Why did you start learning Korean?
I took interest in Korea after watching the Korean drama What Happened in Bali in 2006. I watched others after it but was too busy to consider studying another language. Studying Japanese and working full-time were already taking up a lot of my resources.
In spring 2015, I watched Deep Rooted Tree. It’s the story of Sejong the Great and the creation of Korea’s native alphabet, hangul. The series illustrates the problems of using Chinese characters in non Chinese languages. Sejong was developing a simpler writing system for the people. The elites opposed literacy for the masses so he had to develop it in secret. I found myself nodding and saying “Fuck, yeah!” more than once. The history of hangul inspired me.
My love of text and typography pushed me to study for ten minutes a day. I often did more. Through this, I slowly took interest in the language. Also, I was occasionally watching Korean dramas and listening to Korean music because my wife (at the time…) always had them on. We even traveled to Seoul five times for shopping, sightseeing, and food tourism. This gave me a lot of exposure and it snowballed me into a motivated learner. I wanted to become proficient.
Is it hard?
Even though it’s considered a harder language (Category V, see here), I don’t find it so hard. Hangul is intuitive. It took me a few hours to learn. I enjoy writing freehand without the need for a dictionary. I can’t do this in Japanese even after ten years.
Having experience in Japanese made learning Korean easier for me. The sentence order, formalities, and grammar are similar. There are more verb tenses in Korean, but it’s not so bad. I’m still getting used to the verb conjugations through regular exposure.
Pronunciation has been easy for me so far. The intonation is freer than in Japanese.
How do you study?
Busy Atom was my first resource. The YouTube lessons were easy to follow. I used to watch the videos while taking notes in a notebook. At the beginning, taking notes took a long time, but I managed do it on-the-go within a few months.
Arirang’s Let’s Speak Korean had a much bigger production budget than Busy Atom. It was an actual TV show aired in South Korea on Arirang. I watched the first season and filled up two notebooks with notes.
Talk to Me in Korean is the most modern and professional resource available. They’ve got you covered from beginner to advanced. I recommend their website, online resources, textbooks, and YouTube videos. I bought a few of their e-books and subscribe to them on YouTube.
Memrise is great for beginners and intermediates. I’m almost done the Korean 2 course. I try to study using Memrise on my iPhone for at least five minutes a day. I picked up a lot of vocabulary and expressions thanks to this app. The Memrise official Korean course has audio so it’s great for listening practice, too.
Go Billy is a resource I found later on my Korean journey. Billy’s explanations are easy to understand. I stick to his YouTube channel, but his site is well designed with a lot of useful content.
I follow and read a lot of Korean accounts on Instagram. I check at least ten times a day. I don’t understand everything I read, but I feel it’s much easier than before. My motivation to understand keeps me going.
I went to Busan at the end of summer 2017. I hadn’t studied consistently since 2015 but was able to remember basic vocabulary and expressions. I could communicate in restaurants, clothing stores, with bus drivers and people on the street.
My goal now is to increase my reading comprehension of short and simple posts on Instagram. After improving this I’d like to improve my listening comprehension of TV shows. Improving my vocabulary is the first step to accomplishing these.