55 In Korean learning journey (:

How to self-study Korean for Beginners

Just saw a comment asking about my self-study method and thus I’ve decided to write up a post on it. ^^
It’s been 3.5 years since I’ve started learning Korean, and my memory is abit hazy. I realised that I never talked much about my self-study method as a beginner, since this blog took shape slowly over the past few years and I always end up talking about how I self study Korean when I’m at the intermediate stage and beyond. I’ll try to recount how it was for me then (: If there are any further questions, feel free to drop me a comment / email or read my past archives.

Note: I completed 2 levels (basic 1 and basic 2) at SKS – which is equivalent to around 20 weeks of lessons and erm 80hrs for those who are interested in the numbers (:

Prior to studying at SKS, I actually planned to self study Korean right from the start. Failed.
This was the first foreign language that I took up (and was serious in) and hence there was alot of things that were new to me. Alot of the beginners may be overwhelmed with the differences between Korean and English (or other European languages) and I find it difficult to adjust to it too.

Pick a good textbook / resource.

I stupidly started learning Korean with a conversation book – I started using the Teach Yourself Korean  and it was a major fail. Since it’s not really a textbook and well, it’s designed for tourists. (Actually I don’t see any use for tourists too). Bad start. I learnt the alphabet and that’s it. It was pretty impossible to progress with that book as I have no idea that Korean uses conjugation and the definition of a word in Korean is different from that in English.

So I took up the lessons at SKS. The beginner lessons were really helpful, as it gives me a basic idea of the language. Basic cultural knowledge, and basic grammar structures. I see it as a ‘foundation’ that I can build up on next time. But I found the lessons terribly slow and very expensive, and thus I decided to self-study from then on.

To digress a little…..

I’m not saying SKS is bad. But when you are in a language class, particularly those that are not designed for a special purpose (ie. intensive classes for academic purposes), you find that there are people with many different goals, purposes and learning paces. Some want to learn the language just for fun, some for work purposes, some just see it as ‘enrichment’ etc etc. Not everyone has the time (passion) to invest in the language and you see a vast differences in learning paces.

Personally, I love to go at my own pace and take charge of my own learning. And I was confident (too confident? hahaha) that I could learn more on my own and perhaps rejoin the class at a later stage.

Back to the point…

I have a feeling that I’ll go on and on about this topic, and to prevent boring everybody, I’ll do it in a Q&A format and include my own experiences if there’s a need to. Erm I don’t think anyone wants to hear the full details about how I studied Korean right? >,< After going through this journey, I have a better idea of what to / what not to do when it comes to learning Korean. So I’ll share those instead of listing down how I did it ^^

Q: What goals did you set up for your studying in the beginning?

A: Nope I didn’t set any. I started self studying just for interest’s sake and I didn’t know how long that passion or interest will last me. It’s like a challenge that I took up, and I wanted to proof that I could self study on my own (some of my previous classmates were doubtful).

Q: What textbooks to use?

A: Talktomeinkorean.com!!!! I can’t stress this more. TTMIK is the best for self-learners. You learn through a wide variety of mediums (audio, video etc) and this helps to make the learning journey more interesting (: It’s easier to remember new vocabulary and grammar points when you hear the conversation and explanations.

TTMIK wasn’t set up yet when I started learning Korean, so I used koreanclass101.com instead.

Sogang Online Korean Program I used this as my main learning tool. Multimedia again. (:

I’m not saying that traditional textbooks are not good, those can wait until you get a good foundation in the language. It’s the stage where people tend to give up easily. And maybe even more so when they feel that learning a language is like studying in school. Try to make things as fun as possible!

Q: Learning vocabulary is so tough. I can’t seem to remember anything. What should I do?

A: Please. Never ever use vocabulary lists. I’ll be really really impressed if you can remember everything (long term!) from a vocabulary list. I’ve tried using lists when I first started and I’m always very disappointed with myself that I can’t seem to remember anything. It makes learning very daunting – there are tons and tons of words to know, when can I ever remember all of them? ):

 Learning vocabulary is tough only if you try to force yourself to memorise. Always learn words in a context – drama line/song lyrics/ example sentence. Anything with a context.

What to do when you see a new word:
1. Check it out on Daum/Naver
2. Write down in your Korean notebook – together with the example sentence / context where you heard or seen it

Even so, never try to memorise. Make sure you understand the word at that point of time. If you forget it later on, so be it. After you have seen the same word over and over again in different contexts, and after checking it time and again on the dictionary, I’m sure it will be etched in your brain ^^

Q: How many hours did you study per day?

A: For some reason, I get this question quite often (: There’s no fixed number of hours – that doesn’t work for me. I admit that I started self studying during a period where I had loads of free time and I remember studying from morning till late afternoon (with lunch break) and then continuing after dinner. I was so absorbed into the world of Korean that time just flies. Not that I think everyone should do that (: And no, I don’t do that everyday.

