10 best ways to learn Korean vocabulary

Learning even just the basic vocabulary of Korean language can, and usually does, take years, so it makes sense to carefully choose which words to learn first. After all, what use would it be to know how to name all the bones in the human body in Korean if you’re not even able to greet someone yet (unless you’re a doctor, but even then it might be nice to greet your patient first).

Two most common choices tend to be:

  1. start learning the most frequent words in Korean language
  2. start learning words that pertain to your interests.

I recommend you do both.

10 best ideas to learn korean vocabulary quick

Luckily for us, there is already a compiled list of the most common Korean words making rounds around the internet. The list is not perfect since only news articles were used to calculate the frequency of words; and news articles use somewhat different vocabulary than people do in everyday speech. Regardless, it’s a great place to start. You can find the link to the list further down.

As far as the second way is concerned, the fun way, well, most people are learning Korean language because some aspect of Korea interests them. If you exploit your own interest in Korea it will both give you the vocabulary you personally will use the most and, just as importantly, it will make learning a lot more fun.

10 best ways to learn Korean vocabulary

1. Memrise (or ANKI)

Memrise KoreanMemrise (and its offshoot Decks) is an online learning tool which uses spaced repetition and mnemonics in order to help you learn more efficiently. That means it automatically spaces out practice and chooses intervals of time, according to how well you know the specific Korean word, so you don’t see that word too often, nor wait to see it so long that you completely forget it. It also means you get to use mnemonic devices which were created by community of people learning Korean. Mnemonic devices help with word recall, and having some of them already prepared by others cuts down on the time you would need to come up with your own.

You can create your own courses, flashcards, and mnemonics (called “mems”) or you can use the ones others have already created.

I believe the best place to start is the frequency list I already mentioned in the introduction – the 1000 most common Korean words that others have already transferred to Memrise. It even has audio included for each word, which otherwise might be difficult to get when you’re making your own flashcards.

It is one of the most popular Korean courses on Memrise, which means there are more chances others will have cleared up any ambiguity or fixed the mistakes over the years, and came up with mnemonics so you don’t have to. Of course, nothing is stopping you from coming up with your own mem for each word where the existent one doesn’t do it for you.

Since you can also create your own courses with your own flashcards it’s great to come back and input into Memrise any words that you come across by other methods I mention below. If you create your own you will learn words in the context which is even better.

ANKI is a similar and also popular tool you can try, but I’ve never used it since I’ve been rather satisfied with Memrise.

I wrote two quick Memrise tips to boost your Korean vocabulary learning.

2. Vocabulary videos

Talk to Me in Korean Vocabulary with PicturesThere are many video lessons for learning Korean vocabulary, majority of which are on YouTube, and the most popular probably being Talk to Me in Korean. They have playlists such as Korean vocabulary with pictures and Korean words starting with, to name just a few.

The upside of using videos is that you get both the audio and the visuals which help jog your memory and help you use the words more precisely. The downside is that it will be difficult to remember the word down the road just from seeing it once or twice, so you will need to watch the same video over and over again, which I think for most of us is not a fun thing to do.

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3. Books

Korean book Hangul vocabularyNow, this is a bit of a scary part for a complete beginner. Maybe you need to be a bit crazy to buy a whole real book in Korean when you only know a few words.

Well, I’m crazy. A bit, naturally.

When I found out that first Korean drama I ever liked was based on a bestselling novel I just had to have the novel. So that is exactly what I asked for for my birthday.

When I watched the interview with the main actor from the drama saying he couldn’t really understand everything his character was saying due to it being in archaic Korean I realized I may have been “a bit” over-enthusiastic. But hey, I had the book for a few months now, and I already read the whole first page and I almost sort of kind of understand what’s going on so, yay me.

I guess the point is, which I already mentioned above, when you are interested in something, or even better passionate about it, you are going to be much more daring and stubborn, both of which are necessary when undertaking a huge task like learning a language. And having that book on my shelf, apart from it being a really pretty decoration, means having one more reason to want to learn Korean.

I noticed that many people buy Korean edition of Harry Potter books. Precisely because being passionate about the subject is so important. Another reason is that they find it easier to start with the story they are already familiar with, where it doesn’t matter if you can’t understand every single word.

If you are in Korea, there are many online shops that you can get Korean books from. If you’re not, like me, then you’re probably going to have to rely on Amazon which has a wide selection of Korean editions of books, or order from Korea from online malls like Gmarket and 11st, and deal with high shipping prices.

