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Hanja in learning Korean?!? How is your learning journey so far? Let's talk. :D

Hey, awesome Korean language learners from all over the world! :D Hope you are all doing great! As a native speaker, am curious how you are all getting on.

So far, just spotted that learners from the northeast Asian countries such as JPN, PRC and those already familiar with Hanja (aka Chinese characters, kanji., 한자, 漢字) seem to be having a slightly less bumpy ride than the others since they do not need to build their vocabulary from a scratch.

Would appreciate if you can share how your learning journey has been so far with all and give your candid, valuable thoughts on Hanja in learning Korean. Hope our thoughts and discussions give some valuable insights to the course contributors so they can perfect the current beta Korean course for English speakers. :D

Here are some thoughts & observations on pros and cons of Hanja in learning Korean from me as a start:


1) Korean alone is a tough language to learn so Hanja on top of that makes the learning even more challenging, mentally too demanding

2) Some believe that beginners should not worry too much about Hanja

3) Even young Korean generations do not bother to master Hanja rigorously unlike their elders yet they do not seem to have much issue apparently. If so, why should foreigners bother Hanja?


1) Others think one cannot reach a decent level (i.e. advanced) in Korean without having some understanding of Hanja - meaning one can not forever run away from tackling Hanja. If so why not start now rather than later?

2) If you master Hanja while learning Korean, you can learn Chinese and/or Japanese with a lot less initial learning burden than the rest.

3) We do not have that luxury. Learning Korean without having too much headache from Hanja might be possible for native speakers of Korean only.

Look forward to hearing your insights, sparkling thoughts! Way to go, everyone! 힘내요! :D


January 18, 2018



I don't think it is difficult to see the word patterns and learn, but pronunciation is a challenge.


Oh, I see. Speaking of pronunciation, I have a friend by the name of Jorge who is from Spain. It is never easy to get his name pronounced. lol

By the way, what is your native language, if I may ask?:D p.s: Guess your ears first need to get used to Korean sounds in order to speak more fluently. Hope you try out lots of Korean videos on youtube regardless of how much you understand.





I'm a native english speaker from the US. Thanks for the resources!


Pleasure! Have not tried myself but heard from many that lingodeer is quite good or perhaps the best in kind when learning Korean with fun! Why not give it a go along with Duo? :D



its very very very very very very hard!


I feel the same way. kk


Do you guys think it would be better for the Korean course to teach/test more pure Korean words that did not derive from Chinese characters then? Would such help, improve user's learning experience by any chance? :D

For example, 아픔 rather than 고통 (which is a Sino-Korean word for pain) 외로움 rather than 고독 (which is a Sino-Korean word for loneliness)

It seems Sino-Korean words are more often used in written Korean rather than k-pop for example.


Does "not learning hanja" mean "not learning sino-korean" words? From your post it seems possible to write them with hangul. (But is it just an example and not really done like that?) Whichever word is more used should be preferred and the learners can find out about synonyms on their own later (unless when there's a functional reason for teaching more than one word for each concept).

The beginning of the course is very hard (and I've started a lot of courses...) it seems like it might be too much to have to learn hanja on top of everything else (and I'm not even far enough into the course to have seen them yet).


"not learning hanja" means "not learning Sino-Korean" words? => No way! The below is a scanned copy of an old (the late 80s or early 90s) Korean newspaper where they used to write Sino-Korean words in Hanja.


You can see Sino-Korean words are many and some crucial words only have Sino-Korean versions. So I am not saying one does not need to learn Sino-Korean words for sure.

However, I thought it would be more logical and strategic if one has some clear learning priority set as early as possible in mastering Korean based on some realistic thoughts and understanding of what level one intends to achieve out of his or her learning endeavour. ;D

From my observation so far, Hanja starts to appear in the Duolingo learning materials while introducing Sino-Korean vocabularies though you are not tested on them.

Am not sure if such is intentional by the course designers that they also believe Hanja is a must in learning Korean or else. Who knows, they might have inserted Hanja in the learning materials not to serve all audiences but those with prior knowledge of Chinese characters such as those from Singapore, JPN or HK etc. :D


Fun fact, there was a survey done a couple years ago asking if people would like mixed script again, like that newspaper, and the percentage of those for it was pretty high, I forget exactly, but it was an easy majority.

