Learn Korean Independently
Ever thought about learning Korean, but wrote it off because you don’t have the time or money to go to a university program or hire a tutor? Don’t let that hold you back. With the Korean wave’s growing popularity across the world, many people are flocking to the internet to teach themselves Korean. In response, several websites have sprung up to meet this growing demand of people who want to learn Korean on their schedule, and don’t want to have to pay expensive tuition fees. Self-taught Korean is a good option for people who have: a limited budget, busy schedule, or independent learning style.
Three main options are available in this case: teach-yourself-Korean websites, Korean YouTube lectures, and the “buy a textbook and learn the content yourself” route. Each route is a flexible way to study and would be best used in conjunction with the other methods. However, some websites offer extensive materials and could be used on their own. For example, many learners swear by either the “Talk to Me in Korean” or “KoreanClass101” websites, while others simply cite their K-drama addiction as the main reason they can speak Korean.
Teach-yourself-Korean websites give learners the option of working at their own pace. While most offer self-assessments and tests, unlike high school, there are no due dates. Yes, you will receive a computer-generated score, but you can repeat lessons as often as you like with no pressure. Many also offer audio and video resources.
King Sejong Institute
Sponsored by the Korean government, the King Sejong Institute (named after the famous Korean king who created Hangeul), is generally seen as the best online Korean program. KSI offers a variety of classes for registered users. Hallyu fans will be pleased to know that the KSI even offers lessons based on K-Drama and K-Pop song clips, so you can finally figure out what your favorite stars are saying. Extras like access to Korean culture magazines and TV broadcasts are also regularly posted on KSI. TOPIK and KLAT test dates are also listed under the “Notices” section.
Korean Language Study on the Internet (KOSNET)
Also sponsored by the Korean government, KOSNET is a division of the StudyinKorea initiative. There is some overlap with the KSI curriculum; however, unlike KSI, KOSNET has its material conveniently divided up based on age (adolescents/adults, children, and infants). The children’s and infant lessons incorporate more visuals and music, and in some ways might be more effective for some types of adult learners. There is also a placement test so you can evaluate your current level of Korean.
Sogang Korean Program
Can’t afford to attend Sogang’s prestigious language program? While this online resource has been around since 1998 (…vintage), the Korean language hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. Even though it may look a bit tacky, this website has some great resources, and very detailed lessons.
Talk to Me in Korean (TTMIK)
Talk to Me in Korean (TTMIK) is a widely popular online Korean resource, offering several different lesson types for an equally varied range of learners. Cultural videos are also offered. Corresponding textbooks can be purchased in their online store. One of the TTMIK personalities, Hyunwoo Sun, helped create the popular LanguageCast language exchange group, which meets regularly in Seoul and Busan. Plus, for any avid Canadian or Austrian Korean learners, LanguageCast groups also meet in Vancouver and Austria.
à To find out more about language exchanges in Korea visit Free Korean Classes and Language Exchanges.
KoreanClass101 is also a popular teach-yourself-Korean resource, providing several levels of instruction. Its podcasts feature one female and male speaker, one being a native English speaker and the other being a native Korean. Unlike other sites, you have the option of paying for extra services, like having a native speaker personally correct your work and offer you feedback. Other basic resources are offered free.
This site is really basic, and does not offer the same amount of lesson material that Sogang’s does. It also uses a lot of Romanization, so if you’re looking to learn Hangeul more, this website may not be for you.
Let’s Learn Korean
KBS World’s “Let’s Learn Korean” online tool has been designed for speakers of nine different languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish). This website is more like an online, interactive phrasebook, where users can memorize essential Korean sentences like “annyong!” (“hi”) or “ulmayeyo?” (“how much is it?”).
Several websites are now offering online video portions to their material via YouTube. Others, such as some dedicated native speakers with extra time on their hands, have created video series to help Korean learners better understand the language. Some, like Professor Oh’s “KWOW” series, focus mainly on culture, and how the language relates to it. Others, like the Seemile channel, take a more grammatically-focused approach.
While many of the above websites have print-out options for their lessons, students wanting a more well-rounded learning experience can also purchase textbooks to supplement their online learning.
The National Institute of Korean Language has an extensive (and by “extensive”, we’re talking 800+) list of Korean language textbooks, and other printed resources. The titles range from “Korean Speaking for Foreign Students in Universities” to “Korean Language for Female Immigrants by Marriage, Volume II” to “First Step to Learn Beautiful Korean Language”, and beyond. Luckily, there is a search function so you can narrow down the books based on your preferences. Many even have e-book or free downloadable PDF option.
For those that don’t, you can easily purchase them online or in Korea. All Korean university bookstores carry their respective textbooks, plus a few others. The Korean bookstore chain Kyobo also carries many Korean textbooks. Its most popular locations are in Gangnam and Jongno. Several other bookstores also sell Korean language textbooks. To find out more about them, visit WorknPlay’s article on English Bookstores in Korea.
Below are some popular textbooks linked to their free e-books. For the ones of which the free e-book version is not available, the links are to sources where you can purchase them.
If you learn best by using visuals, check out:
If you learn best by speaking, check out:
If you learn best by memorizing grammar, check out:
If you’re obsessed with K-Dramas, check out:
If you want to learn from kids’ books, check out:
Gabrielle interned as a Content Creator for Work'n'Play during her exchange trip to Chung-Ang University in 2012-2013. She graduated from Vancouver Island University in May 2014 with her BA in Global Studies. She is now a Master's student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. The things she misses most about her year in Korea are: going for makgeolli + jeon with friends, exploring Seoul's new and old hidden treasures and getting to practice Korean every day. You can connect with her on Twitter at @MsGabrielle or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.