Instead, try to integrate Korean into your life. Listen to Korean songs, watch Korean dramas (: Don’t feel guilty if you didn’t study for a few days. But remember, it’s tough if you want to re-start your learning journey all over again. So make sure you still study conscientiously.

Q: Should I focus on grammar first? Or vocabulary?

A: Mmm. A tough question. I would say if you study using ttmik or sogang or any textbook, you will learn both at the same time. I put more focus on grammar though. I’d review the grammar points that I learnt, but not the vocabulary (: Do not sacrifice one for the other – learn both at the same time ^^

Q: How to practice writing / speaking?

A: As a beginner, your writing and speaking is most likely limited. I didn’t really practice either much during the beginner period and I spent more time building up my proficiency first. But I think it’s helpful to use twitter or other SNS (: Koreans are really friendly and they will be willing to help you out (:

Try imitating the drama lines. I like to mumble to myself and recite some famous drama lines as I’m walking along the street. xD

Read out aloud all the conversations or textbook materials and listen very carefully to the audio. You can record yourself and playback to see how you sound like – although I started doing this only quite recently (:

Q: Writing. Speaking. Listening. Reading. What should come first?

A: Nothing should. You should aim to be good in all 4 components. But as a beginner, try to focus more on reading and listening. ^^ It’s hard to practice writing when you barely know anything. Listening is very important. Keep repeating and playing the audio and keep yourself exposed to Korean. Get used to the sounds of Korean. Listen to the online Korean radio and keep it playing in the background.

Q: When did you study? and Where?

A: No fixed time (: Study at the time when you are at your peak. It may be midnight or the wee hours of the morning, it’s up to u! (: Personally, I usually study at home. Since I want to hear the audio clearly and I don’t want to hurt my eardrums by blasting it loud when I’m outside.

Other pointers:

1. Don’t just use one textbook / resource
Study from a variety of resources. It may seem very repetitive and a waste of time, but it’s actually a very good method. You get to see the same words in different contexts and that strengthen your memory of it. And different books offer different explanations (some more detailed than others) on grammar points, and using a few books at the same time helps in getting a clearer idea of the grammar structure.

2. Learning a language is about time and effort

There is no shortcut. Your proficiency and skill will be directly correlated to the amount of time and effort put in. That’s particularly true for self-learners. Unless you are so lucky to spend a few years in Korea… that’s a different matter. (:

3. Don’t think about progressing / seeing results

You may end up being disappointed when you find that you are not progressing as smoothly as you think. Don’t turn Korean into one of your school subjects, treat it as your interest and passion.

4. Bottlenecks are part of the journey.

Don’t get disappointed if you are stuck. It’s not a smooth upward journey for me too. I get stuck, annoyed, frustrated sometimes and it’s about taking a break and coming back again. Sometimes you make huge progress within a short period of time, other times, it feels that you are at that same level no matter how hard you try. It’s normal and part of learning.

5. Be happy if you are complimented. And be even happier if you are criticised.

I’m always secretly pleased when people tell me I’m good in Korean. And I’m very very grateful to those who point out my mistakes and tell me that I’m still not good at certain aspects. It helps me re-evalute myself and to work on the parts that I’m weak in. For self-learners like us, we don’t have teachers. It’s difficult to get feedback and hence I’m all the more grateful to those who have helped me in my learning journey.

6. It takes awhile before you find your own pace.

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when you first started to self-learn a language. So many things to learn and no clear direction to go. Trial and error. Just keep trying until you find a comfortable routine. And that routine is different for each individual.

7. Don’t focus on one particular component.

If you have plans to be fluent in Korean eventually, you know that you have to be good in EVERYTHING. Thus, don’t try to choose or focus on one particular component right from the start. That’s not saying that you have to do everything in equal amounts. I tend to be better in reading, but I make sure that all the other components are also progressing (just at different rates). (:


Phew! I’m done with the post ^^ Like I mentioned, alot of memories are pretty hazy and I can’t remember all the difficulties I’ve faced when I first started learning Korean.

Please leave me a comment~!! I tend to answer better if there are specific questions, so keep them coming ^^ I may write a part 2 if I get enough questions. Or even a ‘how to self-study Korean for intermediate learners’ if there are people who are interested ^^

p.s. The questions do not have to be directly relevant to the post (:

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  • Reply
    22 June, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    hey shanna, thanks for sharing. i’ve just started learning korean (halfway thru beginner 1 at nus ext) and am supplementing classroom learning with TTMIK podcasts and Sogang’s site which our 선생님 also recommends. i think i’m feeling how you did back then – that with 20 people in class, because everyone’s motivation/enthusiasm levels are different, the pace is pretty varied. because i also listen to TTMIK inbetween weekly classes, i’ve already gone beyond the syllabus for beginner 1. i’m liking the idea of finishing beginner 2, then self-studying. i prefer to set my own pace too… which can be real intense when i’m in the mood for it.

    i have to say that classroom learning has its benefits too, especially since TTMIK is more focused on conversational. classes are abit more academic, so our 선생님 does spend more time explaining the technical bits, like pronunciation rules and the like.

    i got slightly confused between the 경희 textbook and TTMIK initially, because they use different levels of polite forms. but i’ve come to the conclusion – please correct me if i’m wrong – that 습니다 and 이에요 are just different polite endings that essentially mean the same thing, with the former being the more polite and formal style.

    also, if you don’t mind, could you please check this sentence for me? i’m still trying to wrap my brain around the different particles and their uses! 저는 한국어가 노력 공부할 거에요.

    i’m also not very clear on the difference (if any?) between 어 and 말. is it like the equivalent of 文 and 语?

    sorry, i didn’t mean to bombard you with so many questions! 🙂

    너모 감사합니다!

