Your Guide to Learn Korean
is the Korean guide for you, if you’re really want to learn the Korean language on a higher level than simply greeting and ordering food at a restaurant. The series consists of 3 parts – one for each level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Today we will start with the tips for intermediate level learners, that can hold simple conversations and voice their opinions on everyday topics. It will show you how to get your Korean to the next level. For beginner level guide click here.
1. If you did not until now – search for a good language partner!
And I mean someone who really wants to do language exchange. (Looking at you HelloTalk). You need to speak the language to become fluent. There is only so much books can teach you, when you don’t actively use your new acquired knowledge.
I had the luck to find my exchange partner through an university meet up. She was a foreign student, who had classes in German, which meant that she already had a good grasp on the language and was serious about the exchange. We met once a week at minimum and she really helped me with my essays and vocabulary.
If you are a student I would recommend you see if Korean Studies are taught at your university. They usually have an exchange event at the beginning of a semester for their new students, but everyone can go to these in my experience.
If you are self learning I would try Facebook groups or Meet Ups over apps. From what I heard there is a higher chance to find someone reliable in those environments. You can make a post with clear expectations and skill level to narrow the possible matches.
Set a timer or discuss beforehand which language is going to be spoken when you meet up to avoid one-sided conversations in one language.
2. Write every word you don’t understand down
If I had to tell someone what to do when learning Korean it would be this: write every word you randomly come across and can’t understand down in a notebook. You can translate and learn to use it actively later, but write it down first.
It will help you to make a little dictionary on your own. I did it 7 years ago and I still do it when there is a phrase I didn’t heard before. As I tend to consume media of various topics, I automatically make a vocabulary list according to those topics. I would also recommend you to group your vocabulary by themes like law, music, psychology etc. to help you navigate them faster in the future. I like to do it once a month. By doing that you’ll create little databases of important vocabulary for different themes.
3. Watch Korean media with Korean subtitles
You can learn new vocabulary easier that way, as you don’t run the risk of mishearing a new phrase. You’ll also get the conversational context of how the word/phrase is used. That helps with synonyms or words that don’t have exact English translation.
Netflix has added a lot of dramas that also have Korean subtitles ( please note that some can be not available in your country.) Some of them are:
- Love Alarm
- Tomorrow With You
- Descendants of the Sun
- Boys Over Flowers
- Crash Landing on You
- Oh my Ghost
4. Start reading simple Korean novels and focus on the grammar and synonyms
This is the time where you should start reading/writing longer texts to expand your vocabulary and learn more grammar. I also recommend to learn whole phrases if you learn a new word, especially if it’s a verb. There are a lot of words in Korean that translate direct to English, but are either only used with a specific word or there are small nuances in how it is used with other words and the exact meaning changes slightly in each case (This is very common with Hanja – words of Chinese origin).
As in every language, people tend to speak very different depending on age, gender, background etc. so I recommend searching synonyms of commonly used words or new learned phrases to expand your vocabulary.
If you can’t afford to buy/import Korean books, there are still resources online like Naver Web Novels.
5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
It is a process. And a long one at that.
You can only learn and improve by speaking Korean and making mistakes, that your friends or exchange partners correct. Also you tend to lose a ton of vocabulary if you don’t actively use it. And it would be a shame to lose the progress, because you are too shy or scared.
If you are more on the shy side, try to chat with new acquaintances on Kakao first.
6. Listen to Korean podcasts about a topic you enjoy
When people speak too fast, too old-school or too quiet it makes them harder to understand, so I really recommend to listen to podcast to get that ear skills going. Being able to clearly understand what someone says is the key to avoiding misunderstandings.
As someone who struggled with hearing the most when I started, I can only tell you to really listen to spoken Korean a lot. It will make your life and learning journey so much easier, especially if you want to become fluent (two words: news broadcasts)…
Podbbang is your library for Korean podcasts!
If you like HipHop I highly recommend Kim Bong Hyun’s Rap Game Talk!
7. Remember that Korean is a language – not math
You don’t need to now the history on every phrase and word and why it is currently used in this specific way. Sometimes just accepting an exemption to a rule gets you further on your journey than trying to figure a logical explanation for it. Just memorize it. You are trying to learn and use the language to communicate, unless you’re a linguistic professor doing research of how Korean changed over time. In that case, why are you here?
I observed that many people tend to ask for explanations when something they suppose to learn does not make logical sense to them. But that’s just not how languages work and evolve.
Try to think about efficiency if you find yourself getting a bit lost. Your goal is simply to communicate what you mean. Just memorize the meaning/grammar rule/phrase and move on.
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