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How to Start Learning Korean and Not Die Trying

In the past few years, the interest in learning Korean has soared, which may seem strange to you at first, but is it, really? First of all, you must know that Korean is an Asian language spoken as a native language by over 75 million people worldwide. This amazing number of native speakers is spread out among both North and South Korea, but also in countries like China, Japan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Rusia. This places it in the 12th position as regards its number of native speakers, ahead of languages like German or French. For this reason, it shouldn’t be surprising how so many people now want to learn Korean. So if you’re one of these people, or you are just curious as to what the Korean language is like, pay attention, because in this post we’re letting you know how to start learning Korean and not die trying.

Study the Korean alphabet

If you really want to learn Korean, one of the first things you will have to know well is its alphabet. The Korean alphabet, known as hangul, is relatively easy although, of course, it’s completely different to the latin alphabet we use in English, for instance. In general terms, you should know that:

– Hangul is made up of 24 letters (14 consonants and 10 vowels) plus 16 diphthongs and double consonants, which equal a total of 40 letters.  

– Also, Korean uses almost three thousand Chinese characters, called hanja. These used to represent words with Chinese roots. However, hanja is nowadays almost exclusively used in fields of academic writing, newspapers, literature, names, etc. In fact, it hasn’t been used officially in North Korea since 1949.

Korean numbers

One thing I can assure you about Korean is that it will never cease to amaze you. In the case of numbers this is so because two different numerical systems are commonly used in Korean:

– Native Korean numbers: this is used to express ages, the time, number of people or things, among other things.

– Sino-Korean numbers: this system derives from the Chinese numerical system, and it is generally used for dates, temperature, money, addresses, phone numbers, and numbers over 100.

If you’re interested in learning Korean numbers probably, I recommend you read this article.

Learn Konglish

aprende konglish

Yes, you read right: “Konglish”, that is, Korean + English. As you know, languages develop new words every day and many of these words are actually taken in from a foreign language. As far as Korean is concerned, it is greatly influenced by the English language, so there are hundreds of Korean words which are actually really similar to, if not the same as, English words. This is what we call loanwords, which in Korean are used daily. So, for instance, words like “computer”, “taxi” or “ice cream” are pronounced almost exactly the same in Korean as they are in English. This will make it a lot easier to memorise Korean vocabulary, right?

Korean grammar is a piece of cake

That’s right. If you’re learning Korean, you will notice that its grammar is much easier than that of languages like Spanish or French. This is because, among other things, Korean verbs are conjugated by modifying the last consonant or syllable in a rather predictable way. Also, verbs don’t change depending on the pronoun, which does happen in Spanish, for instance. This makes the grammar much simpler. And on top of that, you should probably know that Korean pronouns are very rarely used, so it is the context that will aid you to decipher the rest of the message.

gramática coreana fácil

Find the best resources to learn Korean

Like for most languages, the Internet is packed with Korean learning resources which can help you learn it more easily. For instance, if you want to learn and practise the alphabet, you can visit this interactive website. If you’re after a good Korean dictionary, I recommend using this one here.  As you can see, there are many resources out there, you just have to find them online. But if you’d rather be given a list with the best ones, stop looking, here’s a really good one.

Don’t become obsessed with the difficult aspects of Korean

Even though your aim might be to master this language at some point, if you want to start speaking Korean you should probably avoid the most difficult aspects at first. For this reason, I encourage you to focus firstly on day-to-day Korean vocabulary. In this way, you will be able to get by in daily situations in no time.

Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, Korean grammar is pretty straightforward. An example of this is the fact that adding the verb “to do” at the end of many Korean words will actually turn them into verbs. So once you know this verb well in Korean, you can use it to make many other verbs. That’s cool, isn’t it?

Memorise common colloquial phrases

aprender vocabulario coreano

Just as I mentioned above, you must really start with those phrases that will help you get by, especially at the beginning. For this reason, I recommend that you get yourself a good phrase book which includes common Korean phrases and expressions, and that you study it well and often. If you do that, you will be able to start communicating in Korean from day one. Here’s an ebook which can help you a lot. However, I do recommend that you do a little research and find the one that adapts to your needs best.

Korean has no tones

Even though Korean pronunciation can be difficult at first, it is much easier than many other languages. Korean words can have several meanings, depending on the context, but they are pronounced exactly the same every time. This does not happen in languages like Chinese, in which the tone will modify the meaning completely.

In many languages, called tonal languages, the tone of a word changes its meaning, which can make it really difficult to learn and memorise. But with Korean this does not happen, so you needn’t worry about it.

Koreans and language exchange

Native speakers of Korean are, in general terms, quite proud of their language, so they are fascinated by the fact that people from other nationalities and cultures are interested in it. Therefore, it’s relatively easy to find people who can help you learn Korean. This is why I encourage you to engage in language exchanges in which you can teach English, or any other language you know, and they can help you learn Korean. As you know, language exchange is one of the best and easiest ways to learn a language, and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Enjoy your learning process and stay positive

actitud positiva aprender coreano

When we learn a language, the attitude we develop when overcoming difficulties will really make a difference. If your attitude when confronting a difficulty involves your getting frustrated, annoyed or discouraged, it probably means that you’re not interested in learning the language, which is fine! However, if you really want to learn a language like Korean, it is essential that you have a positive mindset and that you learn to enjoy learning. For that reason, I believe it is really important to immerse yourself in the culture and that you learn to enjoy the cultural and linguistic differences of a language like this. For example, if you like listening to music, why don’t you dive right into K-pop (Korean pop). By including this sort of Korean cultural elements into your daily life, you will learn to enjoy learning Korean. And I’m sure that Korean culture has plenty of things to offer that you will fall in love with!

