Learning the Korean Language for the First Time!

Please refer to Audio Recordings - Introduction, to learn about "WHY" listening to Korean is so important in learning Korean.

Welcome You All to the Korean Language Guide!
 
This blog was first created in 2006 as an experiment to help people who would like to learn Korean language online by providing some basic grammar lessons on Korean.

Over the years, I was able to put up more and more Korean language lessons online, and as of now, in January 2011, there are more than 70 online Korean lessons in this blog.

The principles in writing these online Korean language lessons have been that I remain intentional about making them as easy to understand and readily applicable in daily life as I can, and comprehensive enough to cover major points of the Korean language which includes both the Written and Spoken forms.


Now, what do I mean by written and spoken forms?

In Korean, the verb endings change depending on whether the language is used in writing or speech.

Note: In Korean grammar, the verbs come at the end of a sentence. For more on the sentence order, please read Sentence Order.

For example, "나는 학교에 갔다" which means "I went to school" is a written form, and "나는 학교에 갔어" is a spoken form.

  • 나는 학교에 갔 = I went to school (written form as in writing, books, diary and newspaper)
  • 나는 학교에 갔 = I went to school (spoken form as in conversations, movies and dramas)

As you can see, the ending of a verb changes from 갔다 to 갔어, both of which mean "went".

Therefore you'd write in one way but speak in a slightly different way. But don't be too alarmed at the difference, as there are simple patterns to it, and you'll get to learn them along the way.  

It is also important to learn the differences in degrees of formalities in the Korean language.
There are three major types in the degrees of formality:
  • Informal
  • Polite
  • Honorific

In expressing the politeness in the speech, Korean differs from English in that the verb endings change depending on the age and rank of the person being addressed to and the social setting one finds oneself in. For example, when I'm asked, "Where are you going?" I might answer, "I'm going to school" in the following ways:
  • 학교 가 - [Informal, to people of the same age as me or younger than me, especially among close friends]
  • 학교 가요 - [Polite, to people older than me, and in formal social situations]
  • 학교 가는 중입니다 - [Honorific, this is rarely used in normal conversations. I would say this type of speaking is only found in very formal settings such as on the news or in the army.]


You would use the polite form even when the person you're speaking to is of the same age as you or younger than you if you're not very close to the person and/or you're in a formal social setting. I'd say it's best to stick to the polite form first and then use the informal form later as you gain more understanding of the Korean language.

The major mark of the division is probably the age. The polite language is used to people above one's age and informal language to people equal to and below one's age.

However, generally, the polite language is generally used in many social situations and the informal language is usually used among close friends.

I am trying to lay out some basics to the language of Korean. However it'd be good at this point to dive into the lessons and learn them for yourself.


You can start reading the Korean language guide on this website, Learn Korean: LP's Korean Language Learning, from the top to bottom in the order as it's designed to guide you from the basics to intermediate and advanced Korean lessons.

Before you go, here is a bit of history of 한글 (Hangeul, the Korean alphabet):

Korean is the official language of Korea, both North and South. There are around 78 million people who speak Korean around the world. [1]

한글 (the Korean alphabet) was invented by Sejong the Great in the 15th century. Before that time, people used Hanja (the equivalent of the Chinese characters) which was not only difficult to learn but was also considerably different to the Korean grammar and sentence order. [2]

한글 is a phonetic writing system which means that the words correspond to pronunciation.

The English alphabet is phonetic whereas the Chinese characters are not.
If you learn the English alphabet, you can read an English writing fairly well although you may not understand the meaning.

Korean is even more phonetic than that of English and many other languages, in that each consonant and vowel in Korean mostly have only one sound.

For example,
  • ㄴ = n
  • ㅏ = a (as in car and mama, short sound)
ㄴ+ㅏ= 나 [na] (which means "I" as in "I" am Luke)

Following the guide for the Korean language down the column on the right-hand of the page, we're now moving onto learning the sounds of the consonants and vowels of 한글.

You'll learn to write and pronounce each of these consonants and vowels, and how to form a character in this next lesson.

Keep on reading!
I hope you enjoy this journey of learning a new language!
I think it's always exciting to learn a new language! ;D

Luke


References

[1] Wikipedia: Korean language, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_language#History, accessed Jan 2011.
[2] Wikipedia: Sejong the Great, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sejong_the_Great#Hangul, accessed Jan 2011.

57 comments:

  1. Keep up the good work, your guide is fantastic!~

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  2. thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!! This is perhaps the most informative and well laid out explaination of the Korean language on the net! You have been a tremendous help to me!

    God Bless!!

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  3. yay!
    i think this is gonna help
    me more in learning korean grammar
    =D
    thank you!

