How to Learn Korean from Scratch
It can be hard to learn a new language. This is especially the case when you need to study a new set of alphabets, as is the case with Korean.
Although the Korean language seems complicated, it’s actually not! Should you find yourself struggling, make sure to follow these beginner tips on how to learn Korean:
Hone your Hangul
The Hangul or Korean alphabet was developed by King Sejong the Great in the year 1443.
While it may seem like it’s hard to memorize, it was developed so that it can be learned easily. After all, these letters follow the way your mouth or tongue moves when you speak them.
The Hangul is composed of 24 letters – 10 vowels and 14 consonants. These are used to make a batchim or cluster.
Remember, no consonant letter is used to end a word. And since there are no ‘silent’ letters (like when you pronounce the word ‘honor’) or other words to follow, you can read everything once you have mastered the Hangul.
Given that it’s vital to know Hangul if you want to learn Korean, you can speed things up by reading. Read as much as you can, as often as you can.
You can start with Konglish words and move on from there.
It’s All a Formality
The Korean language has different levels of formality. That said, the way you speak should depend on your age and the age of the person with whom you’re talking.
This should only be used when you’re speaking with a person whose age is only a year away from you.
Remember, an informal sentence often ends with the character -지. In some cases, the 요 found at the end of formal Korean sentences is removed.
This is best used when conversing with people two years older than you or more. This also applies to a conversation wherein you’d like to be more polite.
A formal Korean sentence usually ends with the syllable 요.
If you want to master how to learn Korean, get used to the formal form first as you will use this 90% of the time. This is especially the case if you’re going to have a vacation in Korea, as you need to use this when speaking with a cab driver or asking directions from a local.
When speaking with your boss, for example, you should remember to use honorific Korean. Such sentences usually end with the characters 니다.
But unless you’re going to work in Korea, you can forego learning the honorific form in the meantime. However, you should memorize these three important honorific words:
- Thank you – 감사합니다
- Excuse me – 실례합니다
- Sorry – 죄송합니다 or미안합니다
The Order Differs
The Korean language has many stark differences from most languages, such as English, French, and Spanish.
For one, the latter languages follow the subject-verb-order language. For example: She (subject) bought (verb) tomatoes (object).
Korean, however, follows a subject-order-verb language. So, when you write the sentence mentioned above in Korean, it would roughly translate to She (subject) tomatoes (object) bought (verb).
Memorize the Markers
Now that you know how Korean sentences are written, you must note which words are subjects and which words are objects. Fortunately for you, Korean words come with markers that tell which is which.
For example, subject words have the figures 이 or 가 written at the end of the word.
Object words, on the other hand, end with the characters 을 or 를.
Mind Your Tone
When speaking Korean, it’s important to follow its cadence – a pattern of rising and falling intonation. If you don’t do this, the people you’re speaking with may not be able to understand you.
To hone your cadence, try and watch native Korean speakers on their YouTube videos. Watching K-dramas is also a good alternative, but you need to avoid baby talk cadence known as Aegyo. This will make you seem flirtatious to the person with whom you’re speaking.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with learning any other thing, practice is vital for mastering Korean. And with the many references available today, this has become easier.
For example, you can refer to your language textbooks and make flashcards out of this. Not only will this enhance your speaking skills, but it’s ideal for improving your writing skills as well.
Another option is to visit websites and access their online flashcards or quizzes. Both of these are good ways to improve your grasp of the language.
You can also join Korean forums and learn from the native speakers themselves. As a bonus, you’ll be able to make new friends along the way!
Even if you’re a beginner, know that it’s not that hard to be fluent in the Korean language. With patience, determination, and the mindful following of the tips above, you’ll eventually learn and master the Korean language.