So you want to learn Korean online? Maybe you have been watching the newest Korean dramas, listening to the latest K-pop songs that have swept the world, or maybe you have new Korean friends.
This article is here to help you learn Korean grammar, and Korean culture, and give you learn Korean pronunciation.
A Beginner's Guide to Hangul: The Korean Writing System
It is important to learn Hangul as a base for all Korean language learning. “Hangul” is the Korean writing system, and is also known as the "Korean alphabet".
The Korean alphabet was designed to be the easiest alphabet in the world.
A Brief History of the Korean Language
Korean is spoken in both North and South Korea. It is one of the rare languages that evolved over thousands of centuries through the connection between various nations.
Koreans' origins have been linked with Central Asian Altauic languages that may include Turkish and Mongolian as well as perhaps Uralic languages. Korean is a language similar to its neighboring Chinese.
Long before there was a North Korea or South Korea, there was one Korean society that wrote using Chinese characters, like many Asian countries at the time.
The great Korean king, King Sejong, wanted Korean texts with a writing system that any Korean speaker could read.
His language learning experts created a new Korean writing system called Hangul. This system was so simple that anyone could learn to read.
The old Chinese characters, known as Sino-Korean, are still used occasionally for native Korean numbers.
Study Korean letters: you don't even need online courses for this.
Anyone who would want to learn Korean writing systems can do so easily. It just takes a little bit of memorization to start learning Korean words.
First, learn Korean symbols for the vowels to learn Korean: a (ㅏ), ya (ㅑ), eo (ㅓ), yeo (ㅕ), o (ㅗ), yo (ㅛ), u (ㅜ), yu (ㅠ), eu (ㅡ), i (ㅣ).
You'll want to practice speaking each of these out loud to really set them into your brain. Start with the easier ones and you'll be speaking Korean sentences in no time.
The a (ㅏ) sound is about the same as in English. The (ㅏ) symbol shows the position your tongue should be in with the letter line jutting to the right.
If you imagine the large line is your mouth and the small line is your tongue then make the sound for (a) like the first vowel sound in the words otter or operate.
You'll notice the ㅑ symbol and the ㅏ look very similar, but ㅑ has one more stroke. This is on purpose and makes reading Korean words much easier.
The ㅑ is the same sound as ㅏ with a quick (y) sound in front of it. The extra stroke in ㅑ gives it the (y) sound. This extra stroke will happen with a few other vowels as well.
The ㅓ symbol makes a (u) sound like run. The vertical line is like your mouth and the small line is your tongue. Similar to the ㅏ symbol.
The ㅕ has one extra stroke from the ㅓ, which means you add a short (y) sound to the start of it. The Korean pronunciation sounds like the start of yup.
The lips form a rounded shape and push out a little. Make an (o) sound like the starting vowel sound in orange or orangutan.
For the ㅗ symbol, imagine the longer bottom line is your bottom lip and the smaller line is your top lip rising to speak Korean ㅗ sounds.
Once again the ㅗ and ㅛ symbols look very similar but ㅛ has an extra stroke. Just like with the ㅑ sound, add a quick (y) sound to the start of ㅗ sound. It sounds like (yo) like yo-yo.
The ㅜ symbol makes a short (u) sound like the sound oo has in the word moon. Imagine the horizontal line is your mouth and the vertical line is your bottom lip going down to make this sound.
As you may have guessed at this point the ㅠ sound is (yu). It has one extra stroke from the ㅜ symbol. It sounds like a shortened version of the English word you.
The ㅡ makes a sound similar to the u sound in flute. Unlike the previous symbols, this symbol has no (y) version of it.
The ㅣ symbol makes the long (e) sound, like the start of the word eat. Just like the ㅡ symbol, this symbol has no (y) version.
Complex Vowels of the Korean alphabet
To learn Korean you will need to learn the complex vowels (also known as double vowels) will be important for your future of studying the Korean language.
- ㅐ (a as in apple),
- ㅒ (yae)
- ㅔ (e)
- ㅖ (ye)
- ㅘ (wa)
- ㅙ (wae)
- ㅚ (oe)
- ㅝ (wo)
- ㅞ (wei)
- ㅟ (wi)
- ㅢ (eu-ee)
You will need to learn these vowels to learn Korean. However, they are a bit advanced for beginner Korean language learners.
