Whether you want to learn Korean, or you just want to learn about the Korean language, we hope to answer some of commonly asked questions about the Korean language. If you’re just interested in the language itself then our first section is dedicated to Korean generally, but if you’re interested in learning the language, then our second section is dedicated to questions about learning Korean.
How many people speak Korean?
Approximately 75 million people speak Korean.
What language family does Korean belong to?
Korean belongs to Koreanic language family. It is a language isolate, meaning it is the only language left in existence within it’s family, although it does have some extinct relatives.
Where is Korean spoken?
Korean is only the official language in North and South Korea. Although different Korean communities live around the world and speak Korean among their family members and friends.
How different is Korean from North Korea to South Korea?
Although both countries speak the same language, the longer they remain separated the way they are, the greater the differences in dialect are becoming. If the state of the two Korean countries continues for another 100 years, then who know? Maybe they will start to branch into two different languages. But for now, the two Koreans are similar enough that they should be able to understand each other.
One key difference aside from pronunciation and accent differences, is that there is an ever increasing difference in vocabulary. As South Korea moves ahead with astounding technological advances, it leaves North Korea behind and takes the new words to accompany the new ways of life with it.
How different is Korean from Chinese and Japanese?
A common misconception is that Korean, Chinese and Japanese are all similar, just like the romantic languages of Europe but this isn’t true. Korean, Japanese and Chinese all belong to completely different language families, have different phonemes, different vocabulary, different writing systems and different grammar rules.
A Korean person can understand a Japanese person as easily as we can a German person.
What writing system do Koreans use?
Hangul is the name of the Korean writing system. They use a phonetic alphabet, which is probably the most logical and easy to learn alphabet in the world. Each letter represents an exact phonetic sound, so even if you don’t know what a word means, if you learn the alphabet you’ll know how to pronounce it exactly.
If you were ever going to choose a language to learn based on it’s writing system, then Korean would be the language for you.
About learning Korean
Why should I learn Korean?
- You’ll be able to sing along to K-Pop
- You’ll be able to understand Korean dramas
- It’s one of the ‘easier’ Asian languages to learn
- The alphabet is phonetic and easy to master
But if that hasn’t convinced you, then check out our why learn Korean blog here.
What resources can I use to learn Korean?
- Talk to me in Korean, is a fantastic Korean podcast that helps you with common expressions like idioms and colloquial terms.
- Navor dictionary is a useful Korean dictionary that can help you while you learn and if you’re travelling around Korea.
- Use FluentU to watch videos and audio clips in simple Korean. You can match the clips to your level and you can also download the transcript so you can read while you listen. The only thing with this is that you ahve to pay for a FluentU account.
What is the official Korean language exam?
The official Korean language exam is the TOPIK (test of proficiency in Korean)
What textbooks should I use to study for the TOPIK?
You can find our recommendation of best textbooks for the TOPIK here.
How long does it take to learn Korean?
Of course this depends on you. If you only practise your Korean once a week, or only half an hour a day, then it’s going to take you a long time to get anywhere with it and that’s if you get anywhere with it at all.
However, assuming that you’re able to dedicate a few hours to it everyday, or even maybe you live in Korea then you should be able to reach a basic level of fluency within a year. But remember this really depends on the individual. Some people need a lot longer and some people might find that they’ve reached what they would class as fluency within six months.
Just start learning, dedicate your time to it, make sure you speak everyday and you’ll find you improve and be speaking in no time. And remember, your level of fluency may be different to someone else’s so don’t always compare yourself to other people. Be happy with the progress you make and just give it a really good go.
What movies can I watch to practise Korean?
Here are our top three favourite Korean movies that can help you with your Korean:
Train to Busan (horror)
My Sassy Girl
Also, remember that aside from movies, Korea is famous for it’s dramas. And dramas tend to over pronounce words in a dramatic fashion, and repeat thing. Which makes for useful listening practise.
These are some of our favourite Korean dramas:
Boys over flowers
How can I improve my Korean reading skills?
You can try reading Korean newspapers to help you improve your reading skills. These might be a bit difficult for you at first, but over time you’ll find you go from being able to just read headlines to being able to read whole articles.
You could also try this great Korean book for beginners on Amazon.
How can I improve my Korean writing skills?
Use the notebook feature on italki to write in Korean and have natives correct your text.
Also you can use the app ‘Write It! Korean’ to help you learn how to write the letters of the Korean alphabet.
What Korean music can I listen to?
If you like listening to music when you learn a language then with Korean you’re in for a treat, because Korean is famous for K Pop!
Here are some of our favourite K Pop tunes, we hope you like them as much as we do. For those of you who don’t like K Pop, then we’re sorry, but it’s a huge part of Korean culture and you should definitely give it a go before you decide it’s not for you.
What Websites Can I Use To Learn Korean?
Duolingo, FluentU and Memrise are just some of the websites that might be able to help you learn Korean but if you’re considering learning it seriously and want to browse through some different materials then check out our recommendations of websites to learn Korean.
We hope you’ve found our common questions about Korean useful. If you have any other questions about Korean or if you have answers that are different from ours then please let us know in the comments below.