4. Magazines

Korean magazine Hangul vocabularyKorean magazines can be easier or more difficult to study vocabulary from than a book, depending on how you look at it. Articles are certainly shorter and thus less overwhelming. On the other hand, each article has its own topic and is written by a different journalist so it will have less repeated words than a book.

Either way, magazines may seem like a more advanced step for a complete beginner, but no one says that you need to learn every single word from an article, even less so from the whole magazine.

The great thing about magazines is that you can find that something you are really passionate about, something that gets your heart racing, and instead of being faced with boring lists of endless Korean vocabulary you feel forced to memorize you will be faced with delicious secrets waiting to be unlocked once you learn enough.

Whether you found an article about your favorite Korean band, actor, or a whole magazine about golfing, learning something that interests you is going to be so much easier.

If you have a physical copy of the magazine, and you are not too petrified to ruin it a bit, you can take a highlighter (Mildliners seem particularly popular in the language learning community. I find them to have quite a bit of feathering but I guess others use higher quality paper than I do) and start highlighting the words that you don’t know as you add them to Memrise using an online dictionary like Daum’s or Naver’s.

Then before you proceed with the article you take some time to learn the new words. Since words are usually going to start repeating in the same articles, as you go down paragraph by paragraph you will see less and less highlighter even if in the beginning you had to highlight every single word. Seeing your progress visually represented like this will give you a real sense of accomplishment.

If you come across a word you can’t find in a dictionary, just skip it. It may be the word is obscure, or you just don’t know enough grammar yet to be able to tell what the root of the word really is. Either way, don’t waste too much time on it. Even when you become an advanced learner, you won’t need to know every single word in order to understand it from context.

You can get FREE digital Korean magazines for your Android or iOS device. In Play Store I just search for word 매거진. The one I’ve been using for the longest time is “올레매거진” and I still have it installed on my tablet but it seems to be gone from the Play Store. Still, if you can find it, I recommend you install it.

These apps offer just excerpts from articles in each issue of the magazine but it is more than enough for beginners. And magazines like Men’s Health have plenty of Korean celebrities you may be interested in ;).

Buying physical magazines may be a bit more difficult. Korean online shopping malls like Gmarket and 11st have plenty to choose from, but they only ship using EMS which can get quite pricey for heavy things like magazines. The one I used for the photo above is approx. 2cm thick and weighs almost 1,5 kilogram!

Cheaper shipping prices are offered in most Kpop online stores, but then you have to be lucky enough that at least one Korean pop star happens to appear in the exact issue of the magazine you want, otherwise it won’t be available.

5. Online comic books (webtoons)

Korean comic from naver ArteComic books (manhwa in Korean) are, in a way, much easier to read than books and even magazines. There is less text and obviously a lot is communicated through pictures which are a universal language. You could probably get the main gist of what is going on even if you can’t read Hangul. (But if you can’t, seriously, go learn Hangul right now).

Koreans have a whole special genre of online comic books called webtoons which are in color and often free. You will have endless choices to scroll through on your phone even when you’re out and about.

The downside is that comic books have somewhat of their own language which may not be applicable in everyday conversations, but at the same time you will find expressions which are more current than books and magazines.

But it is still a fun and easy way to learn new words. And in case of Korea, free!

I was really surprised to see a whole section of Naver dedicated to comics (웹툰). Olleh also has comics. Daum too.

You can search for different genres, ratings, reviews, etc. I still haven’t been courageous enough to actually try reading one (because I know I would fail ^^), but seeing lots of pretty pictures and a few words here and there makes it a lot less of an imposing task than books and magazine articles.

I tried to translate the main navigation on the Naver page so you can try and find a webtoon that interests you.

Korean comic cartoon manhwa Naver free

Click to enlarge

6. Korean Subtitles

My Love From the Star Korean subtitles Hangul drama smi srtWhen watching a subtitled drama or a movie you get to hear Korean words used in context as well as hear them pronounced by actors who usually had speech and diction training.

Another plus is that within multiple episodes of the same show certain words keep getting repeated over and over again. This is why I find learning from TV series and shows easier than from movies, which tend to have more complex vocabulary and less opportunity to repeat it. A Korean drama can run up to 20 hours or more, whereas you will struggle to find a single movie that lasts over 3 hours. Bad news for those like me who prefer movies, but great news for every drama fanatic. (Speaking of Kdrama fanatics we answered a question Do Korean guys act like in Korean drama?).

