화이팅 (Hwaiting)!” This is probably what your Korean friend (–친구 | chingu) will say to you when you want to learn Korean and asked them “Is Korean hard to learn?”. You surely want to learn the Korean language and Korean culture from lots of amazing Kdramas you have watched and trendy Kpop songs you have listened to.
Who doesn’t want to watch Kdramas without reading the subtitles? Who doesn’t want to sing and dance their heart out with the trending Kpop music they truly understand? Most of all, who doesn’t want to speak Korean to native Korean speakers without butterflies in their stomach? Of course, most of us want it. So, let’s discover the answer to the question, “Is Korean hard to learn?”
Why Should You Learn The Korean Language?
Have you heard that Park Seo-Joon, an award-winning Korean actor, will play a role in one of the greatest superhero media franchises, the Marvel cinematic universe? Have you watched the Korean series “Crash Landing On You,” which was included in the Top 10 on Netflix? Who was surprised when BTS, a Korean boy band, was included in the most-awaited Friends Reunion? They were also featured in one Carpool Karaoke episode with James Corden. And who will forget their historical nomination on Grammy?
These are just one of the many proofs that the Korean culture and Korean language are already making their way to be known internationally. These reasons make the Korean language an interesting language to learn in East Asian languages like Japanese and Chinese. Yes, they are known as a tech-savvy country that is home to smartphones like LG and Samsung. They are also known for their life-changing beauty products and procedures. But, these past few years, they have really climbed up to be known globally.
Before we’ll answer the question “Is Korean hard to learn?” let’s discover some advantages if you study Korean
- You can watch Kdramas and listen to Kpop music without subtitles and translations.
- You’ll be able to understand many compound Korean words that are hard for other people.
- You’ll also have a higher chance of getting hired when you apply for a job in South Korea.
- You’ll be able to learn more about their culture.
- You’ll also get to talk to the locals without being anxious.
Korean is the language of both North and South Korea. But, you have to remember that the North and South Korean languages differ in many ways, like their spoken Korean and written Korean. In this blog, we will only focus on the South Korean dialect. So, if you are one of those language learners who are asking, “Is Korean hard to learn?” check it out below.
Is Korean Hard To Learn?
Learning a new language is really daunting at first. You’ll spend hours to months studying a language that is somehow or very different from your native language. You’ll have to start over like what you did when you were young. You may at least have to spend some money to buy credible resources. But hey, if you want to learn Korean or any other language, can all these reasons stop you?
Yes, learning Korean or studying Korean can be challenging at first but think of it as an investment for your future. Imagine the convenience and satisfaction it will bring you later. So, to answer your question, “Is it hard to learn Korean?” here are some reasons why Koreans seem hard to learn.
What Makes Korean Seems Hard To Learn?
Learning a new language that is way too different from the English language can be challenging. Most European language speakers find it hard to learn East-Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean because they are too different from their native language. Let’s take a look at why Korean might seem difficult to learn.
1. Hangul Or The Korean Writing System
For European language speakers or native English speakers, learning the Korean script or Hangul may seem hard for you. The Korean alphabet is very different from the English alphabet. But, if you are already familiar with the Japanese and Chinese characters, it will be easier for you.
If you are not that familiar with the Korean language and culture, you should know that the Korean language observes hierarchies just like the Japanese language. This will determine how you should address people. You use different words depending on whom you are talking to and what seat they occupy in the hierarchy. Not knowing this may well make you sound rude to the native Korean speakers.
3. Word Order
If you are a native English speaker, you probably follow the word order or subject + verb + object. Many other languages use this sentence structure, especially the English native speakers. But in the Korean language, they use subject + object + verb, which may sound easy for basic sentences, but it gets complicated when it comes to complex Korean sentences.
4. Korean Pronunciation
There are some aspects of Korean pronunciation that an English speaker might find hard to produce. This is caused by combinations of letters that are not typically used in the English Language.
5. Learning Materials
This will make learning Korean tricky because sometimes, the materials you can download online or use in Korean language courses are different from how Koreans use them in everyday life.
What Makes Korean Easy To Learn?
After learning what makes Korean seems hard to learn, let’s discover what makes Korean easy to learn. Here are some important factors to consider if you want to answer your question, “Is Korean hard to learn?”
1. Hangul Has Fewer Characters To Learn
It may seem complicated at first, but you have to know that it is not actually hard to learn Hangul. In fact, it is a lot easier than Chinese and Japanese. When you learn the Japanese language, you have to learn Kanji. These are Chinese characters that the Japanese use in their writing system. But, when you learn Korean, good news, all you have to do is learn a very limited number of characters. This is the first factor you can consider in answering the question, “Is Korean hard to learn?”
Korean alphabet only contains 24 letters. Yes, it might be hard to learn all the letters simultaneously, but it is not impossible. Did you know that some people say you can learn the Korean writing system in just a few days or weeks? This can be possible if you have the right tool and resources. There’s this App called Write Me where you can practice learning the Korean writing system. Why don’t you try to write this Korean alphabet?