So have you decided to learn Korean yet? If you found this post useful, don’t forget to comment and share. And please, let us know the resources you use and how easy of difficult you’re finding the Korean language!

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EuroCupLang 2016: Final Match

The semi-finals have finished and we have the two languages that have made it to the final match. One of them will win the very first EuroCupLang.

English ended up beating Spain (55 – 45), and Italian did a lot better than Austrian German (71 – 29). So let’s begin with the final match and get this over with! Vote below and make your favourite language of the two win this languages competition!

English vs Italian

Which one have you voted for? Let us know in the comments!

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EuroCupLang 2016: Semi-finals

Well, well, well! The competition is coming to an end and we now have the 4 last languages standing up; the only 4 that have been able to beat the rest and, at times, by a large margin. The languages spoken in Ireland have been badly beaten. Irish English and Irish have been demolished by British English and Spanish, respectively. Below you have the results of the quarter-finals and the next round of language matches:

And so the semi-finals begin, deciding which 2 languages will make it to the final!

Spanish vs English

Italian vs Austrian German

Over to you

Did you like the results? Have your languages made it to the semi-finals? Are you happy with the restuls? Let us know in the comments.

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EuroCupLang 2016: Quarter-finals

The competition continues! The round of 16 finished already and some important languages have lost to their rivals, such as German, which was beaten by Irish only 48% – 52%. Here you have the results of the round of 16 and the new language matches for the quarter-finals:

As you can see, the tournament’s getting more and more interesting. For example, now we have 2 varieties of the same language competing against each other (English vs Irish English). Let’s see which one wins! Let the polls decide!

Irish English vs British English

Irish vs Spanish

Italian vs Portuguese

Icelandic vs Austrian German

Over to you

How’s your favourite language doing? Did it make it to the quarter-finals? If now, which one will you vote for now? Let us know in the comments!

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EuroCupLang 2016: Round of 16

 

EuroCupLang’s group stage already ended and so begins the Round of 16. If you want to check out how your languages did in the group stage, you can read this post. So now, following Euro 2016’s rules, the first and second languages in each group have made it to the next round, as well as the best four languages in the third place. So here’s how this round looks like:

So in this round, only two languages compete against each other, and only one can make it to the quarter finals. As we saw in this post, published yesterday, the strongest languages by far have been French, English, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, followed closely by Icelandic and Irish English. Cool, huh? Well, let the votes begin!

French vs Irish English

English vs Croatian

German vs Irish

Spanish vs Polish

Italian vs Welsh

Portuguese vs Swedish

Albanian vs Icelandic

Russian vs Austrian German

Over to you

How’s your favourite language doing? Are you happy with the results of the group stage? Let us know in the comments!

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EuroCupLang 2016: Group Stage Results

EuroCupLang’s group stage has come to an end and the results are in. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and are wonder what EuroCupLang is, check out this post, where everything is clearly explained. Also, follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss any of our daily updates on the competition. We will now move on to the results of the competition’s group stage.

Group Stage Results

Here you have the results of all languages in this first stage, where some languages have clearly done better than their group opponents. Judge for yourself.

Qualifying Round: Round of 16

Following Euro 2016’s format, the first and second language from each group automatically move on to the round of 16. However, the four best languages in the third place also make it to the Round of 16. So here’s how the Round of 16 looks like:

Over to you

How did your favourite languages do? Did they make it to the next round or did they fall behind? Let us know in the comments and share with your friends! The Round of 16 starts very soon, so don’t forget to come back and vote again!

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How to Speak a Language Better and Have More Fun in the Process (Guest: Katie Harris)

 

They say to speak a language well you shouldn’t learn it, you should live it.

It makes perfect sense. Most of us want to speak another language so we can communicate with real people in real life, not reel off a list of kitchen items we spent two weeks rote memorising.

Learning a language is about word lists and verb tables. Living a language is about people and experiences.

Learn by doing

Imagine you’re having breakfast with your Italian exchange partner. You point to their cup and ask in broken Italian  “come si dice?” How do you say…? They say “tazza”, slowly and clearly. You repeat it and get feedback on your pronunciation – “tazza”. You say it in your head a few times, “tazza, tazza”, then try to use it in conversation with your exchange partner, who helps if you get stuck – “tazza”.

Compare this way of learning to the traditional way of memorising the word tazza in a list of kitchenware your teacher gave you. Learning a language in this way is like trying to play the guitar by studying sheet music. The two are related, but unless you actually put your hands on the guitar, you’ll never be able to play.

