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The Korean language is often said to have the most logical writing system in the world. Unlike other alphabets, Hangul was crafted by King Sejong The Great and the scholars under his commands. Prior to this, Chinese characters were used. But Hangul was a writing system so easy to understand that even the King’s lowly subjects could learn Korean.
While the English alphabet has 26 letters, Hangul only has 24. The shape of Korean letters also reflects how your mouth or tongue looks when you make their sound. And with over 75 million speakers worldwide, it does seem practical to learn Korean.
There’s no shortage of resources if you’re looking to learn Korean online. From apps to courses to books to podcasts, this list curates the best options for the Korean language learner in you. But first, some personal recommendations.
Download Rocket Languages and Pimsleur for high-quality audio lessons. Rocket Languages ups its game with comprehensive writing lessons for you to learn the Korean alphabet. For reading and listening practice, LingQ is a great choice. For the most thorough Korean language site, nothing beats How to Study Korean.
Talk To Me In Korean and KoreanClass101 are outstanding options for multi-channel learners; they both have websites, books, apps, YouTube channels, and podcasts for you to learn Korean online. Lastly, Italki is your best option for finding Korean tutors online.
Now, let’s get down to business, shall we? 가자!
Best apps to learn Korean
For the most convenient way to learn Korean, mobile apps are the way to go. Beginners and advanced learners alike will enjoy learning how Korean works through these 17 mobile apps and 12 translator apps. Here are some of our favorites.
Rocket Languages: Part app, part Korean course, Rocket Languages teaches users to learn to speak Korean with its audio lessons. What I like about this app is that it places high value on literacy, as seen in its good quality Hangul lessons. There are also lots of cultural and contextual lessons that help one not just study the language, but also learn about Korea.
LingoDeer: This flashcards app is one of the best apps to learn Korean. Boasting well-rounded, structured lessons, it’s one of the best options for beginners who want to learn the Korean alphabet. Grammar rules are also explained thoroughly so there’s no room for guesswork.
Pimsleur: This audio-only app helps you learn the Korean language online through building vocabulary and conversational skills. The Korean course consists of three levels, with core 30-minute audio lessons. Don’t want to sit through lessons? No worries; you can listen to Pimsleur’s audio lessons even while doing chores. Try the full audio course free for seven days!
Teuida: When you get tired of “lessons,” download Teuida, this Korean language learning app that helps you to learn Korean by actually speaking it. Simulating real-life conversations (some with K-pop star Nancy), Teuida will get you speaking Korean right away.
Seemile: Using a three-step method, learners see, hear, and speak for sentence learning. Seemile’s animated lessons show the action corresponding to the sentence and highlight the basic words and teach how words form a sentence. This is one of the best apps to learn Korean especially if you want to really drill down into Hangul.
LingQ: One of the most fun, fastest, and effective way to learn Korean, LingQ has thousands of hours of Korean audio lessons with matching transcripts. This makes it easy to read and listen to content that interests you at varying difficulty levels. Although not structured, using this app is one of the most personalized ways to learn Korean.
Best Korean language programs & online courses
If guided and structured lessons are your preferred way of learning, it’s best to sign up for Korean courses online. Our full list has 16 online Korean classes but here are a few of our favorites.
FluentU: Immersion is one of the best ways to study Korean online. But since not everyone has access to native Koreans or a tutor, the next best thing would be to surround yourself with Korean content. FluentU’s vast library of real-world Korean video content, with painstakingly translated and transcribed subtitles, is an engaging way to learn Korean.
Udemy: Online learning platform Udemy has a number of bestselling and highly recommended Korean language learning courses, including Innovative Language’s Ultimate 100-Lesson Course. The course consists of 5.5 hours of video content, over 100 downloadable resources, full lifetime access, and a certificate of completion.
90 Day Korean: If guided but self-paced studying is your style, 90 Day Korean’s handpicked lessons are for you. Focusing on the essentials, this Korean language online course comes as a 12-month program, which includes four 90-day modules. Since lessons are self-paced, you can take longer or shorter to complete the course.
How to Study Korean: When it comes to thorough Korean lessons online, it’s hard to beat How to Study Korean. The site is a treasure trove of the most detailed, accurate, and clear explanations of Hangul, Korean vocabulary, and even advanced grammar. Ideal for learners who are patient enough to go through a plethora of information.
