Questions about learning Korean



I might be going to work in South Korea. I have briefly visited Korea but it was just for a day so I just got a glimpse of the country. I am interested if someone can tell me how difficult a language Korean is for a native English speaker? What are the main difficulties?


Also is there anyone who has lived in Japan and S. Korea? How do they compare? I'm just asking this as I've lived in Japan so I did notice some things in common but it'd be interesting to hear your views.


Also any recommendations of teachers who are good with beginners?


Thank you

Jul 14, 2014 3:34 PM
Comments · 5

Hey Mimi,


I found learning Korean about three times harder than learning Spanish. Since your native language is English, mine is Dutch, you are studying French and I compare it with Spanish, I hope I make a good indication for you. I had to invest about three times the same amount of time to reach the same level.


The grammar is all different from any language I studied before. If you study Korean, you will think Russian is close to English.


The letter system is phonetic, but although you can learn the letters in a few days, actually reading them at full speed like you would with latin letters takes a whole lot longer.


Most famous is talk to me in Korean, google on that.


I personally also like this site:



But that was actually because the explinations are in different languages and I could compare Korean grammar with Dutch grammar. So, does probably not apply to you.



And this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdiR-6e1h0o [Learn Korean with Professor Oh]

Mainly because of the funny sketches and the pretty American Korean girl. Well, maybe you like the funny sketches.

July 14, 2014

The vocabulary of Korean is often divided into 'native Korean words' (which over time become fairly easy to recognize in sound and structure), 'Chinese root words' (often each syllable has a distict meaning but often sounds nothing like the equivalent in a modern Chinese dialect), and borrowed words from English and other European languages. Although the borrowed words may sound very similar, note that it is essential to learn to pronounce them using the structure of Korean phonetics (which lacks some common sounds in English) in order to be understood.

Oh, you may have wondered why I wrote 'foreigner' so much. Expect to hear that a lot in Korea - pronunced 'wae-gook-een' (외국인) or 'wae-gook-sa-ram' (외국사람). The first variant is derived from Chinese characters (outside-country-person). The second is a mix of the Chinese based 'outside-country' and the native word for person in Korean - 'sa-ram'.

July 14, 2014

It was helpful for me when I began to see learning Korean as learning phrases. The grammar is so different that it was often impossible to say anything close to what I wanted to say. Instead, it was easier to fall back on some accepted and expected phrases in different situations. It helps that people in Korean often reciprocate vocabulary they hear in a question by responding using the same exact vocabulary. So, in English, someone might ask, "Are you hungry?" It is quite uncommon for someone to answer, "Yes, I am hungry." Instead they will vary their vocabulary and expressions in response: "I'm starving!"


Korean is a context dependent language. A lot of information is omitted in sentences and is expected to be 'understood'. So, "I went to the bank yesterday" becomes "to the bank went". Also, the structure of the ending of the sentence (the verb or predicate adjective) will change based upon your social position relative to your partner or audience. This is not at all like verb conjugation. Instead, it is often referred to as 'honorifics' and it is essential to practice all levels of speech as you learn Korean. There is a stereotype in South Korea that foreigners often stick to one level - and often it is the lowest. Essentially, you end up saying "Hey, dude" to your boss when you wanted to say, "How are you doing today, ma'am?"

July 14, 2014

I also recommend Talk to Me in Korean.  It is a great resource and presents grammar and vocabulary well.  Finding a teacher (and sticking with them) is essential as you will not be able to easily find local people who can explain aspects of the Korean language to you.  Most people there do not have any experience teaching a foreigner.  


Also, be aware that there is not a lot of tolerance for accents.  While native speakers of English typically have many experiences understanding non-native accents of English, most Koreans do not have this experience.  Foreigners living in South Korea may start speaking to someone in Korean, but often the person will not realize that you are not speaking English.  Your appearance is a huge factor but it is also about mannerisms.  At the beginning try to closely mimic not only the pronunciaiton of individual sounds and words, but also the intonation of phrases and sentences.

July 14, 2014

Thanks for the info :)

July 14, 2014
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