Absolute Beginner Korean learning resources?

Hello, Korean learners and experts! :wave:

I thought this year I might start to dabble a little in Korean to feel this nice new language rush.

I’ve mostly learned to read Hangul (mainly from here and a mix of apps that were frustrating for various reasons) , although the slight differences in the pronunciation of consonants will probably forever escape me.

My question is, do you have any favourite resources you would recommend to someone just starting out, and especially someone coming from Japanese (I understand there are many grammar similarities)? Apps, websites, textbooks, anything goes. I generally prefer learning by reading rather than by watching videos, and my ultimate primary goal would be to be able to read Korean fiction and join the book clubs here . But any good resources are welcome!

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First off, 환영합니다! Very exciting you’re venturing across the East sea.

Since you’re advanced in Japanese, I’d probably use Japanese textbooks for the most part, which @bungakushoujo would be able to recommend.

For general grammar, I, and I think just about everyone, recommend Korean Grammar in Use Beginning | L0. It’s very straightforward.

I did use https://www.howtostudykorean.com/ a lot too for grammar… but he’s much more longwinded than KGIU. I actually made most of my notecards from howtostudykorean since it’s easily searchable and I found it first… but looking back on it, wished I had just used KGIU instead.

mostly avoided ‘beginner’ courses and textbooks outside of those things, just did iTalki and Anki… so not too much experience otherwise.

I don’t know much about apps. Talk To Me In Korean is commonly recommended but I think it’d go much too slowly for you. They do, however, have a ton of beginner listening material which is great. I hear good things about LingoDeer but I’ve never tried.

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I also used howtostudykorean.com at the beginning. The only thing I slightly regret is making so many flashcards for words that I never actually used for months because I was using this website’s vocab. Sure, the vocab is used on the website, but outside of that, there are some words that you just don’t need to know as a very beginner, because you simply won’t encounter them enough.

I also have Korean grammar in use, but I would say it’s not necessarily the best ressource to use on its own, since the explanations are pretty short. I use it more as a reference, or when I want a greater understanding of a grammar point I’ve already come across a couple times. It might be good for you since you’re already familiar with Japanese grammar though.

For video courses, my favorite ressource is Go! Billy Korean. If you want a more structured course, he has a full beginner course for all the beginner level grammar.
What I truly love though are the Livestreams, where he does more in depths explanations about one or several related grammar points for 1h - 1h30. You can watch either the Livestreams or the abridged versions. He alternates between Livestreams for different levels, so even as an absolute beginner there are some you could watch.

Now, for community, Billy also has a discord. And I’m going to be very shameless when I say: join the study group! Currently, every week, we have one drama group, one listening group, one reading group and a B2 bookclub. And even as an absolute beginner, with your experience with Japanese, you could already join and actively participate in the reading group for example. Basically, we read together two stories, one beginner and one intermediate, and we have a list with every vocab word and grammar point explained. So it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the way Korean sentence structure works, and to learn some vocab and grammar in context.

There’s also another channel that I really liked as an absolute beginner, and this one is more based on learning vocab in context. It’s called Learny Language and it shows you some drama extracts and then focuses on some words. The vocab also mostly builds upon itself, although unfortunately that channel hasn’t uploaded in the past two years so there isn’t that much content.

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Out of curiosity, what are they reading? Mostly webtoons / webnovels? Proper books?

And have you pitched them Natively yet :pleading_face:

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So far we’ve read 춘향전 | L22?? and we’re currently reading 전우치전 | L20??, both darakwon graded readers. However we’re planning on reading an actual novel next, maybe 세계를 건너 너에게 갈게 | L21.

Yes! I’ve tried talking about it directly to people a couple times, and I’ve also posted about it in the ressources tab. It seems like a lot of people in the discord server don’t spend much time reading though, and the people I told about Natively seemed interested in it, but not enough to actually start using it. I’m planning on posting about it again in ressources in a couple weeks, I just don’t want to do it too often so that it doesn’t get annoying.

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Oh very cool. Yeah, I need to start reading again and this is more at my level I think.

