A Korean Language Learner’s Resources (Beginner to Fluency) in 2019

Some people believe there are 3 levels to language learning: beginner, intermediate and advanced (or fluent). However, based on my humbling experience, there are 2 solid levels with several “versions” of intermediate fluency which may vary in number and duration based on the person’s drive, motivation and most importantly, strategy. Just because you love and strongly desire to beherrschen die Sprache, does not mean you will. Strategy with a sprinkle of motivation and an entire bucket… no ocean of consistency is what makes the difference in how fast you reach your goal.

In this write-up, I will provide the methods and materials I unknowingly applied to leave the crowded desert of lower intermediate Korean to ascending just one level higher.Bear with me, honesty and self-awareness is a must.

Beginner

Overview

A lot of Korean drama or K-pop fans are most likely going to fall within this category. Not because they just began, but because they never went any further. This is mostly due to lack of good strategy, lack of consistency, weak motivation and most importantly lack of patience.

Absolute Beginner

Description

This fits your Korean learning profile, if you recently just made the decision to learn Korean or you already started but simply working on Hangul. I bet you are highly motivated and probably have an unrealistic goal of attaining fluency within 3 months. If we checked your search history related to keyword “Korean”, we may find “how to learn Korean quickly” or “what do after learning Hangul” or “does Jungkook have a girlfriend?”.

Methods

My advice is to to just test the waters and remove all pressure and unrealistic expectations.  Start SLOWLY with Hangul but don’t linger here for too long. Expose yourself to comprehensible input ( – Stephen Krashen). This point may be difficult for Korean learners because finding interesting and beginner-level content is ironically hard to find online. But I will suggest watching cartoons tailored to Korean children, not Korean language learning children but Korean kids. Below is a list of YouTube channels that provide such content. Again, you are most likely going to understand only 10% but what you are trying to achieve here is sharpening your ears and brain to sound and music of the Korean language. Yes the music. You may know 5000 Korean words and may have mastered the grammar, however being understood will definitely be a problem if you lack the music or speaking pattern or intonation.

Focus

  • Hangul
  • Numbers
  • Exposure to Korean Intonation by listening

Hurdles

Based on personal experience, NONE. Mainly because, Hangul is very straight to the point.

Resources (Literally google “learn hangul”.)

Learn How to Read Hangul | HowtoStudyKorean
Learn Hangul – KoreanClass101
Numbers in Korean
… google is your 친구

Youtube Content for Beginners

Bread Barbershop
WildBrain 한국어
아이들을위한 이야기 – Korean
Korean Fairy Tales
주니토니 동요동화 – 키즈캐슬
지키즈TV – G Kids TV

Confused Beginner

Description

Now you have learned Hangul and probably memorised sino Korean from 1 – 10. Yes I left out 0 because it took me 3 years before I actually memorised zero in Korean. If you are this far, then standing ovation. Why? you ask.  it is because I, even after 5 years, still mix up sino and native Korean numbers. Quite embarrassing really. I bet you sort of feel inadequate. Well duh! set realistic expectations :D.

So what should you do from now ?

Methods

Repeat, repeat, repeat while slowly adding basic phrases. Such as “hello, good bye, my name is _, what is your name?”.  It is important not to rush into this. Not just for your progress but for your confidence.  Let’s get down to what I did during this stage:

  1. continued with Hangul and listening practice
  2. started memorising and using basic phrases daily (to who? myself)
  3. working with the Korean keyboard and naver dictionary.

Focus

Identifying basic phrases and vocabulary. Listen to yourself and the person you are imitating. If you do not have such a person, find a YouTuber or a hellotalk Korean language partner to correct your pronunciation. Don’t fret, if you can’t find partners. This is really irrelevant at this stage. Make sure you always work on your listening.

Hurdles

Since you just began with the phrases, do not beat yourself up on your accent and intonation. Just practice. Mastery comes with practice. Even if it sounds weird, you will only be able to tell between correct and incorrect pronunciation if you have made several mistakes and even better, embarrassed yourself while speaking ( – with natives). So do not give up.

Resources

NAVER Korean English Dictionary
HelloTalk – Talk to the World
Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com

Intermediate

Ohh…. you are big girl/boy now, stop blushing. Basic greetings, question patterns are under your belt and you have finally learned how to spell Oppa.

Lower Intermediate

Description

This is where you are tested. Most Korean learners I have come across (online) either stay here for years, or drop off, or drop off and come back and drop off again. Quite predictable and repetitive. But not you. In this level, learning the endings or the difference in informal and formal expressions is of highest priority. Let’s not also forget basic transition words such as “and, as, but etc…”.

Methods

  1. Daily speaking practice (self and/or with a partner)
  2. Anki spaced repetition – vocabulary memorisation
  3. Grammar Books

Focus

Speaking. Take speaking very seriously. You will be shocked to find a lot of K-learners that excel in grammar and reading/comprehension but cannot go past introducing themselves in Korean. Do not postpone speaking until you are advanced, start now. If you can’t find a partner, take  a mirror and speak. Yes, there is a difference between have a native speaker on deck to correct you versus just you. But, I truly believe there is a slight boost in confidence after repeating a word several times.

Hurdles

You may still find it difficult to decipher words during your listening exercises. Just keep swimming.

Resources

Higher Intermediate

Description

Oh, so you are serious?! Here is where grammar and speaking have the highest importance. Speaking will help you figure out which grammar principles you still need to work on and your comfy areas.  You could also start writing or blogging in Korean; Since its another way to find your weak and strong spots. Take your time in finding a serious Korean exchange partner, 1 person is enough. If you are financially capable, finding a teacher on Italki is really not a bad idea at this stage.

