7 Ways to Learn Korean the Lazy Way
I shall preface this article by saying that learning languages isn’t exactly my forte. I took French for four years in middle school and high school and the best French I can muster is saying “croissant,” with a French accent. I took German in elementary school for a little while, but I have almost nothing to show for it. I’ve also disappointed myself in Japanese, as I have forgotten almost everything except for how to say, “I don’t understand Japanese,” which has actually come in handy in a couple of real life situations.
Now I am learning Korean with much more gusto but still rather dismal results. In almost a year of learning Korean, my skills have markedly improved, although my speaking still leaves a lot to be desired. Let me give you a run down of my best Korean learning methods and their results, so that you too can one day struggle through basic conversations in the language of my current home!
7 Ways to Learn Korean the Lazy Way
1. Enrolling in a Korean class
Never took one so I have no idea.
2. Teaching yourself Korean
I tried to do this for a little while, but I’m lazy and not very good at teaching myself things I don’t know. If you are a motivated and avid learner looking to head out alone into the unknown, I suggest listening to the “Talk to Me in Korean” podcast. It’s super helpful and has taught me the useful phrase, “I want to eat,” which I use almost daily in Korea.
3. Getting a Korean tutor
As far as I’m concerned, this is totally the best method. What should you look for in a tutor? Well, your tutor should a) know Korean, b) know some English, c) have some texts or class materials to help you learn, d) have a sense of humor, e) be a good ear for gossip, f) have the same shoe size as you.
You might be looking at this list and think, “Wow, that list got highly specific. I wonder if Kylie is describing her own Korean teacher.” In fact, I am. My Korean tutor is a saint by the name of Heeju, who puts up with far too many of my shenanigans. In the almost 10 months I’ve had lessons with her, my Korean has improved a lot, and we’ve gone from being acquaintances to good friends.
I’m not what most people would categorize as a ‘good student.’ I tend to fly into whatever café we’re having lessons, most likely exhausted and full of the latest Jinju town gossip. Last week, I neglected to do my homework (again), and as I walked into our little study corner, Heeju said to me, “I know you went to a language exchange and didn’t speak Korean!”
“Heeju,” I said as I unwrapped my scarf from my neck. “You don’t have to spy on me. I would tell you I didn’t speak Korean. Also, how did you get spies? And why?”
Heeju just smiled and said, “I have my ways.” See, friendship and trust. Also, one time Heeju gave me three pairs of shoes because they didn’t fit her anymore. It was awesome. Love you, Heeju!
4. Attending language exchanges
Now, in theory a language exchange is exactly what I need: a group of eager, captive Koreans to listen to me speak Korean and help me out. What do I actually do at language exchanges? Speak English the whole time.
Normally when I go to a language exchange, I’m seated at a table with a group of Korean men and women who are eager to practice their English. They’re always really nice, and when I tell them I’m learning Korean, they say, “Say something in Korean,” and I generally giggle and say nothing. Most people let this slide. Thankfully, last week my co-teacher and good friend Hyegyeong came with me to a language exchange.
As the conversation around us lulled, Hyegyeong nudged me, “You should speak Korean now.” Thanks to her encouragement, and some low-level English-speaking neighbors, I had a lovely chat in Korean with a girl about my life in Korea and Korean television, which I could talk about in either language at length. Without Hyegyeong’s push, I probably wouldn’t have done it, though. Love you Hyegyeong!
5. Talking to people at local shops in Korean
This is fun although many of them will just respond in English (especially if you’re white).
6. Getting drunk and speaking to cute Korean guys
7. Watching Korean TV and listening to K- Pop
These are great if you loathe human contact. But, I do these anyway for many reasons beyond education.
This week I’ll hopefully speak some Korean so the spies don’t catch me. Wish me luck!