Learning Korean from almost zero


I have been tackling Korean for almost a month now since I have simultaneously started my one semester long exchange studies in Seoul. I knew already how to read it since it was something I just felt as doing a year ago but did not actually start learning Korean. However, I feel like doing almost no progress. Even the beginning materials at lingq prove to have things that are still confusing to me. I am listening a lot and reading while saving words. I also have a beginner Korean language course at the university but that is almost negligible since we go very slowly and only 3h per week.

My question would be how to get a better grasp of Korean. All the small suffixes are very confusing and I just do not seem to understand them. Maybe the fact that I have just not had enough exposure yet would be a good answer, but I feel that I cannot advance with Korean. My native language is Finnish. How have you others experienced learning Korean?

Have you watched Steve’s series of videos when he did his first (?) 90-day challenge in Korean? If I recall correctly, he blogged every day about his experiences learning Korean, talking about resources, the language, the culture, etc.

I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for, but it is very inspiring stuff!

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With Korean, it will simply take longer to get a real grasp on the language. I constantly have to adjust my expectations and definitions of “progress”.

When studying Korean, if you haven’t given up, that’s considered progress :slight_smile:

However, it does get easier over time. One challenge is really finding good beginning and advanced material with this language – oddly enough the intermediate level is perfectly covered by Talk to me in Korean’s Iyagi series.

For the beginning, I’d recommend Living Language Complete Korean – the complete course will say “Advanced” for the last book, but in reality, when you complete LL, you’ll be at a decent beginner level.

After that, the Iyagi series is the best to study here on Lingq to build up vocab and comprehension.

As you advance, one challenge throughout will be your constant hunt for suitable material when it comes to Korean. Though there is a lot of stuff out there, and a lot of it available here on Lingq, it’s just not what I consider a “studier’s market” like some other languages. Best of luck with your studies!


Based on the subject, I wonder if you have seen the website koreanfromzero.com ? It’s got some bugs but it’s free and it has more of a grammar focus. Lots of little sentences with audio clips too.

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I’ve been studying Korean off and on for 4 years, and I still struggle. It’s just a difficult language for native speakers of European languages. I agree completely with t_harangi. If you don’t give up, you WILL make progress, but don’t expect a month, or three months, to be enough to get you to a proficient level. If you are in Seoul, though, your progress will be much quicker than mine, as long as you don’t retreat into English often, which is easy to do in Korea. I’ve spent a little over a month in Korea, but mostly I’ve just been studying in my spare time.

Stick with it and you can’t help but get better.


Bring your patience with you, it can be tough. I agree with you that Lingq is generally poor at beginner lessons for Korean and Japanese… there is just too much grammar, ambiguity, and poor translation technology to be able to just dive into reading stuff.

It can be really, really confusing… but it is by no means impossible.

Check out Talk to me in Korean grammar: They slowly, lesson by lesson explain grammar concepts in simple terms. It was tremendously helpful for me…

Also, Go Billy Korean.

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The grammar can be so slippery and inconsistent to our english brains with the shifting hangul blocks that much of the grammar is too hard to pin down as a beginner… there seems to be 15 different ways to say the same thing in Korean.

Just try to keep your eyes out for general Past vs present vs future tenses ( I know it’s difficult) and eventually you will start to sort of see patterns… just be patient and enjoy the fact that you are one of the lucky few westerners attempting to learn one of the most difficult languages there is!

You are right those are actually nice ones!

Thank you! I think what I struggle the most is making sense of what the words actually mean, since sometimes the translations for English are very awkward. Also, many times I can recognize the word stem but then I am very confused about the suffixes.

I will check it out! Thank you!

Yes, you are right. I observe to have learned many things already in a month. Not going to give up since I am too far into the process :smiley:

Very much appreciated and thank you for being able to relate!

I think that I am thinking too much in the English word structures which can be impeding when trying to say something in Korean. However, I will not give up. The reward is too great in my opinion of some day being able to converse with the natives. Especially in Korea I sometimes feel that I could get in so many more activities/events if I could speak Korean.

One of the things that make a big difference with Korean is whether you have other languages in your arsenal that you can draw comparisons to. Korean grammar expresses certain ideas in ways that can be very foreign to an English speaker, but less so to someone who is fluent in German, for example. In my case, my native language is actually Hungarian, which, while being nothing like Korean, does use similar grammatical ideas to express certain things; so while English translations do sound awkward to me, thinking with my Hungarian brain can make a Korean sentence make perfect sense.

Again, this should not discourage you. The point I’m trying to make is that in order to learn a language, you have to adjust the way you’d express certain ideas – often the way you experience the world around you will change as you learn to express it in a different language.

My other point being, the more languages you know, the more comparisons your brain can draw as you try to absorb the different grammatical ideas.

Just keep at it.

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I moved to Korea in 2006 and had never seriously studied a foreign language before. By 2009 I had graduated from the advanced level of Korean language school but half of my studies were spent outside of a classroom. My experience may be useful to you so I thought I would chime in too. :slight_smile:

It took me about 9 months to get in the groove where I had the habits and consistency set in place to really feel like I was making progress. I would start my day studying. It was the first thing I did every day. I stopped listening to English music, instead found some great Korean indie to dive into. I stopped reading English novels. I spent time with Korean friends who spoke little English and who were not actively trying to study English themselves. I read books or listened to audio while waiting for people, on the bus, on the toilet any time I had any down time. And slowly the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. I studied like this for 2 years and placed at level three when I finally moved to Seoul to study Korean intensively. And because I had already developed these self study skills, it was much easier and more appreciated to be in a classroom setting again. If you make it such a big part of your life that it will be impossible for you not to improve.


Read content you enjoy and watch TV.

I agree with this 100%. Part of the reason I stopped Korean in my initial studies was due to lack of good beginner content, and quite frankly, frustrated that I could barely understand anything after a month, where as in a Romance language (where I have others to help), I could get to native content within a month.

I recently came back to Korean, and the most valuable resource I found as of late is Talk to me In Korean (it does cost money, however). However, starting out, I went through Assimil, which wasnt that good because of the boring dialogues and almost TOO formal sounding language. I think in the beginning on LingQ, how I made the most progress, was doing 1 thing. Mass Reading and Listening, not caring if I fully understood, because about 80% of the time I maybe could understand 20-40% of a text, if that. It boosted my word count, and helped with motivation a bit, but wasnt the best choice.

I would suggest Living Language Korean, and I would suggest going through it slowly which slowly introduces grammar and vocab. You could even try to type the lessons into LingQ so you can record the known words progress.

Good luck. Resources are the hardest part about learning Korean.

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Oh I see, thank you for the tips!

Oh wow this sounds good, by level 3 you mean completely fluent i presume?