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7 Reasons Why Learning Korean Isn’t as Hard as You Think

Thought you all might enjoy this internet article. https://takelessons.com/blog/learning-korean-z11 One of the key points is that "Korean is a highly contextualized language." Therefore they don't worry much about articles (a, an, the), plural, pronouns, and often the subject of a sentence. If it is understood from "context" (what is going on, what has been said before, gestures, facial expressions, societal norms, etc.), they will usually not bother saying it. This takes some getting used to for those of us who are native users of less "contextualized" lanuages, but once we catch on, the "streamlined" simplicity is kinda fun. 힘내 여러분, 파이팅!

October 25, 2017



Korean is a remarkably simple language as languages go. One problem with this context based speech, however, is that Duolingo has a real problem handling it. I have lived in Korea for many years, but still need to learn more Korean (hence why I am here). I hear Korean spoken around me way more than I ever hear English so I have a "feel" for the language even though I can't speak it well. Thus I often enter things into Doulingo the way I hear them spoken, but Duolingo often tells me I'm wrong. That's because there's probably 20 or more ways to say the same thing in Korean because it's so based on context, but the answers Duolingo wants are very exact, and it often doesn't accept correct answers. I am really finding Duolingo very useful, don't get me wrong. But it's sometimes a bit annoying that getting through the lessons often is memorizing the exact phrasing Duolingo thinks is correct rather than just typing a correct answer.


The course was borderline unusable when it first came out, but I have to give credit to the team for fixing a lot of the specificity & mistranslation issues. Hopefully by 2018 it'll be more or less up to the standard of say French or Spanish. Just gotta keep reporting those errors & oversights.


I'm in your boat. Still, I don't know any other system that is good for review. Even if you use Memrise, you have to make your own lessons if you want to input multiple acceptable answers...and then you actually have to input them all, alone.

Duolingo has never had to deal with this issue before, so of course it's going to take a lot of brain power to improve it in this way.


I've been annoyed with the Japanese course for the same reason. I want to start the Korean course after I'm done with the Japanese tree. Just 13 more sections to go.


Me too. I've given possible (correct) answers for translations in the Japanese course, but told I'm wrong. And I lived in Japan for 11 years, so the level I'm doing right now is quite basic to me.


I think this may be a function of the course still being very young and being in Beta. All the newer courses have had this problem when they launch. Even in German, a very old, mature course, and a language where the wording and word choice is often very close to in English, I still occasionally encounter valid alternative ways of saying things, which are not accepted. Because Korean is more different from English in its structure, and because of its heavier relying on context, it makes sense that there will be a broader range of ways of translating things.

You can keep reporting these new ways of wording things, and it'll improve the course!

I see a huge difference between the older, more established English course for Japanese speakers, and the newer Japanese course for English speakers. The older course accepts an impressive variety of alternate wordings in Japanese....whereas the new course seems only accept a much narrower range of translations.

This will change in time though. I've already seen the Japanese course improve. Korean may have less volume of learners, so it may be a bit slower, but you can help it happen faster!


I learned to recognise Hanguls before I begin, so it seems alright. Otherwise it would have been quite difficult, I think. For new learners it should be helpful to learn how Hanguls are built from its components first.


I agree with this. Sites like Duolingo are not the best way to learn how to read, but rather useful after you already know how to read. When I learned to read Hangul ten years ago, I found a really excellent interactive web site for it and learned it within a few hours. It takes longer than that to become really comfortable with it of course.


Totally agree, not as hard as you think. But as a Korean I've always wanted to ask foreigners how hard you feel "reading" Korean. I think, instead of few irregularity, we have looots of rules just for reading. (ㅢ rules, double 받침 rules, consonants alternation rules, and even rules about when to apply those rules... and yes I'm stressed by upcoming test now) A Japanese that I saw even called those rules "almost French". Yet I rarely saw those issues brought up on the internet so... how do you think?


There are many things to remember, but the more practice, the easier it becomes. I will say that listening to and speaking Korean is easier than reading or writing it for me at this point (my level is only 3 on here, but I've been learning slowly for about two years now), and I feel like Korean writing rules are just part of the language, not something necessarily hard. It just is. :)


If you think Korean has a lot of rules for reading and writing, English has way more, and English breaks its own rules a lot of the time. Korean is really easy by comparison.

To answer your question, I find reading pretty easy in Korean, but writing significantly more difficult as one might expect.


Yep! Especially Hangul: People get confused by the letter blocks Korean uses but if you think about it, it's really very logical.