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 1:41 AM

      습니다 and the 이에요 forms are different level of politeness and yup, they mean the same thing. The former is usually used for meetings or other formal occasions and the latter is the ‘normal’ polite form.

      저는 한국어를 열심히 공부할 거예요. –> I’m going to study hard for Korean. Is that what you meant to say? 노력 is a noun and I think you want to use it as an adverb right? And 한국어 is the object in this case, so you have to use the object particle 을/를

      yeah it’s prob the same as 文 and 语. The former referring to the language itself and the latter is more for the spoken form of Korean ^^

      • Reply
        27 June, 2011 at 4:52 PM

        감사합니다 shanna 씨! I’ve got a long way to go on all fronts, and the particles are really confusing for me right now. I just bought yonsei reading 1 (from seoulselection.kr if anyone’s interested) and hopefully more reading practice will help me there.

  • Reply
    Alex Finch
    22 June, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    Thanks a lot for this post, Shanna 🙂 Re-Tweeted.

  • Reply
    22 June, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    Hi! This is a wonderful post. This would be very helpful not only to those who are learning Korean by themselves but also for others learning another language.Actually, I also started learning other language by just one phrase book. I’m studying Japanese that time. But I find the phrase book so useless so I bought lots of textbooks in the book sale that time. Actually I have like 3-4 textbooks now about Japanese language. I even watched some video tutorial on youtube that time. Well I can say my progress that time is a bit good. Just in 1 year I can speak basic sentences and even write in Katakana and Hiragana. But just due to busy schedule when I reached college, I don’t have time to study Japanese anymore and even forgot how to read it now.

    And just recently, I’ve been an exchange student in Korea for four months. Actually, I never appreciate their culture until I’ve been there. Well in four months, I can say that my level is just between 1 to 2. A bit faster if I’ll just study Korean myself. So I think for the readers, the best advice would be if you have the resources dwell much on studying it in Korea itself. It’s a big help for me to learn Korean in Korea and it’s not just me who have noticed it even my friends have noticed it because when I went to Korea I really don’t have any background with Korean language just only “Annyeonghaseyo.” Well, if you are really like to learned the language you can try applying for scholarship for Korean universities. They’re generous enough to support us. And just after that, you can try learning it yourself or enroll in a Korean language class. Well, thats one of the advice , I can give.

    So overall, I’ve been studying Korean four months in Korea, and 6 months just practice in my home country. Well due to busy schedule again thats why I can’t study Korean myself but still I still manage to listen to TTMIK podcast or video or any other multimedia resources in the internet. Well also my last words for Korean learner, study Korean with 한글 and not by the romanization. That what I’m speaking of good foundation. Don’t just memorized, it should be learn by heart. Life would be easier if you can read and write 한글.

    To the poster, 감사합니다! I hope I can also reach your high level. :> I’ll be back studying Korean again this July in a language school.

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 1:37 AM

      Thanks for sharing! (: I agree with you on the romanisation part. Anyone who’s serious about learning a language should learn their alphabet / writing system right from the beginning. I’ve seen Japanese textbooks that are written entirely in romanisation and I really doubt their usefulness.

      Alot of my friends who went to Korea for exchange all came back with a decent accent. It’s a really great way to learn, since it’s the pronounciation that usually causes the most troubles. I’m fairly advanced in the grammar etc but I still think my accent is well… not native. ): Hopefully I won’t get stuck with it D:

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 3:44 AM

      I wholeheartedly agree with the “avoid romanization” suggestion. Yes, reading 한글 is slow at first, but if you work at it, you will get better at it surprisingly quickly. (Then once you do, you’ll realize that romanization just slows you way down.)

      Interesting story on that topic: I was watching a Korean music video on YouTube several months back and it had the lyrics hard-subbed into the video. However, the lyrics were romanized and I simply couldn’t keep up when I tried to read them while the video played. The reason I found this surprising is that I had been watching Korean music shows (Music Bank, 인기가요, etc.) regularly for a long time now and by that point I *could* keep up with the on-screen subbing that those shows displayed (in 한글, of course) unless it was something really fast like speed-rap. Since my brain hadn’t really ever seen most of the Korean words I’d learned in romanized form, it didn’t have patterns to match them up with and had to default to the much slower “sounding out words” mode instead.