However, even with many episodes watched, if you had been too engrossed in the plot and paying no heed to the language, you will probably come out learning nothing.

Learning a language is hard work, and leisurely watching fun shows is unfortunately not going to get you anywhere. As usual, learning takes effort and concentration.

It’s best to choose something you liked enough to watch several times and once you already know the plot to go back and re-watch it, but this time, concentrate on the sound and content of the language.

Pause often and take your time to add the words you pick up into Memrise or any other place where you keep track of Korean words and meanings. This might be a bit difficult if you can’t guess the spelling of the word just from hearing it in a scene. That’s why once you know the plot you can go ahead and use Korean subtitles instead of English, or your own language.

Unfortunately, Korean subtitles for Korean series and movies as opposed to the foreign ones are a lot more difficult to find. Here are several sites:

Korean Hangul subtitles for American, British, Japanese, Chinese, etc. shows, dramas and movies

  • GOM Korean subtitles for American and Japanese movies and series. (If you install GOM player it has an automatic subtitle search function.)
  • Cineaste Korean subtitles for American, British, Japanese, Chinese … movies. (Use the lower search bar next to the 제목 drop-down menu, not the upper red one. It seems they also recently added login requirement to use the search function.)
  • Cineaste Korean subtitles for American, British … dramas. (Same as above but doesn’t seem to require login.)
  • Kakao TV for anime fans: streamed anime with original Japanese audio and Korean captions. (Search in the upper right corner next to 전체 in the drop-down menu. Just type the name of the show you are looking for in Hangul, for example: 원피스 for One Piece, 블리치 for Bleach, 디지몬 for Digimon, etc.)
  • DCInside Gallery Korean subtitles for American dramas and tv series.

Korean Hangul subtitles for Korean shows, dramas and movies

  • Korean subtitles for the deaf (It seems you need to sign up.)
  • TTMIK has a series of natural Korean talks with both Korean and English captions. Make sure to choose their own subtitles and not auto-generated. Even though they try to keep it simple, their talks are not for beginners.

Keep in mind that some of the contents on those sites might be copyrighted and it’s up to you not to break any copyright laws.

If all else fails (or maybe before you even try anything else) you can always type the name of the show and add “한글자막” in the search engine and hope for the best.

한글자막 literally means Hangul subtitles.

Since Hangul subtitles for Korean dramas and movies are really rare, an alternative is to find Hangul transcripts. This will only work for serious studying and take quite a bit of effort because you will have to have the text open next to the show playing and carefully follow what is being said. Several blogs have some Hangul drama transcripts and subtitles.

SBS has the option to view transcripts of some of their dramas which have already finished airing. Click on the drama you want, then select the second tab on the right, with the title 자막보기. There is a blue button with an option to download the transcripts 다운로드, but you need to be logged in.

To help you follow Kdramas popular Korean teaching team TTMIK prepared video lessons on common Korean drama phrases.

There are also TED Talks in English with Korean captions.

7. Korean Music

Learn Korean with Kpop Korean language vocabulary INFINITE Chaser lyricsEven though Korea has other genres of music to offer, foreign learners of Korean are definitely the most familiar with Kpop.

I was reminded of this and its immense popularity once again in the form of a choice made by Loving Korean readers when asked to choose Kpop song they would most like to see turned into a guide on learning the language with lyrics and song. I took your favorite song and written

How to learn Korean vocabulary with K-pop

By popular vote INFINITE’s “The Chaser” won, and the sheer amount of people that visited the site during those few days of voting reflect how popular Kpop really is and how enthusiastic its fans are.

And I believe that unwavering enthusiasm is the most powerful tool for learning a new language.

However, a word of caution: lyrics are poetry. They do not need to abide by grammatical rules nor do they necessarily represent the language as it is spoken. It is good to keep this in mind when using Kpop lyrics to learn Korean vocabulary.

Critics of learning Korean through Kpop assume that daily communication with Koreans is the end goal of every learner. But people learn a language for different reasons. Actually I would be willing to bet there are more people learning Korean in order to understand K-pop songs and watch K-dramas than those that will get an opportunity to travel to Korea or make Korean friends and learn the language in order to communicate with them.

