Blog Post

My Experience Learning Korean

This summer, I was a student in the Short-Term Korean Language Program at Ewha University. Although I learned a lot, the pace of having classes and field trips from about 9 am to 5 pm every day, combined with needing to do at least 10 hours of studying a night, was too much for me. The program was terrific, and I was able to read, write, and speak some Korean by the end of the class. However, I just was not ready to take the 5-hour final exam at the end.

I don’t consider this a failure, as I accomplished what I set out to do – learn more Korean than what I knew when I started. However, upon reflection, the one thing that would have been the most helpful for me while taking this class would have been to have flashcards made before the program began. I spent a large amount of my study time each evening, making flashcards instead of taking the time to memorize the words.

To that end, I would like to share this set of flash cards I created that goes along with the Essence Ewha Korean 1A textbook. You can print the flashcards on 3×5 index cards. If your printer doesn’t automatically print on two sides, I would recommend printing all of the even-numbered pages first (the ones that have the English on them) and then turning the stack around to print all of the odd-numbered pages. This way, if there is a problem with the printing, it will be easier for you to see which word the stack stopped at if you are looking at the English side.

I will say that you probably should try to at minimum teach yourself the Korean alphabet before using these flashcards; however, I wouldn’t make it a requirement. I would recommend the following steps, in this order:

Learn the Korean to English translation. This will help you start learning the words by sight. You need to be able to do this to build your way up to reading paragraphs more easily later on.

Learn the English to Korean translation. This will help you start learning what the words mean.

Mix up it up. Now see if you know the words forwards and backward.

Work on your spelling. Spelling is hard enough in English. This is one area where knowing how to pronounce the word may be a hindrance. For example, ‘computer’ is 컴퓨터 (keompyuteo) in Korean, and because you pronounce ‘computer’ and ‘컴퓨터’ similarly, I had a tough time spelling it in Korean. However, ‘soap’ is 비누 (binu) in Korean, and so it is easier for me to spell it in Korean. If I would not have known 컴퓨터 is pronounced similarly to ‘computer,’ I feel I may not have had this problem.

Work on your pronunciation and listening skills. This is going to be the hardest part, especially if you don’t have anyone to assist you. This is the part where I thought the in-person class was of the most benefit. However, if I would have had my vocabulary built up before taking the course, I could have spent my time working on my pronunciation and listening skills rather than on making flashcards and learning the basics.

I hope these tips help you with either learning Korean or some other language that you may wish to learn. I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone to take a language class in an immersive environment, and I hope that sharing my experience here encourages you to take a risk of your own.

By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.

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