To learn Korean we will start with more basic Korean skills and primarily use the basic vowels.
Step 2: Learn the Korean Alphabet: Consonants
The next step to read Korean words is to learn Korean consonants. There are 14 consonants in the Korean language. Each of these consonants combines with the vowels to create a syllabic sound.
ㄱ (g/k), ㄴ (n), ㄷ (d/t), ㄹ (r/l), ㅁ (m), ㅂ (b/p), ㅅ (s), ㅇ (ng/silent), ㅈ (j), ㅊ (ch), ㅋ (k), ㅌ (t), ㅍ (p), ㅎ (h).
To learn these consonants, practice writing them and practice speaking them aloud.
This consonant makes a (k) sound if it's at the start or end of a word. More often the ㄱ consonant makes a (g) sound if it is before a vowel.
To help you remember, just think of the symbol as the shape your tongue makes as you make the sound. Also, think of the ㄱ as if it's a gun, which starts with the letter g.
This consonant makes the (n) sound in every situation. Just imagine the round part of the n got flattened down to look like ㄴ.
This makes a (t) sound if it's at the start or end of a word. It will make (d) sound if it's before a vowel. The ㄷ looks like the letter c which comes right before d. Just remember ㄷ isn't c, it's d!
This consonant makes the (r) sound except for at the end of a word. It makes an (l) sound. The ㄹ looks like an s backward, which comes right before the letter r.
This consonant always makes the (m) sound. Just imagine the ㅁ is your mouth open about to bite down on something delicious. "mmmmmm".
This consonant makes the (b) sound unless it's at the start or end of a word, in which case it makes a (p) sound. Imagine the ㅂ is a little pot and you're growing beans!
This makes an (s) sound or a (t) sound at the end of a word. Just imagine the ㅅ is a slithering snake.
This is an interesting symbol because most of the time it is silent unless it is at the end of a word then it makes the (ng) sound. Just think there is nothing inside the circle for ㅇ, so it is silent.
The ㅈ symbol makes the (j) sound, though it makes a (ch) sound at the start of a word and a (t) sound at the end of a word. just imagine the two strokes at the bottom are frog legs that are in the middle of a jump.
This symbol makes a (ch) sound except it makes a (t) sound at the end of a word. This symbol looks like a standing person who needs a chair.
This symbol is similar to ㄱ, but it sounds more like (kh), like khaki. Just imagine this is someone standing sideways bending over with a great pair of khakis.
This symbol makes the (t) sound. The symbol looks like a train going by quickly.
This symbol makes the (p) sound. This symbol looks like a crown a prince would wear.
This symbol makes an (h) sound except it's silent at the end of a word. Just imagine this is a person wearing a hat.
Learn Korean Double Consonants
There are five double consonants in the Korean language as well. You won't need them immediately to learn Korean writing, but it's good to know they exist.
They are the more stressed version of their single consonant cousins. ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, and ㅉ. They will be important for your speaking skills, but for now, put them aside.
Learn Korean Consonant and Vowels Combinations
Now that you know all to consonants and vowels consult this chart
Each Consonant combine with each vowel with a few exceptions. Each consonant has a way it wants to be written and the vowels will squish in to fit that position.
To learn to write Korean words, memorizing these combinations is necessary. Write out your own chart and place it somewhere visible and you'll master Korean in no time.
Also, speak these at loud to brush up on your speaking skills.
Key Features Of The Korean Language
Korea has over 80 million spoken users worldwide. There are some similarities between Japanese (the syntax is nearly identical) and Chinese (where the word roots originate.
Having learned the Japanese language, you will probably have an easier time learning Korean. Korean borrows some words in English as well.
The Korean language has various dialects with different vowel sounds.
In Korean, there are formal endings you should use at the end of sentences.
These endings will go on the end of verbs when you end a sentence. You should be using this for roughly 90% of the day-to-day interaction in Korean.
Informal Korean will omit a formal ending or add e new informal ending to the end of verbs.
How to Speak Korean
Once you learn basic written Korean, you should start to speak the language as soon as possible.
It's a great opportunity to learn pronunciation and begin to speak in a more natural manner.
