So as the image above would lead you to believe – I’ve now been learning Korean for a year! Technically I’ve been learning for a little longer than 365 days because I missed few days on Duolingo. Streak-freezes are an amazing concept, let me tell you, it saved my butt a few times (imagine it like reverting to a checkpoint if you die in a game).
To celebrate this milestone, I thought I’d write a blog about it and answer any questions that have been fired my way.
Why Learn Korean?
(This is the question I get the most)
‘Do you know BTS?’
I got into studying Korean through K-pop, specifically BTS after a friend of mine sent their newest music video to our group chat one day. One music video led into another one, and that led into watching other videos on YouTube. The thing about BTS is that they are filmed pretty much constantly. They’re always working, always doing stuff and even when they’re working on say, a commercial, there’s behind the scenes footage being filmed of that too so there is literally a bottomless well of BTS videos to fall into.
It’s hard not to love and admire BTS. They’re hardworking, all of them. Constantly working, constantly working, constantly creating. Yet they remain humble kings, an inspiration to so many people. Before this turns into a BTS blog, i’ll move on.
My main reason for learning Korean was to be able to understand them better. All of their videos are in Korean. As they damn well should be since they are, in fact, native Koreans. So many people ask them to speak English all the time, but they shouldn’t have to. Whoops, I started to slip again.
Where were we? Oh yes.
Reason 1 for learning Korean: To better understand BTS (and y’know maybe be able to communicate with them one day)
Reason 2: It’s good for your brain. Learning a second language helps improve your memory, cognitive skills and listening skills amongst other things. I’d been toying with learning a language for a while (I learned French in Secondary school but that’s as far as it went) so when I found BTS, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
My friend actually started learning the language first, while I was still deciding whether to take the leap, but after seeing how much she was enjoying it only cemented my decision. After that, we were able to encourage each other to keep going and at one point it turned into a mini competition as we compared our progress.
What started out as just a love of BTS has very quickly blossomed into a fascination with Korean culture as a whole. I’m enjoying studying the language, I’d love to visit the country and my husband and I have even had a go at cooking some Korean meals ourselves! Now I spent more time watching videos about learning Korean/travelling Korea/Korean culture than I do of BTS being the silly crackheads we all love.
So my question to you would be: Why NOT Korean?
Am I Fluent?
Absolutely not! I’m sure that there are people out there that could study and become fluent in Korean/a new language in a year but i’m definitely not one of them. For the longest time, I only used Duolingo, spending about 15-20 minutes a day working my way through lessons or doing practice lessons until I ran out of hearts. It’s only really been in the last few months that I realised I needed to be spending more time actively learning and that maybe Duolingo wasn’t quite enough anymore.
Have I ever even been to Korea?
Not yet! My best friend I wanted to plan a trip to Seoul/Busan this year to celebrate her 30th birthday but unfortunately a global pandemic pushed that well and truly off the table – still, it gives us longer to learn the language! (and y’know, save up…)
Which resources do I use?
As I mentioned before, I started out just using Duolingo, but eventually I started to branch out into using other resources as well which has helped me pick things up a lot quicker. My favourite one so far is TalkToMeInKorean.com (TTMIK) which has both free and paid lessons available. I’ve only been using the free ones but they’re still great quality!
I’ve taken to listening to the lessons while I’m doing other things like housework, or driving to work and back. I listen to each one a couple times and then write it out and make a flashcard for it as well.
Duolingo is great for teaching you basic things, but it doesn’t explain things to you very well (or… at all really) so you kind of have to pick up things for yourself. One of the things that caught me out the most were the different ways of referring to something.
This. That. That over there.
Duolingo taught you how to say them and use them in sentences, but it wasn’t until I did that lesson on TTMIK that I fully understood the difference in them and their uses.
Below is a list of the various resources I’ve used or tried out.
all of these are free apps
–Duolingo – used daily. I really like the game-like qualities of it. You get achievements for reaching certain levels which keep you wanting to come back and keep your streak going! You can spend as much or as little time on it as you like, and I go through phases of just practicing and actively learning. In the picture above, you can see where I wrote down some of the phrases and highlighted them to help me learn sentence structure, so I flick back and forth between the amount of effort I put into this daily. Some days it can be 10 minutes before bed and other days I can spend an hour writing things out.
–KORLINK (TTMIK) – used almost daily – I listen to the lessons on my phone via the app or through spotify. Spotify is better when i’m driving because it automatically goes to the next lesson whereas I can only listen to one through the app and sometimes it cuts off if my screen locks. If you’re going to write down the lessons, the mobile version only has a blurb for the lesson content and you have to download a pdf to see the whole thing, but the website version has the information under the lesson audio. Everything they provide in the free lessons is also available in textbook format that you can buy through their website. #notsponsored.
