Completed Korean Tree just now - some Thoughts & Reflections

Hello everyone. Hope you are doing great, having ups and downs while enjoying your Korean learning journey at the moment. As a native speaker, just wanted to see for myself where the current Beta Korean course for English speakers stands and what can be improved before the Beta period is over, so I have tried it from the beginning to the end.

First of all, job well done for the course contributors. Some of the learners also left many valuable comments as they were doing the tree. Hope you do not lose the momentum but excel more in coming weeks and months to make the course even better, greater for all!

The below are my humble thoughts on the current weaknesses and suggestions for improvement. :D

1) Practice Qs for translating a Korean word or sentence into English

  • This definitely needs the most work.

  • The whole point of the exercise is to check if one understands words or sentences in Korean correctly or else rather than how eloquent your American English is. (i.e. words and expressions in British English) Also, bear in mind that there is usually more than one way to describe what you've understood in English.

  • Thus more diverse answer sets should be accepted rather than just one or two. For example, at the moment, word 감독 is almost always translated as "Director" Depending on the context, 감독 can mean other words in English. (ex. supervisor, coach, head coach for example)

Another example would be "We" versus "I: Due to Korea being a strong Collectivist culture, many Koreans tend to overuse "We" "Our" when they really mean "I" "my". Thus for translating Korean sentences like "우리 나라는 안전하다" not only "Our country is safe" but "My country is safe" should also be accepted at the least. Frankly speaking, the latter is more precise as a matter of fact.

2) Practice Qs for translating an English word or sentence into Korean

  • Being relatively strict, somewhat rigid, unyielding or uncompromising on what should be accepted as correct answers is understandable on this type of exercise obviously.

  • Yet some more flexibility in accepted correct answer pools would be more desirable. For example,

"There is a crying baby in the car." Translation: 우는 아기가 차에 있습니다.

차에 우는 아기가 있읍니다 should also be accepted yet such is not the case. Korean is far from being a rigid language in terms of sentence structure.

  • Spotted that sometimes only polite form answers are accepted as correct and at other times, it was totally the opposite. Both polite and casual forms should be accepted.

3) Some issues spotted with example sentences in Korean

  • Some sentences are grammatically incorrect or seldom incomplete so one has to struggle to second-guess the exact context.

ex) 제 아내가 먹혔다 => incorrect mix of polite and casual form in the same sentence - furthermore, it is not a complete sentence in the first place "My wife was eaten (by what?)" I mean such is OK if it appears in the very beginning though.

  • Can not emphasize the importance of giving context enough as this can help the one doing the exercise recall and use the right Korean expressions at the right time.

  • Some example sentences are poorly designed or devised.

Good sentence designs are usually => Memorable by being eye-catching, funny, eccentric so you can not directly use in real life yet you easily remember the sentence itself as well as underlying grammar rules, patterns and used vocabularies to create your own sentences

ex) "저는 제 동메달을 먹습니다. " Translation: I eat my bronze medal.

=> If not eccentric at all, directly usable meaning that most contemporary, frequently used, directly applicable Korean expressions should be used rather than ones that are becoming more and more obsolete.

For example,

"The guide is writing a guidebook." Translation: 안내원은 안내서를 쓰고 있어요.

가이드 is used more often than 안내원 (안내원 sounds very DPRK-like) in reality.

가이드북 is also used more commonly nowadays than 안내서

4) Hanja in the learning resources

  • It seems Hanja (aka Kanji, Hanzi, Chinese characters) start to appear in the learning materials as more and more Sino-Korean words are introduced.

  • It would be great if some commentary is made to let the learners know what's the learning expectation is regarding Hanja. Do not think one should memorize it/them but it would be great for one to know them generally so that when enlarging one's vocabulary, one can learn by association. For example

선수단(選手團) = 선수 (Player) + 단(Group, team)

단(團) is a Sino-Korean meaning group so any words that end with 단 might mean some kind of group. Memorizing words, expressions by their patterns is a lot easier than memorizing randomly as new words & expressions appear. Of course one does not need to be able to write 단 in Hanja. 團 If you can then you will have a lot easier ride when learning Chinese or Japanese than those without any prior knowledge in Hanja.

기자단 =기자( reporter, journalist, press) + 단(group)

탐사단 = 탐사(exploration) + 단(group, team)

방탄소년단 = BTS = 방탄 (bullet-proof) + 소년(boy) +단(group, team, squad)

Please feel free to add if I missed any or you need any elaboration by any chance. Those who already completed or currently doing the tree should also feel free to leave a comment. We are all in this together to make the Korean course better for the good of all. Cheers & Way to go, everyone! :D

January 23, 2018


A really well built feedback!

January 23, 2018

Hey, look who's talking! You are the one who should get all the kudos not me. ;p Well, it just became a habit to do a "lessons learned" in virtually everything I do. so I had to do one in a hurry for this as well. ;p Hope it is not too cold and icy in Finland!

P.S: It seems some of your fellow Finnish citizens have become celebrities here in Korea after appearing in a Korean TV programme. lol

January 23, 2018

와ㅋㅋㅋㅋ 한번도 본적이 없어요. 링크 주셔서 감사합니다~

January 23, 2018

천만에요 (De rien, madame!) :D Let me know how you find them. Personally, I wanted to try out Finnish kilju after seeing the shows!

P.S: In case the links do not work, you may watch them on youtube also!

January 24, 2018

Kappas, toinenkin suomalainen :) \o

January 24, 2018

Your fellow suomalainen seems way beyond an intermediate learner for sure. At first I thought she was some Korean pretending to be a suomalainen as her Korean was so good. She almost got me. lol

January 25, 2018
January 23, 2018

Hello! You guys are doing well! Thank you for your kind invitation! Allow me to ponder a bit! Whatever you do, let us not rush to finish Beta. Duolingo Chinese course for English speakers is already out of Beta yet it is receiving notable criticisms due to jobs hastily done!