2. The Korean Writing System Is Phonetic
When you see Korean writing, you will know how to read it because it is entirely phonetic. There are no hidden sounds or pronunciations. You can easily pronounce words when you see the character.
3. Korean Is Not A Tonal language
Another factor to consider when answering the question “Is Korean hard to learn?” is the tone. Unlike in the Chinese language, Korean doesn’t have tones which will make it easier to learn. This just means that tones don’t affect the meaning of the words in Korean. Check out the word “Hello” when pronounced in Cantonese and Korean language:
你好 nei5 hou2 (Cantonese)
안녕 annyeong (Korean)
4. Korean Has A Lot Of Loan Words
When you are learning new Korean words, you’ll notice that there are many Korean words that are similar to the English language. This is because these words are loaned. In addition, Koreans have this thing called Konglish, which are words that are derived from the English language that native speakers often use. This will make it easier for you to learn more Korean vocabulary words easily because you can recognize them immediately. Take the following words as examples:
택시 taekssi – taxi
버스 beoseu – bus
컴퓨터 keompyuteo – computer
커피숍 keopishyop – coffee shop
버터 beoteo – butter
5. Korean Grammar Is Easy To Learn
In the English language, we usually use pronouns in our sentences. But, what if I tell you that you don’t have to bother about learning these pronouns in Korean? Yes, you have read it right. Korean verbs can easily change based on the verb tenses and politeness levels that you can notice at the ending of the verb.
See the example below:
The verb 하다 | hada (“to do”) in its conjugated form is always 해요 | haeyo (“do” – Formal) even if you want to say “they do,” “she does,” or “I do.”
In “해요,” the ending 요 | yo represents formality of the phrase, 해 | hae is the verb, and there is no requirement to add a pronoun, as it will be explained in the conversation’s context.
Korean grammar is one big factor to consider to answer the question “Is Korean hard to learn” because you’ll have to understand how the sentences are formed to be able to read and write one.
6. There Are Numbers Of Available Resources Both Online And Print
By just scrolling through your social media, you can see different ads about Korean resources that you can avail yourself of anywhere and anytime. These resources range from books, dictionaries, blogs, online modules, and language learning apps like Ling App. These resources will help you learn Korean words, phrases, and sentences. These resources usually have corresponding English words, audio recordings, and images to guide you. Check out this basic Korean sentence and practice pronouncing it.
This may be the global trend, but there is a number of language learners who want to learn the Korean language. This is an advantage for you because you can easily find a language learning partner that you talk with to practice what you have learned.
Just like the basic rule of supply and demand, if there is a high demand, people take that as an opportunity to increase resources. But, like what is stated above, these resources might be tricky because that is not how Koreans use them in their daily lives. So, what can you do about it?
Other resources that you can consider are watching Kdramas, Vlogs, and listening to podcasts of Korean native speakers. Netflix, Youtube, and Spotify have tons of available free resources for you. Imagine being able to understand all the words without using subtitles and translations? How awesome is that? So, what do you think? Is Korean hard to learn?
How Long Would It Take To Learn Korean?
Some may say they can learn Korean for just a few days, weeks or months. But, some may say it took them years to learn Korean. Learning Korean and any other language requires patience and motivation. Every people has their own learning ability that will determine their pace of learning languages.
For people who are already familiar with the Japanese language and Chinese language, learning Korean can be easier for you because it has way simpler characters than these languages. However, did you know that Korean alphabets are made to be easily learned?
There are different factors that can affect how long it would take to for you to learn Korean. This will also help you to answer your question, “Is Korean hard to learn?” Check out these factors below:
Factors In Learning Korean Language
1. How Expose Are You In Korean?
Do you love watching Kdramas? Do you love listening to Kpop? Are you living in Korea? Do you have friends or relatives speaking the Korean language? If yes, you’re lucky because exposure to language is one of the most effective ways to learn languages based on research. If you are exposed to native Korean speakers, there’s a high chance of learning the Korean language. It will be easier for you to recognize words and sounds and associate them with their meaning.
Remember, exposure itself will not magically transform to fluency and accuracy. You’ll still be needing formal studying or lessons to validate what you have learned from your environment. This can be one of the things you consider to answer your question, “Is Korean hard to learn?”.
2. How Old Are You?
It is surprising to know that age can affect your language learning skills. It is hard to believe that children may easily learn a new language, but it is somehow true because of different factors. Children are not too exposed to grammatical rules at an early age, making them more open to learning. Unlike when we are older, we have considerations and limitations because of the rules and structures of our native language.
3. What’s Your Native Language?
If Japanese speakers were asked “Is Korean hard to learn?” they will reply ‘No”. Your native language can also be a factor in answering the question “Is Korean hard to learn?”. Just like what is stated above, if your native language is Japanese and Chinese, it will be easier for you to learn Korean because it’s way simpler. But if your native language is too different from these East-Asian languages, it will be challenging for you.
