The Best Way to Learn Korean for Newcomers
Guest Author: Jason Yu (from the Green Tea Graffiti)
Ever been frustrated learning a new language? Do you break your pencil in anger after messing up writing in a different alphabet? No worries, it’s understandable. Really. It’s the growing pains of learning something new, much less a whole new way of communicating.
Korean is no different.
In the past five years, the demand for learning Korean has exploded. Forum boards, Korean language sites, and music gossip sites have sprung out of nowhere. Whereas people once flocked to learn Japanese as their preferred Asian language just twelve years ago, the tables have turned. The main culprits of this new-found Korean phenomenon: K-pop and K-dramas.
Rather that teach the finer details of Korean, this guide will focus on the methods of learning Korean. We will explore why you should learn the language, how passion is so important, how to learn it, and how learning Korean can be fun. If you want to learn how to learn Korean, well… that’s what Professor Oh’s for, right?
With that being said, let get started!
Why Learn Korean – Do you have the right reasons?
If you asked 10 Korean language learners why they’re learning Korean, 9 out of 10 of them would say K-pop or K-dramas. Are you one of them?
While there are many skeptics out there that frown on people learning Korean solely because of Girls Generation or Big Bang, I am not one of them. In fact, I fully embrace learning a language because of its pop culture.
The truth is, most people become excited to learn a new language because of its pop culture. It happened two hundred years ago in the 1800s, when everyone wanted to learn Russian and French to watch plays and read famous literature. If you wanted to be part of the “in crowd” back then, those two languages were mandatory.
It happened more recently in the 1990s when all the cool kids wanted to watch their favorite Japanese anime and sing J-pop. And it happens today with English and Korean, as many want to karaoke to One Direction or 2NE1 respectively.
Did Girls’ Generation lure you in learning Korean?
When asking foreigners why they’re learning Korean, most reply that they want to become good enough to learn their favorite K-pop songs without stuttering. They want to be able to impress their friends and sing to their favorite Korean songs like a native. Others say they want to be able to understand their favorite dramas. They want to be able to understand Secret Garden (2010) and The Moon Embraces the Sun (2012). And they want to be able to do so without those annoying words on the bottom, also known as subtitles.
Very few people learn a new language “for the heck of it”. Unless you’re a Linguistics major, are forced to learn a language for a job, or appreciate learning new languages as a passion, you’re probably in it for the entertainment aspect. And that’s okay.
So do you have the right reasons for learning Korean? The answer is: there is no “right” reason. That’s up to you. Whether you’re learning it purely for the entertainment value or expanding your language abilities, more power to you.
Follow Your Passion – Why passion is so important in learning
The people that eventually become fluent in a language usually aren’t the smartest or most talented. Rather, they’re the ones that keep at a language, even when it gets difficult. And they’re the ones that will eventually see the rewards pay off.
A friend of mine illustrates this example well. Two years ago, he came to Korea for the Hallyu Wave – the explosion of Korean entertainment. He knew no Korean at all. Not even “hello.” Yet, he was determined to learn Korean, or die trying doing so. With the proper, efficient ways of learning a language (see the next section below), he soon became good at Korean. Real good.
The other day, he told me he finished reading the entire Harry Potter series in a week… in Korean.
As my friend’s experience showed, anyone can learn Korean. It’s just a question of: how badly do you want to learn it?