I have gotten many questions about Korean grammar since I started teaching Korean. I have studied it a lot and helped people to learn it easily. However, I have felt that the more I have tried to help students, the more they get confused. Furthermore, their motivation for learning Korean decreases. In this article, I recommend to you how to study Korean grammar effectively and how we can approach it easily. My answer is not to study grammar rules with textbooks, but just to embrace it in other ways. I’ll briefly explain why you should not study grammar and give useful tips that you can refer to.
Why We Should Not Study Korean Grammar
Grammar is important. It is true. We should know basic grammar rules to convey our intention to others clearly. However, you do not have to study grammar to use it correctly. Korean grammar is especially tricky and is quite loose. The verb suffix, or the end of the verb, changes freely. Let me give you an example. In Korean, to receive something is 받다. The end of the verb can be changed in various ways like this:
- 받으리라, 받으면, 받읍시다, 받으십시오 받으오
- 받은, 받으니, 받고, 받다가, 받지, 받노라
- 받아서, 받아가지고, 받아줄래, 받을까, 받자마자
- 받아와서, 받은 다음에, 받아 가지고 와서
There are also similar patterns among these with similar meanings. I’m not going to explain what these meanings are here. You should realize that there are a lot of changeable forms in verb suffix patterns in Korean. Also, we can use other different forms because they are pretty loose to make and use. Therefore, if you try to study all these patterns, learn what the differences are, and then try to memorize these, you are likely going to quit. For example, if you just enrolled in a swimming class in order to learn how to swim as a beginner, but you follow a national athlete’s workout routine, you will become frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. Please stop it.
Then how should we learn Korean? Are there any informative tips? I am going to share some better ways instead of studying grammar.
Find Your Own Interest
Learning a language takes time. You cannot speak any language in a few days or a few weeks, so you should be ready to work on it for a long time. However, if you find something enjoyable, you might not be as bored or feel that it is hard to keep learning. Let me share with you my experience with learning English. I like playing soccer and watching baseball. So, I always watch soccer and baseball games in English. I found many similar patterns and phrases from watching those games and learned a lot of vocabulary related to those sports.
Many people are into K-pop and Korean dramas these days. They decide to learn Korean because of these things. Why don’t you watch and listen to these things while you learn Korean? People who go on TV shows use conversational dialogue. You can easily get familiar with that by watching Korean dramas or listening to K-pop. Also, you might be able to find subtitles on the internet easily. Surely, you might not be interested in these. You do not have to choose this way of learning Korean. Just expose yourself to interesting Korean materials without too much effort. Then you can naturally get on track.
Do you make many grammatical mistakes when speaking Korean? Are you afraid of making mistakes in front of native Koreans? I definitely understand you. I also struggled with this kind of feeling. But, you know, many native Koreans are very patient, and they are really glad to see foreigners speak Korean. Many Koreans seldom expect you to try to study Korean, but you do. What a surprising thing. You have a lot of supporters to help you to learn Korean. Do not be shy. Do not be ashamed. Nobody would blame you even if you often make grammar mistakes. They might correct you, but at least they can understand what you are trying to say.
When I spoke English to a native speaker, they completed the sentence that I was trying to say before I even completed the sentence. Furthermore, even though I said something completely differently than I intended to, they understood what I meant and asked me, “Were you trying to say this?” These connections can happen without the exact, correct expressions. So, do not worry too much. Just communicate with us.
I believe that fluency should always come before accuracy. I think you make your progress more slowly by accepting bad strategies. Please remind yourself of why you want to learn Korean. Maybe you want to understand a book or lyrics to a song. Or maybe you want to communicate with native speakers. No matter what the reason is, you do not have to be a perfect speaker. Just make mistakes and do not memorize grammar. I hope you enjoy your journey with Korean.
Hero Image by Mario Sánchez Prada (CC BY-SA 2.0)