Coursera: Yonsei University, South Korea’s oldest private university, offers not one but two free online Korean classes through Coursera. Both courses are suited for beginners looking for formal and structured Korean lessons online.
Best podcasts to learn Korean
The best way to improve your Korean speaking skills is through listening. And the best way to improve your Korean listening skills is through audio courses and podcasts. Here are some of our recommended Korean podcasts. You may also check out the full list of Korean podcasts here.
Talk To Me In Korean: As a learning hub that fosters Korean listening and speaking skills, it’s not surprising that TTMIK has not just one but four podcasts. Talk To Me In Korean – Core Grammar mimics the free bite-sized lessons found on the TTMIK website and the grammar textbooks. Iyagi and Talk To Me In 100% Korean provide extensive exposure to natural conversations between native Korean speakers. Transcripts of the conversations are available on the TTMIK website.
Real-Life Korean Conversations for Beginners feature short conversations between native Korean speakers, which are broken down and explained in English at the latter part of the podcast. All four podcasts are available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Sponge Mind: A bilingual podcast hosted by Jeremy, a fluent Korean-speaking American, and Jonson, a native Korean who speaks fluent English. Each episode is recorded in both English and Korean, allowing you to listen first in English to familiarize yourself with the subject matter and context. Then you can listen to it again in Korean as part of your practice.
Learn Korean: Korean Survival Phrases: Albeit discontinued, this podcast by KoreanClass101 comes in handy if you’re a beginner. Short episodes discuss simple, basic phrases like “Where is the bathroom?” and “Thank you” that are very useful when traveling to Korea.
Essential Korean: Hosted by Kay, a veteran Korean teacher and author of several Korean language books, Essential Korean focuses on improving speaking skills and teaching how Korean works without overwhelming you with grammar rules. Later episodes do go into grammar but are often explained in context with real-life sample sentences.
Best websites to find Korean tutors
Take your Korean language learning journey to the next level by speaking with native Korean speakers or language experts. Getting lessons from online Korean tutors may cost more than the usual mobile app but improving your conversational skills makes it worth every cent. Look into this list of websites to find Korean tutors or see our top pick below.
Italki: One of our go-to site for language tutors is Italki. And for good reason. This language learning app adds a human element to the experience through human-taught one-on-one lessons done via video call, usually Skype. Italki connects 5 million language learners with over 10,000 teachers who teach various languages, including Korean. Serious learners will benefit from the coaching that Italki tutors provide. Want to know more? Read our review of Italki and sign up here!
Preply: Like Italki, Preply connects students to online tutors around the world. What sets it apart is that it can connect you to tutors who teach subjects on any topic, not just languages.
Tandem: At one point while trying to learn Korean, you’ve probably wished you had someone, preferably a native speaker, who can check your work and strike a conversation with you as practice. This is exactly what Tandem does and it’s one of the best apps to learn Korean if you want to talk to real people. This language exchange app lets you master any language, including Korean, by actually chatting with real people. So you’re not only learning, you’re also making new friends.
Best books to learn Korean
Books may be old-fashioned but they’re here to stay. A result of years of research and modification, most Korean language books go into great detail about the rules of grammar and style in a way that mobile apps don’t. Plus, books provide a structure and systematic way to learn Korean. We have a full list here but below are our favorites.
Korean Made Simple: A beginner’s guide to learning the Korean language: This bestseller packs over 1,000 vocabulary words and phrases, as well as Korean culture and history. In-depth, engaging, and beginner-friendly, this book is a must-have for any serious Korean language learner.
Talk To Me In Korean: Few Korean textbooks focus on speaking Korean as much as Talk To Me In Korean does. The site sells several books, both in stand-alone and bundles, but the Levels 1-9 Grammar textbooks come highly recommended.
Integrated Korean: Beginning 1: Developed by leading teachers and linguists, this book uses effective teaching techniques that include contextualization and integration of speaking, listening, writing, and culture lessons. As the series has 10 volumes, it’s perfect for long-term Korean language learning.
Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean: One of the most fun books to learn Korean, this book is written with a sense of humor. Although not as structured as others in this list, the lessons suit beginners who want to learn practical and natural Korean conversational language quickly.