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  4. Very nice and comprehensive. Good on you for this.

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  5. hey man,

    i really appreciate your work on this site!

    but, luke, isn't "I am what I am" what God calls himself? I'm sure it's not a name for us... :/

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  6. YHWH - The name of God which means "I AM WHAT I AM". But I said, "But by the grace of God I am what I am"
    1 Corinthians 15:10

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  7. if you say so, mate

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  8. Thank You so much for making this blog it's really hepful.

    Kamsahamnida!

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  9. 안녕하세요. 내가 이젠 한국말을 배우고 수 있어요. 정말 가사합니다.

    ReplyDelete
  10. many thanks man, great job

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  11. Luke - I am a 51 year old veteran ESL teacher who is starting to learn Korean for the first time. I already speak fluent Thai and Spanish so I thought Korean would be just another hat to hang on my door. Ha! Was I wrong! Needless to say I am so impressed with your site. You have a true gift for explaining the intricacies of this beautiful but complicated language. Even though I can never hope to speak with the fluency and grace that my own Korean post-docs and scholars here at our univeristy speak Engish, I certainly feel I have some of the best hope possible through your excellent website. Thank you.

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  12. You're all welcome. I find it a great privilege for me to be able to make what I know about Korean grammar available to people who wish to learn Korean.

    I wish you all good luck with your journey of growing in the knowledge of 한글.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you very much for this guide! It's very helpful.

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  14. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SITE. IT HAS BEEN VERY HELPFUL TO ME. THANK YOU SO SO SO MUCH !

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  15. What you are doing is a divine work. That is the plainest Learn-KOREAN website ever! It is easy to perceive and I really appreciate that. Hopefully and finally I'll be able to start learning some KOREAN! Thank you very much! Kamsahamnida....

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, I'm Korean. Now I live in US.
    These days I teach Korean to my Japanese, Chinese friends just for fun or hobby. Your site is perfect. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow, thanks! This website looks like a great resource. I've been trying to teach myself Korean, but I having found much instruction about grammar. I hope I lean much from your site. Thanks.

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  18. I love your blog. It's super helpful. A thousand thanks for all of this.

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  19. been through several sections of your lessons and they have been really great! thanks for putting in the time and effort to make this resource available for us! very well done, indeed.

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  20. Oh my lord, I can not thank you enough for making this site. I am living in Japan at the moment, and after becoming tired with being able to speak Japanese, after speaking it for a while has made it lose it`s exciting spark it was had, I decided to search other languages and decided on Korean. Long story short, there is absolutely NOTHING as comprehensive as this anywhere else out there on the net, and I am ver grateful.
    Once again, can`t thank you enough.

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  21. 너무나도 훌륭합니다. 아이들 가르치는 교제로 사용하겠습니다. 시간과 노력 주님께서 다 갚아 주실줄 믿습니다.
    정말 감사합니다.

    ReplyDelete
  22. this is very good. I am an adopted Korean and this guide is the best I have found. I am so thankful! thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This site is wonderful I can't thank you enough for putting in so much time and effort to teach us :).

    Popadoshikwayo! heehee ^^

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  24. Hey there.... Im really determined to learn korean.... after i know how to read and write korean... what should be my next step? :) Thank you so much

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  25. You could start watching "Let's Speak Korean!" I have posted some of them on the far right-hand column with some explanations.

    http://parksguide.blogspot.com/search/label/Let%27s%20Speak%20Korean

    Try that and learn basic grammar like simple nouns, adjectives and verbs. They're in the table of contents.

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  26. Thank you so much for your effort to teach us...your teaching style is so wonderful...easy to understand and apply to daily life...I can say your website is the best for studying Korean language!!! Thank youuuuu ^^

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  27. thank you for your time!!!

    I'll really want to learn korean!

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  28. The update looks great! It's friendly, and I think it will make people excited to learn Korean. ^^

    I really love linguistics, so if you don't mind, there are two technical things I'd like to correct.

    -English actually does have 반말 and 존댓말, but it's not explicit like it is in Korean. For example, to a child or friend, I might say, "Hey, close the window," but I would never say that to a stranger. Instead, I'd say something like, "Hey, would you mind closing the window?" or "Oh, could you close the window for me?" Spoken language is also different from written language, although again it's less explicit than it is in Korean. For example, 'whom' has almost completely passed out of spoken language in English, although it's still standard for written language. I think Korean's actually easier in these respects because you can pretty much use the correct level of politeness if you know the appropriate verb endings, whereas in English you might use extremely varied conjugations or lexical choices to affect the politeness of your language.

