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The Korean language is an attractive L2 prospect for foreign learners. It is considered one of the hardest languages to learn, both in writing and in speech. Due to its challenging nature, you can always hear one question popping up in beginner discussions. How long does it take to learn Korean?
Just like any other skill, anyone can learn and become fluent in this language. But each student can learn the same fluency level at a different pace. Hence, there is no “official” way to know how long will it take for one student to learn Korean. It’s a matter of effort and natural ability to learn. In this article, we will learn more about how long does it take to learn the language.
According to Samuel Martin from Yale University, there are 75 million Korean speakers all around the world. It is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea. The Korean alphabet or “hangul” makes a unique language. Some of the most similar languages in Korean are Japanese, Mongolian, and Turkic.
Vocabulary-wise, the majority of the words used in the Korean language are native words. This means that not a lot of borrowed words are used by its speakers. Hence, most people are having a hard time learning new Korean words, and vice versa. It can take a while just to memorize the common words due to their exclusivity.
When it comes to foreign languages, English is often used as a benchmark in measuring difficulty. This is because almost all bilinguals and multilingual are fluent or knowledgeable in this language. Korean is classified as a Category IV language by the US FSI. English and all its cousins and siblings are considered Category I.
On average, it takes a native English speaker about 88 weeks or 2,200 class hours to reach professional fluency. If your native language is very similar to English, expect a study time of around 88 weeks (more or less) to get professional fluency. Take note: this figure is the estimated time to master Korean at a professionally competitive level. It can be significantly less for learners who just want to be fluent in casual conversations with families and friends.
Learning a foreign language is not a straightforward journey. Different factors can change the experience for students who are learning the same language. You can’t be sure how long it would take you to learn the Korean language unless you try it. Overall, you can improve the experience by considering these factors while working with your Korean study.
Your native language (L1) is a big factor in learning new ones, not just Korean. It is the first language you acquire as a child. And in most cases, the mother tongue is the language that someone has the highest mastery of.
When studying a foreign language (L2), the learner would often compare the similarities in L2 and L1 concepts. Hence, the difficulty of an L2 depends large on its similarities with your L1.
Since English a Category I language, a native English speaker will have a hard time learning Korean, which is in Category IV. In line with this logic, if your native tongue is a language from Category I (like French and Italian), you will likely find Korean challenging.
However, studying Korean might be a tad bit easier if you speak other Category IV languages (such as Chinese and Japanese).
Learning your native tongue is a unique experience since you’re absorbing it in raw form. It is the easiest language that you will ever learn, and no L2 language can top it. With apparent globalization multilingual advantages, more people are making time and effort to learn a second language.
Being fluent in Korean takes a lot of time and effort. If you dedicate more of it to your language study, you can reach conversational fluency in just months. Time is needed to master a language completely. But this factor can be reduced if you put more effort into the language study.
As mentioned before, there is no need to reach advanced proficiency if you only need Korean for daily conversations. Passing the beginner TOPIK II is enough to live in Korea. TOPIK is the measurement used to gauge someone’s mastery of the Korean language. If you passed TOPIK I (Grade 2), you are proficient enough to discuss familiar topics with a native speaker.
For learners who want to learn more fundamentals, TOPIK II (Grade 4) is a good target to reach. At this level, speakers can use Korean to engage in conversations regarding general social issues and abstract topics. If you’re planning to have a professional career or create a business in Korea, you should aim for TOPIK III (Grade 6) language proficiency.
Did you know that exposure to multiple languages makes it easier to learn a new one? According to the University of Washington, the reason for this phenomenon is easy word recognition. People who are exposed to multiple languages can identify foreign words better than those who are only exposed to one language.
There are different ways to make language learning easier. You can always add fun to your lessons by rewarding yourself and using interesting learning materials. For example, if you’re tired of memorizing and practicing, make a day off by watching your favorite Korean drama series or songs.
Using an engaging and high-quality learning material will also affect your time in learning Korean. Admit it or not, engaging material is more effective than highly technical Korean lessons. Although technical lessons are highly appreciated on advanced levels, these are boring learning materials for beginners.
When studying the Korean language, it is better to use materials that you like. Korean learning materials are easily available on the internet nowadays. Youtube Vlogs, podcasts, and even Korean dramas are great materials for learning casual Korean. It will also help in sharpening your pronunciation and vocabulary, as well as for hearing comprehension.
Learning method plays a huge role in learning Korean or any other languages. Your preferred learning method will affect the best learning material for your study. This is pretty important if you want to learn languages most efficiently and in the shortest time possible to reach the fluency you want to reach.
Most students would do well with a combination of audio and visual materials. Others would have to learn interactively with games and apps. Some would learn best if they have a companion (a classmate or a tutor.) Either way, you must use the best learning material based on your learning strategy.
And last but not least, your level of motivation affects the time it takes to learn Korean. Learners who are very dedicated to becoming fluent in Korean develops language study habits for efficiency. Since language is a skill that gets better by learning and re-learning things, a high level of motivation should be maintained to keep moving forward. When your motivation diminished, you would likely give up on the whole ordeal and find something new to do.
There are several ways to keep your motivation levels high. For instance, you can ask a tutor or study companion to evaluate things that you need to improve regularly. Talk with Korean speakers more and reflect on how you get better at conversations over time. Keep track of your progress and reward yourself when reaching a milestone for your goal.
All of these factors can affect your learning time greatly. When all of these are taken care of, you will find yourself zipping from lessons to lessons. Try to keep these factors in mind. You might want to take note of the factors that you lack that makes you inefficient. Try to improve those areas to get better results.
Getting stuck in a very challenging lesson is one of the unfortunate ways to stall your progress. One way of knowing whether you’re on time or not is by allotting proper time in each lesson. If you’re new to Korean, you might want to focus on the following because these lessons take quite a while to master.
The Korean language uses its own unique alphabet called “Hangul.” This writing system was created in 1443 and is known for its syllabic property, like the Latin alphabet. There are basic letters and complex letters, which can trip students who haven’t worked on any other alphabet before. It can be considered easier than Japanese or Chinese kanji, but you need to give a decent amount of time to master reading Hangul with relative ease.
Another thing that beginners can find challenging is the word order used in the Korean language. The majority of well-known languages like English use the S-V-O or Subject-Verb-Object word order. Korean uses the opposite, S-O-V or Subject-Object-Verb. For instance, the SVO sentence, “Jacky ate melons,” will become “Jacky melons ate” in SOV.
Vowels can take several forms in Korean. Although vowel combination is quite a common concept in languages, nothing uses single and double consonants as the Korean language does. In addition to this, a large number of consonant pronunciation can confuse even an intermediate learner.
If you failed to study proper honorifics, you would know this immediately. The Korean language has two versions: formal and informal. People will immediately notice if you use improper honorifics, which is embarrassing at best and offensive at worst. Thankfully, most Korean instructors or tutors teach the formal Korean version to avoid these issues.
Finally, it’s pretty hard to learn Korean if you don’t have a good teacher. The Korean language is almost inclusive to Korean-speaking countries. Traditionally, you need to go to Korea or official language schools to learn. But because online resources and platforms like JustLearn are readily available, finding an online Korean tutor is more effortless and way cheaper than before.
Korean is a unique and fun language to learn if you’re an aspiring polyglot. It usually takes about 88 weeks if you are learning it with a traditional class. But once you reached fluency, you would feel rewarded for conquering one of the hardest languages to learn on the planet.
Luckily, you can learn it with others online and with the help of tutors. Online platforms like JustLearn provide you with a place to meet native Korean speakers and certified tutors without leaving your home. Sign up now and see if online language learning would work for you.
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