[deactivated user]

    Am not sure if such is intentional by the course designers that they also believe Hanja is a must in learning Korean or else. Who knows, they might have inserted Hanja in the learning materials not to serve all audiences but those with prior knowledge of Chinese characters such as those from Singapore, JPN or HK etc. :D

    We actually had an internal conflict regarding this. This is under review


    It seems some of your fellow Finnish citizens have become celebrities here in Korea after appearing in a Korean TV programme. lol https://www.youpak.com/watch?v=flo1R30dm2M https://www.youpak.com/watch?v=80yigWSXq1M https://www.youpak.com/watch?v=pZnz0oOxdQo https://www.youpak.com/watch?v=dVQ4J-HkEsg

    [deactivated user]

      We did focus more on pure-Korean words


      Not teaching sino-korean vocabulary is unquestionably detrimental. The vocabulary of pop music should never ever be a standard for anything.


      Well, let us not forget that many great human achievements to date initially started from mere fascination, curiosity, hobbies or something very trivial. Those who started learning Korean out of their love K-pop, K-dramas or other popular cultures should also be respected. :D https://youtu.be/eaTlIGmZwzo Even for me, if I decide to learn Portuguese, that would due to my love for bossa nova as I would love to sing in Portuguese. ;) Why not?

      P.S: Interesting survey result indeed. I would support the mixed script also but I think such outcome should not be taken at face value since Korea has become a very ageing society for some time now meaning the young ones are often the outnumbered minorities yet their views should not be dealt lightly since they are the futures of Korea for sure whether you like it or not. Rather than forever preaching, the government should work together with the counterparts in at least PRC, JPN and Taiwan to make Hanja a shared asset across northeast Asia by simplifying as well as unifying meanings and pronunciation as much as possible among the participating nations. Alas, such is only a dream since countries in the region are so much divided. Such a missed opportunity as otherwise, people in the region could have done a lot more for the entire mankind as well as speeding up the advancement of human civilization as a whole. :D


      Of course, the impetus for doing something can be anything, but if we're talking about a language course for the general public, then basing its difficulty of grammar or vocabulary off of one particular aspect from that culture would be a mistake, is what I mean.

      Yes I agree, it would benefit northeast Asia to have that commonality, but perhaps in doing something constructive like this they can become less divided, in some measure (except DPRK).


      lol You poor thing! Hope you stay strong! :D https://youtu.be/OtlauAx5iy0?t=33s


      Addressing your cons, practicing hanja vs. practicing normal Korean activates different parts of your brain, making it mentally healthy. Complaining that something is challenging, well, why even get out of bed in the morning? Everything that takes effort is challenging, yet I've managed in a few months to learn 300 hanja which has exploded my understanding and vocab lists.

      Beginners should definitely not learn hanja, I agree 100%. You should wait until you have a good grasp of intermediate grammar, and around that time, the vocabulary will be becoming difficult to remember because of the lack of sound variety in hangul. That's where hanja learning is best begun.

      Young Korean generations aren't learning hanja, you're right, and that's why their vocabulary is way less developed, at least according to every Korean teacher I've talked with about this. Like you even mentioned later, advanced Korean words are hanja words, they make up at least 70% of the language, and are rooted in history, not just random loanwords. The anti-hanja groups claimed they wanted to purify hangul by removing sino-korean words, but the word "pure" is a sino-korean word, so that goes to show you how ignorant some people are about their own language.


      In what way do you use Hanja words? What are your circumstances, and your methods of learning Hanja?


      Could you clarify what you mean by your first question, sorry, I'm not sure I understand.

      My methods initially were finding groupings to learn at a time (like the days of the week [일, 월, 화, 수, etc], or place names [장, 실, 방, etc.]). I put them in my excel file with the korean meaning, and then, on https://hanjadic.bravender.net/ or Naver's dictionary, I search the hanja to find new vocabulary, which I practice on memrise lessons I create. After a while of doing that, I either add new hanja from words I like (like 부협화음) or I look at a work I know one character but not the other (like 방법, I learned 방, what's 법?).

      This way it's fun for me. For a more traditional approach, there are also official lists that show what you should know for each level, like this one: http://www.zonmal.com/level.asp?gb=6%B1%DE


      Sorry, do you use the Chinese letters or the sino-korean words in conversations? Do you live in Korea and read Hanja on signs?