Living Language Korean: This unique multimedia course includes four books with 46 extensive lessons on vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing Hangul, and even culture notes. It also comes with audio CDs and a free online learning hub for learners who prefer interactive lessons. It can’t get more comprehensive than this.
Best websites to learn Korean
So you’ve downloaded the apps, read the books, and signed up for classes. Supplement your Korean language learning journey with these great and informative websites.
How to Study Korean: Determined and patient self-learners who don’t mind diving deep into the intricacies of the Korean language will benefit from this comprehensive and free website. The lessons at How to Study Korean are exhaustive, accurate, and covers all difficulty levels. The information can be overwhelming but this is definitely one of the best websites to learn Korean.
Go! Billy Korean: Billy Go has been working as a Korean translator since 2008 with his B.A. in Korean, and currently teaches Korean online. The author of the book Korean Made Simple, he regularly posts Korean video lessons with short writeups. The accompanying audio files of his books are also available on this website.
Study with Bee!: A treasure trove of grammar lessons, language learning tips and tricks, and reviews on apps and books, this site is not just informative but also encouraging for anyone struggling to learn Korean.
Hangukdrama and Korean: Originally created by Shanna to talk about K-dramas and her love for the Korean language, the site is now part blog, part language resource not just for Korean language learners but also for learners of Japanese, Thai, Russian, and Chinese.
Dom & Hyo: Visual learners will have fun browsing Dom and Hyo’s collection of infographics and occasional audio and video clips. The site is very helpful in building one’s Korean vocabulary.
Best YouTube channels to learn Korean
Gone are the days when YouTube was just for entertainment purposes. Today, the video platform is home to the best tutorials and educational clips, including Korean lessons. Here are some channels you should check if you want to learn Korean.
Talk To Me In Korean: Yes, we can’t shut up about TTMIK. But that’s because the multi-platform learning hub is a gem! As mentioned above, the TTMIK website houses all of its audio and video lessons, courses, and bookstore. But if you’re already holed up on YouTube, it’s just as easy to learn from TTMIK’s channel. All of the older, basic lessons are there, but the channel continues to churn out newer videos in varying lengths. The TTMIK team sometimes go live for Q&A sessions, too.
KoreanClass101: Like TTMIK, KoreanClass101 has an abundance of video and audio lessons for you to learn Korean online. Their YouTube channel has a variety of vocabulary and grammar lessons, as well as extensive discussions and samples on Korean culture. But it stands out with its Korean listening comprehension lessons.
Conversational Korean: A good place to start if you’re a beginner. This YouTube channel is dedicated to beginner-friendly, bite-sized video lessons that help you learn conversational Korean phrases and basic Korean vocabulary. Pronunciation guides, listening tests, and quizzes are also available to test you on what you’ve learned.
Let’s Speak Korean: If your Korean lessons delivered through a television show is your idea of learning, Arirang’s Let’s Speak Korean is for you. The lessons come in 10-minute clips, with the hosts discuss Korean phrases and expressions.
Rock ‘N Learn: While technically geared for toddlers and kids, this channel has entertaining, educational videos that will benefit beginning Korean learners. Newer videos also include conversational language videos for teens and adults.
Best FREE resources to learn Korean
A limited budget should not deter your from learning Korean. There are plenty of free resources for you online!
Free apps to learn Korean
To learn Korean for free, download apps like Duolingo, Memrise, and Drops. These flashcard apps are great for beginners who want to casually learn the Korean alphabet and build vocabulary through fun, gamified, and bite-sized lessons.
While most language learners thrive in self-studying, learning with like-minded people makes the experience more fun and helps with motivation. From study tips to resource recommendations to length discussions on grammar rules, /r/Korean on Reddit has it. As of writing, the community has about 95,000 members and most of them are helpful folks.
Free Korean podcasts
You’re in luck because all of the podcasts listed above are free to listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. This means more listening and speaking for you!
Free Korean classes
Want to learn Korean for free from Korea’s first online university? The Cyber University of Korea (CUK) Future Education Center offers Quick Korean, a free and high-quality Korean language online course.
For reading and audio materials suited for all difficulty levels, the lessons on How to Study Korean are free and comprehensive.