4. How Motivated Are You?
Lastly, let’s talk about motivation. If you are really serious about what you are doing, then you’ll have an intrinsic motivation that will push you to learn every day. If you love what you are doing, nothing can ever stop you, and you’ll do everything just to achieve your goals. Time, budget, and resources will never be a problem because you’ll find a way no matter what. So, if you’re motivated, the answer to the question “Is Korean hard to learn?” should be “No”.
How To Learn Korean Easily And Effectively?
1. Start With The Korean Alphabet (Hangul)
Do you remember the scene in “Reply 1988” where Sun-woo tries to teach her little sister to write her name in Hangul through tracing and imitating? This scene proves that even Koreans start with learning their alphabet. As a language learner, you should learn the Korean alphabet first before anything else. After learning this, everything will be a lot easier.
2. Widen Your Korean Vocabulary
Widening your Korean vocabulary can be challenging, but there are lots of available resources online that will help you reach your goal. Have you tried Vocly? This app may help you widen your vocabulary by just using your smartphones. You can use it anytime and anywhere you want.
3. Try Watching Kdramas
A new Korean drama has been aired just recently entitled “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.” For K-drama fans, this is good news because they have new series to watch during their free time. But for language learners, take this as an opportunity to learn new languages. Unlike what you’ll learn in a formal class, modules, and other resources, you’ll learn how Koreans speak in everyday life. It ranges from the most formal way of speaking to the most informal way of speaking.
4. Listen To Kpop
‘Cause I-I-I’m in the stars tonight
So watch me bring the fire and set the night alight (hey)
Shining through the city with a little funk and soul
So I’ma light it up like dynamite, whoa oh oh
Bring a friend, join the crowd
Are these lyrics sound familiar to you? If you know these lyrics, you surely know what song is this. “Dynamite” by BTS was nominated in Grammy Awards. This means that Kpop has already been recognized globally. For Kpop fans, the songs of their favorite boy bands and girl group has been their stress reliever to invite good vibes. The lyrics of these songs can be in full Korean language, full English language, or a mix of both languages. These songs can be a good start to pick up at least a few Korean vocabularies.
5. Expose Yourself To The Korean Language
If you have watched teh hit Kdrama “Itaewon Class” you’ll surely remember a character named Kim Toni. His role is noticeable because he’s only half Korean, and he does not resemble a typical Korean physical characteristic but’s he’s good at speaking Korean. In real life, the actor was born in the US and was exposed and became close to his friends which were few Korean foreign exchange students in his high school and college years. He visited and moved to Korea, and you’ll notice how good his Korean is.
Exposing yourself to Korean will really help you a lot in learning the language. Of course, you can visit Korea to talk to the locals and experience having conversations with them. In your house, you can read books, watch Korean news, and even label your house with Korean words.
6. Find Your Language Learning Buddy
It will also be helpful if you find a friend –친구 (chingu) who will be your language learning buddy to accompany you on this language learning journey? It’s nice to have someone who will help you practice your skills. It’s like how Dr. Park in “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho” taught Mi-Ho about basic things that humans do. But, yes. We all know that it’s a different story.
7. Konglish Will Help You A Lot
Koreans have loaned words too, which will make it easier for you to learn. If you watch “Record of Youth,” you’ll hear them say “모델 (model)” for the word model. There are lots of Korean loanwords that you’ll hear from the locals, so you might want to start learning this.
8. Eat In A Local Korean Restaurant
Who doesn’t love to eat? When we talk about food, Koreans are known for delicious food such as Samgyeopsal, Jjajangmyeon, and Tteokbokki. Most Kdramas feature Korean food. That’s why it’s hard not to get hungry when you’re watching them eat. If there’s a nearby Korean Restaurant near you, go there and fill your stomach with Korean food and fill your mind with some Korean phrases and vocabulary about food.
9. Improve Your Korean Grammar By Taking Up Lessons
Of course, still one of the most effective ways is to learn Korean through taking lessons. There are lots of free lessons online, and there are also those who require you to pay for short courses. Just make sure that you’re motivated to learn enough, unlike Deok-sun in Reply 1988. This will really take time in your schedule.
10. Discover Language Learning Apps
Lastly, you can try learning using a language learning App. It is no doubt that Koreans are known for their smartphones. Nowadays, a smartphone can do everything, starting from video calls, booking rides, ordering food, and of course language learning apps. You can try this, especially nowadays where face-to-face classes and travel are very limited.
Before we end this blog, always remember that the answer to your question “Is Korean hard to learn?” will rely not just on one factor. There are lots of factors that can affect your language learning success but the primary indicator will be your motivation. How far can you go? How motivated are you? How much are you willing to give?” If you hear things about Korean being hard, why not try it first? Remember. quitters are worse than losers. Those who put effort are greatly rewarded.”