Prior to coming to Korea, I decided that I was going to try and learn the language. I'm nowhere near fluent but I've made some serious strides in the last four months or so that I've been studying. I can definitely order food on my own, get directions, and get laughed at by my Korean friends at dinner. Not only does Korean have an entirely different alphabet, but the cultural differences that are embedded into the language are abundant so often times direct translations from or to English make no sense at all. After a series of failed attempts with various study material, I've finally figured out a combination that works for me so I created this post to share my ideas. See below for a sample as to how I have been attacking this linguistic beast.....
1.) First things first, you have to learn the alphabet. This is actually very easy! I learned the alphabet within two days, don't be intimidated. I did this through a book but it was very boring...the folks over at talktomeinkorean.com have a great free website and you can learn Hangul here:
2.) After you conquer Hangul, you can move onto the real deal. I start out every morning by listening to two lessons on talktomeinkorean.com. They provide FREE PDFs and MP3s of all their lessons. While I am listening to the lessons I jot down at least 3 sentence examples from the study material for memorization. I find that by memorizing whole phrases, I am able to pick up new vocabulary while at the same time learn how to conjugate verbs and other grammar rules. (very important to create a schedule for yourself for the month and cross off the lessons you're finished with as you go!)
For example, the verb "to go" in Korean is 가다 [ga-da]. The most basic present tense form of 가다 [ga-da] is conjugated as 가요. Rather than memorize the un conjugated verb form, I memorize a sentence that uses the verb in a way that I might actually say it in real life. For this particular verb, I would memorize something like 저는 집에 가요, which means "I go (or am going) home."
I use a memorization site called quizlet.com to memorize basic phrases. You can check out one of my sample study sets here: http://quizlet.com/18832419/ttmk-application-korean-study-1-flash-cards/.
3.) Get yourself a notepad and take it with you everywhere. Some of the most useful phrases that I've learned in Korea have been on the go so I write them down as soon as I hear them. I also recommend importing these phrases into quizlet.com and going over them later so you can memorize them. Memorize like 15 new phrases a day and you'll be amazed as to how quickly you will start learning the language. Check out my cheat pad here:
4.) Once you have enough of an understanding of the language to form basic sentences, start writing in a journal. I have a journal that I am writing in every morning. I don't spend more than twenty minutes on my journal entries and I only write about five sentences so I can focus on quality. It also helps to incorporate the new grammar points that you have learned in the TTMK (talktomeinkorean.com) lessons into your journal entries. See below for one of my sample journal entries:
5.) Get a language exchange partner. I meet up with one of my Korean friends four times a week to go over my journal entries and practice speaking. I don't recommend spending more than an hour and a half together. Make sure you set a strict time limit so you use the time you have available with your language partner wisely. Also, this is a great time to pick up more phrases to memorize...bring your cheat pad.
|This is Min Jung. My study buddy and homie!|
AND, that's it. I'm on my way to learning Korean and whoever else is interested can use this post as a guide to help themselves as well. I must also mention that I am a proponent of the 80/20 rule and it definitely makes sense to try and focus on the most frequently used words in Korean rather than dig into words you will never use. That being said, I have found that by using the study method I propose above, you are able to learn a huge portion of the most frequently used words in Korean. I guess you could try and memorize the 1,000 most frequently used words in Korean but it's really tough to put some of these words into context without having them explained to you. If you do what I suggest above and really give it a go, your vocabulary will eventually begin building upon itself.