How to learn the Korean language.
The very first step for beginners to study the basic Korean language is to learn Hangeul, the Korean alphabets. It may look scary especially to first-time learners because the Korean letters look so different from the latin letters that we are used to. Some even think that the Korean letters are similar to the Chinese characters. However, to your surprise, the Korean letters are more similar to the English alphabets than to the Chinese characters. This is because the Korean alphabets are also phonetic just like the Latin alphabets (notice both of them are called “alphabets”). In fact, the Korean letters can be said to be easier in terms of irregularity. For example, the “e”s in “element” all sound different. However, in Korean, each letters have the same sound almost all the time. There are of course exceptions but the irregularities are so little that can be memorised effortlessly.
Hence, don’t be too scared to start studying the Korean language because the alphabets are easier than you think. Indeed, the Korean letters were created originally for the poor and uneducated who couldn’t afford to learn the complicated Chinese characters. It is made easy in such a way that you can even study alone. Self-study is even made easier with online Korean language courses available in the digital world. There are so many online sources where you can learn the Korean Alphabets by yourself at your leisure.
Find a Korean class where you can practice Korean
Undeniably, there is a limitation when you study the Korean language alone and you may have to go for Korean language classes where you can practise with fellow students and teachers. If you are not sure with which Korean language schools to opt for, you can probably try the trial lessons.
One hindsight of attending Korean courses is that there is no source for comparisons since you will be signing up at only one language school. Thus, there is no way to know if your teacher is teaching great or not without any comparisons available. Trial lesson is the only chance where you can try different Korean classes and choose the best Korean language school that suits you.
Have you chosen your Korean language school and ready to attend the classes? Great. There are a few things for you to keep in mind.
Don’t be too enthusiastic.
Learning a foreign language is like a marathon rather than a 100m sprint-run. If you are going to boost your speed for the first few metres, you won’t be able to last for the rest of the race. It’s same for the Korean language. Those who are very eager to learn the language fast end up quitting the language fast due to the burn-out syndrome. So take it easy, be the tortoise rather than the hare!
Learning does not stop outside the classroom!
Some learners expect the teacher to do everything, encode the language into their brains and magically, they will be able to speak Korean just like the natives. Assuming that you only go to the Korean class once a week, studying the language only in the classroom does not necessarily mean that you will improve — because your brain will start to forget once you leave the lesson! Hence, you will still need to study the Korean language even at home so that you will remember what you have learnt in the classroom. What’s the use if you go back for lesson to learn something new but you don’t remember the last week’s lesson?
Improve your listening
Well acquainted with the Korean alphabets and the basic Grammar? Excellent.
The next step is to improve on your listening. You may think you already have enough practice as you listen to your Korean teacher once a week in the classroom. Alas, your Korean teacher does represent the verbal communication of the whole Korean language which is so diverse. Moreover, your Korean teacher speaks slower deliberately with clearer pronunciation than an average native does for your convenience. This is why students, even the most advanced learners, get shocked when they go to Korea. They simply can’t hear what the natives are saying because they are not used to different voice and pronounciation of actual Koreans. Thereupon, they could not speak with the natives as well as they did in classrooms since they cannot even understand the conversation. So how do you practise listening?
How to practice listening
One way is to listen to the CD that is attached to the Korean textbook if you have. Many tend to neglect the CD but there is a reason why the authors of the book attached it. It is important to try the listening quizzes to study the Korean language. Of course, the actors in the CD also speak slowly but at least, you will be exposed to various voices other than your Korean teacher.
Other than the CD, listening to K-pop or K-drama is both a fun and good way. It’s okay if you can only understand a couple of words.
You will be still exposed to realistic Korean vocalisation. As you listen more and more, you will notice some repeated expressions. These are the common expressions that are actually used by Koreans in real life. When your Korean teacher teaches you these expressions, they will be ingrained in your brain as these were something that you have already heard before and wondered what they really mean. Therefore, keep practise listening as it is imperative, along with reading and writing, in studying the Korean language, especially in terms of practicality. Remember that learning shouldn’t stop outside the classroom? You can listen to K-pop or K-drama at home! That helps to maximise your learning of the Korean language as well.
The best way to check your learning path is to try testing yourself. Probably what now comes to your mind is the TOPIK (Test Of Proficiency In Korean), the only international examination recognised by the Korean authority. However, this is not recommended to basic Korean language learners as they will be discouraged by the level of difficulty. Instead, they can try Korean Placement Tests provided by Korean language schools. They can be as short as 10 minutes and free of charge. You can test yourself level by level at your convenience. Only when you are confident as an intermediate or advance learner, you can try applying for the TOPIK examination.
Don’t be intimidated by the look of the Korean Alphabets if you want to start learning the Korean language. They are nothing like the Chinese characters but latin alphabets that carry easy phonetic sounds.
Try the trial lessons when choosing between different Korean language schools. When you start attending the Korean classes, don’t be too enthusiastic, don’t over exert yourself. Save your energy for the long journey.
Remember to do revision at home (or at least to the homework given) so that you won’t forget what you have learned and able to catch up the next Korean lesson.
Try listening to different Korean speakers and get your ears be familiar with verbal Korean. Listening to K-pop or K-drama will do good too. Challenge your Korean proficiency with test from the easiest level.
Learning the Korean language is a long learning journey that requires considerable amount of perseverance. As mentioned before, be the slow but consistent tortoise. All the best with your endeavour in learning the Korean language.