–Quizlet – honestly I haven’t used this much, but it’s a flashcard app. You can make your own or use ones other people have made. I tried it once but I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it yet.
–Infinite Korean – this is a fun game I’ve found! Meteors drop from the sky and when you click it it offers you a word/number either spoken in korean, written in english or written in Korean and you have to click the corresponding answer. The aim of the game is to increase your vocabulary without letting any meteors hit the ground.
–Naver Dictionary – I haven’t explored this very much but you can search things on there, and there are kdrama episodes and different idiomatic expressions every day that you can learn and increase your vocabulary
–HelloTalk – this app lets you post sentences in the language you’re learning and get help from native speakers/people who’re more advanced than you. In return you can help people who are learning your language. I believe there’s also a way to call people to chat or to have private conversations? But I’m too much of a wuss to try that yet! I don’t feel like I’m good enough to speak to anyone in Korean.
youtube is an amazing resource!
You can find everything from free lessons to studying ideas.
Here are some of my favourites:
– Lindie Botes – Lindie is a polyglot and her videos are really inspiring, she posts study with me videos as well as talking about what it’s like to learn so many different languages.
– Korean englishman & Jolly – a pair of brits and their assorted friends trying out different korean foods/activities. They’re hilarious and they speak english and Korean, and also subtitle each video in both languages as well. I found them through a series of videos where Josh was trying to teach Ollie Korean using the same TTMIK lessons I’m learning through so it was good to see someone going through the same struggles I was!
– Billy Go – Billy does weekly lessons teaching you the basics, they’re engaging and a good length. Similar to TTMIK but he’s not a native korean speaker which I like because it gives me hope that one day I can be that good
– Talk To Me in Korean – They’re currently releasing videos for level 6 TTMIK and I’m only just at the end of Level 1 so I haven’t used their Youtube much yet (I prefer using their app), but there are some good videos on constructing sentences and a lot of short videos to help you improve your vocabulary.
(all the books I have were a gift for my birthday this year!)
– Collins Korean Dictionary – has both korean and english sections to help you find what you need. There’s also a bit about the alphabet and some grammar. At the moment I find it easier to look things up from the english side, but I’ve looked up a few things in Korean to double check them too.
– The K-Pop Dictionary – 500 essential k-pop words and phrases complete with pronunciation guides, definitions and real life conversation examples.
–Korean Stories for Language Learners – This is a book of traditional folktales written in Korean first and then again in English. For each one there are vocab words to look out for, and questions for you to answer. My plan is to use this to read aloud to myself and practice my pronunciation.
– Korean for all – this is a textbook/workbook by Soo Kim who also has a Youtube channel with lessons that correspond to each chapter. I’ve started working my way though this to improve my reading.
I know it seems ridiculous that I have a tiktok section here, but actually 90% of my tiktok feed is now made up of educational/funny korean videos! Because the videos are only 60 seconds at the most, it’s a great way of quickly learning new vocab, or dos-and-don’ts of travelling, or even korean jokes!
here are just a few of my favourites:
I asked my followers on Twitter to submit any questions they wanted me to answer about my learning journey!
How do you stay motivated enough to do more than just practice? Specifically, how do you find the TIME to do more than just practice?
The short answer to this is find time.
Recently I found myself in a cycle of only doing practice lessons from the first 5 lessons on Duolingo. They were the easiest, and therefore the quickest to get through. The problem I had with this is that when I went to do a harder lesson where I had to actually use my brain and risk losing hearts, I found it a lot more difficult to get through the lesson. To combat this, I’m trying to do the two practice lessons right before the next actual lesson I need to do to ease my brain into it.
For TTMIK, like I said, I listen to the lessons a couple times while I’m doing other things and that helps it to start to sound familiar and to sink in. When it comes time to actually write down the lesson and make the flashcards, I make sure that’s the ONLY thing I’m doing. Turn my music off, close youtube and focus. I make sure to listen to the audio once or twice more as I’m writing it down and that helps cement it even more.
Try that. You don’t have to do a couple lessons a night. You could just do one, or you could just say ‘for the next 10 minutes, i’m setting everything to do not disturb and I’m going to focus’. You’ll thank yourself for it afterwards.
That brings us to the end of this blog, thank you so much for reading if you stuck with it this far. If you have questions about anything I haven’t covered, please feel free to drop them in the comments section below!
Should I do an update in a years time? or if you’d like a more in depth look at my two main resources – Duolingo & Talk To Me in Korean, let me know.
Like my content? I have more for you here:
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingDreamer
Check out my book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D7YZDFL
Support Me on Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/lisastapleton