      • Reply
        23 June, 2011 at 8:25 AM

        I’ve never thought about that, but it’s really true. We tend to recognise the hangul characters as a whole word instead of individual subparts. I get really annoyed when I see romanisations, and most of the time, people don’t even follow the standard romanisation and just go according to their gut feeling. There’s so many different versions around >,<

  • Reply
    Zach Lawson
    22 June, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    super encouraging and great resources. I am surrounded by spoken and written Korean daily (for over 10 years now) and I still mutter and stammer like a little kid when I try to speak… and listening/comprehension is no easier. In my mind I tend to shut it out the moment I start hearing it because it is a trained response from the early days of being surrounded by it (“oh they are not talking to me so…”) But like you said, don’t expect to see the results, this is great advise! let it come naturally and you will be amazed how well you start to catch on!

    best of luck in your studies!

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 1:31 AM

      Hi Zach!

      It will be much easier since you are in Korea 😀 I find that I perform alot better when I’m ‘forced’ to speak Korean. I get really awkward speaking Korean in Singapore though. Must try to fix that weird habit. I understand what you mean though, if I was living in another country instead of Korea, I’ll most likely not pay that much attention to their native language too.

  • Reply
    22 June, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Really appreciate your post. I totally agree with you about learning the words in context. When I was starting, I had this crappy Korean dictionary designed for tourists. The only thing I learned from there is how to write. I’m rather good at it (not to brag or anything), but I mostly just write words because I focused on the vocabulary more. No real sentences. Now I immerse myself in Korean variety shows (1N2D!) because I learn more from the conversations there. I honestly learned more when I started paying attention to the whole conversation, rather than just focusing on the words. So, I’m so glad to have found this helpful post. I wasn’t aware of TTMIK, so THANK YOU!

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 1:27 AM

      Hi Tishi! Thanks for leaving a comment 😀

      TTMIK is awesome. It’s hard to find a more dedicated bunch of teachers than them! I’m starting to watch 1N2D because of Uhm Tae Woong heehee. I find variety shows more challenging though, they are always speaking soo fast!

      • Reply
        23 June, 2011 at 8:29 AM

        Yes, they do. Though I got the hang of it after years and years of watching Korean Dramas. It’s really helpful to watch these things because I don’t know where to find audiobooks for learning Korean. So shows like K-dramas and variety are the next best thing. It’s weird at first when I found myself fixated at certain sentences that I repeat it in my head for several times. I though I was going crazy! But that’s part of the learning process I guess.

        (That aside, I’m moreof a Seung-gi fan, but Tae-woong is so endearing, too!)

  • Reply
    22 June, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    I’m trying to study right now and I stopped to read this, to get motivation. And it’s really helped! 🙂
    I’ve been memorizing vocab for the longest time now. Half the time I remember it, and the other half I don’t. T.T” But I will take your advice and see how it works out for me. ^.^
    And, I will defiantly try the method about using different resources. Usually I just use one Korean self-study book, but I’ll defiantly try TTMLK now. I have tried to use it before, it’s just I don’t know where to start… xD Because, I already know what some of their beginning lessons teach..
    Annnd now I feel so much better about my constant lacking of studying do to my low motivation. Because, even when I don’t actually use a book to study, I watch K-dramas everyday and I uncontiously try to listen to words I know to get it engraved in my mind, and that method helps so much. Because I have nothing/no one Korean around me, so stuff like that is seriously helpful.
    Your advice on not looking for results defiantly helps me also. I am constantly looking for progress and I get really upset when I forget a word I took a while trying to learn. I do think I probably treat learning Korean too much as a school subject rather than something I love to do. But, I’ll defiantly change that.^^
    And lastly, thank you so much on your method for speaking Korean. I seriously sound soooo American ahahaha. I want to have a native accent.(or sound close to it) But, then again I’m a beginner. And I don’t pay much attention to speaking, but I will try to now.
    This post defiantly gave me a lot of motivation! 감사합니다! 🙂

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 1:25 AM

      Hello! (:

      It’s better to pay attention to your accent when you are a beginner. Old habits die hard and it’s hard to correct your accent if you are too used to it. I regretted not spending that much time on my pronunciation when I was a beginner. I was still making mistakes like pronouncing 중 as 종 in my 2nd yr of study.

      I’m glad this post was helpful to you ^^ Hope you will enjoy learning Korean ~~~~! ㅋㅋㅋ

  • Reply
    23 June, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    안녕하세요! 너무 좋은 포스트이에요.. ^^

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve written. I’ve only been self-learning Korean for about 6 months, and hope to be at least as fluent as you are now in three years (with the help of ttmik.com, of course). Just like you, I also don’t have any reason except for my linguistic passion.

