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Is Korean hard to learn? Here is how to make it easy

Thinking about taking on the Korean language as your next language to learn? If so, you may be wondering “Is Korean hard to learn?”

Many people ask this question. Korean is a wildly popular language to learn these days, thanks to the rise of K-Pop, K-Dramas, Korean movies, and Korean culture in general. You may be wondering things such as how difficult the alphabet is to learn, if you need to study tones, and if there are fast ways to learn the language.

We will tell you exactly what you need to know!

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Is Korean Easy to Learn?

There are a few factors that will determine how easy or hard you’ll find the Korean language.

Some of it depends partially on your native language and previous experience studying languages. For example, it would be easier for a native Japanese speaker to learn Korean than it would be for a native English speaker. However, with the right tools and strategies, native English speakers can learn it surprisingly quickly and easy.

An example would be about learning Hangeul. The Korean language does have its own alphabet (called Hangeul), which is sounded out phonetically like the English alphabet. It has 14 consonants and 10 vowels and can be quite fast and logical to pick up. There are some easy associations to connect the letters to what you already know in English. Once you know Hangeul, you can immediately read words, even if you don’t know the meaning of them yet.

Illustration of girl studying at a desk

There are also clear rules for how sentences are built and words are pronounced. The simplest sentence is only a single word, which makes it really easy to start speaking! Building on that base, it becomes easy to expand on your skills.

For vocabulary, many words are loan words from English, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian. Thus, if you speak one of these languages, you already have a head start with a solid base of vocabulary!

How hard is it to learn Korean?

The difficulty in learning Korean is related to what your native language is and your language learning experience. Learning the language can be challenging, but if you start to get the easy wins early on you will build a strong foundation in no time.

In general, a couple of things about studying the language have been considered challenging for new learners. Here they are, along with tips for making it a smooth learning process.

Korean Pronunciation

The Korean language has clear rules for how to pronounce words, and there are no tones. This makes it easy to become skilled in Korean pronunciation.

One of the best ways to get the pronunciation right is to get to know Hangeul (the Korean Alphabet) as soon as possible and master the sounds for the words. If you try to use romanized English to pronounce words, you will surely get confused as there are different ways to romanize Hangul letters. They are just an approximation and aren’t useful for accurate pronunciation.

Using associations for the Hangeul letters with similar-sounding English letters will make it easy. You can learn Hangeul in about 60-90 minutes. Be sure to listen for the range of sounds possible for the Hangeul letters. The associations with English letters can help, but keep in mind that it’s not an exact 1 to 1 match. For example, the Hangeul letter ㄹ is a range of sounds similar to an “L” and “R” in English.

Learning Korean intonation

It’s not hard to learn the intonation if you pay attention to the way Koreans speak. There are no tones in the language, but you need to pay attention to which syllables have emphasis. You can do this by modeling the way Koreans say a word.

For example, if you say a word, and they don’t understand, then you can repeat it slowly syllable by syllable. They will say the word to confirm, and you can match their intonation of how they say it.

Another quick hack is to watch as many reality shows as possible to get a grasp of the intonation. Listen to how they speak, repeat, and practice.

Academic material vs what is used in daily life

Illustration of students learning at school

This doesn’t necessarily make the language hard to learn, but it does make it tricky, at least in the beginning. You see, many Korean language courses and resources start teaching you the basics using the basic formality level. However, that’s not really how Koreans speak the language on the streets, shops, and in everyday life.

A quick language hack is to start making Korean-speaking friends early on who can assist you in applying your school-learned knowledge in your daily life.

Korean grammar

Basic grammar is easy to learn. You can start with some basic sentences as soon as you learn Hangul.

There are many types of grammar to learn, and some of them are very nuanced. Learn the grammar points one at a time, and focus on the most common applications of them.

In other words, learn the 20% of the grammar that will give you 80% of the results. You can add on after that.

Your Timelines for learning Korean

Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and celebrate your language learning wins along the way. The more you can focus on the language skills you are acquiring along the way, the more motivated you’ll be to learn more.

Follow the simple language learning tips above, and you will be off to a strong start!

How long does it take to learn Korean?

We’ve estimated it’d take around 1200 hours to become fluent. If you want to know more specifically what the answer would be like for you personally, we have a full post on how long it takes to learn Korean.

Is it hard to learn the Korean alphabet?

Learning the alphabet (Hangeul) isn’t difficult and can be done easily in about 90 minutes. You should be able to learn the majority of the letters by connecting the sounds with associations that English speakers could easily understand.

Many people will be able to recognize words using the Korean writing system within this time. Then you’ll want to spend some time practicing the different sounds so you can easily read words when you see them. With constant practice, you’ll get better and more comfortable with Hangul characters.

How hard is Korean grammar?

The basic rules for grammar are fairly easy, so you should be able to make sentences as soon as you are able to read Hangeul. That means you should be able to make a sentence in the first 2 hours of learning Hangeul.

The sentence structure can be as simple as just a single word. That means that you can start making sentences immediately after learning Hangeul.

Korean grammar can get complicated because of honorifics and speech levels since these are engrained in Korean culture. However, you don’t need to spend a lot of time on them at first. Just get the basics down and note the speech levels as you go. Usually learning the formal speech levels is the easiest for conjugating verbs.

Is it hard to learn Korean words?

The word families in the language make it fast to learn a lot of vocabulary centered around a specific topic. The lack of tones and clear pronunciation rules can also make learning how to pronounce Korean correctly quicker than the pronunciation of another language, such as Chinese or French.

But while there are some advantages that can make Korean a quick language to learn, there are also reasons why it could take you a long time. We’ve laid many of them out above, such as your native language is among the reasons.

Is it harder to learn Korean or Japanese?

Both Japanese and Korean have some basic alphabet systems that aren’t too difficult to master. However, Japanese requires you to know Kanji, which are Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system. There are thousands of Kanji, which can be difficult to memorize.

If you contrast that with Hangeul (the Korean alphabet), then studying Korean can be much simpler. Hangeul can be learned in less than 2 hours and is the only writing system you’ll need to know to speak, write, and read Korean. Chinese characters also exist in some Korean texts, it’s not necessary to learn them. Knowing some Chinese characters may be helpful since many Korean words have Chinese roots.

To be able to write and read Japanese, you need to know three different writing systems and how they are combined together.  Learning Japanese pronunciation is easier than Korean, and the grammar of the two languages is similar.

You might compare some of the similarities of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

How can I learn Korean fast?

There are many ways for you to learn Korean fast. Living in South Korea and attending a language school is likely the quickest and most efficient way to learn Korean to fluency. However, since it is not an option for all of us, so you’ll be happy to hear it’s not the only way!

We have compiled the top tips for fast ways to learn Korean on the blog for your convenience. Some of our top tips include the following:

  • Learning the Korean alphabet
  • Studying words based on Hangeul and not romanizations
  • Using flashcards
  • Enrolling in a structured language course (online or offline)
  • Discover fun learning methods to use for studying the language

Is Korean worth learning?

The answer to this is a personal call. It depends a lot on your motivations for learning the Korean language.

It might be a language only spoken in South Korea, but it’ll be extremely helpful to learn if you visit or live here. In addition, it’s is a fun language to take up as a hobby. Lastly, the world is being taken over by Korean culture, movies, music, and dramas right now – and your viewing and listening experiences will be more enjoyable when you can understand what they’re saying!

Do you feel that Korean is a fun language that’s not too hard to learn? Let us know in the comments! And once you’re ready, head over to www.90daykorean.com to start your Korean learning journey!

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