Methods

  1. Find a language partner, decide on a weekly schedule e.g. every Tuesday 8pm 30 minutes; 15min in Korean, 15 min in English. Pick a topic, study before hand and discuss on what you understand about the topic during the speaking sessions. Try to note down the words you either could not remember or the grammar principles that just did not come to mind at that moment.
  2. Buy a grammar book and practice the grammar daily. Tip: Pick 5 grammar principles weekly and make examples sentences daily with these principles. Even better, try to use them during your conversation session and observe the reaction of your partner. Ask if you used the principles correctly.

Focus

Speaking and Grammar.

Hurdles

Finding a serious partner is a major struggle amongst Korean language partners.

Resources

  • TTMIK Iyagi series
    korean grammar in use intermediate

Advanced

*No one made should have all that power…*

So you have mastered all the major grammar principles and can recognise them and their meanings even in different contexts. Good. You also can identify words while listening to some Korean podcast or watching a Korean show, not all but but a significant number. You should also be able to describe words you do not know with words you already know at heart.

Comfortable (books) advanced

Description

At this stage, you are what I called “Korean grammar book” smart. You know all the major and commonly used grammar principles. But you only know these principles in certain contexts and get confused when you come across their usage in another context. Self introduction, object description and even discussions on light subjects are really not that complicated to you. Problem is, you probably sound very “choppy”. You still think a lot while speaking. Yes,you should think BEFORE speaking but I do not mean it that way. You still attempt at directly translating what you want to say in your head initially before saying it. Trust me, in actually real time.. .like real life, this looks very awkward. But that is okay, you just need a little more practice.

I am actually at the this stage.

Methods

  1. You should focus on learning commonly used grammar principles. I like to use Korean comment section (댓글) as by guide to determine what principle I lack.  Note: not all comments are written in grammatically accurate Korean and also at this stage you should already know how Koreans love to “truncate” their endings e.g. -자마자  could also be expressed as -자. It took me awhile to figure this out.
  2. Speak with natives: you have no excuse apart from Internet. If you do not have internet,  your other best option would be travelling to Korea. I personally am not financially “there” to visit Korea just for language learning reasons, so I’ll just stick with the internet.
  3. Writing: This tests your grammar memory and also context memory. Hope you understand what I mean.
  4. Reading more advanced articles or texts . You could try getting into webtoons  as well, even though they have a reputation of having very bad grammar. Or you could look for very short articles on naver. I recommend looking at sections (책문화, 스쿨잼, , 어학당). Try to pick an article, study it over a period of max two weeks  ( cause you may easily get bored) and speak on it with your language partner. This exercise is what I call the language HIT.why ? because it forces every muscle of language learning to work: grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, context, intonation, pronunciation etc.

Focus

Reading and Speaking: Start reading a lot!

Hurdles

Context: You may find it discouraging when you discover a whole new world even after mastering the grammar

Time: To get over this stage, you need to set some time, daily. But not to long though. I personally do 15 – 30 minutes max for Korean daily.

Resources

  1. Naver articles
  2. TTMIK Iyagi Series

Streets advanced

Description

*With great power, comes great responsibility*

You know your context now. Reading short to medium length Naver articles or TTMIK IYAGI transcripts is a breeze. Your accent should be or have found its place in Korean and probably your speaking pattern as well. If you like K-drama, you could also watch pre-subtitles while understanding 90% of what is going on.  You have come across a lot of Korean Slangs and may have used them with your language partner. You most likely hear  less “와! 한국어를 잘 하네요”  and more “진짜 한국 사람인 줄 알았어요. 한국에서 살고 있는 외국들보다 한국어를 더 잘 하는 듯.” (not too sure if I wrote this right ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ).

Methods

  1. Listening: There are two “versions” of contexts  I feel needs to be learned. The “formal” and “informal”. However for this level and for most Korean language learners, the informal context is more relevant. To acquire this, listen to a lot of informal materials. E.g. Youtube Korean videos, podcasts, Korean shows and K-drama. I cannot emphasis the importance of “listening” in order to  passively and actively memorise /acquire context of words or phrases. Context will help you learn subtle differences between e.g. “신기하네요” and  “멋있네요”. They have “technically” very similar means but confuse me truthfully. You can only be aware of these differences by exposure.
  2. Speaking: here speaking to yourself won’t cut it. Sorry. you need someone to tell you “그 말 자연스럽지 않아요.”  or “좀 어색한데요.”. To be very honest, I would recommend an ITALKI teacher over an informal language partner. Because the teacher is paid to correct and would be more sensitive to your grammar and context errors than a language partner. But if you are financially “not there” to get an ITALKI teacher, stick with a language partner

I personally do ITALKI Free conversation (intermediate) lessons 2x monthly, and speak with a native language partner every Sunday. So I get the best of both worlds.

Focus

Context and vocabulary expansion ( learn synonyms)

Hurdles

Time and consistency

Resources

  1. Naver Audio podcasts
  2. ITALKI
  3. Hellotalk
  4. Youtube Korean Videos

Mediocre Native Speaker

I have never seen anyone come here, so I am just going to wait till I get here to fill this stop.

Korean Language : Intermediate to Advanced level up plan 2019

Some words needed to sound more natural while speaking in Korean

10 or more Korean Youtube Channels with Korean Subtitles for Korean language learners

Korean Vocabulary (PDF) of korean web comics