Tips for Learning

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Brendela

New Member
Chinese English Malay Singapore
I'm interested to learn Korean. I have visited this website which teaches Korean phonics and strokes.

I'm really wondering about how I can learn to read Korean words in the shortest possible time? Do I have to learn individual strokes and sounds 1st, then piece them together to read a word and from there start to read and speak? Or will it be an easier approach to start learning how to speak first then get to the reading part and its phonics?

Native learners, how were you taught by Korean teachers?

Foreign learners, what in your opinion, is the best approach? Thanks.
 
  • lisztian

    New Member
    Korean/English
    Hi Brendela!

    It's always good to see someone interested in Korean. :)
    Well, I am a native so I'm not sure if I can give you tips in a learner's perspective. But I do think that there are certain approaches that makes learning a bit easier.

    First, Korean is a completely phonetic language so start by memorizing the hangeul (the Korean alphabet). Korean, by some linguistists, is classified as an isolated language for it has little kinship among its neighboring languages (Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian etc.) and its pronunciation is unlike any other languages. If you start learning vocabulary without having a basic concept of hangeul, things can be a bit tough in the process of memorizing and ultimately, utilizing the language. So I think starting with the hangeul is a good idea. :)

    Once the hangeul is mastered, speaking and reading will follow in time. :) I've seen many foreigners at my university (American, French, Chinese, Japanese etc.) start with the hangeul and work their way up to reading and speaking.

    Any further questions, don't hesitate to ask! =)
     

    Brendela

    New Member
    Chinese English Malay Singapore
    Hi Lisztian,
    Thanks for sharing. So it's really what I have anticipated - working up from basic strokes and sounds will be way easier than memorising the words (which contian so many different strokes) and learning to speak first. Looks like, I'll have to work with the Hanguel first. If I have more questions, I'll ask you again! Thanks!
     

    Qianyue Becky

    New Member
    Chinese
    I'm interested in Korean as well. and I have learnt some Korean when I was in China from my Korean teachers and friends.

    I want to improve my Korean, but I don't think it is easy in Australia anyway? Should I read some magazine in Korean??
     

    kimchi39

    New Member
    Korean, South Korea
    I don't think it is hard to learn Korean in Australia. There are a lot of working holiday makers and students out there. If you are an outgoing person, it's easy to make Korean friends. I think they would willingly teach you Korean because meeting someone who are interested in their own language is quite interesting. ;)
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    I'm really wondering about how I can learn to read Korean words in the shortest possible time? Do I have to learn individual strokes and sounds 1st, then piece them together to read a word and from there start to read and speak?
    I wouldn't do that, for several reasons (mind you, it's very personal):
    1.learning a language is far more than learning how to master the script and how to write and read (even though hangeul is the most beautiful script ever put on a paper, imho ;-).
    2. the assimilation rules in Korean are so complex that soleley concentrating on the pronunciation of isolated written words in an initial phase will do more harm than good, imho. Reading aloud is not he same as speaking. The written language can be a help, but imho it shouldn't be the basis of your studies.
    3. Stroke order in Korean is, I think, less important than for Chinese characters. I wouldn't spend too much energy on it in an initial phase. Of course, it all depends on whether or not you are planning to handwrite a lot. Nevertheless, I would concentrate more on typewriting it...

    Or will it be an easier approach to start learning how to speak first then get to the reading part and its phonics?
    Outside the class or study room, I spend 90% speaking and listening to a second language, 9% reading it. The rest of the (fictional) 100% I write it. The main reason is that I don't need that language on my job etc. I think it wouldn't be bad to try to imagine what you want to do with Korean, which of the 'four skills' you'll be using most, and divide your time according to that. I know this sounds too mathematical and too black and white, but I think it can be a good guideline.

    My 2 cents :).

    Well, you'l have to find it out yourself, no? :). Any which way: I wish you a lot of courage and good luck!!!

    Groetjes,

    Frank

    PS. You'll probably already have a lot of material, but maybe this site might be of interest.
     
    Hi Brendela
    Here are my thoughts on learning Korean:
    In my experience, learning to read and write Hangeul (the Korean script) is not so hard, if you can get a feeling for how it's written. Here's my take - native speakers, please feel free to comment - as I'm still learning the language:
    Hangeul is written basically in syllables - made of one of these:
    vowel
    vowel+consonant (with the vowel at the top, a consonant below)
    consonant + vowel
    (consonant+vowel) + consonant

    In the last case, (consonant+vowel) is on top, and the second consonant is at the bottom.

    As you can see, consonants are not written separately.