      Edit - I'm prob using sino words in conversation already without actually realising it.


      wintertriangles already explained it well but allow me to elaborate a bit more :p

      1) You might see some yet not many Hanjas in newspapers and college textbooks that want to avoid unnecessary confusions derived from occasional homonyms.

      2) Public signs (ex. Subway station names) definitely often use Hanja but I think that has more to do with attracting more tourists from the neighbouring JPN and PRC rather than for the locals.

      3) The below link is a scanned copy of some Korean newspaper from the early 70s. Korea indeed used to be a heavy Hanja dependent society yet it has been moving slowly away from that direction for some time now thanks to efforts made by government organizations like 국립국어원(國立國語院, National Institute of the Korean Language) which is a Korean equivalent for Académie française in France.


      A lot of Korean words that used to have Sino-Korean version only now have a pure Korean counterpart as well. Sometimes authorities make it mandatory to use the pure Korean words only rather the old Sion-Korean words in places like schools, public services and even courts.

      For example, 존은 주의의무를 해태했다 = John neglected his due care (Legal Korean & legal English sentences) 주의의무(注意義務) = due care, 해태(懈怠)하다 = to neglect Nowadays they no longer use such legal Korean involving use of Sino-Korean words and replaced with pure Korean words/expressions more and more. 주의의무(注意義務)를 해태했다 => 주의의무(注意義務)를 게을리했다

      Does all this mean Sino-Korean words and expressions will eventually cease to exist anytime soon? I do not think so since a language does not abruptly change but evolves very slowly over time by nature.


      I live in Korea and hanja appears in the news periodically and at every subway station and multiple restaurants/businesses. It's not nearly as universal as in Japan, but it's visible.

      Ah so maybe there's a confusion here. Korean has its own pronunciation for each Chinese character, so when you speak, you'd never know by guessing if the word if sino-Korean or native Korean unless you knew previously. 김치 is not even a native Korean word, it's based on 沈菜 (originally pronounced 팀채). I just learned that last week!

      Same with writing, no one types the hanja unless you want to clarify a certain word.


      Oh la vache! Even Kimch has some Sino-Korean root??? :O

      Regarding the excel file of yours, would it be possible to share a few screenshots by any chance pls? You've explained it well in words but for some people, it would still be hard to visualize in their heads.

      For inserting an image you just need to type as below:

      ![]("Copy and paste image URL here")


      If they are intermediate, then they do not belong in a Duolingo course, which usually only gets you to A2 or at best B1 (depending on the language). It seems a lot of courses prioritize grammar over vocabulary which is fine, since it's perfectly possible to learn new words once you know the rules for how they are used but much more difficult to learn new grammar just by using a language.


      Hei! Mitä kuuluu? :p Well that was exactly what I thought so I wanted to throw a Q and ask your thoughts as a matter of fact. Well, it is not a super serious issue but I think it could have been less burdensome if the learning materials clearly indicate what must be learned at the current stage and what's nice to know to what degree or even OK to skip. Also they could have reshifted learning sequence so that Sino-Korean words appear more in the later part of the course to minimize the learning burden for those w/o any prior knowledge in Hanja.

      I mean those with prior knowledge of Hanja (or Kanji, Hanzi) will definitely be delighted to see Hanja appearing as early as possible since for them such info is hardly a red herring nor extra burden for sure. :D

      By the way, I spotted that you just started learning Chinese as all at the moment. How are you getting on juggling between Chinese and Korean course at the same time? Am all ears! :D

      [deactivated user]

        >70% of the language

        Like Latin-French with English. Drops to about <40~50% in regular day speech.


        I don't know... I don't know.


        Salut! Je te souhaite un bon courage! :D


        Merci! Vous aussi! :)

        Does that say cheer up? The picture? Or like, good luck? Thank you! :)


        De rien! ;p

        P.S: 힘내세요! = Way to go! :D

        힘내세요! => polite form 힘내 => casual form


        I think it could be helpful, I just don't know anything. XD


        For some reason, your last comment has no reply button, so here's the photos you wanted. EDIT: tried google photos and imgur but they're not showing up :/


        Oh thank you for trying! :D Just thought others could benefit a lot from how you do your learning in a very organized way. Just spotted that you are learning Japanese and Chinese concurrently. Guess you are now quite good at juggling Hanja, Kanji and Hanzi. lol

        P.S : If pics cannot be embedded, maybe sharing the image URL itself would work if you are not too busy.

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