Can you recomend any Korean language learning resources?
July 9, 2008 12:34 AM   Subscribe

Help me learn Korean.

Can you recommend any websites for learning basic Korean? I would like to learn basic grammar and language functions, and basic vocab. Succinct, well thought-out webpages that teach hanja would also be great. If there is a textbook that can be ordered on Amazon, that would also be great.

Please note that I'm looking for recommendations by people who have studied and learned Korean - I have looked up a few websites using Google, etc. (probably Naver would be a better bet, but I can't read it). Nothing I've found so far has really struck me as being any good.

Listening (especially mp3 files that can be downloaded onto an iPod) would also be great. Apparently my pronunciation (of the little Korean that I do know) is really strange. I have Korean friends that I can practice with (but they are not very good at teaching the language).

I have been a Japanese translator, and have learned some Mandarin - I'm familiar enough with Northeast Asian languages and dialects to actually use my intuition to create shortcuts during the learning process.

But I need a Rosetta stone that will teach me Hanja, basic conversational expressions and strategies, and pronunciation and listening.

This is more of a hobby, but it does come in handy with my line of work.
posted by KokuRyu to Education (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most my friends trying to learn Korean are drawn to KoreanClass101 ... but I have no direct knowledge of it beyond the fact that the people who put it up have several other language sites that are reasonably well received,
posted by RavinDave at 4:39 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: It's of extremely limited utility to try to learn Hanja -- it's used very rarely these days and won't help you at all in speaking, listening, and in 99% of situations, reading. If you actually mean hangul, the Korean alphabet, that's essential, and relatively easy.

There are very few books I've found over the years that are any damn good at all -- mostly written by Koreans, they follow the typical Korean way of doing things, which is throw it in a bucket, shake, and pour out.

The one book that has been useful to me is the American Foreign Service Institute's book. The downside of it is that it uses a phonetic system for the first part of the book, rather than forcing you to learn the alphabet, but it is well-structured and comprehensive. It's in the public domain, and I offer it for download, along with the mp3 files, at one of my sites.

The trick with pronunciation, by the way, is to recognize that in all but a few consistent situations based on character position within syllables and the initial character of the next syllable (and these exceptions are very few), a single character (or character combination, for some vowels) expresses a single sound. Most foreign residents here in Korea mess up their pronunciation because they impose the kind of pronunciation that the romanization of a Korean word would suggest, the English-style pronunciation of the syllables, when in fact 9 times out of 10, that pronunciation is a very poor approximation of the actual sound in question.

There are a few sounds in Korean that don't really map over into English very well, but once you get those sorted, you'll be good.

Let's Speak Korean
is a pretty good site for getting started with the basic sounds and how they go together.

Good luck! My Korean is still pretty rudimentary after all these years in Korea -- if there were classes I could take or decent books, it'd probably be better (and also if I weren't so damn lazy) -- but my pronunciation, at least, is pretty good. The grammar is the hardest part, but a few dozen common phrases and clauses and structures will get you pretty far.

A cultural note, too: Koreans, older ones especially, find it almost impossible to understand foreigners who speak with anything but a flawless accent. My theory for why this might be -- where for most Canadians or Americans or whatever, it's not all that hard to figure out what someone's trying to say in broken English -- is that until recently there were literally almost no foreigners who actually spoke the language. For most people, growing up here, there were literally no opportunities to hear anyone speak Korean who was not a native speaker. People simply didn't develop the skills for listening to less-than-perfect pronunciation, even with regional dialectical differences, which follow consistent patterns. As a result, trying to learn to speak Korean in Korea without blank stares or outright laughter (which is discouraging to say the least) is damn hard.

Contrast that with growing up in North America, where from an early age, we are totally accustomed to meeting, hearing and speaking with people for whom English is a second language. It becomes part of our language toolkit to decipher what people are saying.

So, yeah. If Korean folks poopoo your pronunciation, don't take that entirely to heart. They may not be aware of it, but their standards are far more exacting than yours or mine, probably.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a MeMail or an email, and I'll try to answer them if I can.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:58 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, Stav. For whatever it's worth, Japan is the same as Korea - often I can be speaking perfect Japanese, but a Japanese person may not realize that I'm actually speaking Japanese.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:03 AM on July 10, 2008

This thread on the "How to learn any language" forum has a good outline to approaching Korean.
The forum is a great resource for any language learner, and ProfArguelles generally gives good advice. He is practically worshipped by many members of the forum, but don't let the fawning tones distract you.
Good luck!
posted by snoogles at 8:55 PM on July 12, 2008

This thread on the "How to learn any language" forum has a good outline to approaching Korean.

Uh, well, I suppose. Certainly not the way I'd recommend anyone go about it, but then, after all these years I'm still far from fluent, so what the hell do I know?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:41 AM on July 13, 2008

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