    The way to read (and write) the words is 'top-to-bottom' first, then l'eft-to- right'. (I am not talking of the individual 'strokes' in writing the letters as such). Let me elaborate with a couple of examples:



    The Korean word for 'Korea' is 'Hankuk' - it's made of the syllables 'han' and 'kuk'. In Hangeul, it's written as

    한국

    Here,
    하 has the sound 'haa' - it's made of the consonant for 'h' sound 'ㅎ' and the vowel for 'aa', which is 'ㅏ' to form '하'. ('haa')
    Below this you would add the consonant with the 'n' sound: 'ㄴ' to form '한' ('han' - though it sounds more like 'haan')
    So you see, 'han' or '한' is read top-to-bottom, and it forms one syllable.

    Similarly, 'kuk' is formed by 'k+u' at the top, and the second 'k' at the bottom, like so:
    'ㄱ' +' ㅜ' to form '구' at the top, and you add 'ㄱ' at the bottom to form '국' ('kuk').

    So you see, 'Han-kuk' in Hangeul is written as '한 국' and you would read it as basically two syllables 'Han' and 'kuk', each read top-to-bottom, and the word itself is read left-to-right. By the way, on the computer (or even to send text messages), 'han' and 'kuk' are treated one character each - so it's a pretty compact writing system.

    Similarly, 'Seoul' is made of two syllables: 'Seo' (pronounced more like 'suh') and 'ul'. In Hangeul, it's written as

    서 (suh), followed by '울' ('ul').
    Notice that '서' is a 'consonant+vowel' ('s' + 'uh'), with no consonant at the bottom,
    and '울' is made of '우' ('u') at the top and 'ㄹ' ('L') at the bottom - so this is a vowel+consonant. 'Seo' 'ul' is made of two syllables - you would still follow the 'top-to-bottom' and 'left-to-right' rule, though the first syllable
    '서' has nothing at the bottom.

    The way I have described (assuming that you have not figured this out by now - pardon me if I'm wrong) makes it sound more complicated than it actually is - trust me - it's not complicated at all! :)

    You don't need to think of it as 'strokes' - basically, the writing itself is as simple as it gets. It's not surprising because the writing system was actually put together by a panel of experts commissioned by a famous king sometime in the 15th century, primarily to make it easier for the common people to be able to read and write the language (prior to that, they used the Chinese characters to write, but pronounced it the Korean way - if my little knowledge on this script is correct :) )

    Even the pronunciation is reasonably straightforward - you don't need to worry about rising or falling tones (as in Chinese), and as far as I understand, there's not much of 'accenting' or 'stressing' - the words are pronounced pretty 'flat'. However, you still need to observe the way the native speakers speak to get the sounds right -obviously! Where you may have some trouble is in pronouncing the 'aspirated' and 'glottal' consonants - personally, I don't worry about getting those sounds right - because the native speakers are pretty generous in accepting my pronunciation and even commending me for having a 'good' pronunciation! :)

    Depending on what languages you are already used to, the grammar, the sentence structure/syntax may or may not make sense to you right away.
    As for me, I find the Korean sentence structure very similar to many Indic (that is, from India) languages, and even Japanese. So, usually I have no problem putting together sentences if I know the vocabulary.

    I took a quick look at the link suggested by Frank06 - it seems to be a good site to check out.

    I know my post is pretty long - but as a non-native student of the Korean language, I thought I could help a fellow student :) Good luck!
     

    maghanish2

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    안녕!!

    I'm JUST starting to learn Korean and can only say a few very simple phrases, but....한글을 배우고시ㅍ어!! =D Does anyone know of a good Korean book (preferable with audio) that I could order (from Amazon, please) to help with my learning? I have many Korean friends and would LOVE to be able to have even a small conversation with them in their native language. Thanks so much! 고마워
     

    blkfaephoenix

    New Member
    English - U.S.A.
    I'm currently using "Elementary Korean" by Ross King and Jae-Hoon Yeon. It comes with an audio cd for the examples, dialogues, and some exercises. All audio tracks are spoken by a woman and a man (the man speaks faster, though).

    Some good points: (1) The book is designed for serious adult learners, not just tourists, so it teaches a great deal of vocabulary that is useful for conversations. (2) After introducing hanguel early on, it ceases to use english transcriptions in the lessons, forcing you to practice reading and spelling in hanguel. (3) It is meant as a first-year college book, but it is designed in a way that it is quite useful for individual learners. (4) There are many examples, notes and exercises so that you really understand what you are learning.

    Some negative points: (1) Because it's not designed for tourists or quick-learn phrases, it takes longer to become competent enough to form useful sentences (you have to cover the appropriate grammar). (2) There are occasionally words that seem a bit inappropriate now, depending on who you talk to (ie ??? for wife). (3) It is definitely a text book, and a bit of a dense one at that - if you are studying alone, you will need motivation and preferably fun activities on the side (ie a language partner/other supplements) to keep you motivated.

