First Step Korean by Coursera Review

First Step Korean | Is This Coursera’s Best Korean Language Course?

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Hallyu or the Korean wave is gaining more and more popularity all over the world. Instead of learning Korean for purely practical reasons, such as for work, many people are now interested in Korean music, food, culture as well as the language.

If you’re looking for a course that will help you learn the basics of the Korean Language, chances are you’ve taken the search online. There are a tonne of websites, courses, and schools that offer such lessons, but it can be hard to know which will be the right one for you.

One place you may have considered is Coursera, an online learning platform where you can learn anything from history to data science, from world-renowned Universities and leading institutions.

And guess what, they also have a rather impressive bank of Korean courses to help you on your journey.

One of the most popular is the First Step Korean course.

Coursera, one of our trusted MOOC (massive open online course) providers, has worked together with Yonsei University to develop a Korean language program, which aims to help you learn the basics of the Korean language.

Today, we’re taking an unbiased and comprehensive look at one of the best Korean language courses Coursera has to offer.

Table of Contents

An Overview of Coursera’s First Step Korean Course


Rating3.9/5 – A detailed and informative course  

Level: Beginner
Time Needed: Approximately 12 hours to complete
No. of Lessons: Five (5) lessons with 4 units
Content: Informative with detailed explanation
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Russian

Pros and Cons


  • You can enroll for FREE (although you’ll need to pay a small fee for an official certificate) 
  • Detailed and informative
  • The dialogue examples allow you to practice speaking the language.
  • The conversational videos are great for “listening” practice.
  • Emphasizes correct pronunciation for the vocabulary of words.
  • You also learn some of their cultures through each lesson/topic.


  • We found the course a bit fast-paced, some may find it a struggle to keep up.
  • It’s a short course, and some of the topics are not covered in depth
  • Lacks any lesson focusing on reading and writing the Korean alphabet.
  • The reference sheets lack phonetic pronunciations or romanization.
  • You need to have an understanding of Hangeul and knowledge on how to compose and read the characters before starting, therefore not suitable for complete beginners.

Introduction to Yonsei University

Yonsei University is one of the oldest private universities in Korea, established in 1885.

Their Korean Language Institute is world-famous and praised for giving students the skills and techniques necessary to learn the Korean Language.

All the instructors in this institute are required to have at least a Master’s degree in Korean and have extensive knowledge about Korean culture.  Furthermore, they are experienced in teaching foreign students. With their background, each of the mentors is specially equipped to help students learn effectively and efficiently.

Seung Hae Kang is an associate professor at Yonsei University. She has been in charge of the Graduate School for Korean Education as a Foreign Language since 2007.

This university aims to provide international exposure to its students by providing various courses taught in English, offering international programs on and off-campus.

What to Expect in this Course

First Step Korean, is a course hosted by Seung Hae Kang herself. At the outset, Hae Kang provides a detailed explanation of what new learners can expect from this course.

The good thing about this program is that the main topics include basic expressions used in daily life, and she shows examples of when and where to use such phrases, using various techniques.

First Step Korean Coursera Review 2

Hae Kang has been handling the Korean Education as a Foreign Language for many years, and is experienced in teaching foreigners the Korean language.

Yonsei University is also one of the top 3 most prestigious universities in South Korea, which are collectively known as “SKY.” Yonsei is one of the leading institutions for higher education, language studies, and research in Asia.

Let’s Take A Look Inside The Course

First Step Korean Coursera Review 4

Firstly, Yonsei University presents this course in an incredibly easy to follow and organized way.

Seung Hae Kang goes into the nitty-gritty of how to write in Hangeul and its difference with other languages. She also shares different words and expressions you can use in your day to day interactions.

Throughout the 20 units, you can expect to cover the following topics:

  • The Korean Alphabet “Hangeul,” including a brief introduction on how each letter was invented.
  • A complete introduction to vowels, consonants, and syllables (from beginner to advanced)
  • Learn how to introduce yourself in Korean and how to greet others for the first time.
  • Ask and answer questions about nationality and occupation.
  • Learn how to respond in a negative form.
  • Talk about your family and ask another person whether they have any siblings.
  • Ask and answer how many members are in your family.
  • Learn to count in Korean
  • An introduction to Korean particles, including where to use them
  • Tell the date and time and learn how to ask others the same question
  • Learn the days of the week
  • Talk about your daily life using an array of expressions and some informal sentence endings.
  • Ask and answer the question of where you are going and how to use the place particle.
  • Learn how to use time expressions and how to use different sentence endings.

