Learning a new language is always fun! And knowing Korean is a great advantage today as South Korea’s soft power grows. But is Korean hard to learn?
If you want to learn Korean but are getting intimidated by the language, here’s an article to put your mind at ease.s
This language is comparatively easier to learn than other Asian languages like Mandarin or Japanese.
Related: How To Say Thank You In Korean
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Related: How To Say Thank You In Korean
Learning the Hangul of the Korean alphabet is so simple. Probably because the Hangul is a system of alphabets that were specifically designed to be easy to learn.
It didn’t come into existence like the Japanese Kanji system or other languages out there.
The alphabet system was created in the year 1443 by King Sejong of the Joseon dynasty to improve literacy rates in his Kingdom.
Is Korean Hard To Learn 2021
No. Korean is not hard to learn. Hangul is one of the easiest alphabet systems to learn among Asian languages. Also, Korean grammar is simple to pick up.
As Korean also uses conjunctions a lot (words that are created by smaller words) you can use logic to create string words and sentences together.
In this article, I’ve listed out several reasons why Korean is a simple language to learn. Also, I’ve given a few tips that will help you learn Korean quickly and get fluent in this language. Read on!
Korean Alphabet – Hangul Is Very Easy
The Hangul alphabet didn’t develop organically like other alphabets like the Kanji or Chinese alphabets.
You can easily learn the consonants and vowels. And if you put your mind to it, you can have the alphabet in just a day!
Hangul was created specifically to be easy to learn, pronounce, and memorize. The alphabets are pronounced just like how they are written.
Also, Hangul is easy for English speakers as it’s written from left to right.
The shape of the letters (squares, lines, and circles) are also easy to scribe and are not complicated at all.
Korean Phonetics – It’s Not a Tonal Language
With the Korean alphabet what you see is what you get. There are no hidden sounds, no pronunciations that are different from the spelling, and other complications.
Korean is entirely phonetic!
Don’t understand? Okay! Let’s take the English word “Elephant”. Here the words “ph” are not pronounced as “-phant” but with an “F” sound as “-fant”
Also, words like “almond”, “psychology”, “Knife”, etc. have syllables in between that aren’t pronounced at all.
This isn’t the case with the Korean language.
The Korean word for “book” is Chaeg and it’s written as 책. With the Korean alphabet ㅊ which is pronounced as “ch”, then ㅐ which is “ae”, and ㄱ which makes the sound “g”.
There are no special pronunciation rules in Korean like French or Russian languages.
In sharp contrast to Chinese and Japanese, the meanings of Korean words do not change if you pronounce them differently because of your accent.
Yes, the pronunciation of certain syllables can change depending on if they are at the beginning of the word or at the end, but this isn’t too difficult of a rule to master.
Korean grammar is easy to learn for English speakers if you remember some of the basic rules.
In the English language, the sentences are constructed with the subject, then the verb, then the object.
For example, an English sentence can be “Matt kicked the ball” or “Daisy wiped her nose”
With both Matt and Daisy being the subjects, the words “kicked” and “wiped” being the action and “ball” and “nose” being objects.
However, in Korean, you’ll have to put the object before the action. So the sentences in Korean would be:
- Matt the ball kicks
- Daisy her nose wipes
Another important Korean grammar rule you need to remember is that there are no separate adjectives in this language.
For example, if you want to say “he’s blushing” in Korean, you’ll have to say “he’s turning red”.
Here’s another example that will make things clear for you.
The word for “beautiful” in Korean is yeppeuda. However, this directly translated doesn’t mean “beautiful” but means “there is beauty”.
Mastering Korean Honorifics
The only thing that seems confusing about the spoken Korean language is the use of honorifics.
In Korea, there are three different levels of formality, and different honorifics are added to words depending on the formality level you’re speaking at.
There’s the informal style of speaking for close friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and children.
Then there are the polite, standard Korean words that are used for colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers of the same age and social standing as you.
Lastly, there’s the formal style of Korean which is reserved for your elders, people in positions of authority, etc.
Building Words Out of Other Small, Single-Syllable Words
Perhaps the biggest challenge while learning another language is memorizing the different names of things.
If you’re learning English as a second language for example, you’ll have to learn:
- The word “gratitude” as a noun
- The word “thanking” as a verb which is supposed to be the way of expressing gratitude
- And the phrase “thank you” as something you say to express gratitude
However Korean doesn’t have different words that way. Most Korean words of larger syllables are made of single-syllable Korean words which have similar meanings.
For example, the word gratitude in Korean is 고마움 or “gomaum” and the word for thank you is either gomsa haeyo (the standard word) or gomawayo (the informal word).
Both of these forms have the common root word “gom” which comes from the word gomaum.
Also, the word 학 (hak) which means study comes in every academic-related word in Korean.
So, 학교 “hak”gyo is school, 학생 “hak”saeng is student, etc.
If you use a bit of logic you can come up with the different words yourself without having to rely on a dictionary every time.
Konglish Makes It Easy
There’s a reason why English speakers do not find it hard to learn Korean. After all there’s already a lot of Korean words they know!
Some English words have been assimilated into the Korean language; they are just pronounced a bit differently.
So you’ll have no trouble memorizing them at all! Words like computer, notebook, check, etc. all sound somewhat similar in the Korean language.
An easy way to distinguish between the formal and informal tones is to look at the suffixes attached to certain words.
If you find words ending in “-imnida” or “-sumnida”, then it’s safe to say that the sentence is of the formal nature.
Most informal words end in the suffix “-yo”.
For example, a formal thank you in Korean would be gomapsumnida but an informal one would be gomayo.
FAQs about Korean Language
How long does it take to learn Korean?
Honestly, the amount of time it would take for you to learn Korean depends on a lot of factors. It can vary from person to person depending on your language-grasping skills, study hours, intensity of learning, etc.
If you put in say seven to ten hours a week without fail, you can easily learn Korean in just 90 days (about 3 months).
However, if you want to become fluent in Korean, it will take you one year at this pace.
Is Korean or Japanese easier?
Both languages have their difficult and easy parts. But yes, the Korean Hangul (alphabet) is much easier to learn than the Japanese characters.
Also, Korean isn’t a tonal language and the phonetics are very simple. In other words, if you mispronounce a Korean word, it’s meaning won’t change completely like with other Asian languages.
The only difficult part in the Korean language is learning the different levels in formality when you’re talking to someone.
But since the root words remain the same and you just have to adjust your conjunctions according to the formality level, it’s still easy to manage.
Why should I learn Korean?
There are several reasons to learn the Korean language.
Hallyu Wave: A lot of people have started learning the Korean language after the widespread popularity of Korean dramas and Kpop worldwide.
Expats: Of course, a lot of expats learn the language if they are going to South Korea for their work.
Job Opportunities: Learning a new language can open up new career opportunities for you. From translators to copywriting, there are many areas where learning Korean can come handy.
Is Korean hard to learn for English speakers?
No, it isn’t too hard to learn Korean at all if you’re an English speaker. Yes, it might take a while before you get fluent in it.
It takes more time than it would take to get fluent in say French, but it’s still easier than other Asian languages like Mandarin.
Learning a new language has many benefits. It gives you an edge in the job market and is super helpful if you’re an expat.
A lot of expats themselves however shy away from learning Korean as they find it difficult. However, this isn’t really the case.
I hope this article helped you realize just how easy it can be to learn the Korean language.