Travel, Teach, Live in Korea
Korean is a fascinating and fun language to learn, and the Koreas, both North and South, are often the subjects of today's world headlines, South Korea for developing into an economic and technological powerhouse and North Korea, of course, for its controversial political structure, making Korean quite a relevant language to learn. Learning the Korean language may seem difficult when first approached, due to its unfamiliar written characters. If you follow the three steps outlined below, however, you will have no trouble at all mastering this interesting and increasingly relevant language.
Step One: Learn the Alphabet
At first glance, the Korean language looks quite difficult to learn, but it is not. Its entire alphabet consists of 14 consonants, 10 vowels and 11 diphthongs. Diphthongs, for those who do not know, are sounds created when two vowels are combined, such as the "oi" in the English word "boil." In total, that's just 35 letters that you need to learn, unlike a language like Chinese where you have to learn thousands of characters.
In addition, while the letters of the Korean alphabet look very different than the letters used in English, they sound very much the same, which makes learning to read them quite simple. So, your first task is to master the pronunciation of the Korean alphabet.
Step Two: Mastering Korean Grammar
There is much debate among linguists about the importance, or lack thereof, of mastering grammar when learning a second language; some say it is essential, others point out the fact that totally uneducated native speakers of a language can communicate without understanding their own grammar. When it comes to learning Korean, though, trust me, it is essential to understand the grammar. One reason is because Korean grammar is so different than the grammar we use in English, and trying to make sense of Korean by using what you feel are natural sentence patterns is a recipe for disaster and frustration.
Another reason is because Korean grammar structures are very simple and logical, a result of the entire language being created by a small group of scholars, as opposed to other languages which have developed and evolved over many years--not always in simple and logical ways. So, after you master the Korean alphabet, get a good grasp of Korean grammar.
Step 3: Learning to Speak Naturally
Of course, the goal of learning a language is to be able to communicate verbally in your target language, and there is no better way to do that than to converse with native speakers. You could go to Korea, if you have the time and resources, but most of us don't, so I'll recommend some more feasible options. First, there are many Korean language-learning software programs that contain recordings of Native Korean speakers. These programs are a good place to start. In addition, you can search out and hire a Korean tutor. This is a great option for those who live in bigger cities that have large Korean populations. Finally, you can engage in an Internet language exchange. Just go to a language-learning forum and find a partner to talk with; you teach him or her English, and he or she teaches you Korean. I recommend that you use the free communication software Skype for these kinds of lessons.
The Korean language is interesting and fun to learn, and it is becoming more and more relevant as we move further into the 21st century. It can be a difficult language to learn, or a relatively easy language to learn, depending on your language learning strategy. To have a successful learning experience, first master the Korean alphabet. Then move on to learning grammar, and, finally, perfect your speaking by practicing with a native speaker.
Good luck, and enjoy your new language learning experience.
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