Tips For Learning Korean

Tips For Learning Korean

Before I moved to Korea, I didn’t know what to expect with the language barrier. Would I love it? Hate it? Struggle with it? Now six months into living in South Korea, I can honestly say one of my favorite parts of living here is the language. Not only is Korean beautiful but the language barrier has pushed me to try something I never thought I would: learn a second language. While big cities like Seoul are English-friendly, the challenge of reading and speaking in Korean has been one of the most rewarding parts of this whole experience! It’s given me a deeper appreciation for communication and more passion for teaching my own language! Here are all my best tips for learning Korean.


English teacher standing in front of a mountain and Han River in South Korea

Learn To Read Hangul

Learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet, has to be your first step. It’s easy to fall into the habit of searching online for the Romanized pronunciation of Korean words, but in the long run, this is only going to hold you back. Korean sounds and English sounds are not one-to-one, so save yourself the trouble and learn Hangul before anything else. I didn’t learn to read Hangul until my second month in Korea, but once I did, I felt so empowered!

Ask Your Students For Help

Of course, don’t ask them to teach you during class time, but I’ve found my Korean students love teaching me Korean before class and during break times! Adults have a tendency to overcomplicate things, but kids usually give the simplest answer. This can really help when it comes to Korean, especially if you’re a beginner! Plus, letting your kids teach you little phrases can go a long way in class. It helps them know you’re approachable and just as passionate about their language as you are about English!

Take A Class

I took a two month Korean class, and I can’t recommend it enough. It gave me structure and helped me develop my confidence speaking the language in a safe space before using it out and about in Korea! Sometimes, the hardest part is starting, and a class is the perfect way to kick-start your Korean journey! Here’s a brief look at a few different options.

  • Hagwons: Hagwons are private learning academies, and Korea has everything from science and math to English and Korean hagwons! This was the option I went with, and I’m so glad I did. It gave me a great foundation for understanding the language. Also, since I teach at a hagwon, it gave me insight into what my students are experiencing when they come to class each day!
  • Free Courses: There are plenty of free resources online as well as community centers in Korea that offer free classes to foreigners. Some of my friends have done this option and have loved it. Free courses tend to have bigger class sizes, but of course, you don’t have to pay for them! Here is an online class on Coursera by one of the top Universities in Korea.
  • Online Tutor: Learn Korean from the comfort of your apartment! I’ve met with an online Korean tutor a few times, and the best part is the one-on-one attention. Just like my students, sometimes it’s hard to ask questions in front of my peers. This option allows you to focus on your own personal shortcomings as a student and specialize your learning based on your interests and needs! But the best part? You can start learning now with an online tutor and not have to wait until you’ve moved to Korea.

Listen To K-Pop & Watch K-Dramas

Everyone I know who has spent time watching k-dramas and listening to k-pop has had a significant advantage when it comes to learning Korean. Immersing yourself in Korean entertainment is a fun way to absorb the language. While you probably won’t become fluent this way, it’ll definitely help you get a sense for the language! Netflix is great because they have English subtitles.

Don’t Get Lazy & Don’t Get Discouraged

In cities like Seoul, it’s easy to get complacent when it comes to learning Korean because Seoul is so English-friendly, but I’ve found locals really appreciate it when foreigners speak Korean. The best way to learn a language is to use it as much as possible, so even when you’d rather just switch to English, challenge yourself to use your Korean! Most importantly, don’t get discouraged! Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. Making mistakes is all a part of the learning process, so don’t be afraid and don’t beat yourself up over it. Learning Korean has been so much fun for me – and trust me, I don’t have a natural affinity towards language learning – so I know it can be for you too! Hopefully some of these tips for learning Korean will help your own your journey!


Diana Richtman is a writer and ESL teacher living in Seoul, South Korea. Originally from Savannah, Georgia in the United States, Diana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in English & Women’s Studies. After receiving her TEFL certification, Diana moved to South Korea where she works at one of Creverse’s April Institutes. When Diana isn’t working, she loves exploring Korea, drinking warm cups of tea, and scaring away her friends with her karaoke performances.