    For me, learning a foreign language, especially outside of its native country, is a lifelong process and commitment. It’s kind of like having a relationship. And yes, I have two “ex”-es, named French and Spanish (unfortunately, things didn’t work out between us). I’m an Indonesian who’s been learning English only in Indonesia, both in classes and independently, for over 20 years (which half of it includes facilitating others’ learning process), and I’m still learning it even as I write this comment (so I guess when I decided to take English as my major, I became Mrs. English). Hence, IMHO, one needs to have either a strong passion or huge motivation, especially at the beginning, for once one has enough proficiency, everything would gradually become easier.

    As for my current affair with Korean, I hope it will last long enough for me to one day be able to facilitate others learning it. 네, 열심히 공부할래요! 화이팅!

    감사합니다! ^^

    • Reply
      23 June, 2011 at 8:32 AM

      ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ I think I’m married to Korean and will continue to be with it forever 😀 I’m having a secret affair with Japanese and I *might* take it as my second wife. Am I too greedy? ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

      I’m more inclined towards East Asian languages! I think Romance languages are too ‘far-off’ for me in terms of culture, accessibility of good textbooks / learning materials etc. I did think of learning Spanish but it just didn’t work out. D:

      I hope you will attain your goals eventually! ^^


  • Reply
    How to Self-Study Korean for Beginners | Nanoomi.net
    23 June, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    […] can read the rest of this post (including more Q-and-A’s!) here. var addthis_language = 'en'; blog comments powered by Disqus var […]

  • Reply
    23 June, 2011 at 9:46 PM

    Lovely post, dear. Glad to see so many great tips! 🙂

    However, I dare to disagree about vocab lists. I find them useful. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but creating vocab lists gives me more clarity. What’s more, I use flashcards while learning new words or phrases and I like it. Though, I agree that learning vocab in context is also very important 😉

    I have a question. Maybe you know some good sites or books about pronunciation? I think that it’s important to have some theoretical knowledge about Korean pronunciation but I haven’t found any good resources about it :

    P.S. self-study is a difficult thing and self-motivation in this case is a must. I do believe that the next important thing to which one should pay extra attention while self-studying is a smart style of learning. Without it, a person may spent hours learning stuff but without any real results. Honestly, right now I’m struggling with creating my own style of learning. It turns out that I don’t even know how to study properly ‘headdesk’.

    • Reply
      24 June, 2011 at 7:33 PM

      All of us have different learning styles and I have friends who do very well with flashcards too ^^ Mmm the only English book I know that deals with the pronounciation in detail is ‘Sounds of Korean’. I’ve reviewed the book before ^^

      It’s natural to struggle for a period before finding your own comfortable learning style. I experienced that for both Korean and Japanese. It took me really long to find it for Japanese ^^

  • Reply
    24 June, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    First of all, I wanna say how grateful I was that you had posted this topic on your blog..it’s really, really helpful..thanks for sharing, Shanna ^^
    Tot I wanna share my views too on this topic..i’m so sorry if I’m so long-winded (:
    Looking back at the past, remember when all of us were kids, when and how we learn to speak, listen, read and write in English or our mother tongue from our parents? Our mom and dad will repeat the same words to our ears again and again so that we will recall and remember easily. Before we go to bed, they will read to us fairy tales and bedtime stories with lots of colors and pictures to capture our interest.
    I guess we can also apply the same method adopted by our parents when acquiring a new language. For instance, if we wish to remember new words in context, we can pause the dvd player to our favourite scenes and mimic the dialogues and the accents of the actresses/actors in a Korean drama. To sustain our interest in korean, expose ourselves to every hooks and crannies about the country and its people, ranging from dramas, to kpop, to culture and history so that they’re constantly evolving (especially if you’re the type of person who gets bored easily like me.. ^^). and if that doesnt work, then start “falling in love” with a celeb – it usually works~~
    I suppose having a personal goal also works for me. For instance, I told myself before the end of last year that I wanna be at intermediate levels in the beginning of 2011, and I’m glad that at long last, I’d finally achieved it…phewww but still, got a long long road ahead of me, though I’m really looking forward to the future (:
    I find that doing translation work from Korean to English also helps me a lot in my studies. Once a person has reach intermediate level, perhaps can try translating lyrics, celeb interviews, drama scripts or whatever that can be grabbed from the web as long it’s written in Korean. Till now, I still hold onto what you have said before in one of your older post “to constantly challenge yourself and go out of your comfort zone” – after I read that, it made me realise a lot of things including how dependent I was on reading and listening to textbooks only ):
    Nevertheless, regardless of the various methods that each of us use to study a language, nothing else beats attitude and discipline. Having the right attitude is a definite must-have. Always stay positive, motivated and persevere no matter how huge the obstacles that one will come across in our learning journey. The same applies with discipline. No matter how tempting an afternoon outing with friends are, stick to your schedule. Like a leech ^.^

    Ps : off topic, Shanna, remember, you were talking about 사투리 in one of your previous post? Do you know that there’s an audiobook on Gyeongsang Province dialect available at TTMIK E-store? I just bought it yesterday. There are 77 pages in all and it costs abt USD1.99..it’s worth it (:

    • Reply
      24 June, 2011 at 7:30 PM

      Hi Nora!