Free Korean books
Investing in Korean books pays off for serious Korean learners. But there are also free resources at your disposal, most of which are available online.
Korean From Zero! comes in physical book and Kindle formats but the vocabulary, grammar, and Hangul courses are also available on its website for free.
The audiobook Learn Korean – Word Power 101 by KoreanClass101 is a fast and free way to learn Korean and will get you speaking Korean in minutes.
You can also find free-to-download Korean language ebooks on Talking2Koreans.
Best Netflix TV shows & movies to learn Korean
Language learners will tell you that the key to learning any language fast is through immersion and exposure. The same surely applies to learning Korean. But while not everyone can fly to Korea and speak to locals, all of us have access to Korean dramas and TV shows, thanks to Netflix and other streaming sites. It won’t be the same as taking Korean lessons, but you’ll get to train your ears and pick up new words and expressions. Here are some highly recommended K-dramas.
Coffee Prince: Popular both in and outside Korea, Coffee Prince was one of those K-dramas that fueled the spread of Hallyu (Korean wave). Following the unlikely romance between a clumsy tomboy (who gets mistaken for a boy) and a rich womanizer, Coffee Prince was one of the first gender bender K-dramas. The two work together at a coffee shop and eventually develops a friendship. It’s easy to get sucked in as the story progresses and soon you’ll find yourself learning food and beverage-related words and phrases.
Because This is My First Life: This K-drama is about housemates who got married to save money. A personal favorite, I recommend this K-drama for fans of thought-provoking lines and relatable characters. The lead female is a writer and there are lots of references to books and poems so you’ll hear tons of words related to literature.
Romance is a Bonus Book: This K-drama is about a young, gifted editor-in-chief at a publishing company and a former copywriter who’s desperate for a job. A drama about second chances, it’s heartwarming and inspiring. You’ll also hear plenty of words related to books, publishing, and careers.
Misaeng: This award-winning K-drama follows a group of employees in a trading company and is heavily focused on the office environment. You’ll encounter words related to working, business, and employee relations. Plus, you’ll get a glimpse of the Korean office culture.
Be Melodramatic: Another K-drama that features a writer, this follows three best friends navigating different paths in the entertainment industry. The strength of this show lies in its well-developed, three-dimensional, imperfect and relatable characters. The script is fresh and whether you’re watching this to learn Korean or purely for entertainment, you won’t be disappointed.
Signal: An award-winning Kdrama, and simply one of the best Korean shows ever, Signal is based on real unsolved murders that took place between 1986 and 1991. Superb writing, well-crafted characters, and edge-of-your-seat pacing makes this a great watch.
How to learn Korean
You won’t run out of resources if you’ve set your heart to learn Korean. In fact, compared to other Asian languages, Korean is easily accessible due to the sheer amount of free and paid resources available for learners. Thus, learning and improving your Korean skills ultimately falls on you.
Here are some study tips to further get you in the right direction.
Try everything. You can be a visual learner or an auditory learner. You might excel more if you start with writing Hangul, or you can learn more if you start by speaking. But you won’t know for sure what kind of learner you are until you try all kinds of resources available for you. Give every method a go and give it time until you know which method works best for you.
Consume Korean culture. I’ve mentioned a couple of times how important immersion is when learning Korean. Exposure to Korean content and culture (i.e. entertainment, food, snacks, native speakers) helps a lot. Not only does it train your ears, it also gives you more cultural context.
Think in Korean, not in English. This one will take getting used to but it’ll be worth it. You can start by looking at items in front of you but instead of naming it in English or your native language, call it by its Korean name. Best if you can say it out loud but even just saying it in your head is enough. Increase the number of items you’ll name day by day as part of your vocabulary training.
Practice, practice, practice. Speaking to a native speaker helps but if you can’t do this, you can just speak to yourself. Doing this daily helps you get used to the language and builds your speaking skills so you’ll be more confident when you’re given the chance to speak to a local.
Stay motivated. The key to learning anything is enjoying the process. And without motivation, you can’t have fun. Remember why you’re learning Korean in the first place. Set up achievable goals and celebrate when you reach milestones.
And that concludes our list of best resources to learn Korean. Fellow Korean learners, don’t give up! Have fun learning and improving. And if you know of any resource that’s not on this list, let us know in the comments. 파이팅!