Studying Korean on a budget? Maybe you’re looking for something a bit more flexible that will fit around your busy schedule?
Learning how to teach yourself Korean can be a great way to cut back on costs, especially if you’re a student. Not to mention if you really struggle to stick to a fixed timetable, learning under your own steam is a great way to ease some of the pressure.
There are a tonne of really great resources out there that you can use today to get you started. Best of all, some of the most useful content is entirely free!
But how do you know where to begin?
I’ve summarised 5 of the simplest ways you can teach yourself Korean from the comfort of your own home. Pretty much all of these I have used to some extent myself, so trust me when I say they work.
Combined with an efficient study routine, with these 6 tips you can really double-down on your efforts to get you speaking Korean MUCH faster.
Let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
1. Start With the Basics
Don’t try to run before you can walk.
I know, I know. You’re all excited and can’t wait to dive into your new textbook, app or online course.
But hold on.
There are some fundamentals you need to establish first. Spend some time on these at the beginning, and the whole process of teaching yourself Korean will be much easier.
First up – learn Hangul!
Hangul (sometimes spelt hangeul) is the name given to the Korean alphabet. If you’re interested in the long (but fascinating) history of Hangul, you can read about it in our blog post here.
To cut a long story short. Hangul is an incredibly well-designed alphabet, built around phonetics.
What that means for you is that it is super easy (and quick) to learn.
Our friends over at 90 Day Korean will even teach you how to do it in 90 minutes (yes 90 minutes) for free
By mastering the basics right at the start, you’ll set yourself up for many wins later.
It’s easy to lose a few hours on Youtube (more like a few days). The Youtube algorithm is incredibly good at suggesting new and exciting videos that put us in an endless loop.
Youtube is a fantastic resource for pretty much everything these days, and that includes learning Korean.
Plus, it’s FREE!
In fact, many of the best online courses have very active Youtube channels where they post regular content, which you can take advantage of when teaching yourself Korean.
Some of our favourites include:
Talk To Me In Korean
The Talk To Me In Korean YouTube channel is packed full of videos to guide you through a tonne of topics, including beginner’s guides to living in Korea, pets and even feelings.
Talk To Me In Korean has over 800,000 subscribers and more than 1,500 videos (yes 1,500!) With such a massive library of top quality content, you’ll never run out of new lessons to watch.
Most recently, Talk To Me In Korean have started a Korean class on YouTube live, which you can join to take part in one of their virtual lessons.
Hyunwoo, one of the tutors that features heavily on the channel, is extremely engaging and makes the whole process of learning really fun.
You can check the Talk To Me In Korean channel by following the link below.
Another channel we can’t get enough of is from our friends over at KoreanClass101.
Their YouTube channel has almost 900 videos that cover a wide range of subjects from beginner level all the way through to advanced.
KoreanClass101 are one of the most popular online courses out there, so you can be sure that their content is of the highest quality.
They have recently launched a 24/7 YouTube stream of Korean lessons, so you can learn Korean around the clock! Perfect for you night owls or early birds!
GO! Billy Korean
Our third and final recommendation is the channel belonging to Billy from Go! Billy Korean.
We also reviewed Billy’s material in our ultimate textbook review, which we think is an excellent buy for beginner learners.
Billy is an American, living in Korea who has been learning the language since 2005. One of the significant advantages is that Billy taught himself Korean, so he knows exactly the type of traps new learners can fall into.
Billy puts up new videos each week so you’ll always have fresh content to review.
Check out Go Billy’s channel here.
3. Hack Your Brain With Spaced Repetition
It may be obvious to you, but our ability to recall information over time gradually deteriorates. Back in the 1800s, a psychologist came up with what is known as the ‘Forgetting Curve”.
This curve shows the rate at which we remember information, over a period of time.
As you can see, our memory starts to fade the further we go from having first learned a piece of information.
The study highlights the importance of revising new knowledge, to keep it locked away in your long term memory.
So how can we use this information, to teach ourselves Korean?
If you’ve never heard of spaced repetition, you’re about to be enlightened.
Essentially, spaced repetition is a highly effective technique for absorbing information, usually involving the use of flashcards.
Here’s how it works:
By spacing (and repeating) phrases you keep getting wrong, it has been scientifically proven that your ability to recall them in the future will be significantly improved!
Now, you can implement this method yourself manually using flashcards and boxes (check out this Thomas Frank video). BUT it’s much easier to get an app to help you with this.
Check out our tips below!
Anki is by far the most popular spaced repetition for language learners.
