Earlier this year, Lindsay Dow and I shared that we will be learning Korean together. We’re both really excited about this project and I am so happy to share our first biweekly update with you!
This is my first time learning a language with a study buddy and even though we don’t actually sit down and study together, we do check in on occasion to help keep one another accountable. We also share interesting tidbits we find that we think will help our partner in their studies and we set weekly goals based on what we’d like to study.
So far our weekly goals in Korean are:
Week 1 // The alphabet // Lindsay already did a bit of study for this week’s challenge a few months back as a part of her language script challenge, but Korean is totally new for me, so I still needed to tackle this step. Since she and I are alternating weeks, this worked out perfectly and I was able to share how I went about learning the Korean alphabet, a nice complement to the video Lindsay has already shared.
Week 2 // Introductions // And other essential phrases learners need when they start out with a new language. This is Lindsay’s first week, so I’m really excited to see how her list of phrases differs from mine!
Week 3 // Basic & Useful Verbs with ‘I’ // Because when you start learning a language, you need to be able to talk about yourself.
Week 4 // Conjugation of these verbs for other people // Korean is a bit unique in the way it conjugates verbs. Rather than changing based on the subject (like in many European languages), it changes based on who is being spoken to/about. Tricky!
The challenge officially started on February 8th and so this post is the first biweekly roundup of things that we’ve learnt as a part of the challenge. In addition to biweekly posts and weekly videos, we also have a few other fun things in store for you that we’ll share more information on real soon!
And before I start with our biweekly summary, I’d also like to point out that while this challenge is for the Korean language, I think that a new learner of any language will find our updates useful. Lindsay and I have both studied several languages in the past, so we’re both taking the best of what’s worked for us and applying it to Korean. Our methods can definitely be used as a framework for almost any language, so feel free to join us no matter what language you’re learning!
Week 1 // Shannon Learns the Korean Alphabet
Yes, I know. Lindsay Dow already tackled the Korean alphabet in an earlier video, but I’m not quite as daring as Lindsay and did not participate in a script challenge last year, so I started learning the Korean alphabet from scratch this past month.
My initial thoughts? A little bit harder than the Russian alphabet (there are more characters, after all), but a whole lot easier than learning Chinese characters.
So while Lindsay shared her methods for learning Hangeul in this video, I’d also like to share how I went about learning the Korean alphabet as my first contribution to our Korean Language Challenge.
Before I get into how I went about learning the Korean alphabet, I want to share a few interesting facts about Hangeul. Ready?
Did you know that Korean is grammatically similar to Japanese and a large percentage of it’s vocabulary comes from Chinese? I didn’t. Thanks Omniglot.
It’s actually kind of funny the pickle I’ve found myself in because one of the reasons I chose Korean over Japanese was because I didn’t want another grammar intensive language after Russian. Whoops.
But that’s okay, after I found out that I’d still have to deal with honorifics in the Korean language, there was another little tidbit on Omniglot that had me doing a bit of happy dance. That was the part about the shared vocabulary with Chinese, I guess I already mentioned it, didn’t I?
Did you know that when the Korean writing system was first introduced, it was associated with low status? By the time it came into existence, the Chinese writing system had already been known in Korea for over 2,000 years. So basically, those who could write using the classical Chinese system, chose to continue doing so. It really wasn’t until almost 400 or 500 years after Hangeul was first created that it came into popular use.
Did you know that the Korean alphabet was created around 1444 by King Sejong (well he commissioned it, really) and it was called Hunmin jeongeum or “the correct sounds for the instruction of the people” until the late 1800s when Korean linguist Ju Si-gyeong coined the name Hangeul?
Did you know that the shapes of the consonants were designed based on the shape the mouth makes when producing the correct sound?
Did you know that, like Japanese, Korean writing often uses a combination of Hangeul (I guess the equivalent of katakana and hiragana) and Hanja (known as kanji by Japanese)? Korean children are expected to learn between 1,800 and 2,000 hanja by the end of high school.