    I'm happy with it so far, but I would also love to hear about other books that people have found useful! Good luck in your studies!
     

    maghanish2

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    Thanks a lot, that does sound promising.....is it written in an understandable format? You said it's a bit dull, but is it understandable and are the grammar and language rules clear?

    Yes, I would definitely like to hear what other people have found, but thanks so much for the tip!
     

    BlackWizard

    New Member
    Korean
    That was excellent, excellent explanation. I just have one thing to add:

    Hangeul is written basically in syllables - made of one of these:
    vowel
    vowel+consonant (with the vowel at the top, a consonant below)
    consonant + vowel
    (consonant+vowel) + consonant
    This is not entirely correct. It's actually

    consonant+vowel
    consonant+vowel+vowel
    consonant+vowel+consonant
    consonant+vowel+vowel+consonant
    consonant+vowel+consonant+consonant

    The latter part, you'll learn in time, but that I want to point out is that the WRITING system is built so that it ALWAYS starts with a consonant. However, we DO have some words that begin with a vowel. This conflict is solved with "ㅇ".

    and '울' is made of '우' ('u') at the top and 'ㄹ' ('L') at the bottom - so this is a vowel+consonant. 'Seo' 'ul' is made of two syllables - you would still follow the 'top-to-bottom' and 'left-to-right' rule, though the first syllable
    '서' has nothing at the bottom.
    "ㅇ" is sort of an exception consonant that we have, and is pronounced differently depending on where it is. When it's at the beginning of the syllable, it's silent - as in the example above. In such case, its purpose is just filling in the empty space, much like how number "0" has no value on its own, but by filling in space, it gives the space meaning. However, when it's at the end, it forms "-ng" sound. For example:

    안경 (Glasses)

    ㅇ+ㅏ+ㄴ= (Silent)+Ah+n = Ahn
    ㄱ+ㅕ+ㅇ= g+yeuh+ng = Gyoung
     

    lindamarcella

    New Member
    English (US)
    A very good, short explanation of the Korean writing system is a section in the book "Java Internationalization" by Andrew Deitsch and David Czarnecki, pages 29-31. This book also has a section about several far east writing systems, including Chinese, Japanese, and Thai, and other scripts: ancient Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, and Indic.

    A longer introduction to Korean writing is in "CJKV Information Processing" by Ken Lunde.
     

    blkfaephoenix

    New Member
    English - U.S.A.
    "Elementary Korean" is definitely very clear, detailed, and understandable. Also, I recently purchased the Sogang University 1A and 1B sets, which come with a workbook, a student book, and a cd for students who want to study on their own instead of taking the course at Sogang. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure these are only available in Korea (maybe just in Seoul). So far they look like they offer a lot more practice than "Elementary Korean", but not quite as much in-depth grammar explanations.

    One more new suggestion is "Once Upon a Time in Korea" by Ku Kim-Marshall: it's a collection of 23 Korean folktales that are written in Korean, but have been simplified so that they're easier for a beginner to understand - simple sentence structures, but the meaning of the story remains unchanged. At the end of each tale there is a comprehensive list of vocabulary terms and notes so that even if you don't speak any Korean, you should be able to understand the story without using other resources.
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    "Elementary Korean" is definitely very clear, detailed, and understandable. Also, I recently purchased the Sogang University 1A and 1B sets, which come with a workbook, a student book, and a cd for students who want to study on their own instead of taking the course at Sogang. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure these are only available in Korea (maybe just in Seoul). So far they look like they offer a lot more practice than "Elementary Korean", but not quite as much in-depth grammar explanations.
    Sogang see Frank's post for free course.
    free text and audio http://fsi-language-courses.com/Korean.aspx
    http://outsideinkorea.com/inside/2007/02/a_free_korean_language_course.php
    the 2 above give the full FSI 1 and 2 courses for download.
    http://www.learn-korean.net/ free basic lessons.
    http://learnkorean.elanguageschool.net/ free basic with u-tube links.
    http://learnkorean.blogsome.com/
    These links are a good start from basic to intermediate.
     

    koreanclass101

    New Member
    Australia, Sydney
    www . koreanclass101 . com useful for learning Korean. It's the only Korean learning resource I'd recommend! (Let's face it, Korean isn't so popular!)

    (Again, remove the spaces.)

    There's a great video there on Hangul, be sure to check it out.

    I'd post the link here but I think I'm already pushing it with the link above!
     

    eujin

    New Member
    Korea, English
    I would not start out learning hangul. At least in my exerience, there is some connection between visual and audio memory that makes it easier to remember words and phrases if you've seen them written. The visual memory works best in a script that you are very familiar with.