The problem with language classes

I tried traditional methods for several years, to no avail. Most of us have – it’s the way they teach languages in school after all. I had five years of German lessons and a couple of years of uninspiring Italian courses under my belt and I wasn’t even close to being able to speak either of them. Languages were confusing and boring: I was demotivated, thought I wasn’t a “languages person” and never did my homework.

Seven years later and languages have happily taken over my life: I’m currently on my fifth and not planning on stopping any time soon.

So what changed?

Learning through people

It wasn’t until I did my first language exchange that my real language learning journey began. Frustrated with my lack of progress, I signed up for an English-Italian language exchange. It was my first attempt at stringing some words together with a real Italian person. It was painful and excruciatingly awkward. For both of us. We struggled to communicate and there were lots of embarrassing cultural faux pas.

But we persevered with our weekly sessions and soon became part of each other’s lives. We went to the pub together and met each other’s friends. Suddenly, learning a language became part of my social life: I was speaking to real Italians in real situations, not in a watered down classroom version. It was fun and exciting. And I started to see progress. Slow, awkward, Bambi-style progress. But more progress than I had seen in years of classroom study.

Turns out I wasn’t confused and bored at school because I was bad at languages, but because I’d been studying in an academic bubble, removed from all the good stuff: connecting with human beings and exploring new cultures. Learning a language wasn’t about memorising word lists anymore, but about building relationships with people. I’d finally learned how to live the language and it was a joy, not a chore.

Learning a language isn't about memorising words, but about building relationships. Click To Tweet

Find someone to talk to

Most people feel they should wait until they have a good grip of a language before they use it to communicate with people in real life. I think it works the other way around: you’ll never get a good grip of a language until you start using it in real life.

Much of learning is task-specific. If we want to improve our cooking skills, we cook more. If we want to get better at running, we run more. So if we want to get better at communicating in another language we should, well, communicate more.

The first step is getting out there and connecting with native speakers. This is the hardest part because our natural instinct is to keep putting it off until we feel ready. But that magical day will never come! The secret is to start before you feel ready.

Language exchanges are a good way to ease yourself in: usually you’re both there for the same reason and most people are like minded, friendly and supportive. Also, because exchanges are based on peer relationships as opposed to student-teacher ones, it’s easier to build relationships and create opportunities to use the language in social situations. In other words, to live the language.

With the growing community of online language learners, there’s never been a better time to find native speakers to connect with. That said, I believe there’s no substitute for making friends with real flesh-and-blood folks whenever you get the chance.

It won’t always work perfectly. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably feel tongue tied and awkward, especially at first. Or you might meet someone you don’t hit it off with. These problems are easily overcome with a bit of perseverance. Stick with it and you’ll soon find the people and situations that work for you.

Studying a language will only get you so far. If you want to use your language to communicate with real people, it’s time to jump out of the classroom and into the real world. String some words together, forget things, make mistakes, laugh. But most importantly, start building relationships with native speakers. They’re the reason you started learning the language in the first place.

Speak, forget, make mistakes & laugh. But most importantly, build relationships. Click To Tweet


Author

Katie is a teacher, blogger and language junkie. On a mission to bring out the fun in foreign languages, she gives smart and unconventional advice to learners over at joyoflanguages.com. She has an MPhil in linguistics from Cambridge and an MRes in speech, language and cognition from UCL. Based in Milan, Italy, when she’s not teaching or learning languages, you’ll probably find her sitting out on the terrace with a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.

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EuroCupLang 2016: Group Stage – Round 3

 

The second round has ended this morning and so begins the third round of the EuroCupLang group stage! Below you can find all the Twitter polls for you to vote for your favourite languages in this third round. And here are the results of Round 1. In case you don’t remember and don’t feel like reading this post again, here’s a summary of how it works:

  1. Each poll is a group.
  2. You must vote your favourite language within each group.
  3. This is the second round out of a total of 3, so make sure you come back to vote for the third round, too!
  4. This round has the duration shown at the bottom of the polls.
  5. Have fun voting and share!

So there you go: carry on voting, sharing and having fun with EuroCupLang 2016. Let Round 3 begin!

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

Don’t forget to retweet the polls and to share this post with the hashtag #EuroCupLang2016 or #EuroCupLang.

Over to you

What did you think of the second round? Are your favourite languages doing well? Let us know in the comments!

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EuroCupLang 2016: Group Stage – Round 2

 

The first round ends tonight and so we begin with Round 2 of the EuroCupLang group stage! Below you can find all the Twitter polls for you to vote for your favourite languages in this second round. In case you don’t remember and don’t feel like reading this post again, here’s a summary of how it works:

  1. Each poll is a group.
  2. You must vote your favourite language within each group.
  3. This is the second round out of a total of 3, so make sure you come back to vote for the third round, too!
  4. This round has the duration shown at the bottom of the polls.
  5. Have fun voting and share!

So there you go: carry on voting, sharing and having fun with EuroCupLang 2016. Let Round 2 begin!

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F

Don’t forget to retweet the polls and to share this post with the hashtag #EuroCupLang2016 or #EuroCupLang.

Over to you

What did you think of the first round? Which languages have you voted for? Which language are you rooting for?

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