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Learn Korean at home, at work, or online

When deciding which foreign language to learn, Korean is not usually the top choice of most people. Because of its alphabet and pronunciation, Korean can be quite intimidating - not to mention its strange sentence order or completely new vocabulary! But however difficult Korean may be, it’s certainly worth the effort. By studying Korean, you’ll be able to access a wonderful culture, expand your social circle, get new job opportunities, and explore South Korea in a different way when you travel.

Regardless of your motives to learn Korean today, we’re sure the guide below is going to help you get started. Let’s go!

Learn the Korean Pronunciation System

Pronunciation can be one of the hardest things to learn when studying a new language. Many people focus too much on spelling and grammar and forget about learning pronunciation rules, which can end up hurting their speaking abilities! If this sounds like you, here’s a graphic that depicts how to pronounce Korean consonants using English sounds:

Korean Consonants

An important feature of Korean pronunciation is that consonants sometimes change their pronunciation depending on their position within the word. Take a look at the following examples:

  • ㅈ: 죽 [chuk] – “porridge” and 콩죽 [k’ong-juk] – “bean porridge”;
  • ㅂ: 밥 [pap] – “rice” and 보리밥 [poribap] – “barley mixed with rice”

Now, let’s observe Korean vowels and their pronunciation, which is a bit easier:

Korean Vowels

Our expert Korean tutors share here some advice on how to improve your pronunciation when learning Korean.

  • Use your phone to record yourself. Your smartphone can become your best ally when trying to learn a new language, particularly if you wish to improve your speaking skills when you have no one to practice with. While it won’t be the same as having a teacher listen to you speaking Korean, recording yourself can give you an idea of how you sound (and what areas still need improvement).
  • Don’t forget to use a pronunciation dictionary. In case you haven’t used them yet, a pronunciation dictionary does not contain definitions; instead it has phonetic symbols (and many times, audio recordings) that help you understand how each word should be pronounced.
  • Surround yourself with Korean and listen to everything you can to polish both your listening and speaking skills. TV shows, movies, music, podcasts, and even YouTube influencers are useful to start modelling pronunciation after them!

Korean Culture

If you truly wish to become fluent in Korean, then getting familiar with their culture and traditions is essential. For instance, did you know that the Korean culture uses a system of honorifics when addressing another person? If you don’t learn exactly how to use them, you may end up embarrassing yourself or, worse still, offending people without realizing it.

So, here we present you with some of the most important features of the Korean culture!

Korean Food & Meals

Korean cuisine is famous around the world for being delicious as well as healthy, as most dishes are prepared with rice and vegetables. The most well-known dish is Kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that is served almost with every meal. Other popular ingredients include garlic, beans, soy, ginger and sesame. With them, you can prepare Samgyeopsal or Jjajangmyeon, for example. Are you interested in food and would like to learn more about Korean cuisine? Have a look at our article about the top 7 Korean dishes or learn a Korean traditional recipe for New Years’ Eve!

Formality and Honorifics

As stated above, the Korean society is hierarchical and gives importance to age and status, which affect the way they communicate with each other. Respecting the elderly and acknowledging social differences are crucial when trying to learn how to speak Korean. For instance, soon you’ll realise it’s common for people to ask about your age, as they will want to know how to address you.

Korean Festivals

Throughout the year, Koreans celebrate a lot of special dates and traditional festivities which have become a crucial and distinctive part of their culture. These are some of the most popular ones:

  • Seongsan Sunrise Festival: This is an event held during the New Year where people hike up the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak to watch the first sunrise while asking for happiness and success for the year to come.
  • Jinju Lantern Festival: This is one of the oldest festivities in the country. It started back in 1592 when people lit up lanterns to avoid Japanese troops from entering their country. Today, people get together at different points in South Korea and mostly use drones to light up the sky (though in rural areas they still light up paper lanterns) while enjoying street parades and performances and buying delicious food at street stalls.
  • Jeju Fire Festival: This is one of the most well-known events in Korea, which takes place in February to welcome the New Year with good health and a successful harvest. It celebrates the old tradition of burning old grass before the next farm season.
  • The Korean “Halloween” is a festival that takes place every February where people remember their ancestors and honour the spirits. You can read more about this fascinating special date in our article!

Learn the Most Essential Korean Idioms

To truly become fluent in Korean, one of the elements you should master in addition to grammar or vocabulary is idioms. These are idiomatic phrases that generally bear no relation to the literal meaning of the sentence. Here are some of the most common idioms you should know to take your speaking skills to the next level!

Phrase English Explanation
"그림의 떡
(geu-ri-meui ddeog)
Something you want badly but cannot afford.
눈코 뜰 새 없다
(nun-ko ddeul-ssai eob-dda)
I can’t lose time, I’m extremely busy.
제 눈에 안경이다
(je nu-ne an-gyeong i-da)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
식은 죽 먹기
(si-geun jug meog-ggi)
It’s a piece of cake.
꿩 먹고 알 먹는다
(ggueong meo-ggo al meong-neun-da)
To kill two birds with one stone.
눈이 뒤집히다
(nu-ni dui-ji-ppi-da)
To be enraged.
보기 좋은 떡이 먹기도 좋다
(bo-gi jo-eun ddeo-gi meog-ggi-do jo-ta)
What looks good, tastes good.

All in all, Korean and English are not related or similar at all, but this doesn’t mean learning Korean it’s not worth the effort! All you need is appropriate materials, an experienced teacher, and the willingness to learn more about this fascinating language to become fluent in the shortest time! If you need extra resources to learn Korean, you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook. Plus, you should visit our blog, where we publish articles about Korean regularly!

We would like to thank our star teachers Sesil and Min-Jong for their invaluable contributions to this Korean guide. With their expertise, you’ll find yourself speaking fluent Korean in no time!