When it comes to learning languages, the best thing is to be able to start a simple conversation, even with a limited vocabulary.
Learn how to ask questions and learn Korean vocabulary related to hobbies you enjoy.
The best way to learn Korean is to find a Korean language partner or community near you and ask if you can practice Korean with them.
Learn Korean greetings and introductions
Alongside Korean media, it would be a good idea to brush up on your Korean vocabulary with some greetings and introductions.
It shouldn't take too long to learn your hellos, goodbyes, or “My name is...”. Even if your Korean is unfamiliar to you, it's important to have a basic greeting when interacting with someone.
Here is a simple list of vocabulary words for some Korean Greetings.
- 안녕하세요 “Hello”: (annyeong haseyo)
- 안녕 “Hi”: (annyeong)
- 녕하십니까 “Hello” (formal): 녕하십니까 (annyeong hasimnikka)
- 여보세요 “Hello” when answering the phone: (yeoboseyo)
- 좋은아침이에요 “Good morning”: (joeun achimieyo)
- 오랜만이에요 “Long time no see” (polite): (oraenmanieyo)
- 만나서 반갑습니다 “Nice to meet you” (formal): (mannaseo bangapseumnida)
Learning Korean Online
A great way to learn Korean is to learn through structured Online Courses. Start with the basic Korean language and review hangul.
Its structured forms mean it can be used at any level. You'll want a course that provides videos and online Korean exposure for a more natural learning experience. Usually, the monthly fees are very cheap compared with hiring a tutor.
Check out Lingopie to learn Korean through movies, music, and podcasts.
Find a Language Partner
The next best option would be an online language exchange.
There are many people in South Korea who want to practice their English as much as you want to practice your Korean.
Many people will give Korean language classes in return for some English language classes.
Watch Korean Moves and Dramas
A great way to learn Korean is to watch Korean dramas, listen to Korean music, or intake some other Korean culture. Check out Korean dramas or Korean movies to start.
Whilst watching Korean movies and dramas, try to learn some new vocabulary.
A great way to do this is to watch an episode with English subtitles first and try to learn Korean phrases you like.
Write the phrase down and then watch the episode again at a later time without any subtitles.
See how much you understand through memory, body language, and context. Look out for that Korean phrase you wrote down as well!
This will help you develop your skills for learning through context. An important skill for all Korean language learners.
Learn Korean Grammar
Thankfully, Korean sentence structure is not too complex and its grammar seems more coherent and simple than English.
Korean sentences are generally subject-object-verb. Our English sentences generally use subject-verb-object order.
Let's look at the English phrase I drink the water.
I (subject) - drink (verb) - the water (object)
Now let's look at the Korean edition of it.
나는 물을 마신다
나는 (I - subject) 물을 (water - object) 마신다 (drink - verb)
- 이다: to be
- 사다: to buy
- 오다: to come
- 마시다: to drink
- 먹다: to eat
- 가다: to go
- 주다: to give
- 갖다: to have
- 배우다: to learn
- 좋아하다: to like
- 사랑하다: to love
- 보다: to see/watch
- 가르치다: to teach
- 원하다: to want
To learn more we recommend our post dedicated about Korean verbs for beginners.
The Three Formal Verb Conjugations
It is important to know that the conjugation will change slightly depending on what the last vowel of the verb is.
Formal tense: (verb + 습니다 - when the verb ends in a consonant)
(verb + ㅂ니다 - when the verb ends in a vowel)
Polite tense: (verb + 아요 - when the last vowel of a verb ㅏor ㅗ)
(verb + 어요 - when the last vowel of a verb is not ㅏor ㅗ)
Casual tense (verb + 아 - when the last vowel of a verb ㅏor ㅗ)
(verb + 어요 - when the last vowel of a verb is not ㅏor ㅗ)
Formal tense: (verb + 았습니다 - when the last vowel of a verb ㅏor ㅗ)
(verb + 었습니다 - when the last vowel of a verb is not ㅏor ㅗ)
Polite tense: (verb + 았어요 - when the last vowel of a verb ㅏor ㅗ)
(verb + 었어요 - when the last vowel of a verb is not ㅏor ㅗ)
Casual tense (verb + 았어 - when the last vowel of a verb ㅏor ㅗ)
(verb + 었어 - when the last vowel of a verb is not ㅏor ㅗ)
Present Continuous / Progressive Tense
The English Progressive tense uses am/is/are ____-ing
For example, I am jumping.
