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-dramas, K-pop music, planning a trip to Korea, or even learning for work purposes, just follow these simple steps as a guide to kickstart your journey.
1. Learn Hangul [The Korean alphabet]
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
First, you can start by memorising the colours in Korean. By doing this, it can actually help you with making basic daily conversational sentences whenever you want to talk about the colours of your clothes or shoes and maybe the next colour you want to dye your hair to!
Besides colours, 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.
4. Focus on Korean Verbs and Verb Tenses
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.
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.
5. Learn to Count in Korean
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”
6. Install A Korean Dictionary App For Reference
Korean translator apps can help you bridge the gap between learning and understanding. They can also make your Korean studies more fun, efficient and interactive. Unlike heavy Korean books and dictionaries, they can follow you on the go and are always there to assist you whenever you need them.
Here are some of the best Korean translator apps to have :
Naver Korean Dictionary
7. Join A Learning Community
The best way to improve in Korean and any other language is to practice speaking and get used to it. Since we’re in a pandemic, the best way to meet people is via online! Online learning communities make it easy to take part in the group. From online discussions with classmates to video chatting, there are enjoyable ways for students to become engaged with their learning community.
If you want to join a learning community for Korean but you don’t know where to look, we have one here at uBitto!
8. Have A Study Plan
Having a study plan helps with your productivity and time management when learning! A study plan will help you split your studying into bite-sized chunks and outlining what you need to learn for your every day will help you know exactly what you need to do to improve your Korean. This way, you can learn and memorise more effectively and avoid stressing yourself.