Let’s face it, the best way to learn Korean is to just fly to Korea, make Korean friends, and throw yourself into situations that force you to learn and speak Korean. But most of us don’t have that luxury to freely travel to and live in a country of our choice—most of us are left stuck at home trying to learn Korean by ourselves and trying to understand the latest episode of our favorite K-drama.
If you’re struggling with Korean, it may not be because you “don’t have the language gene”. You probably just don’t have the right learning method. In this post I’ll outline some of the best methods I’ve discovered to acquire Korean at home.
1. Make your environment Korean
If you can’t be in Korea, the least you can do is to make your environment as Korean as possible. One of the best ways is to make use of sticky notes. Write Korean on your sticky notes and stick them all over your room and house. Do you want to remember what “refrigerator” is in Korean? Then write “냉장고” on your post-it and stick it on your refrigerator.
This remains one of the most natural ways to learn vocabulary, and it allows you to practice repetition in a natural way in your everyday life. Remember, repetition is the mother of learning.
2. Apply vocabulary in real life(Talk to yourself)
You have gotten down your Korean vocabulary through the help of the copious amount of sticky notes in your room, but the task is not done. Remember, you don’t really master any vocabulary until you know how to apply it in real life.
Take time to practice the words you’ve learned by forming sentences and writing them down. Use the Korean phrases in real-life situations. Try annoying your roommate or family member by speaking to them in Korean.
If you live alone, you can talk to yourself in Korean. It’s actually a very useful way to practice Korean. When we express our thoughts and feelings out loud, we become more aware of what is taking place. And through becoming more aware of our Korean level, we can advance more quickly.
3. Converse with Koreans in language exchange apps
Once you reach a certain level of Korean where you are able to hold simple conversations, you can put your Korean to the test by conversing with Koreans in language exchange apps. Language exchange apps are useful in that you can find Of course, this is easier said than done, and not all online conversations are pleasant and not many Koreans may be learning your language.
Panini connects you with the right language partner not just based on languages, but matches you with language exchange partners based on each others’ interests.
4. Watch K-dramas with Korean subtitles
You have your Korean vocabulary down, and you can also apply them in simple conversations. Naturally, the next step is to improve your listening skills to the point where you can pick up everyday Korean. We all love to watch K-dramas, and we can use it in our Korean studies.
But you need to watch with Korean subtitles, not Spanish subtitles. In a study done by Dutch psycholinguists, it was found participants who watched videos with foreign subtitles actually improved their learning the most, while native subtitles actually harmed their learning.
Even if you don’t understand all that you hear and read at first, it’s important to be accustomed to listening and seeing Korean frequently. It’s faster to improve by acquiring Korean naturally, rather than trying to learn it. Which brings us to the final point:
5. Keep it simple, act like a kid
How do kids learn to speak languages so much faster than adults? The key is that they don’t put as much conscious thought into learning—they just acquire it naturally. Also, they are not distracted by the preconceived notions of their mother tongue like adults, who try to translate things in their head.
And most importantly, try to have fun and play with Korean. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it’s perfectly natural that you do. Don’t overthink and overcomplicate things. Be like a kid and keep it simple.