      Don’t worry about long comments xD I love reading them (: I agree that translation work is really helpful! I feel really accomplished when I was translating all the kpop news two years back (: It’s a way of learning and also to judge your current proficiency.

      ahhh 사투리! Maybe I’ll get the audiobook too 😀 Thanks for the tip!

    • Reply
      26 June, 2011 at 2:05 AM

      Hi nora, I also agree that the translation work helps a lot!!

      Good luck to all those studying Korean! 🙂

  • Reply
    25 June, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Hi Shanna! I was kinda waiting for this beginning tips in your blog so thank you, thank you so much! 😀

    I just began learning from KLEAR Beginning 2 where they start to introduce more honorific expressions. Have you found resources that would be a good reference for it? I’m talking about recognizing which word is usually used as honorific forms and which word isn’t.

    For example, I looked up the word 가시다 both in Daum and Naver and they didn’t have information that the word could be the honorific form of 가다. Any tips for learning it?

    Also, I love your Korean notebook pictures! Full of lines of cute 한글~ ㅋㅋ and some time so colorful, too.. Do you dedicate particular color pen for something or is it just random? 😛

    화이팅 to all of us language learners!

    • Reply
      25 June, 2011 at 6:59 PM

      glad you liked the post! ^^ The usual honorific form for verbs will be to add 시 before 다. eg. 선생님이 오실 거예요. However, there are some verbs that have special honorific forms. eg 자다 –> 주무시다, 먹다 —> 드시다 etc. Not that many ^^

      Most textbooks should cover it. I think the book ‘Using Korean’ has quite good explanations on the honorific system.

      I’m very particular about my stationary and yup the colors are organised ^^ ㅋㅋㅋ

  • Reply
    26 June, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    Thank you for replying so fast! ^^
    I really draw a lot of inspiration from your learning journey and find your advises useful. ^^

    One last question: Where can I find Korean dramas with Korean subtitles? ^^ I have one resource with korean movies with subs, but haven’t seen any with dramas…and I find them easier to watch and understand. ^^

    • Reply
      26 June, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      Personally, I haven’t come across any Korean TV series to which people have added Korean subtitles (English subs or even Spanish subs, sure, but not Korean subs). If you happen across any, please reply to this post and let everyone know as I’d be interested in those as well.

      However, I’ve seen some “idol group” shows that aired with on-screen Korean subtitles for a large portion of the dialog. The examples I can think of off-hand are: T-ara Dreamgirls (11 episodes), Kara Bakery (8 episodes), and Y-Star D-day Rainbow (4-part series). They don’t caption every single line but they do caption a lot of them.

    • Reply
      26 June, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      mmm i havent come across any korean dramas with ready made korean subs too. I’ve seen a few fanmade ones over at viikii for some of the more popular dramas. but they aren’t 100% correct sometimes.

      You will have more luck with korean movies ^^ Most of the dvds will come with korean subs (especially those that have alot of dialect in them). But movies are more challenging compared to dramas when it comes to learning korean via them.

  • Reply
    4 July, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    Hello Shanna,

    I’m glad I came across your blog. I’ve been trying to learn Korean language since summer of last year. I did learn Hangeul from Korean language sites. I was happy that I was able to learn and memorize it in a few hours. I felt so proud of myself back then. I always watch Korean shows and drama and I jot down all the sentences I hear. I was starting to learn some sentences and new words and I was so giddy about it. Then decided to start learning the grammar and that’s when I kinda lost hope and gave up. One week and I already gave up. LOL. I blamed the topic and subject particles. I couldn’t find any article explaining the topic and subject particles further in a not so complicated way. I also blamed school because when it started I no longer had the time to study Korean. Now that I finished school and have a lot of spare time, I decided to give it a go again. I rely on free resources on the Internet since I can’t find any Korean textbooks in our city and there’s no institution that offers Korean classes here. T__T TTMIK is a really great site. I’m learning a lot from it. But I’m still confused with the topic and subject particles. >_<

    I really like your blog. It makes me want to work harder so I can be good in Korean like you too. Whenever I get a little bit discouraged or when I doubt that I will learn Korean by self studying, I just visit your blog and in an instant, I feel so inspired to continue learning Korean language. I decided to create a blog so I can talk about my journey in learning Korean. I hope someday, I'll be as good as you.

    • Reply
      4 July, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      Topic and subject particles are one of those areas that tend to be confusing for most Korean learners (unless they already know other languages that already have a similar distinction; I believe Japanese has equivalent particles, but don’t quote me on that) but become more understandable and their usage more natural through steady exposure to the language. One thing you’ll find to be true in language learning is that some areas of your knowledge will often be shades of gray (rather than black-and-white) for a while until they finally just start to make sense on their own from seeing it used often enough that it clicks. Some words you look up won’t be in the dictionary or, if they are, their listed definitions may not match up with the example sentence you have. You really have two choices in those scenarios. You can ask a native speaker (which may or may not be able to explain it enough to help you, since it is far easier to understand something than to attempt to explain it well to someone else) or you can shrug and go on. If it’s a word or pattern that is important, it will keep coming back and you will eventually get it. Rushing it doesn’t really help the process as some things you just aren’t ready to “get” yet since you mind hasn’t picked up all the necessary background information to completely understand that concept yet.