To be blunt, I think the Korean grading system is a little too low right now (Harry Potter is at lvl 24). I might try to set up some benchmarks and recalculate it, similar to how we’re doing Spanish. I got a whole process now which is vastly better than the first go with Korean! :laughing:

Awesome! Yes, please don’t feel the need to push too hard haha. In reality, you usually know the first set of ‘core’ users pretty immediately and don’t need to sell them much. The people you’re describing usually come in the second batch, once there are some reviews and other people already using it :slight_smile:

But yes, a little more pushing is very appreciated! I could do a bit more pushing too! Granted, we really need webtoons I think, hopefully coming soon…

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I definitely agree that lvl 24 is too low for Harry Potter. I’m slowly approaching that lvl, but I still can’t read Harry Potter. I tried, I even bought the Korean version, but the vocab is just too complex for me right now.

I’ve also noticed some books that have a very low level, like 보라색 치마를 입은 여자 | L15?? where I don’t even understand how it can be that level. I haven’t finished it yet, so I wouldn’t know exactly at which lvl to put it, but I feel like it’s around a high B1, or maybe low B2.

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I have a list for that! :smile:

I think for the basics you just have to pick a textbook and plough through it - I used Talk To Me In Korean (series) | L0-18, but it’s better for those who are just learning their first foreign language, as it goes pretty slow. As others have mentioned, Korean Grammar in Use (series) | L0-27 is excellent, but it’s best used as a supplement to textbook study. 두루책방 - Free (series) | L0-20 is similar to Tadoku - Free (series) | L0-20, so you could just work through those in order to kickstart your reading.

Since you’re familiar with Japanese, I think it might be useful to try to find bilingual Japanese-Korean books - the similarities will be much more obvious side-by-side, and it might be easier to learn through Japanese than English. Unfortunately, I don’t have many J-K recommendations; I have an unread copy of 日本人のこころ 일본인의 정신, and 일본어회화 사전 (Japanese Conversation Dictionary), which is a great reference book, but not really what you’re looking for. :sweat_drops:

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There are many really awesome Japanese textbook resources out there that I could recommend. :slightly_smiling_face:

  • 本気で学ぶ韓国語シリーズ: these are well structured, extremely comprehensive and will absolutely teach you the grammar in a way that will let you link it with Japanese grammar and speed run things. Highly, highly recommended from me - they are truly my holy grail textbooks with the caveat that you need to give them time. The beginner and intermediate version are better than the corresponding Korean Grammar in Use textbooks (famous grammar resource if you didn’t stumble across it yet :slightly_smiling_face:) for someone with Japanese knowledge imo. The ebook versions work fabulously with a larger tablet.

  • キクタン韓国語シリーズ: these are vocab books with example sentences and audio. I used all of them from beginner to advanced and found the corresponding decks people had made in Quizlet to port them to anki. A bit of a grind, but after you do these you will be reading books.

  • できる韓国語単語帳 : I used the TOPIK version along with the キクタン vocab above to fill in gaps since I planned to take the TOPIK. It was well structured and had a lot of useful vocabulary that I often hear in dramas or come across in reading, so I also highly recommend this.

If you need any specialized recommendations for specific things I have more! :slightly_smiling_face: The ones above are just what allowed me to take advantage of my Japanese to learn very quickly.

Korean resources I would recommend:

  • 문화가 있는 한국어 읽이 : short articles and stories for reading practice with six books in total sorted according to TOPIK level. These are all in the google play bookstore and have Japanese vocab definitions.

  • 비타민 한국어 : these have a weird mishmash of content and are kind of awkward for self learning, but if you know what you’re doing there is a lot to glean from them. I found the listening very helpful as a targeted test of where I was and still had gaps in my grammar and vocabulary understanding, which helps with reading. Also found at google play books.

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Thank you everyone! I’ll take a careful look at everything and see what suits me best!

You’re very kind, but it’s way too early. I’m still sounding out all the letters like a toddler in order to read anything :sweat_smile: I’ll keep it in mind for later though.

Ooh, very interesting, thanks. I was worried that I’d find it hard (it’s not like I’m fluent in Japanese after all), but looking at the sample it looks straightforward enough. The first two volumes are on Bookwalker, so I think I’ll wait for the next coin back offer and grab the first one. Wouldn’t it be funny if I logged a Korean textbook on Natively as Japanese reading? :joy: So international!

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You’ve also found the magic equation of logging two books for the price of one: once on the Korean side, once on the Japanese!

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A slight problem: I asked brandon a while ago about adding my Japanese-Korean books, and he said no, only [target language]-English books are allowed. :smiling_face_with_tear:

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Dang it, foiled. D:

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