    -한글 and 한자 are not actually languages; they're writing systems. Rather than saying that 한글 = Korean, it might be a bit clearer to say 한글 = the Korean alphabet.

    I think your blog is fantastic, and it's been really useful to me!! I just wanted to clarify a couple of linguistic issues that I see pop up all the time, and I hope it's been helpful!

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  29. Hi CeilingofStars

    Thank you for your comment. I see that 한글 is indeed a writing system.

    Rightly said, 한글 is the Korean alphabet and 한국어 is the "Korean language."

    I have also updated on the other issues you have raised.

    By the way, I've noticed an interesting thing among the things you said that English has "extremely varied conjugations or lexical choices to affect the politeness of the language."

    I'm writing this as a bit of fun because I know Korean "uses extremely varied verb conjugations to affect the politeness of the language."

    For example, (he/she/they)"went home" can be expressed in the following ways depending on the politeness and the situation.

    This is a list of verb endings that I can think of right now. However, I believe there are a lot more variations in verb endings than already written here. The amount of verb endings in Korean is simply innumerable. How can I not worship God after realizing the complexity, variance and flexibility of such a language as this?

    The nuances, level of confidence and politeness are all different but they stem from the same plain verb, 가다 (go), except a few exceptions.

    Note: Please ignore this comment if you've just started learning Korean. I don't want you to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of these verb conjugations.

    집에 갔다 = went home
    집에 가셨다
    집에 갔어
    집에 갔어요
    집에 갔습니다
    집에 갔던데
    집에 갔던데요
    집에 갔을걸
    집에 갔을걸요
    집에 갔을겁니다
    집에 가셨을걸
    집에 가셨을걸요
    집에 가셨을겁니다
    집에 갔잖아
    집에 갔잖아요
    집에 가셨잖아
    집에 가셨잖아요
    집에 갔대
    집에 갔대요
    집에 가셨대
    집에 가셨대요
    집에 갔네
    집에 갔네요
    집에 가셨네
    집에 가셨네요
    집에 갔지
    집에 갔지요
    집에 가셨지
    집에 가셨지요
    집에 갔다고
    집에 갔다고요
    집에 가셨다고
    집에 가셨다고요
    집에 갔다니까
    집에 갔다니까요
    집에 가셨다니까
    집에 가셨다니까요
    집에 갔다고 했잖아
    집에 갔다고 했잖아요
    집에 가버렸어
    집에 가버렸네
    집에 가버렸대
    집에 가버렸어요
    집에 가버리셨어요
    집에 가버리셨지요
    집에 가버리셨네요
    집에 가셨습니다
    집에 간 것 같아
    집에 간 것 같아요
    집에 간 것 같은데요
    집에 가신것 같아
    집에 가신것 같아요
    집에 가신것 같은데요
    집에 가신것 같습니다.
    집에 가고 없네
    집에 가고 없네요
    집에 가고 없어
    집에 가고 없어요
    집에 가고 없습니다
    집에 가고 안계시네요
    집에 가시고 없어
    집에 가시고 없어요
    집에 가시고 없습니다
    집에 가시고 없네
    집에 가시고 없네요
    집에 가시고 안계시네요


    It can be further expanded if you use the formal words:

    퇴근했어
    퇴근했어요
    퇴근하셨습니다
    집에 돌아갔어
    집에 돌아갔어요
    집에 돌아가셨습니다

    It can also expressed in the slang type language

    집에 갔음
    집으로 뿅!
    집으로 고고씽했어

    If the dialect form is used, the variance is endless. Here's a few.

    집에 가부렀어
    집에 가부렀어요
    집에 갔당께
    집에 갔당께요
    집에 가셨댜
    집에 가셨당께
    집에 가셨당께요
    집에 갔디아
    집에 갔슈
    집에 갔슈요
    집에 갔쟤
    집에 갔지라
    집에 갔지라요
    집에 갔대요
    집에 갔드래요
    집에 갔답디다
    집에 가고 없당께
    집에 가고 없당께요
    집에 가시고 없어부러
    집에 가시고 안계슈

    If the ancient type of Korean is used such as ones you see on the historical Korean drama, it's still different.

    집으로 갔쑈.
    집에 갔소.
    집에 갔소이다.
    집에 갔나이다.
    집에 갔다 합니다.
    집에 갔다고 합니다.
    집으로 갔다고 하옵니다 (Addressed to a king, prince, aristocrat or a person of high status in the past.)
    집으로 가지 않았나 생각되옵니다.

    ReplyDelete
  30. your blog have really help me so much!! nomu2 kamsahamnida!!

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  31. Cheers, clover_luve!