    A problem occurs with transliterations though. Into English there are several transliterations for Korean words and no one can agree on which is best so you are likely to see the same word written several ways if you consult different books. The South Korean government, for example, has recently endorsed a transliteration system that, at least to my mind, is worse than the one they were using before.

    But Hangul is very easy to pick up and once you have a background of Korean words to use it on, it is quite easy to become proficient. It is much better to learn Hangul by reading and writing Korean words (as Korean school children do) than learning Hangul by reading Hangul-ised foreign words (some of the transliterations from English are terrible).

    Another problem with Korean, similarly in Japanese, is that there are several ways of saying the same thing depending on the cultural context (polite speech). Again, I have found that different textbooks and phrase books use different levels of "polite speech". The forms that are most often taught to foreigners are the most polite form, which of course have the most syllables and are thus the hardest to learn.

    I have at home a phrasebook that was compiled for the 2002 World Cup and some of the phrases in there are very long and very polite. I think the idea was for foreigners to use it by pointing to the words rather than saying them, but it is still a very odd idea.

    The third problem for learners, which is not really a problem that can be solved by textbook writers, is that many ideas in Korean have two words for them, one a native Korean word and the other a Koreanised version of the Chinese character. The number system is a classic example. Koreans use both systems for telling the time, one for the hour and one for the minutes. So as a new learner you have to learn two number systems, which is obviously twice as much work as only learning one.

    All in all I think this makes Korean a difficult language to learn as a new beginner. I recall making much more inital progress in Mandarin - ignore the script, use Pinyin, don't worry about the tones too much, off you go.

    Anyway, I'm a bit too negative. It's much easier once you get going and Koreans are the most wonderfully friendly people to talk to. Even if you only know a handful of words (more than the average GI) they will say how well you speak Korean.
     

    soupdragon78

    Senior Member
    England English
    There are some great videos on the stage6 website (just google "stage6" and then use the site's own search engine to look for "learn Korean.")
    I've made much more progress from these videos than from any of the textbooks I've been using. The register used for these lessons is mid-polite (I think?)
    Good luck to all...
     

    pretty_poison03

    New Member
    English-US
    I'm interested to learn Korean. I have visited this website which teaches Korean phonics and strokes.

    I'm really wondering about how I can learn to read Korean words in the shortest possible time? Do I have to learn individual strokes and sounds 1st, then piece them together to read a word and from there start to read and speak? Or will it be an easier approach to start learning how to speak first then get to the reading part and its phonics?

    Native learners, how were you taught by Korean teachers?

    Foreign learners, what in your opinion, is the best approach? Thanks.
    Brendela, my honest opinion [I'm a foreign learner, by the way] is that you should concentrate on speaking the language before learning to read and write it... Korean is VERY easy to learn to read, so you can learn it last. I have found that when I get out there and speak the language, not by getting all these long lists of vocabulary and repeating them over and over, getting out there and speaking is the best way... get lots of audio and video and learn to speak first. Be sure to pay attention to pronunciation and try to get it sound as Korean as possible. Then learn to read and write. I took that approach with Tagalog and Chinese and it as helped me a lot more... it does no good to read the language if you can't understand what you're reading, does it.

    When you learned English, you listened and learned how to speak it first, then later on in school, you learned how to read and write in English. It makes sense to learn it that way... get the pronunciation and speaking down, and then, start learning to read it next. The next tip I would give you is learn to THINK in Korean, and not in English when using the language, otherwise it will be a lot harder to learn, and that goes for pretty much any language. Using that concept also helped me a lot. Also, getting out there and learning and experiencing the culture is just as important as learning the language, as it helps you to feel more connected with the language.

    Also to me, the alphabet is written by the position of your tongue when pronouncing the letters of the alphabet and so forth when it comes to the consonants. You can learn more about that through certain books, and I will have the names of them in another reply later on... I have a lot of good tips though.. I love learning new languages, and I love Korean. It was one of the first languages that I really got serious about. I first studied Korean on my own, with text books, but later when it starts to get a little harder and complex, you need to have a teacher or a language exchange partner to explain things to you more in depth. There is only so much a text book can tell you. I studied for a year on my own, and then two years so far with a teacher and language exchange partner. Having a partner is an advantage, because you will be forced to speak more, and interact with that person in the language, while helping that person brush up on their english, if they need it. I have two language exchange partners, and their English levels are different. The one who speaks English very well, I speak more Korean with, and the one whose English needs more improving, I speak more English with a little Korean in between. Anyway, if you are really serious about learning Korean, and you are going to speak it more that read or write it, I would strongly push for you to learn speaking it first. That's an honest opinion just speaking from MY experience. Others may say differently, but I hope this was helpful... I will get you the names of those books too.

    Daiquiri's Are Always Cool ^__^
     
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