How Many Korean Words Do You Need To be Fluent?

how many korean words do you need

Are you learning Korean but want to know when you are considered fluent? In this article, I will tell you exactly how many Korean words you need to speak fluently and communicate effectively with native speakers! If you’re ready for that, keep reading below!

If you’re learning Korean, you probably wonder if your knowledge is already enough to say that you have achieved a certain level of fluency in this Asian language. And trust me, you’re not the only one scratching your head about this question. If you’ll ask me, it’s nice that you’re also thinking about this question since it shows how important it is for you to take your learning to the next level. Well, lucky for you, in this article, I’m going to tell you when you can be considered fluent in Korean.

First, to become fluent in a language, you don’t have to dominate every single word and vocabulary (I’m not sure I dominate all the words in my native language). Although it makes sense that someone who knows 50 words will have lower fluency than someone who knows more than 500. With a more extensive range of vocabulary, you can speak and get yourself understood easily.

The Korean Language

Speak Korean

Korean, or 한국어 (hangugeo) in South Korea and 조선말 (chosŏnmalis) in North Korea, is the official language for both North and South Korea. However, due to the time these two nations spent apart, some differences in the vocabulary occurred, increasing the number of words that make up part of this language.

Traveling to Korea gives you an excellent perspective of this language’s diversity and uniqueness. When I visited Korea a few years back, I was determined to learn a few essential words in Korean to try and connect with the local people. So the first thing I did when I got to my guesthouse was asking the owner how to say hello in Korean. Imagine the shock when he told me that there were more than ten different ways of saying the simple word “Hello” that he could teach me.

So when are you considered fluent? Let’s figure it out together. 갑시다! (gabsida!) – Let’s go!

Differences Between North And South Korean Language

Although North and South Korea share the same language, if you’ve already started exploring it for a bit, you’ll notice some differences between them. While in the South, the language spoken is called Hangugeo, a Seoul dialect with some words borrowed from English. In the North, there is a strong influence from the government not to use borrowed English words, so the Pyongyang dialect, or Chosŏnŏ, is mainly used.

In writing, North and South Koreans use the same letters or jamo, the 24 building blocks in the Korean language connected to the Hangul alphabet. However, in the two dialects, these symbols may be put in different orders. To top it all off, despite having several common words, some are entirely different in both languages.

Confused already?

If this was not hard enough, speaking Korean is also very different in both dialects. These differences are so significant that sometimes some words are completely ignored by the residents of either South or North Korea. Despite this, North Koreans can be understood in the South and vice-versa. However, the differences are noticeable and recognizable.

How many Korean Words

How Many Words Are In The Korean Language?

So how many combinations of the jamo, or words, are in the Korean language? According to the dictionary, there are over 1,100,000 words in the Korean language. However, some might argue that this is just a reference number, as countless combinations can be made to form words from jamos

Not like English, the Korean language is formed by sound symbolism. Let me explain: In the Korean language, you can build a word that Koreans will understand and interpret through context! It is an open language, so it is fair to say that it is nearly impossible to say how many words are in Korean! Not the answer you were looking for, right?

How Many Key Korean Words Do You Need To Speak Fluently?

Now, let’s get straight to the point. How many words do you need to know in Korean to be considered a fluent speaker? The answer is between 3,000 and 5,000. That’s it!

But how did we get to that number? According to a study made for the English language (that can be extrapolated for every foreign language), you’ll need to know about 3,000 words in English to understand around 95% of the dialogue and not miss a single thing in the new Marvel movie you’re going to see in the theatre. In comparison, you need around 10,000 words to reach a native speaker’s level.

Following this thought and considering that Korean is a much more complex language than English, you’ll need around 3,000 words to get around and make yourself understood. In contrast, you’ll need about 5,000 to understand the Korean TV news channel. Anything in the middle is considered as fluent as you can understand and be understood pretty easily.

A different study on Korean was made by the website gobillykorean.com where he analyzed video transcriptions in Korean and discovered that in those videos, an average of 3,000 words were used regularly (more than once), with the total amount of unique words rising to 6,000. This concluded that you’re considered fluent if you learn around 3,000 words in Korean.

Korean conversation

Basic Words And Phrases That Everyone Must Know

Don’t be afraid of this number. Everybody starts somewhere, so why not begin to know? In the table below, you’ll learn how to write and say the most basic words in Korean that will trigger your desire to learn this language.

KoreanEnglishPronunciation
안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)Hello
주세요 (juseyo)Please
죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida)Sorry
고맙습니다 (gomapseumnida)Thank You
네 (ne)Yes
아니요 (aniyo)No
아마도 (amado)Maybe
도와 주세요 (dowa juseyo)Help
저기요 (jeogiyo)Excuse me
괜찮아요 (gwaen-chan-a-yo)Okay
안녕히 계세요 (an-nyeoung-hi-gye-se-yo)Goodbye
천만에요 (cheon-man-e-yo)You’re welcome

Practice Korean!

Let’s put this into practice and use these Korean words in a few phrases to practice! Say them yourself and press the little blue play button to hear how to pronounce them.

KoreanSoundEnglish
안녕하세요. 어떻게 지내세요? (annyeonghaseyo. eotteohge jinaeseyo?) Hello, how are you?
커피 한잔 드릴까요? (keopi hanjan deulilkkayo?) Can I have a coffee, please?
방해해서 죄송합니다. (banghaehaeseo joesonghabnida.) Sorry to bother you.
매우 감사합니다! (maeu gamsahabnida!) Thank you very much!
더 원하세요? 예! (deo wonhaseyo? ye!) Do you want more? Yes!
파티에 올 수 있니? 아마도. (patie ol su issni? amado.) Can you come to the party? Maybe.
도와주세요? (dowajuseyo?) Can you help me?
실례합니다. 화장실이 어디에 있습니까? (sillyehabnida. hwajangsil-i eodie issseubnikka?) Excuse me, where is the bathroom?

Come Learn Korean With Ling App

learn korean ling app

Korean is a language that has been growing in followers and speakers, gaining momentum, and more people are interested in learning it every day.

It may seem intimidating initially, especially if you’re not from Asia, because the language difference is significant. However, I believe that if you have the right tools, you’ll be able to learn how to speak Korean as easily and fast as any other language in the world.

That’s why I’d like to present Ling App –  a new and exciting language learning app that will make learning a new language harass-free and fun!

Ling App teaches you over 60 languages worldwide through interactive and engaging methods, such as games, puzzles, and quizzes that will make your brain work while you’re being challenged!

This app allows you to learn Korean on the go, wherever you are, and whenever you want, for 2 hours or only 15 minutes. You set your own pace and learn as you progress on the app. If you feel that a lesson was too overwhelming and want to recap, you can access all the lessons at any time and repeat what you want! This app is available on Apple Store and Google Play, so there’s no real excuse not to join us at Ling and start learning Korean today!

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