The course includes videos and thoroughly detailed lecture notes. It is a comprehensive course, and it allows you to check your learning by way of its built-in quizzes.

How Much Does First Step Korean Cost?

As with a lot of Coursera courses, you have two options when you decide to enroll in a course, and you can choose between free or paid.

With the paid option, you will have access to extra tests, peer-review assignments, and an electronic certificate of completion at the end of the course.

Main Benefits of the First Step Korean Course

1. Learn the Basics of Reading and Writing in “Hangeul” (Korean Alphabet)

In this interactive language course, you’ll get to learn the Korean alphabet, also known as “Hangeul.” After this course, you will have a thorough understanding of how their writing system developed and how each letter was invented. 

In each video, you will see how each character looks and how to properly read and pronounce each of them, and the course starts with basic vowels and consonants. As you progress, in addition to the more basic letters, it also shows you use other consonants and vowels, syllables, and final consonants.

Aside from the video lessons, the course encourages you to practice writing in Hangeul.

By using the accompanying lecture notes as a reference, you shouldn’t have any trouble following along.

2. Learn How to Talk in Korean and Use Basic Korean Expressions

One of my favorite parts of this course is that each lesson revolves around a specific topic.

Within each topic, the course will help you learn how to talk and use basic expressions in Korean, and touches on writing, reading, listening, and speaking.

Each lesson starts off relatively simple, so you’ll start with vocabulary which is straightforward and easy to learn.

First Step Korean Coursera Review 3

For each new vocabulary, the instructor demonstrates how to pronounce the word and encourages you to repeat after her.

She then spends a bit of extra time focusing on the grammar, since Korean grammar is very different from the English that you are no-doubt used to.

By providing everyday sentences using the new vocabulary you have learned, you’ll get the chance to practice using them in a real-life context.

To further help you in learning basic Korean expressions and how to communicate with others, you’ll also watch role-plays and dialogues of foreign students talking in Korean, which is fun and is an excellent opportunity to take a short break, and mix up your learning.

3. Gain More Knowledge About the Korean Culture

Not only does each lesson teach you the language, but it also helps you gain additional knowledge about Korean culture. As well as introducing language concepts, the lesson also showcases its food, music, and destinations.

Not only that, but you’ll learn how Koreans go about daily life, for example, how they show respect to their elders and family. You can see this often when they bow as a sign of respect and honor.

You’ll also learn the difference between formal and informal language, and when it’s appropriate to use each.

Who Is First Step Korean For?

This is the perfect course if you have always wanted to learn how to speak Korean, but are not quite sure how or where to start.

Marketed as an elementary-level Korean language course, its ideal for beginners, but not absolute beginners. We suggest if you’re thinking of taking this course, you already have an understanding of the Korean alphabet and basic knowledge on how to compose and read individual letters.

If, like me, you find it a real struggle getting to motivated to dive into the books, having an online option with prerecorded videos is an easy way to tick off a few hours of study. If you prefer interactive lessons (as much as prerecorded sessions allow), then this course is the one for you!

The entire course uses a step-by-step approach that uses images and sounds to help you remember the words and sentences that you are going to learn. Aside from that, they also used dialogues and role-plays, making it less tedious and more engaging. Happy days!

This Korean language course also allows you to immerse yourself in the culture while learning the language,  making it a 360-degree learning experience!

First Step Korean Final Thoughts

If you are an elementary-level beginner in the Korean language, then this is the perfect course for you. Yonsei University has, for the most part, done an excellent job of making sure that this course will teach you how to take your first steps in Korean. 

The content is detailed and informative, emphasizing the pronunciation of words and the use of basic expressions and formal language. You’ll develop the necessary skills in writing, reading, listening, and speaking in Korean. 

Just make sure that you have at least an understanding of the Korean alphabet, so you can keep up with the vocabulary written using Hangeul.

At the end of the day, you can’t really complain about a course that is free, especially one that is delivered in partnership with such a prestigious university.   We recommend the First Step Korean course with 3.9 stars out of 5, as it’s an excellent, yet speedy introduction into the language.

If you still haven’t made up your mind, check out some of our other course reviews to find your perfect match.


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