Is Korean Hard to Learn? Here is how to make it easy

Thinking about taking on the Korean language as your next language to learn? If so, you may be wondering, “Is Korean hard to learn?”

Many people ask this question. Korean is a wildly popular language to learn these days, thanks to the rise of K-Pop, K-Dramas, Korean movies, and Korean culture in general.

You may be wondering things such as how difficult the alphabet is to learn if you need to study tones, and if there are fast ways to learn the language.

A boy holding a book placed beside a note that says is Korean hard to learn

So, is Korean a hard language to learn? We will tell you exactly what you need to know!

Below is a free PDF guide that you can download and take with you:

Is Korean Easy to Learn?

Yes, it can be easy to learn. However, it’s important to note that there are a few factors that will determine how easy or hard you’ll find the Korean language.

Some of it depends partially on your own language and previous experience studying East Asian languages or as you learn languages in general. For example, it would be easier for a native Japanese language speaker to learn Korean than it would be for an English native speaker.

However, with the right tools and strategies, English native speakers can learn it surprisingly quickly and easily.

How hard is it to learn Korean?

The difficulty in learning a new language like Korean is related to what your native language is and your language learning experience. Learning the language can be challenging, but if you start to get the easy wins early on, you will build a strong foundation in no time.

In general, a couple of things about studying this language have been considered challenging for new language learners. Here they are, along with tips for making it a smooth learning process.

Illustration of girl studying at a desk

Korean Alphabet

The Korean language has its own alphabet called Hangeul, which is sounded out phonetically like the English alphabet. It has 14 consonants and 10 vowels and can be quite fast and logical to pick up. There are some easy associations to connect the letters to what you already know in English.

Once you know Hangeul, you can immediately read words, even if you don’t know the meaning of them yet. From there, you can take your skills to the next level by learning new Korean words as you’re learning Korean vocabulary.

Korean Pronunciation

Korean has clear rules for how to pronounce words, and there are no tones. This makes it easy to become skilled in Korean pronunciation when you speak Korean.

To get the right pronunciation of Korean words, you can get to know Hangeul (the Korean Alphabet) first and master the sounds of the words. If you try to use romanized English to pronounce Korean words, you will surely get confused as there are different ways to romanize Hangul letters. They are just an approximation and aren’t useful for accurate pronunciation.

Using associations for the Hangeul letters with similar-sounding English letters will make it easy. You can learn Hangeul in about 60-90 minutes. Be sure to listen for the range of sounds possible for the Hangeul letters.

The associations with English letters can help, but keep in mind that it’s not an exact 1-to-1 match. For example, the pronunciation of the Hangeul letter ㄹ is a range of sounds similar to an “L” and “R” in English.

Is Korean tonal?

Korean is not a tonal language. It’s not hard to learn intonation if you pay attention to spoken Korean. However, you need to pay attention to which syllables have emphasis. You can do this by modeling the way Koreans say a word.

For example, if you say a word, and they don’t understand, then you can repeat it slowly, syllable by syllable. They will say the word to confirm, and you can match the intonation of how they say it.

Another quick hack is to watch as many reality shows and different programs as possible to get a grasp of the intonation. Listen to how they speak Korean, repeat, and practice.

Academic material vs what is used in daily life

This doesn’t necessarily make the foreign language hard to learn, but it does make it tricky, at least in the beginning. You see, many Korean language courses and Korean resources start teaching you the basics using the basic formality level. However, that’s not really how the natives speak Korean on the streets, in shops, and in everyday life.

Illustration of students learning at school

A quick language hack is to start making Korean-speaking friends or Korean friends early on who can assist you in applying your school-learned knowledge in your daily life and help with improving how you speak Korean. This can be possible through language exchanges!

Korean grammar

Basic grammar is easy to learn. You can start with some basic Korean nouns as soon as you learn Hangul. Then, progress with Korean verbs and eventually form basic phrases and sentences. You can also incorporate adjectives or adverbs in your sentences.

There are also clear rules for how sentences are built. The simplest sentence is only a single word, which makes speaking Korean really easy! Building on that base, it becomes easy to expand on your skills as you learn more complex sentences.

There are many types of grammar to learn, and some of them are very nuanced. Learn the grammar points one at a time and focus on their most common applications.

In other words, learning 20% of the grammar rules will give you 80% of the results. You can add on after that.

Your Timelines for learning Korean

Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and celebrate your language learning wins along the way. The more you can focus on the language skills you are acquiring as you go, the more motivated you’ll be to learn more.

Follow the simple language learning tips above, and you will be off to a strong start!

Is Korean hard to learn for English speakers?

Learning a language that involves a new writing system and sentence structure (such as Korean) can be challenging for a native English speaker. However, if you set yourself up with the right materials with a learning method you enjoy, it becomes easy.

