Miss Elly and
I am just another Korean learner like you. I also started learning Korean because I have a Korean drama (Cheese in the trap), actor (박해진) and singer (규현) that I like. I learned Korean so that I can enjoy Korean drama and music better. I also have a full time job and can only study during my limited spare time.
I was also doubtful when I started learning Korean independently. Is it possible to self study all the way to fluency without going to a language school? Someone who had experience teaching Korean told me that it is possible to reach higher beginners level by self studying but to advance beyond that will be challenging.
Fast forward to two years later, I have quite comfortably passed the Korean language exam for foreigners TOPIK II level 6, which is the highest level attainable in that exam. TOPIK II is also notoriously difficult even for people having spent time in Korea. I have done this pretty much all by myself.
As a fellow Korean learner, I want to give encouragement to all those who are self studying out there, that it is all possible.
Throughout my Korean studying journey, apart from Internet research, I had little else to rely on. You’ll probably also share the same experience of coming across advice and suggestions from other learners of dubious quality. Otherwise people are simply trying to sell their courses claiming that you will only need their course to reach fluency. The whole process was challenging also because there is no provided structure to the study.
Having come all this way, I want to share with other Korean learners out there my proven and tested methods to study Korean, all the way from beginner to advanced level, such that whoever come across this site need not go through all the frustrations and struggles that I went through.
My first blunder in studying Korean came at the very start. I had this idea in my mind to try studying Korean and see where it takes me. I was not sure if I would stick with it so I chose to self study at least in the beginning. I went to the bookstore and cherry picked a Korean phrase book called ‘Vocabulary and sentence structures that Korean uses every day’. Looking back, this is the exact type of book that I would warn every Korean learner against.
Obviously I went nowhere with that book. Then I came across a fabulous Korean learning website and followed their free curriculum to lower intermediate level. This is the point where I hit the infamous intermediate block. Learning more advanced but obscure grammar concepts does not seem to help me get any better with understanding Korean TV. I knew that I had to be more exposed to the language but not sure what resources I should use. The materials suggested by other blogs are either too boring or too difficult or both.
After that I have half given up because there wasn’t any reason that makes learning Korean a must anyway. It was a slow process of trial and error, a period of experimenting and brainstorming, figuring out what to do next. Then slowly I have devised my own killer hacks to improve each of the four areas of reading, listening, writing and speaking. I was surprised why no one else talked about those. How I wished someone could tell me all these!
Of course my Korean proficiency still has a lot of room for improvement but now I know exactly how to go about further my learning with confidence.
My first Korean learning book
I would say at the beginning it was more difficult than I thought to get to intermediate level. At first I also stupidly harboured the wishful thinking that after cramming one phrase book I would be able to understand at least some spoken Korean. When it turned out to be not the case, I was a bit disappointed. Then I realised I had to work on it properly to make any progress at all.
There was a period at intermediate level when you get a bit frustrated that after spending a year working on Korean, you still don’t quite understand Korean TV or much written Korean for that matter.
However, once I reached higher intermediate level, and found an amazing way to brush up my Korean, everything just flowed naturally. Looking back, I am quite amazed that I could get to advanced level in only two years since learning the Korean alphabet. If I look at the entire journey holistically, it was definitely less difficult and more enjoyable than I initially thought.
For me yes. I spent a couple of hours per week on Korean study so it wasn’t back breaking hard work at all. I studied grammar concepts but did not cram or force myself to rote memorisation. If you don’t treat it as studying, but learning something new, something you are interested in, like painting or pottery, then it feels more like a hobby than work.
If you have the realisation that this is going to be a long journey, and accept the fact that maybe after spending one year on it you still can’t understand much of your favourite Korean drama. If despite these you still want to give it a try, then the experience will not disappoint you.
Even though I cannot understand 100% of Korean TV without subtitles now, the watching experience is completely different from when I knew no one word of Korean. I didn’t realise it at first because my language skill was accumulated gradually. However when I watch a Japanese cartoon (I know nothing of the Japanese language), I realised I have not watched anything that I don’t understand a word of for a long time, and it is so much less enjoyable! Imagine if you can understand every word of the lyrics to your favourite song!
Miss Elly is just another casual Korean learner. I also have a full time job and run this website on the side. This is the first time I set up a website all by myself and it was extremely overwhelming (much more difficult than learning Korean I’d say…). If you encounter any technical issues or spot any error in this site please kindly bear with me and notify me at the Contact Us form. I will definitely endeavor to address it as soon as I can.
Now you know more about Miss Elly and her Korean studying journey. I hope these are useful for you to make a decision on whether to start learning at all, and if yes, hope you will let the Miss Elly Korean self study guide lead the way for you. Have fun learning Korean!