The advantage of learning a language through songs is that they probably have higher repetition value than any other learning method. How many times are you willing to go through the same grammar lesson in a textbook? Two times? Five times? Ten? Yet you can easily listen to your favorite song a hundred times without it feeling like a chore.

Whatever your goal is, it’s fine learning Korean from K-pop. Just make sure it’s not your ONLY source. Which actually can be said for any other source as well. Mix it up.

8. Korean apps and games

best apps for learning Korean numbers game learn Korean Bubble Bath free While there are many apps for learning many different aspects of Korean language, from alphabet to grammar, among Korean vocabulary games I find those that help you learn Korean numbers the most useful.

Learning numbers is not difficult – even Korean numbers which use two different systems. But sitting calmly and jotting down numbers from a textbook where you have all the time in the world to recall each number is very different than hearing the numbers spoken in conversation and recalling them fast enough to be able to follow what is being said.

I was very proud for getting 100% correct each time I translated numbers. But the first time I tried to understand someone saying a number I was in trouble. “Was it 3 or 4? 삼 is 4. No, wait, 3. 사 is 4. Ok, so that was 3… What did she say next? Ten thousand, I think. Ah, 30 thousand… Wait, slow down! Which number did she say next???”

The most efficient way for me to speed up was to use Learn Korean numbers games. They are fast-paced and force you to recall numbers quickly which is great exercise for real life.

I liked these the most, but apps appear and disappear all the time so feel free to just search “Korean numbers” in any app store and choose the one you like:

Learn Korean Bubble Bath Free Overpass apps This app only covers Native Korean numbers. The bubbles in the game start from the bottom of the screen and float upwards. You have to select them one by one and match them with numbers in the margins, whether it’s Korean to English, English to Korean, Romanization to English, etc. As you progress through the game the bubbles speed up. You start off with 5 health points represented with hearts. If you lose all five of them you have a chance to retry that level.

Numbers are pronounced every time you select them, and there is a mode where nothing is written on the bubbles and you only get to hear them which is good for honing your listening skills. The last level is mixed audio and text.

There are options to choose the difficulty, which as far as I could tell, influences just the speed of bubbles.

The app overall is the most pleasant one I encountered, both in the sound and picture quality, as well as Arirang background music. It is unfortunate that it covers only native Korean numbers up to 10. But it does have other word categories too like animals, body parts, etc.

Learn Korean bubble bath free app Android
Korean Bubbles Jose Rodriguez III Out of all other app games this one forced me to be the most concentrated and had the best selection of game modes. However, it is also the least pleasant to look at and actually made me nauseous a few times even when I turned off the background and slowed the bubbles down. I did play on a large tablet screen so maybe that won’t be an issue on smaller phone screens.

The options to choose from are Native Korean numbers, Sino-Korean Numbers, both of which run up to a hundred, and colors. There are 4 different options, either from 1 to 10, or from 1 to 99. And they go both ways Korean to numerals or numerals to Korean. This app keeps your score and has high score list.

Settings offer different speeds, number of questions in each round (5, 10, 20, 50), and backgrounds, including a blank black one.

Korean bubbles native numbers Sino-Korean numbers learn app Android free
 Learn Korean Numbers Fast ajeic This app has a short explanation about Korean numbers as well as two beginner lessons where by clicking you can hear the correct pronunciation of Native or Sino-Korean numbers.

Practice of Native Korean numbers runs up to a hundred, and Sino-Korean numbers all the way up to ten million, the largest I ever encountered in an app. Every exercise has audio. You can turn on or off English Romanization displayed alongside Hangul.

There are three modes of practice: from numerals to Hangul, from Hangul to numerals, and from Korean audio to numerals. The big downside is the lack of automatic checker for the first two modes. You are given a number and a hidden answer which you reveal by clicking a button. It would be very nice if you could input your answer and have the app automatically check if you were correct as well as track the percentage of correct ones. There is also an extra practice in telling time.

Learn Korean Numbers is available on Android, iPhone and the Apple iPad.

Learn Korean numbers fast large Sino Korean numbers practice
Korean Hangul Numbers Muhaha Games This app is a take on the viral 2048 game. While you may have fun playing this game it is unlikely you will learn much as there is no audio for pronunciation, no Native Korean numbers, and you can just match the tiles visually without even having to consider which numbers they actually represent. Still, a nice fun past-time while giving you the feel like you are not venturing far away from your Korean studies. Korean Hangul numbers 2048 game app Android

9. Language settings

Korean language settings Windows 8

Changing device language is really fun, if not a bit unnerving, but it feels eat to get real-world experience with Korean language. This is not beginner stuff, this is the real deal that native speakers themselves actually use. Just make sure you know enough of the language before you make the switch so if you get in trouble you are able to change the settings right back.