    I wish you good luck with your endeavor in learning Korean, please make use of many resources available here,

    and have a great week! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Help. i started my korean class in january and till now, i barely know anything. i am worried because i have exam on april. i dont seem to cope up with my lecturer's teaching. i just want to ask where should i start now? speaking first or writing first? or both? but how am i going to learn speaking and writing at the same time?

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  33. Thanks for the lesson,I'm mad with Korea.I'll be looking forward to the lesson.Aja,aja fighting!

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  34. .............thanks
    all i need to say.

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  35. Hi Sue

    This is a very late reply xD but I'll write anyway.

    I guess if you're new to a Korean language, you could simply follow the lessons right from the beginning. Starting with the basic Korean alphabet and how to make characters and on.

    There are audios available and I provided links for them. You would probably learn the writing most of the time but as you can get hold of Korean audios and videos, you could expand on your listening and speaking skills.

    I recommend Talk To Me In Korean, the link is on the right hand column of this blog.


    Hi lianminthang & Solangesan

    You're welcome! :)

    Best wishes,
    Luke

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  36. im going to use your site to continue learning Korean from now on. thank you very much.. I hope to learn from it a lot..:)

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  37. 감사합니다
    Your guide is just awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you so much!! :) this blog is helping me a lot to learn Korean. Once again, kamsahamnida!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thank you so much!! :) this blog is helping me a lot to study Korean. Once again, kamsahamnida!

    ReplyDelete
  40. i love your blog! this may be a little exagerrated but it really is the most amazing and helpful blog i've ever encountered in my life! haha! thanks so much!you've helped us so much!! God will surely bless people like you!! 정말 감사합니다!! 대박!!:)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Hey Luke,

    I just wanted to let you know that your blog is absolutely wonderful. I've printed out your lessons in the pdf that you so kindly provide and am slowly working my way through them.

    Thank you for being so inspirational! :)

    Yishi x

    ReplyDelete
  42. 루크 씨, 이 website을 본 후에, 제가 이 website하고 정말 사랑에 파졌어요..^^
    지금 한국어를 공부하고 있는데, 아프로 잘 부탁 드려요 :)

    ReplyDelete
  43. great work bro... ty for this wonderful guide.

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  44. Thank you so much for you site. God bless you.

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  45. I just find this site and it really really very helpfull. Thank you 수고 했습니다. God bless

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  46. You're welcome, Mf Paat!
    Glad you find it helpful! :-)

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  47. Mr Luke, Thank you very much. I have been reading about ten pages of the compilation and it is very encouraging. I am starting to believe i can learn the language well now. I am hoping i can converse soon too with little difficulty.Thank you very very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Jun3lee!

      All the best with your studies!

      Delete
  48. Mr Luke, thank you so much for creating this blog.. I think that some things are more clear to me after reading this and I hope I'll be able to learn korean perfectly now.. 고마워요!:)

    ReplyDelete
  49. annionghaseyo Pak Sonsengnim, my name is Merci,Im from PERU (South America) I was wondering if I could translate your 2013 PDF file that you give for free on your website into Spanish and post them on BLOGGER as well as in YOUTUBE so that the spanish speaking people can learn Korean too for free.Ill put a link to your website. Wouldnt that be awesome.What do you think?
    I think that I can learn more if I teach as I learn from you.Let me know what you think.
    Chongmal Gamsahamnida.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Merci,

      You're welcome!

      You may do so, yes, it'd be good to share the work, so that people who'd like to learn Korean can benefit from all the resources available! :)

      Cheers~
      Luke

      Delete
  50. Hi, Luke! I want to thank you so much for all the hard work you put into these lessons! I've started learning Korean not only because I love learning new languages, but because I'm a student that works with many people. Lately, I've come across a lot of Korean people that have trouble with English and in order to be more of service to them, I want to be able to communicate with them since the facilities I often work at lack translators. This site has really helped simplify the grammar rules that just seem nearly impossible to understand (because I'm taking Korean classes, but there are some rules that just I just can't seem to get). I'm working hard to learn the language and I'm loving it so far! Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hi, Luke! In my opinion, you should try to make this into a book. I think it is more detailed than any other books. The way you explained everything is so easy to understand and the audio really helps a lot in practicing pronunciation. Some books and other sites don't really explain in detail. I have been studying Korean and tried searching for resources but this, by far, is the best. Do you have any e-file of this that we could download? so I could print and read as a book. That would be great. More power to your site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eugene, please refer to
      http://www.learnkoreanlp.com/2009/08/korean-grammar-pdf-file.html
      for the free PDF version of the lessons in this blog,
      Cheers :)

      Delete

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