The Best Way to Learn Korean for Newcomers
Guest Author: Jason Yu (from the Green Tea Graffiti)
How Learning Korean Can Be Fun – Noraebang!
One of the best ways to learn Korean may turn off some old-school teachers. Namely, it’s going to the noraebang (karaoke in Korean). Put those books away and break out the microphone. It’s time to go to a noraebang studio with your friends to belt out your favorite K-pop songs.
Before going to the noraebang, it’s best to learn Hangul (see step #4 above). Without knowing Hangul, it’s impossible to read the Korean lyrics when singing. At the Korean karoake, there are no English-Romanized lyrics. Some people may remember their favorite songs through rote memorization. Reading Hangul means you can jump in and sing any song, regardless if you know it or not.
Is noraebang the best form of studying Korean? You bet!
When selecting your first K-pop song, choose a slow ballad or a tune you are familiar with. Pick songs you know because you will be comfortable with their speed and tempo. The same goes with slow ballads. The speed of the song will be slow enough that you can pronounce each word when singing.
When your level of Korean escalates, give faster songs, such as electro-pop or hip-hop, a shot. Showing off by rapping Epik High will get you mad K-pop street cred with the audience watching.
My Short Personal Story – A quick look on how I learned Korean
Quick confession: I came to Korea in 2010 to expand my language ability and… K-pop. Yeah, I’m one of those K-pop people. I first got into K-pop back in 1997, when SES, HOT, GOD, and the first generation of K-pop idols debuted. Although I became interested in Korea because of its music, I learned that Korea is more than just K-pop (this is for another story in the future!)
Seven years ago (2005), I finished up my second year of Korean language courses in university (go Cal!). Learning Korean was to be my fifth language to master. Yet after not using Korean for almost five years, my two years of Korean study were nearly forgotten. By the time I came to Korea, my Korean was almost non-existent. I had the language level of a Korean Kindergartener.
Since I did take two years of Korean a long time ago, I had one important thing going for me: a strong foundation. While it was still hard to relearn Korean, I did it faster and more efficiently because I understood the basics of the language. And I did it without cramming at the library or studying 12 hours a day. Coupled with a passion to learn Korean, the process of catching up was pretty fast.
I learned Korean through speaking it daily, watching Korean dramas, listening to K-pop, and of course, watching Korean Youtube learning channels like SweetandTasty.
While I am still not fluent in Korean, I would say I am quite comfortable in the language. I can talk to people freely, understand them, pay my bills, watch Korean TV and dramas, read Korean books, and even crack jokes (although my Korean jokes are not that funny). I can also do some rap and fast-paced Korean songs at the noraebang, too.
It’s been an awesome two years of Korean learning thus far! We’ll see where next year takes my Korean learning.
Wrapping It Up – Never give up
Learning Korean is a pretty exciting experience. Whether you are learning Korean because of 2PM and SISTAR, or learning it for your personal thirst of languages, remember to learn it for yourself. And if my Harry-Potter-reading friend and I could both learn Korean, there’s no doubt you can, too!