► How to change keyboard language in Windows 10 to Korean

How to change keyboard language in Android, iOS, and older Windows

Making the switch on Windows 8 and 10 is really easy and not overwhelming because all programs will remain in the same language they were before, and all your file and folder names will remain unchanged as well. Names of default folders like 사진 for “Pictures”, 데스크톱 for “Desktop”, 파일 for “file”, 홈 for “Home”, date format, OS commands, etc. will be in Korean. Not only are these words short and easy to learn, but most of them are derived from English so it won’t be difficult to guess their meaning even without a dictionary. And you probably already memorized the layout of icons and basic commands by now.

What you will encounter when you make the switch on Android is similar. Some apps will change their name to Korean while some will remain the same. System controls and settings will all be in Korean. And all your folder and file names will not change.

10. Korean dictionary

Korean-dictionary-free-online-Naver-with-pronunciationI list this last not because it is the least important, but rather because you will use it as a supplement for finding the meaning, pronunciation and usage examples of the words you discovered using the other nine methods listed here.

There is a way, however, to use a dictionary as a tool for discovering new Korean vocabulary, and not just as a tool for Korean words translation of the ones you have already found.

As you can imagine, trying to randomly pick out Korean words to learn from a dictionary is a really bad idea. Even worse is learning the words one by one alphabetically.

When searching for the meaning of a word you have discovered using the other nine ways, make sure to look at the sample sentences provided. Seeing the word used in a natural Korean sentence helps in truly understanding its meaning. Some sentences are too complex so feel free to ignore them as a beginner. Most are simple enough. And when it happens that you don’t understand only one or two words in a sentence, write those down (have you tried calligraphy?) or add them to Memrise. While you are looking up the meaning, just repeat the process: find sample sentences, pick the ones where you only don’t know a word or two, find those words, and so on. You can continue this process for a long long time, so make sure to actually take the time to memorize the words at some point.

There is probably no reason for a beginner learner of Korean to go and invest money in a dictionary. Naver online dictionary and Daum online dictionary are free, available online and enough to satisfy the needs of any beginner.

Example of how to find the sample sentences can be shown with the word 준비 in Naver dictionary. Scroll down to 영어사전 and click on the first blue link which is located above English translation.

The same word 준비 in Daum Dictionary has sample sentences listed under the tab 예문.

There you have it, the 10 best ways to learn Korean vocabulary I have discovered so far. Do you have another efficient or fun way to enrich your Korean vocabulary list?

30 thoughts on “10 best ways to learn Korean vocabulary

  1. This post really comes to a right time for me, bcz, as the lazy ass I am, I still haven’t started learning Korean properly and a few days ago I’ve indeed asked myself what’s next once I’ve learned the alphabet. Starting to read the post I already went to memrise to see what’s it all about, someone posted up to 5.666 most common Korean words, wow!!!! That’s really a great help. Of all these listed options I think that memrise is the best for me… and, btw, I’m crazy too, I’ve bought the first Harry Potter in Japanese while I was in Tokyo lol ^_~ thank you very much for your effort!!! Looking forward to the next post ^^

    • I tried using it yesterday and the problem with the lessons is that many of the words don’t have audio and there is no on site keyboard for Hangul symbols. I hadn’t practiced in a long time so I had forgotten some of the sounds that go with the symbols. To learn basic Hangul I just used the Wikiproject. It walked you through the basics and even gave you the correct sounds for the symbols. That is a huge help before you even begin to try and speak Korean. Then for practice I used a site called SayJack. It has a game style practice where it gives you the sound in audio and you have multiple choice symbols. I used to sit and play with it for hours but I’ve gotten rusty.

      • I REALLY REALLY recommend that you learn Hangul well first. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to learn Hangul if you want to learn Korean.

        Also, you should really set up a Hangul keyboard for your computer. It’s insane trying to type Korean by clicking on the screen, it will take forever! You are a very patient person ^^

        1. Set up a Korean keyboard
        2. Learn to type with all ten fingers
        Those two will change your life :)

        But the Memrise lesson I linked does have the audio for 99,9% of the words. I made sure of that.

