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- Learning Korean has nearly doubled in popularity among US college students between 2006- 2016.
- According to Preply, interest in Korean has grown by 27.7% since the release of “Squid Game.”
- Below are 15 affordable or free classes, apps, books, videos, and resources to learn Korean online.
If you’re looking to learn a new language this year, there are plenty of reasons to choose Korean. With Korean pop culture soaring to new heights lately (BTS, anyone?), numerous people have taken to the internet to dive headfirst into the culture where it all came from.
Just as increased interest in manga and anime drove an uptick in Japanese language studies, it’s safe to say that K-pop is doing the same for the Korean language – with the amount of US Korean learners having nearly doubled between 2006 and 2016. According to a recent survey from the language tutoring platform Preply, interest in learning Korean skyrocketed by 27.7% (almost a third) of its users since the release of Netflix’s “Squid Game.”
While the Foreign Service Institute classifies Korean as a Level IV language (taking about 88 weeks to attain proficiency), the characters, although intimidating at first glance, are phonetic in nature. And the alphabet, which learners are strongly advised to learn first, is pretty straightforward, too: 14 consonants and 10 vowels with symbols that combine into syllable blocks.
If you’re looking to learn Korean (or improve upon what you already know), there is a wealth of resources available to the casual as well as an avid learner.
15 affordable or free resources to learn Korean online:
First Step Korean (Coursera)
If you’re looking for a more formal online course to get the ball rolling, First Step Korean is the highest-rated Korean course on Coursera. The curriculum is also created by Yonsei University, one of the top-rated universities in South Korea. The five-week program covers all the bases: reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and each unit comes with readings and quizzes to give you a basic, conversational understanding of the language.
Talk to Me in Korean
Founded in 2009, Talk to Me in Korean is one of the most popular and widely recommended resources for learning the language. From breaking down common colloquialisms, the honorific system, and even how phonetics work in Korean, TTMIK is a trove of learning resources. Most of its material exists in the form of textbooks, podcasts, and Youtube videos, and it’s a good option if you like learning to be more fun, laid-back and conversation-based. The free Essential Korean courses on the website are a good place to start, but if you’re looking to graduate from the free content, premium membership is $12.99 a month.
Named after the creator of Hangul (the Korean alphabet) himself, the King Sejong Institute is dedicated to making the Korean language accessible to everyone around the world. The website provides integrated information and language lessons that are free for learners as well as teachers. There are online lectures available to explore, and eight of the e-textbooks are free to anyone who registers on the site.
Korean From Zero!
The nice thing about the KFZ curriculum is that you have the option to choose between a physical textbook or eBook—both work in tandem with audio clips from the website. This is also self-paced, so you can steamroll your way through chapters at a time. The material is comprehensive, straightforward, and includes plenty of examples for you to flex your newfound knowledge.
Korean Class 101
If you’re the type who learns best under the guidance of a personalized tutor, Korean Class 101 might be up your alley. The entire basis of this curriculum is “just press play,” with thousands of video and audio lessons to choose from. The basic plan, which is $4 a month, gives you access to lessons teaching vocabulary and grammar, while premium, at $23 a month, provides you with a one-on-one teacher, personalized curriculum, assignments, and ongoing assessments. You can try a subscription for free, or sample some of the material on YouTube.
For easy vocab building
Duolingo lets you reclaim your social media screen time to be a little more productive—Duolingo even claims that 34 hours on the app is equal to one university semester of language courses. By gamifying the process with bite-sized questions, virtual rewards, and levels to unlock, Duolingo makes learning engaging and fun. While light on the actual language comprehension, it’s a good on-the-go resource for practicing vocabulary—perfect to fill in the gaps or supplement a more intense learning program.
Korean is the most popular language to learn on Drops, which uses word puzzles and mnemonic association to make learning appealing as well as effective. The app is built on the premise that learning a new language is all about building a new habit — and then strives to make that process as simple and as visually pleasing as possible. The app even teamed up with Amber Liu, a former K-pop girl group member, for a special learning series that covers topics such as Korean food, music, traveling, K-dramas, and more. Don’t expect to be fluent if you’re just using this app, but it’s a great way to brush up on vocab daily.
For grammar correction
How to Study Korean
If you’re the type of person who needs to know how exactly something works before understanding it, How to Study Korean is perfect for guiding you along through the nitty-gritty of the Korean language. The site features an extremely comprehensive (and free) collection of Korean lessons — with equal focus on vocab and grammar demonstrated through diagrams, charts, audio clips, and even a supplementary Youtube channel.
GO! Billy Korean
If you want to hear the language explained by a native English speaker, Billy’s video lessons breaking down the nuances of Korean grammar are both simple and easy to understand. Billy has been teaching for over eight years and, having learned the language himself, excels at clarifying concepts that are often considered confusing by Korean learners. He also has an entire beginners series available on his website, as well as a three-book series, “Korean Made Simple,” designed for self-learners in mind.
This app was built to tackle the biggest roadblock when it comes to learning a new language: motivation. Designed on a grammar-based curriculum, Lingodeer also offers a number of features to make learning fun and effective, from built-in flashcards to lessons voiced by native speakers (instead of robots). You can also add and challenge your friends in the app as well! A regular version is available for free, while the premium is $11.99 monthly or $99.99 for a lifetime purchase.
Korean Grammar in Use
For those who want to replicate the back-to-school experience without the pressure of a professor, this is a popular textbook to learn Korean grammar in a systematic way. Online reviewers suggest that you already have a basic understanding of Hangul before starting this book — and to also have a Korean-English dictionary like Naver or Daum handy, as the book is pretty light on vocabulary.
For pronunciation practice
Core Korean Course (Udemy)
You won’t get very far studying a new language if you don’t know how it’s supposed to sound! Udemy’s bestselling and highly rated Korean language course focuses on pronunciation and practice to take you from casual learner to actual “I-can-string-a-sentence-together” territory. The course highlights a systematic approach to quickly familiarize students with Korean verb and sentence structure and runs for 11 hours over 14 sections for $199.99. Part two is also available for $159.99.
Hinative is a Q&A forum for users to ask — and answer! — questions about languages they’re interested in. After all, there’s only so much you can do to learn a language from simply reading a book or watching a video. The app allows users to check pronunciations via audio recordings, find translations, ask for phrasing — and it all comes from real-life people. And at the end of the day, if you really want to excel at a language, it can’t hurt to talk to actual native speakers.
For full immersion
Learning with the Rosetta Stone will train you to speak like a native — in other words, to understand and be understood when speaking with locals. To that end, the app (which also works on your browser!) focuses on learning through context and conversations as opposed to rote memorization. Their learning method also places a lot of emphasis on pronunciation—easily one of the biggest stumbling blocks for non-native speakers, since Korean is heavily intonational—through patented speech recognition technology.
Quick Korean (YouTube)
These video lessons come from the Cyber University of Korea, making them as close to studying in a classroom as you can get from the internet. The first level features an English instructor, while levels 2-4 are taught by a Korean instructor with English subtitles. Speed through the playlists on Youtube or get the full experience on the university’s website when you register for free.
Oh My Korean
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, the Oh My Korean blog has study materials geared towards helping you prepare for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). In fact, there’s no English on the site at all. Instead, you’ll find plenty of worksheets and useful information, from grammar and vocab to reading and writing practice. You can even buy the workbooks that said worksheets come from if you want to go through it all in one place.
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