Korean Practice – How and where to get language skills
Looking for some Korean practice? It’s a critical piece of learning the language, so it’s important to make your practice time fun and effective!
In this guide, we’re going to show you how and where to practice the Korean language.
We’ll also show you common mistakes and what to avoid when practicing Korean.
Read on to find out!
Think back to when you learned a language in high school. Many people can’t remember much of the languages they learned at school despite spending many hours studying them. And as a result, they believe that they are naturally bad at languages.
The good news is that usually, that’s not true, and now you have a second chance. If you make use of better techniques you will find that language learning can be surprisingly fun, simple, and effective. Follow the advice we lay out here, and you’ll make your start in learning Korean a fantastic one!
Korean Practice “Don’ts”
Avoid these things when studying Korean. They’re sure to slow you down!
1. Don’t use Romanized Korean
When studying Chinese or Japanese, students are often advised to avoid learning any characters at the start and focus on learning the basics through Romaji or pinyin. For those languages, the huge effort required to learn how to read characters makes this approach a good one.
But you’re learning Korean! Korean has an incredibly simple writing system that can be learned in less than 30 minutes. With this in mind, the time costs of learning Hangul (the Korean writing system) are minimal.
The advantages of learning Hangul are huge.
Firstly, it will help you pronounce words properly so when you speak Korean you can actually be understood.
Secondly, it allows you to start noticing patterns as soon as you start to learn Korean. For example, you might start noticing that lots of words to do with school have 학 in them. Some examples are 학원, 학교, and 수학. Or you might notice that the colors in Korean all end in 색 (saek). Noticing these things can help you learn new vocabulary easily.
Thirdly, it will allow you to learn Korean while you are just walking about on the street as you can read signs, this is a far more interesting way of learning words like 약국 or 안과 than using learning them off a vocabulary sheet.
2. Don’t only memorize Korean phrases
The first purchase for many travelers is the Lonely planet phrasebook. While this might be able to help you out in a tricky situation, it isn’t a good method to help you learn Korean. This is because when you first start studying, all of the words in the phrase are unknown, so learning a phrase is like trying to remember a fifteen digit telephone number. It is too long and you are likely to make a mistake when saying it.
Due to the hierarchical nature of the Korean language, the phrase that you are learning might be wrong anyway as phrasebooks don’t explain when to say 안녕 and when to say 안녕하십니까, for example. Once you have enough knowledge to understand the phrases, then learning them will be much easier!
3. Don’t just read Korean without implementing. Practice!
Using the Korean you learned allows you to test how it is used naturally. For example, try saying something that you have studied out loud to someone.
If you get a positive reaction from that person, then you will remember it better.
If you get a negative reaction then you know that your study materials didn’t explain the context properly.
For example, there are two words that mean etiquette, 예의, and 예절, to find out the difference you have to actually try to use the language and see if you are understood or corrected. It’s a great way to learn the subtleties of Korean!
4. Don’t think more Korean material is better
With all of the available free content on the internet, people inundate themselves with too much vocabulary and grammar. It is better to know 100 words really well than to ‘kind of know’ 500 words.
To use words, they need to be able to jump out of your brain quickly. If you study too many words, then this can be a problem. It is better to focus on the structure of the language so that you can easily understand sentences despite the word order and nuances being different from English. Being able to guess words from context is a much more valuable skill than just knowing thousands of words.
5. Don’t rely on willpower – have a Korean study plan
If you have a plan for learning Korean, then you can learn much faster. Without one, you can easily get bogged down and lose motivation. Even with all the willpower in the world, you wouldn’t run a marathon without a training plan, would you? So why study a language without a plan?
With all of these “don’ts”, you may be wondering where the “do’s” are. Here we go!
Korean Practice “Do’s”
These are the things you should do it if you want to have success studying Korean.
1. Do study Korean consistently, even if it’s for 5 minutes a day
By making something a habit, it becomes much easier to do. It allows you to break down big tasks like learning 1000 words into small tasks like learning 20 words a day. It also prevents you from forgetting what you have already learned.
Make it fun and learn practical words first. To start things off, here is a great guide on animals in Korean, and here is one on months in Korean. If you also want to learn how to express numbers in Korean, you can check our Korean numbers guide.
2. Do have a Korean language target or goal
And focus on that target! Learning a language is no small task. Native level fluency is so far off for beginners that without a target or goal, you can easily lose motivation.
Where do you want to be in 1/3/6/12 months from now in terms of Korean language skills? How much time are you willing to put in order to achieve your target skillset?
Choose a realistic target and then focus on it. Start small. Once you achieve your small goals, this success will bring you the confidence to aim higher.
3. Do balance your Korean studies
The combo of reading, writing, speaking, and listening all complement each other. It is natural to be better at one of these than the others, but you shouldn’t let your strengths and weaknesses affect your study. Keep working on each part of the language a little bit each day and you will see your weaker skills improve.
4. Do learn the Korean language fundamentals
The fundamentals will be your building blocks for learning any language. A strong foundation is key!
The biggest differences between Korean and English are sentence structures and grammar. Practice is needed in order to understand sentences, so you should focus on this in order to improve your understanding. This will allow you to participate in a conversation and to guess the meaning of unknown words.
It is tempting to just study more words, but that can only get you so far. If you can’t make a sentence quickly enough, you can’t join in a conversation, no matter how many words you know. That’s no fun!
5. Do focus on a reliable way to learn Korean, and follow it
Jumping around from program to program and using multiple resources can actually make learning more difficult. Programs are designed so that each chapter reinforces the previous one, allowing students to naturally build on and retain what they have learned.