        • I will either order an overlay or pick up a white marker for my keyboard. If you dropped me in Korea I could get by with the skills I’ve already learned. I can sound out Korean words even if I don’t know what they mean. I do get a bit confused with some of the more complex words. I can ask where things are, count money and time. I know left and right, How to ask for the bathroom, important anywhere you go. I can order a beer or a cup of tea. Make small talk, like nice weather, how many kids do you have, thank you, sorry, hello and goodbye. I think I have a fairly good pronunciation at least I’m told so by my Korean friend.

    • Yeah, I think Memrise is the most organized and the most serious approach to learning vocabulary.
      The thing that it’s missing is the context. It’s easy for words like “a tree” and “a cup” but later on the words get more complex, have multiple meanings, etc. With magazines, books and comics you get the word used in a natural sentence right away.

      To be honest, I think it’s best to use everything available ^^

  2. I was having some trouble with vocabulary lately… I learned a lot of grammar rules but have no words to use it and exercise it properly. :( now I’m using Ankidroid (an android app for Anki https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ichi2.anki&hl=pt_BR) and I already managed to learn a lot of new words! I had memrise on my phone too, but I think Anki was slightly better ^^
    I bought some korean magazines on ebay and even though they’re really expensive, they are indeed a good way to get new vocabulary. I have an exemplar of CéCi Korea and it is almost 1,5cm thick and it’s reeeeally heavy, so the shipping fee was really high ㅠ__ㅠ But it’s worth it! It has some articles about some artists that I like and a looooot of great articles about makeup and fashion, which are some of my interests ^^ I even posted about my magazines and recommended them as a good vocabulary source, even for beginners :)
    I tried Naver’s and Daum’s app for webtoons and they’re really good! I try to read when I’m on my way to work and even though I’m a beginner, I can understand almost everything because of the images :3
    I didn’t tried books yet, I think they’re more than I can handle for now >__< Maybe in a few months ^^

    • Ebay is the worst for buying things that are made in Korea. They are always SO expensive. The magazine I featured here, the one that’s 2cm thick, I bought on another site, I paid only $2,5!

      • I totally agree! But in that case, it was the easiest place for me to buy that magazine and I wanted it sooo much that I didn’t think twice :( I’ll try buying on Gmarket on the next time, but anyway, the shipping to my country is always expensive, since it’s on the other side of the world… ;-;

        • Yeah, I know what you mean there are some things I just have to get my hands on as well. :) Like that book above. But luckily it was really cheap ($6 if I remember correctly) and also really light. But the magazine was SO heavy.

          Yeah, I live on the other side of the world from Korea as well.

  3. So much good stuff! Thanks.

    In terms of books, worth mentioning that bilingual books exist. So you can buy a book with Korean on one page and English on the facing page.

    As far reading an article and highlighting the words you know and making flashcards from it, LingQ.com does that. There is also foreign language readers, or Google Translator Toolkit. I can’t even make a complete sentence yet, and I am dabbling in trying to do some reading of Korean. Seeing words in context and how sentences are put together in real world context is powerful.

    Will International pen pals/chats/skype etc. make it into the second half of your life? Mindpasta is one of my tools for gaining vocabulary. Great social site for Korean language learners. Socializing as a way to improve your vocabulary is fun.

  4. I started out wrong because it is much easier to at least start out learning Hangul. However it does you absolutely no good for actually speaking Korean if you do not use a site that gives you the corresponding sounds. A friend of mine gave me the CDs for beginning and intermediate Korean with the Pimsleur Method. I used them in my car for months travelling to and from work. Later I discovered that Wikipedia had a Hangul learning program through the Wikiproject.

    • I would say it’s not just easier, it’s necessary. When I listed the best sites for learning Hangul I made sure they all had audio.

      It’s pointless without it. If you use romanization to learn Hangul pronunciation, you will end up sounding to Koreans the way they sound to us when they use Hangul to write down English :)

      Did you manage to learn anything with Pimsleur? I found it very frustrating and didn’t learn anything from it.

      • Pimsleur is a very good method even without Hangul. It breaks down every word and phrase with the correct pronunciation. It also uses repetition and recall to reinforce what you learn. For an English speaker the biggest problem I have with Korean is that so much is “implied”. The use of pronouns is limited. Many phrases can be used as statements or questions based on context and inflection. Then the fact that the language uses so many compound words. It’s a very different language than English so I really have to concentrate in Korean when I practice. I go around the house practicing and talking to the dogs. Now my dogs sit or hurry inside whether I tell them in English or Korean. You’re right about romanticization, it does not fit well, especially with English.