      I will give you an example, though, to see if we can help your understanding a bit:

      오늘 날씨가 좋아요. = The weather is good today.
      (No real further implications; “weather” is the subject of the sentence.)

      오늘 날씨는 좋아요. = Today the *weather* is good. / At least the weather is good today.
      (Using the contrastive (topic) marker with “weather” gives the implication that other things aren’t going very well today, but at least the weather is good.)

      오늘은 날씨가 좋아요. = *Today* the weather is good. / The weather is actually good today.
      (Using the contrastive (topic) marker with “today” gives the implication that the weather hasn’t been very good lately, but is today. Also note the existence of both particles in this sentence. The topic marker is on “today” for contrastive reasons, but “weather” is simply the subject of the verb “to be good” in this sentence.)

      • Reply
        4 July, 2011 at 11:04 PM

        I understand what you mean. It really is easier to understand something than to explain it to someone. I have some friends who work as English teachers for Koreans here in the Philippines. They thought it would be easy to teach them since they predicted that it would be just like teaching a fellow Filipino how to speak English. But they were wrong because most of their Korean students know only a little English. Some of them are even worse than Filipino 1st graders. One of the students asked what the words “meaning” and “later” mean. It would have been a whole lot easier if they were teaching a fellow Filipino since they can just think of the Filipino equivalent of the word to explain.

        There will also be times that asking a native Korean speaker the meaning of a word is not a good idea because some native speakers know limited English. T__T

        Is it true that topic and subject particles can be interchangeable or it can only be interchangeable in some cases? I kinda read a post in koreanclass101.com

      • Reply
        4 July, 2011 at 11:12 PM

        In some cases they may be interchangeable without modifying the meaning, but it really depends on the context (the Korean language is very context-dependent). Other times, the particle may be dropped entirely if the meaning is clear enough to make the particle optional (quite common in speech, but much less so in writing).

    • Reply
      4 July, 2011 at 10:54 PM

      Hi Meloncreme ^^

      don’t get discouraged about the particles. although it’s supposed to be ‘beginners stuff’, it’s actually one of the most confusing and difficult part of Korean to foreigners and I’m constantly learning about the nuances and uses of the particles even up till now ^^ Like what warp3 mentioned, steady exposure to the language helps. The explanations and examples given are really helpful~ ^^

      I understand how you feel about school and other commitments taking up your time. since you have loads of spare time now, put more effort into it ^^ It’s the best time to increase your proficiency to a certain level whereby it’s still possible to retain what you have learnt even though you havent touch korean for maybe a week or so. It’s often easy to forget everything when you are still a beginner but much harder to do so when you already have a good foundation. So, build that foundation when you have the time now ^^ That’s my personal experience (:

      • Reply
        4 July, 2011 at 11:32 PM

        My bad. I got so excited writing my comment earlier that I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Angeli from the Philippines. ^^ I agree with warp3. Constant exposure to Korean language really helps. After watching some dramas and variety shows, I figured out how to conjugate verbs to past, present and future tenses way before I read about it in TTMIK. I no longer stress too much on the topic and subject particles. I believe I’ll be able to understand it as time pass by. Coz if I stress myself on that, I’ll just get discouraged again. LOL. But I still always take note of how those particles were used on sample sentences. Little by little, I’m starting to understand it but I still feel a bit confused especially if I were to come up with a sentence of my own.

        I’m on Level 2 in TTMIK but there are times that I still review the past lessons in Level 1 coz I tend to forget some things or sometimes I just like to read back just to make sure I understood the lesson perfectly. I’m self-studying for now so that when I take formal Korean lessons, I won’t be too overwhelmed. I just think it’s good to have a little bit of knowledge before taking formal lessons.

  • Reply
    26 November, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    Hi I wanted to point out (for your help and edification) that where you say:

    and I wanted to proof that I could self study on my own (some of my previous classmates were doubtful).

    You need to say PROVE and not proof. Proof is an object noun form while “prove(d) is the action verb form. I really like your blog though. 고맙구나!

    • Reply
      27 November, 2011 at 4:45 PM

      oops thanks for pointing that out! ^^

  • Reply
    26 November, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Also, :
    “Learning vocabulary is tough only if you try to force yourself to memorise.”

    You need to say “memorize”. No biggie.

    • Reply
      26 November, 2011 at 8:58 PM

      That second correction is only true for some varieties of English (most notably US English). In UK English the standard spelling is memorise instead (this is true for many words that end in “-ze” in US English). That said, most spell checkers (including the one on this site) assume the US English spelling. It also looks odd to me as a US English speaker, but it isn’t technically incorrect (no more so than any other UK English spellings such as tyre, colour, etc.).

