Hangul is an easy alphabet to learn. Hangul has 24 letters – 10 vowels and 14 consonants. 

The letters in Hangul are highly symbolic. The consonants are made of simple diagrams of what shape the mouth makes in order to articulate the sound.

Vowels are made up of three symbols: a dot representing the sun (written as -), a horizontal line (ㅡ) representing the Earth, and a vertical line (ㅣ) representing humans, who connect the Earth and sun.

Just spend a week learning the 8 most basic vowels followed a week on the y-sound vowels and vowel combinations. Then you can move on to learning the consonants, again break them into groups of 8 letters each.

Depending on your study plan, you should be able to learn Hangul in a matter of weeks or even less.  Spending ten minutes per day (on average) reviewing flashcards, you can master reading Hangul in about a month. 

Once you have mastered the individual letters, reading words will come quickly. The more you practice reading (even if you cannot understand a word of what you are reading) chances are your reading skills will improve.

The easiest way to practice is through social media (since we are always browsing on it). Follow our Facebook, Instagram and Youtube as we post daily content relating to the Korean language to help you improve your reading, writing and listening skills.

Click here to get our FREE Korean Learner Starter Kit

Learn the Hangul Irregularities

 Not sure if its “ee-neun” or “eet-neun”? Irregularities in Hangul can occur due to various reasons! 

Just like the English language we have certain rules for combining certain letters to make a new pronunciation. 

The Korean language also has certain rules for pronunciation when specific letters are combined in the third/final letter in a syllable/character and the first letter of the following syllable/character.

Memorize simple Korean vocabulary

Once you have learned to read Hangul, the next step to learning the Korean language is to begin collecting vocabulary.  

The wider vocabulary you have at hand, the easier it will be for you to speak the language fluently. Familiarize yourself with as many simple Korean words as possible. It is recommended to learn at least 10 new vocabularies in a week.

If you hear a word in English, think about how you would pronounce it in Korean. If you don’t know the Korean word, write it down and look it up later. It is handy to keep a little notebook with you at all times for this purpose.

You can even attach little labels to items around your house in the Korean language. You can add to a mirror, coffee table, and TV, and refrigerator. You will see these words so often that you’ll learn them without even realizing it.

Sometimes, it might be difficult for you to decide on which vocab to learn, and this is where categories can be helpful – greetings, food, animals, transportation, common adjectives.

The Korean pop culture can also provide thematic vocab. For example, if you are watching K-drama in a high school setting, you will pick up school-related vocab or if you are listening to K-pop music, you will pick up romantic vocabs. 

Focus on Korean Verbs 

The third step on getting started on the Korean language is learning common verbs as verbs are probably the most important part of any Korean sentence. 

In fact, it is quite common in the Korean language to skip a sentence entirely and to only say the verb! 

An example of this would be to simply say “eat” which can mean, “I want to eat”, “Let’s eat” or “Do you want to eat?” The meaning can be from the same context but is delivered with different intonations.

If you don’t know where to begin, think about verbs that you use repeatedly in English. Write a list of verbs to learn and look them up in a Korean dictionary. You can use Naver’s Korean –  English dictionary to do the translating.

Learn the Verb Tenses

Eat, ate, eaten. Confused about which is right tense to use? Once you have mastered the basic verbs, you will need to know how to use the right tense. Just like English, there is past, present, future tense in the Korean language. 

Learn to Count in Korean

10 Steps on How to Start Learning the Korean Language 3

Knowing how to count is a basic skill in any language. Counting numbers in Korean can be really tricky as they have 2 different number systems depending on situations – Native Korean system and Sino-Korean, which originates from Chinese.

The Native Korean numbers are used for item numbers (1-99) and age. E.g. 2 children, 5 cookies, 23 years old. Sino-Korean is used for dates, money, addresses, phone numbers and numbers above 100.

Here’s how to count to ten in the Native Korean numbers:

One = 하나 pronounced “hana”

Two = 둘 pronounced “dul”

Three = 셋 pronounced “se(t)”(” t” is not pronounced. However, make sure to close the sound completely-somewhere between a ‘se’ and a ‘set’)

Four = 넷 pronounced “ne(t)”

Five = 다섯 pronounced “da-seo(t)”

Six = 여섯 pronounced “yeo-seo(t)”

Seven = 일곱 pronounced “il-gob”

Eight = 여덟 pronounced “yeo-deolb”

Nine = 아홉 pronounced “ahob”

Ten = 열 pronounced “yeol”

Here’s how to count to ten in Sino-Korean:

One = 일 pronounced “il”

Two = 이 pronounced “ee”

Three = 삼 pronounced “sam”

Four = 사 pronounced “sa”

Five = 오 pronounced “oh”

Six = 육 pronounced “yug”

Seven = 칠 pronounced “chil”

Eight = 팔 pronounced “pal”

Nine = 구 pronounced “gu” ( Mostly It is “ku”)

Ten = 십 pronounced “sib”

Learn the Household Noun Terms

In order to survive in a basic Korean household environment, you need to pick up some basic household vocabulary. Your first real practice using Korean sentences will begin here.

Example of household words:

 House 집

 Room 방

 Bed 침대  

 Pillow 베개

 Alarm Clock 자명종

 Bathroom 화장실 

 Toilet 변기

 Towel 수건  

 Toothpaste 치약 

 Toothbrush 칫솔 

 Soap 비누

 Shampoo 샴푸 

 Kitchen 부엌  

 Chair 의자 

 Plate 접시 

 Cup 컵 

 Lamp 램프

 Window 창문

 Sofa 소파

 Television 텔레비전

 Telephone 전화기

 Computer 컴퓨터

Learn the Colors in the Korean Language

Just like the number system we discussed earlier, Korea’s color system is also different.  Even though people in Korea can understand the English terms for some colors, their native words are more commonly used in Korea.

Here are some common colors to get you started!

Orange – 주황색 – juhwangsaek

Yellow – 노란색 – noransaek

Blue – 파란색 – paransaek

Red – 빨간색 – bbalgansaek

Green – 초록색 – choroksaek

Black – 검정색 – geomjeongsaek

Brown – 갈색 – galsaek

Pink – 분홍색 – bunhongsaek

Purple – 보라색 – borasaek

White – 흰색 – heuinsaek

Learn the Clothing Noun Terms 

If you are going to Korea to visit, chances are you are definitely going to go around and shop! They are plenty of choices to choose from and you might find yourself exploring for a while in shopping districts and malls. 

Shirt 셔츠

T-shirt – 티셔츠

Pants 바지

Shorts 반바지

Jeans  청바지

Shoes 신발

Sneakers 운동화

Skirt 치마

Jacket 재킷

Coat 코트

Dress 원피스

Hanbok 한복

Learn Korean Modals 

In the English language, modals are the combination of verbs such as “need”, “want”, “should” etc. This verb’s purpose is to combine one verb with another. This also exists in the Korean language as well.

We hope these first steps will get you started and help you build your momentum on learning the Korean language. Enjoy the journey!

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