Did you know that until the 1980s, Korean was written from right to left in vertical columns? It has since transitioned to being written left to write in horizontal lines although texts are still written both ways.
There are 24 total letters – 14 consonants and 10 vowels. These are combined together into syllable blocks. There are spaces between words which I didn’t really, truly appreciate until I started reading in Chinese where there are no spaces.
Resources I Used to Learn the Korean Alphabet
1 // I started with this well-known comic from Ryan Estrada, How to Learn Korean in 15 Minutes. I was originally given a printout of this comic by my friend and penpal Elyse, but I didn’t really have a reason to go over it until now.
2 // Memrise! You all, I am normally a huge fan of Memrise for all things alphabet and vocabulary, but learning the Korean alphabet using Memrise was not quite what I expected. I ended up needing to step back and use the next two resources to get my bearings and then I was able to go back to Memrise to memorize the characters once I understood how the writing system functioned as a whole.
3 // Writing it out by hand. Much like Lindsay, I feel that writing things out by hand does a lot to help me retain things like vocabulary, grammar and characters, so I have this lovely notebook in which I’ve started taking notes including my first attempts at the Korean alphabet.
4 // This really thorough post from How to Study Korean.
5 // Watching videos to give the information I learnt elsewhere a new context. I really advocate exposing yourself to the same information across multiple channels. In my experience, this helps you better retain it. This is one of the videos that I enjoyed.
So that’s about it for me. I overall, I have a much better understanding of the Korean alphabet, now I just need to spend some time putting the pieces together so that I can more quickly read entire words and then entire sentences (even if I don’t understand what they mean for now!).
Week 2 // Lindsay Learns a few Basic Introductions and Phrases in Korean
One week into learning Korean and I’m already able to read stuff…ish.
Either way, ‘ish’ is quite an improvement on my reading in Japanese, my most recent language I’ve studied, which is a much more complex writing system in comparison. So I’m happy with that.
I spent some time looking at Hangeul, the Korean writing system, towards the end of last year as part of my Language Script Challenge.
To be honest, it was one of my favorites out of the 31 scripts I studied over the year. The relative simplicity and history of the writing system had me intrigued, so I was very excited when Shannon suggested we study Korean together.
I made one crucial mistake though with my first week learning Korean: I booked too many lessons with a tutor.
Yes! I know it sounds like a weird mistake but allow me to explain.
I didn’t search too hard for a tutor, which meant I picked someone quickly and booked 7 lessons with a great tutor but someone who wasn’t great for me. You can’t please everyone.
We spent most of our lesson time focusing on pronunciation, which while I appreciate is important, I have never enjoyed studying and have never focused on from the start. I’ve always found it’s something that comes with practice.
But I had no time to practice! The lessons took all my study time!
They were really useful for learning to type on a Qwerty keyboard on Korean (Shannon – you’re going to love this – it’s like learning to play an instrument!) and I’m now familiar with a few rules about things like Pat’chim but only vaguely.
I’ve been getting more and more hooked on the first K-drama I’ve seen, Boys Over Flowers, which fits in nicely when washing up and doing mundane tasks like that.
Remarkably, I’m also noticing patterns in speech and probably 2 or 3 times week, I sit down for the last 10 minutes of an episode and I write down the shorter lines as I think I’ve heard them to check later on Google Translate.
I’m impressed with how many I’ve got correct so I’ll keep this as part of my study plans. Also, it’s fun, which, if you’re enrolled on Successful Self-Study, you’ll know I think is so important!
The lessons were becoming too much and overtaking all of my study time. (I know, it sounds so contradictory, doesn’t it?!)
I want to study on my own for a bit before finding another tutor to work with.
The next task is getting familiar with introductions and basic expressions and I’ve already started preparing a short introduction I can use to start conversations on HelloTalk, for example.
Here’s to next week!
What about you? Are you learning a new language? What were the first few steps you took? We’d love for you to leave us a note about it in the comments!
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.