Earlier, we mentioned that the Korean writing system is easy to learn. The best way to do this is by using associations, where you connect the sounds and words in Korean to sounds and words in English.

Korean sentences follow a different structure than that of the English language. However, it’s pretty easy to learn and remember. Once you know those structures and have a list of Korean vocabulary, it’ll be easy to plug the Korean words into the sentence patterns.

How long does it take to learn Korean?

We’ve estimated it’d take around 1200 hours to become fluent. If you want to know more specifically what the answer would be like for you personally, we have a full post on how long it takes to learn Korean.

Is it hard to learn the Korean alphabet?

Learning the alphabet (Hangeul) isn’t difficult and can be done easily in about 90 minutes. You should be able to learn the majority of the letters by connecting the sounds with associations that English speakers can easily understand.

Many people will be able to recognize words using the Korean writing system within this time. Then, you’ll want to spend some time practicing the different sounds so you can easily read words when you see them. With constant practice, you’ll get better and more comfortable with Hangul characters.

How hard is Korean grammar?

The basic rules for grammar are fairly easy, so you should be able to make sentences as soon as you are able to read Hangeul. That means you should be able to make a sentence in the first 2 hours of learning Hangeul.

The sentence structure can be as simple as just a single word. That means that you can start making sentences immediately after learning Hangeul.

Grammar can get complicated because of honorifics and speech levels since these are engrained in Korean culture. However, you don’t need to spend a lot of time on them at first. Just get the basics down and note the speech levels as you go. Usually, learning the formal speech levels is the easiest for conjugating Korean verbs. If you’d like to learn more about Korean conjugation, here’s where to go.

Is it hard to learn Korean words?

The Korean word families in the language make it fast to learn a lot of vocabulary centered around a specific topic. If you’re wondering if Korean or Chinese is harder to learn, one important factor to consider is the lack of tones and clear pronunciation rules in Korean. This can also make learning how to pronounce Korean correctly quicker than the pronunciation of another language, such as French or Chinese language.

For vocabulary, many Korean words are loan words. This can be from other languages such as English, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian languages. Thus, if you speak one of these languages, you already have a head start with a solid base of Korean vocabulary!

Our article on Konglish can help you learn Korean-English words to start.

But while there are some advantages that can make Korean a quick language to learn, there are also reasons why it could take you a long time. We’ve laid many of them out above, such as your native language is among the reasons.

Korean vs Japanese Language

A common question among language learners is, “Should I learn Japanese or Korean?”. To help you decide which one you can devote your time to, below are some aspects of both languages that you can consider.

Which is easier?

Both Japanese and Korean have some basic alphabet systems that aren’t too difficult to master. However, Japanese requires you to know Kanji, which are Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system. There are thousands of Kanji, which can be difficult to memorize.

If you contrast that with Hangeul, then studying Korean can be much simpler. Hangeul can be learned in less than 2 hours and is the only writing system you’ll need to know to speak, write, read, and learn the Korean language in general.

Chinese characters also exist in some Korean texts. It’s not necessary to learn them. Knowing some Chinese characters may be helpful since many compound Korean words have Chinese roots.

To be able to write and read Japanese, you need to know three different writing systems and how they are combined together. Learning Japanese pronunciation is easier than Korean, and the grammar of the two languages is similar.

You might compare some of the similarities between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean to English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

How can I learn Korean fast?

There are many ways for you to learn Korean fast. Living in South Korea and attending a language school is likely the quickest and most efficient way to learn Korean fluency. However, since it is not an option for all of us, you’ll be happy to hear it’s not the only way!

We have compiled the top tips for fast ways to learn Korean on the blog for your convenience. Some of our top tips include the following:

  • Learning the Korean alphabet
  • Studying words based on Hangeul and not Romanizations
  • Using flashcards
  • Enrolling in a structured language course (online or offline)
  • Discover fun learning methods to use for studying the language
  • Learning Korean through movies and dramas

If you want to be faster in terms of reading in Korean, this separate article can help you with that.

Is Korean worth learning?

The answer to this is a personal call. It depends a lot on your motivations for learning the Korean language. You have to know your personal reasons for learning Korean.

It might be a language only spoken in South Korea, but it’ll be extremely helpful to learn if you visit or live here. In addition, it’s a fun language to take up as a hobby. Lastly, the world is being taken over by Korean culture, movies, music, and Korean drama series right now – and your viewing and listening experiences will be more enjoyable when you can understand what they’re saying!

Wrap Up

Do you still find Korean to be the hardest language to learn? Or do you already find Korean to be an interesting language? Let us know in the comments! And once you’re ready, head over to to start your journey in learning Korean!

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