        • I find it really interesting that you benefited from Pimsleur. It drove me crazy!

          For example, the part where they teach you how to pronounce 합니다 – they say: “hap – ni – da”, and then repeat “hamnida”. I wrecked my brain why I was hearing ‘p’ at first and then ‘m’. Was I hearing wrong? Is it a different word?

          I went to a textbook, found out that ㅂ before ㄴ is pronounced ㅁ, felt appeased and never looked back at Pimsleur.

          • I never noticed that, but I think it helped. Did I learn things I didn’t need to learn? Yeah, I’d say I did. Do I notice that when I watch dramas or variety or listen to music in Korean I pick up on some different pronunciations? Yeah I do. It was good for me because I could use it during a time when I wouldn’t be interrupted and it only required me to listen and repeat. I did get caught a couple of times at stop lights talking to myself in Korean. Once a lady in an SUV next to me asked me what I was doing. I told her learning Korean with a CD. She gave me a thumbs up.

      • It’s pointless to learn any language with any script, native or not, without good quality recordings and a sound guideline to pronunciation. On the other hand, if someone intends to learn to conversational fluency, he or she will certainly want to be prepared with the native writing by the time the course is finished. How does one wander around Seoul, finding stores, reading menus, etc. without reading to go along with speaking? But I see no need for Hangeul to be developed with the same central intensity as the assimilation, recognition, and production of good pronunciation, syntax, register, usage and the like.

        In my course, my classmates (this was an intensive elite university program in beginner’s Korean, most of them already had Chinese and/or Japanese at advanced levels), were jotting down all kinds of cheat sheets to bring to class for group conversation practice, and they sure weren’t in Hangeul; they weren’t even in very good Romanization, for that matter.

        • Hangul can be learned in a few hours. Learning Korean pronunciation means learning how sounds of letters change depending on their position in syllable, word, and sentence. This can take up to few weeks. I believe using your own language and script to pronounce Korean will lead to a very bad accent.

  5. Thank you for this really good article.
    Though i’m a big anki fan, using it to learn multiple things (from math to korean), i didn’t know memrize. So i tried it yesterday, and found it maybe more.. entertaining, so thanks for that :)
    Also i didn’t thought about comics to learn korean… i guess i’ll have to wait a little for that as i’m just beginning in korean. :)

    • I started out with Memrise and even though I wish some things were different in it, I’m pretty satisfied.

      Yeah, some things like comics may be too advanced at the beginning, but from my experience as soon as I find something that piques my curiosity my retention also improves.

  6. Memrise typing bothers me because I have no use for typing yet. Too bad course makers insist on it and users can’t disable it.

    • Maybe no direct use, but having to input letters rather than just choose already suggested words aids memory a lot. Being able to recognize a word and being able to produce a word are two different levels of memory.

  7. Does memrise cost something? I wanted to register after I didn’t see anything about costs when I went on the website but after I read the conditions of use (terms of use?), it stated some things about costs so I wasn’t sure if you have to pay to use this website.

  8. I have a question. I recently got the add-on togeki on my browserwhich is kinda like an online dictionary that pops up once I hover over a Korean word. Only, I discovered that a lot of sites on Naver and Daum don’t enable you to select words.. do you know any that do or perhaps know of some other not too complicated sites about I dunno, foodie stuff, culture, travelling?

    • Hello,

      I know what you mean, I’ve had issues copy-pasting words into a dictionary too. Even worse is when the text is embedded in an image.

      Anyway, the first thing that comes to mind is Korean wikipedia. It may seem daunting to consider reading an encyclopedia but many articles, for example about food or celebrity profiles are quite simple to read (considering it’s real Korean, not adjusted for learners), and you can find anything that interests you there.

      There is a also a native Korean version, called Namu Wiki. Since it’s new I haven’t used it much and thus can’t vouch for its contents, but it seems to put a bit more emphasis on articles about popular culture, such as games and comics.

      I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.

      • Thanks for the tip. I will use it once I am a bit further along. I think at this moment I don’t yet know enough grammar and vocabulary yet. Perhaps in a few weeks.
        I did find Korean version of a fairytale in my library though. Grammarwise it seems pretty simple so I’m going to try my hand at it this week!

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