      Your first correction (about proof vs prove) is dead on, though.

  • Reply
    17 December, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    Hi Shanna!
    Thanks for posting this! Though I’m past the beginner level, I still find it useful.
    I hope you can also blog how to self-study Korean for intermediate learners. I often feel like I’m stuck, I maybe doing something wrong, or there’s a better way (or maybe I’m just too lazy). If you already have, please disregard this comment. I’m still 28 pages behind your blog. o.o

  • Reply
    24 May, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    Thanks for all the tips! And that’s good advice about learning vocabulary and bottlenecks.
    Checked out talktomeinkorean.com and it’s amazing. I’m definitely going to be spending a lot of time there so thanks for pointing me in the right direction. 🙂 Cheers!

  • Reply
    Drea Gabay (@SkylineeDrive)
    21 June, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Yay! I’m so happy to have stumbled onto your blog! this is really helpful and I really want to pursue Korean but I don’t feel like I have the time to actually take a class at my UC campus since I’m already investing in Japanese and have to worry about my major classes as well >< this is so helpful since I want to progress at my own pace, especially this summer! I love your tips & thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      21 June, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      thanks for leaving a comment! 😀 hope your Korean study works out!! I am trying to juggle between Korean and Japanese too. but sadly i havent been able to do any Japanese while being here in Korea.

  • Reply
    28 December, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    This is my favorite post of yours

  • Reply
    15 March, 2014 at 3:03 AM

    Just wanna say 감삽니다 ! I’m starting to learn the Korean language and fascinated with Hangeul, i find your blog very helpful. In my bucket list is to read a novel written in a foreign language/script and after watching several korean dramas I got hooked in learning this language. I believe Korean writers are brilliant! You are brilliant, too!

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      hi rose! 😀 thanks for reading and have fun learning korean!

  • Reply
    24 August, 2015 at 1:07 AM

    Hi Shanna, stumbled upon your blog and I am so glad to read all your reviews on different books and information and tips for self studying. I have taken classes in SG and Sogang before and am now embarking on my self study journey (because after experiencing classes in Korea, nothing else compares in Sg lolol). I am studying from Sogang textbooks currently, and am looking for another textbook source. Would you recommend Yonsei? After reading your reviews, I am considering Ehwa books too.. but I have heard how Yonsei books are really good academically, plus Sogang is more conversational – so they might be a good match? Haha. Could you give me some advice? And also, where do you look for korean books that might interest you? I want to learn through reading, but not sure what books are good. 🙂

    • Reply
      25 August, 2015 at 11:05 AM

      Hi Jass! Thanks for liking the blog 😀 Yonsei books are pretty good, but I find that it might be a tad dry for self studying. I think you can get the Yonsei reading series (i loveeee them) and for the textbook, perhaps Ewha or the newest SNU edition! As for Korean books, sometimes I would go to Kyobo site and check out their bestsellers haha. I don’t really read that much in Korean too, and mostly I read non-fiction

  • Reply
    a n o n
    10 September, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    Would you recommend taking beginning classes first (in person) or go directly to resources? And where would you start? I really want to self-study (eventually since I’m still in school) but I can’t find a good starting point/resource.

    • Reply
      10 September, 2015 at 10:54 AM

      I would recommend beginner classes first! ^^ if you are not willing to commit or wanna try it on your own, go to ttmik.com . Would be a good start!

  • Reply
    28 October, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    I just came from your book, and literally had to come comment just to say that English DOES have conjugation.

    To be:
    am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being

    ^ All of those are the verb “to be” conjugated into different forms. Also, you use English strangely. You shouldn’t say “both do not have”, but instead, you should say, “neither have.” There are other examples of things you might want to work on in English, as well.

    • Reply
      28 October, 2016 at 10:11 AM

      Thanks for pointing it out, will correct that in the next version. (:

  • Reply
    8 January, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    Excellent tips! I’m in total agreement with you regarding learning things in context and the futility of relying on vocab lists. I also thought you made a good point about concentrating on grammar–to truly interpret what the speaker / author is trying to communicate, one must understand how the language works. “How to Study Korean” is a pretty good site for picking up grammar basics. For honing listening skills I think it’s helpful to listen to children’s stories. There are dozens on youtube, many with hangul subtitles. Trying to memorize these and then maybe telling the story to your dog or cat is a great way to improve proficiency.
    Thanks for sharing and here’s hoping you find that passion again, if not for languages, then for something equally or more fulfilling.

  • Reply
    11 February, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    What a nice article and site! I’ve been a daily consumer of Korean TV shows and Music for over ten years now, and I had tried to start studying Korean a couple of times but because of lack of persistence and maybe other things in Life taking to much energy I ended up not studying anymore. Things look more promising now though.
    Btw, I came here when looking for answers to the exercises in the Integrated Korean textbooks (also have workbook), do you have any such or know where one can find them?

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