I was learning back in 2015, so probably since then a lot of new resources have appeared, but here is my way and my way only. Here is the list of my main resources and I will go into each one in detail:
- Tengugo app for Hangeul alphabet
- Howtostudykorean website
- Memrise SRS
- Koreanclass101 classes and especially dialogues
- Korean Grammar in Use books
- Korean Cyber University Youtube channel
- Language exchange apps (HelloTalk, italki)
- Motivational Youtube channels and podcasts (Motivate Korean)
Firstly, I had to learn Hangeul, so I downloaded this app so I could study on the go. I was travelling a lot at that time, so whenever I had free time during transit (on the bus, waiting on the plane) I would play with this app. Only after mastering Hangeul I was able to tackle the rest of the resources mentioned below.
What I really loved about this website – the grammar explanations are made with foreigners in mind, because the creator of the website was in our shoes himself, so he really takes time to explain complex ideas and provides a lot of examples. Just 는 것 concept spans over 3 lessons! I think if it wasn’t for howtostudykorean I wouldn’t be able to understand and start using this concept as soon as I did. I became such a fan that I purchased all pdfs and printed them out, because I prefer reading from paper and making notes rather than reading from computer screen. Studying on howtostudykorean website is completely free, you don’t need to pay anything, unless you want to print out the pdfs like I did. The structure is also very clear, unlike with some other resources that tend to jump all over the place. So I would definitely recommend howtostudykorean as the primary resource in starting out on learning Korean journey. Once you reach intermediate level it is very easy to study here and there, also using native materials, but for beginners a clear structure is a must.
Howtostudykorean also link to their own Memrise course which includes all the words used in their respective Units and it was great to have this supplement to aid my learning. I discovered Memrise thanks for Howtostudykorean and to this day I use it daily (on some days up to 40-50 minutes a day). I think that this course is not visible in the main Memrise course search, you can only access it on the link above 🙂 You can thank me later 🙂
Once I finished all Howtostudykorean units on Memrise I started creating my own word lists from the words I was meeting in books, Webtoons, interviews, articles, variety shows… There are soo many words that you need to know to be at a decent level, so drilling vocabulary is probably as important as everything else and SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) is an essential tool for that.
What was also cool as a side-effect of using Memrise was that I learned how to type on Korean keyboard without even looking at it. I installed Korean keyboard on my laptop and at first I had to look at an image on my screen to know the location each letter, but later I just memorised them. I gotta say here that I already knew touch typing in English from before, I learned it back in university with this program 🙂
Back in the day Talk To Me in Korean was not as developed, and I came across Koreanclass101 podcasts. To be honest, I started with these podcasts before I discovered howtostudykorean and I felt a bit lost – the difficulty was increasing very fast, so I had a hard time using it as my main resource, but it was great as supplement resource. And I used it a lot for my repetitive listening. I grouped all the dialogues in a separate folder and just listened to them on repeat whenever I could – on the plane, in bed before sleep, on my way somewhere. What is great about these dialogues – they are learner-friendly and therefore much easier to understand than native-level content, they use simple, but useful vocabulary, and most importantly – each dialogue features one grammar point, so by listening to them I was not only revising and learning vocab, but also revising grammar points. I know that it is paid subscription now, but I was lucky to be able to download it all, so in case you really want to try it and can’t afford the subscription here is the link. I would also recommend TTMIK podcasts as they are providing similar service and I really like their team, but I don’t know whether they provide the option to download dialogues separately and listen to them on repeat to review.
Korean Grammar in Use books
These books are legendary among all Korean learners, I was so lucky that my friend was able to buy them in Korea and pass them to me. I have all three levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced and I have to say that I still haven’t tackled the advanced because I paused with learning Korean to start learning my next language. If you’re unable to get your hands on those I think that there are always some pdfs flying around the internet. The explanations are not as deep as howtostudykorean, but it was nice to have it as a supplementary study and to be able to go through the same grammar concept using different resources to make sure they really stick.
Korean Cyber University
This was helpful once I got into intermediate level and was already able to understand a little bit of spoken Korean. This channel has since been renamed into Korean Culture Series. What I especially loved about this – it is video format and it is ENTIRELY in Korean spoken very clearly and at a beginner level. I was watching it without subtitles just to practice listening, all while revising various grammar points. Highly recommended to train your Korean listening skills!
Korean Language Exchange apps
I already wrote about them here and here’s a short summary:
Back in 2015, when I was studying Korean every day I was doing the same mistake of all first-time self-learners – focusing too much on reading and writing and not enough on listening and speaking. I was in a hurry, because I booked my tickets to Seoul in April, and in January 2016 I still couldn’t say anything and then I found this video and it basically changed my life. I started looking for as much speaking practice as possible and it really helped me break language barrier and start speaking.
Here are the apps that I personally tried:
- Italki (paid and you can also look for people who want to do the language exchange for free)
- Facebook groups (for example in Korean language group people often ask whether anyone would be interested in speaking Korean to them and surprisingly there’s always quite a lot of volunteers)
Motivational Youtube channels
Sometimes I would lose motivation and start thinking that I was trying to do something impossible and that I should just give up. In these moments what really helped me was to watch videos of other foreigners who were learning Korean, same as me. It inspired me, gave me a sense of belonging and even empowerment (“if they can do it, I can do it too!”).
I stumbled upon this video when I was trying to work out the way to improve my double consonants pronunciation and since then I subscribed and started following Jeremy’s channel and podcast series that he started a bit later called Spongemind. I can really relate to his motivational ideas, where he compares language learning with growing trees in a forest and always talks in a reassuring way and I get the feeling of “everything’s gonna be alright”.
There is a ton of free resources on the internet for a successful self-study, you don’t need to buy books or expensive courses. All you need is grit, motivation and a little bit of self-discipline. Lindie Botes really took the words off the tip of my tongue in this post so I highly recommend it if you think that you don’t have time to learn Korean or any other language. I kept saying it to my friends all these years and it was a little surreal to read Lindie say the same thing, almost word by word.
You can do it! 화이팅!