How to learn the Korean Language at home?
Korean is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people and 5.6 million consider Korean as a Heritage Language. It is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is a recognised minority language in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin Province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Russia and Central Asia. Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate. Of the 3000 languages in use currently, Korean is known to be the 13th most commonly used language. Korean vocabulary comprises 35% of native words, 60% of Sino-Korean words and 5% loanwords mostly from the English language. Modern Korean is understood to have descended from the Middle Korean, that emerged from the Old Korean, which itself, culminated from the Proto-Koreanic language, that is suggested to have its linguistic homeland somewhere in Manchuria. Korean presence or influence is strongly found in the Khitan language (different from Mongolian or Tungusic languages in vocabulary). Lesser-known Dravido-Korean languages theory, suggests Korean relationship with Dravidian languages in India.
Let's now see how are you can learn Korean at home
Identify your reason and passion for learning Korean
Here are some really good reasons to learn Korean:
- To travel the world. There are more than 2 million speakers in China, approximately 1 million in the United States, and about 500,000 in Japan. Korean is the official language of both South Korea (Republic of Korea) and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
- To have conversations with Korean-speaking family members.
- To read Korean literary classics such as Three Generations/삼대 by Yom Sang-seop, Samguk Yusa/삼국유사 compiled by Iryeon, Samguk Sagi/삼국사기 by Kim Busik, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong/한중록 by Hong Hyegyeong, translated by JaHyun Kim Haboush.
- To connect with Korean native speakers.
- To get an inside view of Korean culture.
Immerse yourself without leaving your home
Here is what you can do to immerse yourself in Korean:
- Turn your smartphone into a Korean speaker. Switch the language settings on your phone to Korean. You can do the same with your computer.
- Look for Korean speakers in your city. Most cities around the world, big or small, will have a community of Korean speakers. Chances are, there’s one near you.
- Watch K Dramas, Korean TV and movies. Switch on the subtitles to speed up your learning.
- Read articles and books in Korean. LingQ is a helpful tool for doing this.
- Listen to Korean radio and podcasts (my favourite is KoreanClass101). You can learn a lot of Korean by listening to Korean songs.
Creating your own Korean phrasebook that’s relevant to your life
- You’ll learn Korean much faster if you focus on words and phrases that are relevant to your life. Add a lot of fillers and conversation connectors to help you build your first conversation.
- Plus, when you have real conversations in Korean (I’ll come to that in a moment), you’ll be able to talk about yourself.
- That’s why I recommend creating a personalised Korean phrasebook. This is a collection of words and phrases that are relevant to you.
Using language hacks to make “difficult” Korean turn into easy Korean
Language hacks are shortcuts that help you learn a language faster. They’re ideal if you want to learn to speak Korean. Here are a few of my favourite language hacks that can speed up your Korean learning:
- Spaced Repetition Systems (SRS). SRS is a great method for memorising vocabulary and phrases using virtual flashcards. My favourite SRS tool, Anki, is free and allows you to create your own flashcards, so you can build a deck from your personalised Korean phrasebook.
- Mnemonics. A memory palace is an effective way to burn Korean words onto your brain.
- The Pomodoro Technique. Break up your study sessions into 25-minute chunks. This gives you better focus, so you learn more in a shorter time
- Korean includes sounds that don’t even exist in English. When you’ve only ever spoken one language, forming your lips and tongue into new shapes to make unfamiliar sounds can feel jarring, like hearing a wrong note in a well-known song.
- Some language learners let this hold them back. They feel embarrassed about saying things wrong and making mistakes.
- Push through this fear by speaking Korean even when you feel silly. You’ll learn Korean much faster that way.
Learn how to have real conversations with native Korean speakers
No matter where you live you can still find people, either online or offline, to speak with in Korean. I like to search for native Korean speakers on:
- italki. This is the first place I go to find Korean tutors and pay for one-on-one lessons (reasonably priced).
- Meetup.com. Most major cities have a Meetup for Korean speakers or Korean learners. CouchSurfing is another of my favourite ways to meet Korean speakers.
- HelloTalk. This free mobile app helps you find Korean speakers who are learning your native language.
Focus on the Easy Aspects of Korean
Korean is one of the easiest Asian languages to learn for English speakers, despite ranking as one of the most difficult languages by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). Korean pronunciation is much easier to master.
- Korean does not have grammatical cases whatsoever. Instead, they rely on a system that is called: Postpositions (KR: 조사). Postpositions, or particles as they are often referred to as are suffixes attached at the end of pronouns and nouns.
- Is not a tonal language, unlike many other Asian languages.
- Korean shares writing system with Chinese language and grammar with the Japanese language
- The Korean writing system is fairly easy and highly logical, and the Korean alphabet (also known as Hangul) takes less than an hour.
- There is no gender in Korean. In Korean, nouns are not masculine, feminine, they should be considered “neutral”. This applies to adjectives as well as nouns.
- Follows Subject-Verb-Object or S-V-O sentence structure
King Sejong the Great, of the 15th century, personally developed an alphabetic featural writing system, consisting of 28 basic characters, as he strongly believed that restricted use of Hanja, had resulted due to inadequacy to write Korean. Today only 24 are in use with 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Introduced first in the document Hunminjeongeum, Hangul was called ‘eonmun’ and it spread like fire nationwide to increase literacy in Korea. While Hangul was widely used by all the Korean classes, it was often treated as ‘amkeul’ (script for women), and disregarded by privileged elites, who upheld Hanja as ‘jinseo’ (true text).
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