If you study Korean by using multiple programs then you will likely cover the same material multiple times in an inefficient way or end up forgetting what you have learned.
Using a single program can also help you by giving you concrete goals to aim for, such as passing level one of the program. Make a plan that you can stick to, and you will find studying Korean to be both easy and fun!
If you’re looking for a step-by-step, structured online Korean course, you may want to check out the 90 Day Korean Inner Circle.
Where to Practice Korean
When learning a new language, practicing conversations with native speakers is a fun and exciting challenge that lets you reap the rewards of the language learning process. Sure, learning new phrases is fun at home, but it’s way more fun to use those phrases when conversing with a native speaker who can understand what you’re saying!
As you continue on your journey to speak and practice Korean, you may not be lucky enough to visit Seoul right off the bat and dive completely into Korean culture. However, there may be a Korean community in a city near you that makes practicing Korean possible in your own backyard!
Below is our list of the top cities to practice Korean in, and why we think you should visit these cities as soon as possible.
1. Beijing, China
Unsurprisingly, Beijing has a very large Korean population due to its proximity to South Korea. As many as 200,000 Koreans live in Beijing at any given time.
As such, if you’re visiting Asia (or living in China on a more permanent basis) but can’t make your way over to Korea to practice Korean, Beijing is a great place to visit.
Beijing boasts two separate Koreatowns, or areas where Korean expats live in enclaves, so there’s plenty of opportunity to converse with native Korean speakers and experience Korean culture.
2. Los Angeles, California
Short of taking the plunge and flying to Korea, spending time in Los Angeles is the next best thing. LA boasts the reputation of having the most Korean residents barring Korea itself.
LA’s Koreatown is massive, sprawling over several neighborhoods, and it has a rich and vibrant history that has made it the place it is today. Undergoing massive development immediately following the 1992 riots, LA’s Koreatown is now packed with restaurants, movie theaters, and other Korean businesses that give visitors the opportunity to have a truly authentic Korean experience.
As somebody practicing Korean living in LA’s Koreatown, you can increase your exposure to Korean food and culture, and you can increase your chances of widening your network of Korean friends.
Who knows – maybe you’ll even score a date hanging out on Wilshire Boulevard!
3. New York city, New York
If you’ve had the opportunity to spend time in New York, chances are you’ve spent time in Koreatown without even realizing it.
New York Penn Station, one of the most common ways to get into the city, is located right on the cusp of Koreatown. New York’s Koreatown is a destination for speakers of Korean as well as tourists (and locals) who don’t know much about the language or culture – the Korean restaurants and shops centered around midtown Manhattan are undeniably fun for anyone and inclusive of everyone.
Korean shops, nightclubs, restaurants, and offices are stacked high within a radius of only a couple of city blocks, reminiscent of the dense and bustling setup of Seoul. Stop by Miss Korea BBQ for Korean BBQ and try the delicious soju watermelon cocktail.
It’s enough for several people, so be sure to bring some of the friends you’re bound to make during your visit!
4. Tokyo and Osaka, Japan
Japan has several sizeable cities that have prominent Korean populations, two of them being Osaka and Tokyo.
Osaka and Tokyo have a combined total of 170,000 Korean residents between them. Seek out the Koreatowns in either city for a chance to have an authentic Korean experience outside of Korea!
5. Atlanta, Georgia
The Korean population in Atlanta has grown considerably in the last ten years, and there’s no sign of that growth slowing or stopping.
Currently, there are 50,000 Korean residents living in the Atlanta area. Though this number is considerably smaller than some of the other cities on this list, Atlanta should not be overlooked – if it continues growing at the rate it has been, ten years from now there will be 100,000 Korean residents!
If you live near Atlanta, spend some time in the Koreatown off of highway I-85 and order a traditional dish at Takorea or So Dong Kong Tofu House for a chance to practice Korean with native speakers!
6. Sydney, Australia
Considering its proximity to Asia, it should be no surprise that Sydney hosts a population of 150,000 Korean residents.
Sydney is unique in that while there is a central Koreatown within the city’s limits, there is also a considerable number of Koreans who live and work in the suburbs immediately surrounding the city.
If you live in Australia and want to increase your opportunities to practice Korean but don’t necessarily want to commit to city life, living in one of the suburbs around Sydney may be a good compromise for you.
You’ll still increase your chances of interacting with native Korean speakers on a day to day basis who can help enrich your language practice, but you don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle that comes with urban living.
Learning Korean online will get you far – especially in an age where it’s possible to easily converse with people on the other side of the globe through Skype and web forums. Nowadays, anybody can practice Korean from the comfort of their living room.
However, as you get more deeply immersed in your journey to learn to speak Korean, you may feel the inclination to visit (or move to) one of the cities on this list to increase both your exposure to elements of Korean culture and your chances of socializing with native speakers who can help you on your way to fluency.
Experiencing the aspects of Korean culture that are only available when you’re visiting or living in an area densely populated with native Koreans is part of the thrill of learning the language – there are movie theaters playing movies in Korean, stores within which the clerk will address you in Korean, and restaurants in which you can order in Korean.
These give great opportunities to practice reading Hangul, the Korean alphabet. If you can’t read Hangul yet you should definitely study it before visiting a Koreatown, it only takes about 90 minutes. Plan a trip and have fun with it!
Have you visited the Koreatowns located in any of the cities on this list? What about a city not on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
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