Formal tense: (verb + 고 있습니다)
Polite tense: (verb + 고 있어요)
Casual tense: (verb + 고 있어)
As with many languages, the future tense gets a bit tricky in Korean. There are five Korean future tenses depending on how probable the event will happen.
We have a similar thing in English. For example, I must go. I will go, I shall go, I may go, I can go.
In English, instead of conjugating the word we use these modal verbs; 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'will', 'would', 'shall', 'should', and 'must'.
In Korean grammar, you need to conjugate the verb for each kind of future tense, along with the three levels of formality.
This is a little beyond the scope of beginner Korean language learners. For now, just focus on the most commonly used future tense and be aware that the others exist for later study.
Formal tense: (verb + ㄹ - when the word ends in a vowel)
(verb + 을 겁니다 - when the word ends in a consonant)
Polite tense: (verb + ㄹ - when the word ends in a vowel)
(verb + 을 거예요 - when the word ends in a consonant)
Casual tense (verb + ㄹ - when the word ends in a vowel)
(verb + 을 거야 - when the word ends in a consonant)
Is Korean easy to learn for beginners?
The Korean language is often considered difficult because it is from an Eastern Asian country like China or Japan (home countries to notoriously difficult languages).
The good news is that Korean is easier to learn than other Eastern Asian languages. Unlike Chinese, Korean doesn't have any tonal languages.
Any accent has an equal meaning. And unlike Japanese, it follows only one easy-to-learn writing system.
Why Learn Korean?
Korea has a strong reputation for being an attractive place for English language instructors.
If you come from an English-speaker region (Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or Ireland) or want to learn to speak English, then it's easy to earn very good wages by teaching English in public schools or private schools.
The teacher population has grown with German, English, and French teachers, so there will be other people who will be learning Korean alongside you.
It's the Home of K-Pop
K-pop exploded onto the world scene recently.
The explosion occurred among the students enrolled at American universities a year ago, Korean classes rose 14 percent primarily through K-pop.
When you like music and connect with other people of that music, you naturally want to learn more about culture and language.
Even after many people had only seen Gangnam style and Psy's famous (infamous?) dance moves, Kpop soon became one of the world's most popular music genres.
These videos are well-produced, colorful, colorful, and sometimes psychedelic.
It's the Home of K-Dramas
K-dramas are also one popular medium that is taking over the globe. K-dramas have been a serious business for many years; family members watch them regularly, K-dramas stars advertise the latest products, and Korean slang trends emerge in scripting.
See also: 11 Best Shows on Netflix to Learn Korean
They have dramatized plots that date back to soap operas of the 1980s. Although some comedies have borderline ridiculous things, there is one exception - (Has anyone experienced kimchi slaps?)
This has become a common occurrence, in which the actor slaps the victim with kimchi!
You can Work and Study in Korea
Many people want to teach English in Korea now. TEFL training can make you able to move into your new home in just weeks with your new employer in Korea.
But teaching is not only a profession that brings curious foreign language speakers into Korea. Many foreign workers visit the country for internships or to join international firms in Korea.
Korean universities are very popular among those seeking an alternative and try semesters abroad and have great classes for Korean learners.
The fact Korea's security has been the top priority for many years makes the country a safe place to move abroad.
You can Travel and Sightsee in Korea
Because of its central position, Korea is also a good stop-over point during a trip around Asia.
The country is rich in culture. From Seoul to the beaches of Busan and all the small mountain towns in between, Korea offers many opportunities for tourists and ex-pats.
Summing up: The Best Way to Learn Korean - A Guide to Learning Korean
Studying Korean is not easy and it can be embarrassing for beginners to make mistakes. You need to push past these barriers.
To start, learn vocabulary that relates to your hobbies as well. In any casual conversation, you will be using these words often and you will enjoy the conversation much more.
Begin your Korean journey with Lingopie, the only streaming service that enables you to watch Korean movies with dual subtitles, learning new vocabulary at the same time!
You can sign up for a 7-day free trial now!