Well, I forgot to check the box to follow my own discussion, so am pleased to see the dialogue being exchanged. My own knowledge of Korean is fairly extensive--a year of study at DLI, 3 years in country, 44 years with a Korean spouse, and a hopeless addiction to Korean drama. But I still have so much to learn, and my writing and spelling are next to terrible, so I was looking forward to that practice and am really glad we now have the ability to enter in Hangul. It is frustrating to have answers not allowed that are certainly legitimate translations, but as Ilithios points out, the course is indeed "useful," and I appreciate Wintertriangles' obseration that it is a new problem for DL to deal with. I, for one, have been pleased with the teams responsivness to suggested changes, so am enjoying adding my small bit of "brain power" to the improvement process.

I do wish we had a more direct way of communicating with the "team", but suppose we have to trust that they are reading these forums. I can't promise I will follow through all the way to the end, but havfing finished the "tree", have started back through to make suggestions. I think it might be helpful to have suggestions consolidated in one location, so have picked https://www.duolingo.com/comment/24887752 in case any of the rest of you want to tag along, or reference it in your own discussions.

1upgirl, you have the right attitude. It is the way it is. I get a kick out of all the "Why" complaints in the early lesson discussions.

Jeffry, like anything, it becomes easier with practice. Try one of the excellent youtube videos, and you'll have the alphabet down pat in a couple of hours, especially if you try reading (doesn't matter if you understand it, just practice recognizing the symbols and making the sounds.)


Reddit's r/Korean was quite good for direct communication with the team, back when almost every thread was just an attack on their character ㅜㅜ I mean yes they released it before it was ready, but I did feel bad for them...it seemed like the website's (apparently very small number of) staff couldn't help reduce their workload as much as anyone would've liked. Frankly all the courses sound like a real slog to create, and I have no idea how the two languages they're fast-tracking are Japanese and Chinese! You would think they are the absolute hardest to get done properly.


TheEeveeLord, good comparison regarding the simplicity of the alphabet. When the double consonants and dipthongss are considered there are actually 40 letters / characters, but the formation has a beautiful logic, and I really think, with concerted effort, the whole alphabet can be learned in an afternoon with the right course.


If you want to count that way then English has 52 letters because every letter has a capital form. ;-)


I never thought about it that way... But okay...


However, Korean is still a difficult language to the non- Korean speakers because it's hard to remember the characters. But ya, Korean is easier to me after reading this. Thank you, roberto727 !!


When compared to Chinese and Japanese, which have over 2,000 characters which take years to learn, Korean's 24 letters are pretty easy and can be learned in about a week. It's probably a bit easier than most other alphabets, like Arabic, Hebrew, and Devanagari (Hindi).


https://blog.udemy.com/korean-letters/ Ilithios is absolutely right. Technically, there are only 24 letters in the Hangul alphabet. The referenced article terms the others "variants." Not sure the "capital letter analogy" holds though, as the "variants" represent distictively different sounds, while capitalization doesn't affect pronunciation in English.


It's a slightly different issue, sure, although I'd argue not any less significant one. For example, when reading, it's pretty easy to see that ㄲ is two ㄱ's. But who would ever guess that G is the same letter as g without just memorizing it? Also, in real-world pronunciation, the doubled consonants in Korean don't really sound different. maybe if someone is over-pronouncing on purpose for emphasis. It's more a spelling issue than anything, and capital letters in English are a grammar issue. It's pretty comparable.


I guess I am more focused on the pronunciation and converstion than the printed word. The double consonants do have a distinctly different pronunciation, though it is still difficult for me to distinguish the ㅆ from ㅅ. I now recognize that the ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, and ㅉ definitely have a sound of their own that I try to reproduce. It took a while to "tune" my ear to the language, but the distinction is now clearly noticeable.


I just feel like many courses fail to explain the concept of the korean language. One example would be those topic markers; they (as far as I know) don't exist in English, and there's just an overall lack of explanations in the internet.

Do you have any recommendations to webpages, where those grammar rules are epxlained?


I've lived here for two years, tried out a lot of different courses, and the course notes on here are honestly about as good as anything I've seen. Just be sure to read them before you start any level!

Besides Duo, Howtostudykorean and TTMIK are both good. KDA is also decent if you're willing to pay a bit.





will provide an abundance (too many to digest) of outside sources. The youtube video provided by "Talk to me in Korean" is quite good with regard to explaining the topic particles.

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