Is Korean Hard to Learn? A Reliable Answer

Is Korean hard to learn
Native speaker of Korean and majored in English literature and Korean language.
Passionate amateur linguist & tutor, with an official certificate of Korean language teacher.
As a travel lover and language freak, love to communicate with various sorts of people, dig languages and help others to see attractive points of languages.
Aejee Jang

Learning Korean is a fantastic journey full of hardship and joy. If you are considering learning Korean but haven’t started wondering if Korean is hard to learn, then read on to get the motivation as we may prove it wrong!

What are the benefits of learning Korean?

Before that, it’s better to know why you wish to learn Korean. Why do you want to learn it? What benefits can you get from learning Korean? 

Learning Korean can benefit you financially and academically in many ways, not to mention the pleasure of enjoying Korean pop culture!

Is Korean Hard to Learn? A Reliable Answer

Besides, South Korea is also the world’s 10th largest economy , with numerous high-tech companies such as Samsung, LG, Etc. Furthermore, South Korea also has many world-renowned universities, like Seoul National University and Yonsei University, which both domestic and international students covet. Learning Korean will not only broaden your horizons but also bring you better career prospects. 

A short answer: Is Korean difficult

Now our main question: Is Korean hard to learn?

Imaginally, yes. Practically, NO.

You may have noticed Language Difficulty Rankings issued by authoritative institutes like the SLS, categorized Korean as the super-hard to learn. Actually, such rankings may exaggerate the differences between languages.

It’s true, the Korean language looks really different from English, especially compared to other European languages like French and Spanish. However, as a polyglot, I can reliably inform you that learning a language resembles solving a jigsaw puzzle — If French is a 1,000-piece puzzle, then Korean is at most 1,100 pieces (not 2,000 as people think). So, does the extra hundred really matter?

How long does it take to learn Korean?

According to FSI, at least 88 weeks or 2200 class hours are needed to become proficient in Korean.

But when it comes to simple daily conversations, it may take only 12 weeks if you spend around eight hours per week learning Korean. 

So how much time it takes to learn Korean depends on which level of fluency do you wish to achieve, and how intensive your learning is.

To give you a more clear view of what you will encounter when learning Korean, let’s first take a quick look at what does the Korean language consists of.

Korean Language Components

Hangul

The alphabet of Korean is called Hangul. Hangul has 40 letters, including 21 vowels and 19 consonants. Beginners can read them within one to two hours of study and get familiar with them with a week’s practice.

Hangul has a long history. Before King Sejong (1397-1450) invented it hundreds of years ago, the Korean language was written in Chinese characters, which was hard to learn. To make it easier for Korean people to read and write, the King invented Hangul. So unlike the Japanese language which still kept Kanji (Chinese characters), Korean has a relatively easy writing system

Korean Hangul

Grammar

Some articles may tell you that Korean grammar is tricky, but I think that’s the fun part.

The most notable grammar difference between English and Korean is that Korean uses Subject-Object-Verb word order. It’s a unique feature as just a few languages in the world use this structure. You may also refer to our previous article to learn more about Korean sentence structure.

Korean Sentence Structure

In addition, there is no grammatical gender in Korean, and verbs do not conjugate that much. And you don’t have to consider too much about the singular and plural of words. -들 is used to make a noun plural, but you can just omit it most of the time.

Politeness

Indeed, the speech level in Korean is an intricate part. When communicating with teachers, seniors, etc., you need to use proper verb ending to show your respect to the listener.

Literally, there are 7 speech levels in Korean. Sounds crazy? Take it easy! The good news is that there are only four common speech levels in modern life. In the beginning, you will even meet only two of them.

The most commonly used one is – -yo, which adds to the end to show respect. For example, if you want to say, “It’s delicious,” then it depends on the situation 👇

With friends — 맛있어.

With a professor — 맛있어.

Why Korean is much easier than you think

Now you have a general idea of what to expect when learning Korean, let’s what are the easy parts that makes learning Korean easier than you think.

Many loanwords from English you’ve already known

If you were to judge Korean and English just based on their looks, you would conclude that they are unrelated. But in fact, modern Korean is inextricably linked to English, with a massive number of English loanwords.

Loanwords are an essential part of the contemporary Korean language. They have similar pronunciations and the same meanings as their original words. So for English speakers, you don’t even have to learn them as long as you know the Korean writing system Hangul, becauseyou already have a significant advantage at the outset.

Is Korean Hard to Learn? A Reliable Answer

Entirely phonetic and easy to read

As mentioned before, Hangul is entirely phonetic, without any hidden sounds. After memorizing the Hangul, you will pronounce any Korean text even though you don’t know what it expresses. Moreover, Korean doesn’t have tones, unlike the Chinese language.

Sounds easy right? Start your Korean learning journey with Hangul today!

The only thing related to the pronunciation that you need to pay attention to is the accent. To speak like a native speaker, watching K-drama can easier help you get familiar with the standard Korean accent.

Tips for learning the Korean language

Make it a habit

According to the forgetting curve, long-term memory requires consistent daily revision. It means that learning Korean one hour a day for ten days may be more effective than studying ten hours a day.

So, we recommend you set a goal in learning Korean and make it a habit. For example, memorize ten new Korean words and one grammatical rule per day. All you need to do is complete the set tasks each day and reward yourself when you make it.

If you don’t want to go through all the troubles yourself, let LingoDeer help you! LingoDeer is a language learning app that makes sure you cover all the skills including listening, writing, speaking, and reading. It has bite-sized lessons and learning incentives that will encourage you to achieve goals step by step. Give it a try for free!

Try LingoDeer for free

Use online learning resources

A great convenience of learning Korean is that the cultural industry in Korea is very well developed. You can enjoy a wide range of Korean cultural products on the internet, such as K-dramas, K-pop, and Korean variety shows.

Same, integrated learning tool with systematic teaching is vital. During the COVID-19, we highly advise you use the online applications, which allow you to learn Korean anytime, anywhere, on your phone or laptop.

The following applications (websites) are recognized by many Korean language learners with high ratings. You can try one of them or leverage all in combination 👇

LingoDeer, an excellent mobile app (also accessible by its website) with a systematic grammar system and scientific word teaching for beginners.

Talk To Me In Korean, one of the most famous websites for learning Korean. It has dialogue videos and online courses with detailed explanations.

How To Study Korean, a good website. You can estimate your Korean level with some quizzes and read short stories on it.

Make Korean friends

For beginners, it’s challenging to talk directly to Koreans. Therefore, you can make Korean friends who want to learn English in some language- partner finders like Hellotalk. It’s a win-win strategy. You can learn from each other and make progress together.

Also, Kakaotalk is the most commonly used social app in Korea. Try it out. You might gain something from it.

Final verdict: Is Korean hard to learn by yourself

As mentioned above, Korean is a useful and beautiful language. It may broaden your horizons and help you make new friends. Although Korean has different parts from English, you will find out it is not as tricky as people always think.

The alphabet in Korean is easy to read, and the verbs don’t have conjugations. Moreover, you will enjoy learning it with the abundant online recourses. Don’t hesitate, and take your first step bravely!

We also have articles on comparing the difficulty levels of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese, 7 hardest languages in the world, and is Japanese hard to learn. Check them out if interested:)

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