The number of people wanting to learn Korean has recently skyrocketed thanks to different parts of Korean culture finding mainstream Western popularity. K-pop has dominated the worldwide music charts, and K-dramas regularly have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of viewers. It also helps that South Korea is currently one of the largest economies in the world, thanks especially to the technology industry. For all of these reasons, Korean is one of the most popular languages to learn nowadays, and we have some helpful tips and tricks if you’re ready to learn it too!
When learning any new language, it’s a good idea to start with the basics. A, B, C. Well, not quite!
The modern version of the Korean alphabet is called Hangul. It’s a phonetic alphabet where each character represents one syllable, composed of 2-3 fundamental sounds. Each fundamental sound is represented by a symbol, called a jamo in Korean. In other words, multiple jamo combine to make a syllable, represented by a character, and multiple characters combine to make words.
The Korean alphabet consists of 19 consonants and 21 vowels, written in syllabic blocks.
🤯 Did you know? The Korean alphabet is considered perhaps the most logical in the world because it’s a featural writing system. This means that each character’s shape actually represents the phonological features (mouth, teeth, and tongue shape) necessary to pronounce the character.
Very occasionally, you might notice Chinese ideograms (hanja, in Korean) present in Korean text in addition to Hangul.
This is because the first writing system used in Korea came from China, which dominated the region for more than two thousand years. Nowadays, Hangul is the main way that Korean is represented in text form, but sometimes (mainly in historical, religious, or academic settings) hanja is used. But Chinese still has a huge impact on Korean: it’s estimated that more than 50% of Korean words are derived from Chinese vocabulary!
The tables below will help you learn to write and pronounce the Korean alphabet. You can also memorize the Romanization of these letters, or how to write them with Latin characters.
In the following table, you can listen to native speakers pronounce the 14 simple Korean consonants and 5 double consonants.
Note that the spelling of the consonants varies according to the position that the letters occupy in the syllable. They’re written differently depending on whether they are at the beginning or the end of the syllable.
|Consonant||Pronunciation||Romanization (initial)||Romanization (final)|
Now it’s time for the vowels! In the table below, you’ll hear how native Korean speakers pronounce the simple vowels. They’re always written the same way, regardless of their position in the syllable. There are also 11 complex vowels, which are formed with two basic vowels.
Building a large vocabulary base is an essential beginning step to learning a new language. A solid vocabulary base will help you speak as fluently as possible. If you want to learn Korean online using free resources, try the platform Loecsen.
The website offers a free Korean course, with basic expressions divided into 17 categories. Some categories include Korean greetings, colors, transportation, and emergency situations, to name a few.
You’ll also find a section dedicated to Hangul and various exercises to practice the language. You can even print the lessons for free!
If you’re short of time, try an app to help you learn Korean vocabulary. These types of resources offer short learning sessions whenever and wherever you want, with the goal of long-term memorization of everyday words and phrases.
We recommend the app Sejong Korean, created by the King Sejong Institute Foundation as a resource for beginner and intermediate students. The interface is available in English, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian.
Here at MosaLingua, we’ve also been hard at work on a brand-new Korean app, which is set to launch in the upcoming months. Sign up below to be notified as soon as it comes out:
YouTube is a fountain of endless free resources that every language learner should take advantage of!
Plenty of channels feature content dedicated to learning and teaching Korean. Youtuber Natalie Garza shares videos about her own Korean language learning journey. She lives in Seoul and vlogs about her life in South Korea, so it’s a great channel if you want to both learn Korean and learn about the culture attached to the language.
Another great channel is GO! Billy Korean. Billy is an American who has been living in South Korea and speaking Korean since 2005, and he shares videos about EVERY aspect of Korean language learning, from tips on how to keep a journal in Korean to lessons in the Korean future tense. He even has a whole Beginner Korean Course that includes 100 videos… for free. Run, don’t walk to his channel!
To enrich your vocabulary and improve your pronunciation and comprehension, you should get exposure to your target language as often as possible. We always recommend finding media that interests you to help you do this: when you’re watching something you enjoy, it won’t even feel like learning!
That means that Netflix can actually be an awesome tool in your Korean language learning journey.
There are dozens of Korean TV series on Netflix. Whether you’re looking for love, drama, or adventure, you’ll find something you’ll like. Of course, there’s Squid Game, the series that has conquered the world and received multiple awards. A record 142 million people viewed it during the month following its release!
Another new and interesting show is Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It premiered in 2022 and follows the ups and downs in the daily life of a lawyer with autism. Watch the official trailer with English subtitles here:
Last, but certainly not least: if you want to learn Korean, you should start to speak the language as soon as possible.
You might be nervous about speaking Korean at the beginning stages of your language-learning journey, but it’s an important part of becoming familiar with the language.
To help you practice your conversation skills, try to find a language exchange partner. Conversing online is easy nowadays (and there are lots of options for all budgets).
In our article about language exchanges, we explain which are the best websites, all tested by the MosaLingua team.
Now that you know where to start, it’s time to answer the question that brought you here… Why learn Korean?
More than 72 million people on the Korean peninsula speak the language. It’s the official language of both North and South Korea, though the varieties of language spoken in each region differ a bit in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.
There are five main dialects in South Korea and one in North Korea, but it’s a relatively homogenous language. Speakers of each of the dialects are all able to understand one another.
However, people don’t just speak Korean on the Korean peninsula. It’s estimated that Korean is the first language of two million people in China, another two million people in the United States, 700,000 people in Japan, and around 500,000 people in regions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Korean is an interesting language spoken by many people both inside and outside of the Korean peninsula. Korean popular culture has broken into the Western mainstream, and learning Korean will give you access to Korean movies, K-dramas, and K-pop in a way you wouldn’t experience them otherwise.
Take the first step and start learning Korean today!