It’s coming up on two months in Korea. It feels like two years and at the same time only two weeks. Moving to a new country, especially one that speaks a different language, is a stressful time. Even visiting a country where you can’t read or write the language can be a nightmare. That’s why I really wanted to dedicate myself to learning as much Korean as I can. So I’ve partnered up with the amazing folks at Talk To Me In Korea to do so!
I cannot stress enough the importance of learning Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, before coming to Korea. It has been a lifesaver; not only will you be able to actually read everything you see, but you’ll be able to sound out words, making learning them a lot easier.
At first glance, Hangeul looks difficult, especially if you’ve never studied an Asian language before that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. What do these symbols mean?! But relax, this isn’t Japanese kanji or Chinese. Hangeul might possibly be the easiest language to learn how to read.
It’s separated into consonants and vowels (with some compound vowels thrown in there as well), and basically you just squeeze them together to make words! Hangeul was created to be simple to learn to read and write, and it is! You just need 90 minutes to learn the symbols and voila!
Even after I had learned to recognize the symbols, I found myself struggling how to actually say them. This is where Talk to Me in Korean is the best, because they have a HUGE audio library and videos as well. Not only can you listen to how everything sounds, but they go through words and sentences, and everything. It’s great to be able to read, but having the ability to actually say the words you’re reading is, naturally, vital.
The other day I went to a restaurant (ok it was Subway, sue me, I wanted a sandwich) and I was able to read and ask for vegetables that I didn’t actually know the words of because I was able to read the Hangul. I was stupidly proud. It was such a little thing to say cucumber in Korea (which is 오이 by the way), but the fact I didn’t have to resort to pointing or English was a huge bonus point in my mind. My friend, who is fairly fluent in Korean, even complimented me afterwards saying he was listening in and I had a done a really great job.
It may seem like such a small thing, but to me it was a huge step. Not only was I able to read Hangul and sound it out properly, but I was able to have my first conversation in Korean! Since then I’ve tried a few other phrases, mostly different iterations of “좋아요.” aka “I like.” The lady at the supermarket handing out samples of sweet potato was pleased I liked it and said so in Korean. Win number two!
My job is pretty demanding, so I’m finding I don’t have as much time to work in the book as I would like, so I’ve made myself weekly goals. Simple things, but ones that will have me actively using what I’m learning.
The TTMIK books are really fantastic in not only keeping you engaged, but immediately challenging you to start writing in Hangeul and identifying it. There’s romanization so far in Book 1, but I tend to cover it and force myself to just read the Korean characters. After all, there’s no romanization out and about in the city.
If you’re into cute things, I really recommend Happy Hangeul on Instagram too. She draws cute word pictorials. It’s a great way to practice as well!
Talk To Me In Korean
Video Courses: https://vimeo.com/talktomeinkorean/vod_pages
Audio Library: http://talktomeinkorean.com/audio