If you’re very serious about learning Korean and have the patience to spend some time working out how to use Anki correctly, it is by far the best option.
Anki is available as a desktop download, or as an app for your smartphone or tablet so you can use it on the go.
You can find lots of free card decks online created by fellow language learners and language schools.
90 Day Korean also include Anki decks with all of their modules, another reason why we love their course!
Now we are not going to lie. Anki is pretty tricky to pick up and use straight out of the box.
You have to spend a lot of time to work out exactly how to use Anki, to really make the most out of it.
An alternative (and much more user friendly) spaced repetition system is Quizlet, available on the Apple app or Google Play store.
There are also a lot of free card decks created by other Quizlet users, downloadable directly from the app. You can usually find several decks that accompany many of the most popular Korean textbooks.
As if you needed another reason to binge-watch Korean dramas on Netflix.
Netflix is highly entertaining, but it’s a fantastic resource for learning languages. Alright, it’s not strictly free, but who doesn’t have a Netflix subscription these days?
There are some handy ways to help develop your language skills while watching ANY show (it doesn’t even have to be Korean).
To practice your reading and listening, check if your favourite Netflix show offers Korean subtitles. By turning them on, you can listen in English but read along in Korean.
Alternatively, check to see whether your show is dubbed in Korean. ‘Dubbed’ means instead of an English audio track, you’ll listen entirely in Korean. You can switch on English subtitles to make things a little easier to follow along with.
Once you’re more comfortable, you can watch and read in Korean at the same time, to become a true binge-watching master!
If your favourite show doesn’t come with Korean subtitles, there are a few Chrome extensions that do the job for you. Check out our favourite here.
4. Language Exchanges and Meetups
When I first started teaching myself Korean, I attended many language exchange/meet up events.
Usually, you’ll go along and meet fellow learners who want to learn your language (in my case, English), in exchange, they will teach you their language (Korean).
I met some great friends this way, and my Korean really improved a lot! The best part, it’s completely free (and who can say no to new friends!).
Sites like meetup.com show different groups meeting in your area, some organise fun events like bowling, weekend trips, or just simple drinks in a bar to get you speaking Korean.
As an added bonus, a few drinks gives you a lot more confidence to put your skills into action. Cheers!
5. Teach Yourself Korean With K-pop
It’s no secret that learning Korean is hard. That’s why it’s so important to have fun while doing it.
Have you ever heard a song which you couldn’t get out of your head for the rest of the day? This is one of the reasons why learning with music can be very useful.
Repeating the same phrases over and over again, in the form of catchy song lyrics, really embed them into your memory.
You can also take music with you anywhere you go. By listening to Korean songs on your morning commute, your workout at the gym, or even just to wind down of an evening, you’re giving yourself some extra precious practice.
K-pop megastars BTS recently released an online video series which is aimed at the beginner Korean learner. Learn Korean with BTS consists of short 3-minute video clips covering key, Korean phrases.
Our Top Tips When Teaching Yourself Korean
So there you have it, our five top resources to learn Korean by yourself.
But having the right resources is only 50% of the equation.
Having a reliable system and focused mindset is key to making real progress.
Here are the top pieces of advice I can give you on your language journey.
Take the Crunchy With the Smooth
When it comes to learning a language, practice really does make perfect, and it’s not always going to be easy.
If you’re planning to teach yourself Korean, it’s incredibly important to keep consistent.
By putting in the work, practising regularly and chipping away, you’ll create a snowball effect that will pay off in the long term.
Yes, somedays it will be hard, but you have to take the crunchy with the smooth!
Don’t Get Distracted by Shiny Objects
One problem I have is overthinking. I often find myself reading so much about a topic when the time would have been much better spent just diving in and starting right away.
Even when I have made my decision, I become convinced there is a better option out there, wasting more time doing more research.
Shiny object syndrome is a language learners worst enemy. Getting distracted by new apps, textbooks or other learning methods can really kill off productivity.
It’s hard to address, but once you recognise yourself wavering, eliminate the distractions and focus on your learning.
Tried to Teach Yourself Korean and Struggling?
Its nothing to be ashamed off, I did exactly the same! I got to a certain point where I just couldn’t face studying the textbooks on my own anymore and needed some real motivation to take me to the next level.
Courses really are a fantastic way to keep you focused and moving towards your goal. If money is an issue, online courses are a brilliant and very cost-effective way to learn Korean all by yourself at home.If you’re thinking of taking an online course, we highly recommend 90 Day Korean. You can check out our complete review of their course, and why we feel it is the best for beginners, here.