January 24, 2018

Wow you are my Korean Sempai!!!

January 23, 2018

Keep up the good work! You are doing just fine! Look forward to seeing Tree completion posting of yours! Way to go! :D

P.S: Tried to leave some additional tips and explanations from time to time while doing the tree - Hope you find them helpful! ;p

January 23, 2018

Yay! 치하! Some day I’ll complete the tree as well... it’s certainly a lot more work to learn Korean as an English speaker however it can be very rewarding! I’m not rushing through the course since it’s in beta but I learned a lot more on here than I would just reading about the grammar on the internet.

January 23, 2018

Absolutely! Keep up the excellent work! Posted some images of the tree completion in the hope that they would motivate many learners to carry on, excel in Korean learning and everything else! Way to go!

January 23, 2018

Wow! Great job completing the tree! I'm inching my way through it! I'm just so glad to have these lessons! I feel like I'm really learning quite a bit!!Thanks again to the contributors.

January 23, 2018

You are awesome(멋져요)! Portuguese & Spanish are on my wishlist on the top as I just love(!) Brazilian bossa nova & romantic songs in Spanish! This is kind of music that I would love to sing at Christmas party lol Way to go! Look forward to your tree completion celebration! ;)

January 24, 2018

Hi, I've just started to learn Korean and I find it quite fun, but I've hit a few bumps in duolingo so far.

I already knew the letters when i started and can to some extend read the words out loud (of course with a lot of mispronunciations), but I do not know what it means. Knowing the letters makes the first lessons quite easy, but they have some flaws in my opinion. In between the sound/letters you get a translation exercise. Without learning any words (only sounds) in advance, this, for me, is impossible.

Example: Translate this sentence: Kiss You get to choose between 뽀뽀 and 도넛 or any combination of the two.

My vague idea of how to pronunce them doesn't help me, I can only guess. This goes both ways, one-word translations from English to Korean and vica versa. I'm just guessing, and it's too random for me to remember until the next time. I think these execises are pointless unless we get to learn them at least once befor we are expected to translate the words.

Any tips?

January 24, 2018

Hello! :D Here are some of my thoughts on the points you raised.

  • Translation exercise appearing rather too early out of blue = You should flag this if such seems to happen too frequently. However, I think the example exercise you mentioned was intended to

1) let you memorize Korean word for "kiss" which is 키스

2) Also since you know how to read, you can tell which one out of the 2 given choices sounds closer to "kiss"

키스 rather than 도넛 sounds closer to "kiss"

키스 = kiss (Do know 키스 does not exactly sound like "kiss" but more like "Key+S")

도넛 = doughnut (Do know 도넛 does not exactly sound like "Doughnut" but more like Doh+Nut")

  • In case you have been using smartphone or tablet only for your learning in Duo, recommend using PC version as well since PC version has more learning resources.

  • You've been learning mostly Indo-European languages so far such as Eng, German, Norwegian, Spanish Swedish so learning Korean should be a bit more frustrating at first as it is almost like playing tennis in a clay court when you have been mostly trained in hard courts. Thus I recommend you to use lingodeer which is more tailored to northeast Asian languages (Korean, Chinese and Japanese) also.

  • Pronunciation: Perfectly natural for beginners to struggle yet it is always better to get your ears used to the correct sounds sooner rather than later. This rule is applicable to literally all languages. Many beginners find Chapter 1 super boring and trivial but if hastily done, such will slow down your progress in improving listening and speaking for long.

Google translate seems reasonably good when it comes to pronunciation of Korean. is also excellent.

January 24, 2018

Thanks, a lot of great tips there! However, your examples are 키스 and 도넛 rather than 뽀뽀 and 도넛 as i stated. Yours are english words written in hangul, whereas mine are actual korean words as far as I can tell. In your example I would have been able to tell which one was closer, but not the one from duo. I will try your other tips though :)

January 24, 2018

Oh, you right! My bad! lol Well, that's how I would design the answer choices as otherwise, it is not fair for the beginners to know 뽀뽀 after learning the characters and corresponding sounds only. ;)

My gut feeling is that the course contributors meant 키스 rather that 뽀뽀. lol

January 24, 2018

I've tried Lingodeer for a couple of hours now and it seems to have everything I think Duolingo lacks in regards of Korean. Now it's really really fun to learn and I can't stop myself from going on and on to the next lesson. I even start to pick up certain words and frases when i watch youtube and variety shows already! I'll stick with Lingodeer for Korean and Duolingo for my other language courses as they are still good courses. Thanks again for a great tip!

January 25, 2018

The only problem I have with lingodeer is as someone with a pretty good background in Korean already not being able to test into higher levels is very frustrating. :(

January 26, 2018

De nada mi amiga! ;)

Kindly let us know here how your Korean is progressing from time to time. You can also post Qs you got while studying Korean.

P.S: Don't forget to claim your own Duolingo Korean Tree completion here later once you've built ample competency with Lingodeer please! ;)

January 25, 2018

Thanks for the Lingodeer hint. I downloaded it and it seems to work really well.

January 24, 2018

Pleasure! :D Well hope you and all other learners here don't rely solely on resources for leaners such as memrise, duolingo and lingodeer but also boldly try out actual TV shows & other contents in Korean since putting what one learned in action is very important regardless of what level one is at for now. Everyone can & should have fun elements while learning.;p

January 25, 2018

I've already watched hours of Korean TV shows with subtitles. It really helps with getting a sense of the language and helps one learn random words. Though now I have no idea how to write those :D But they'll be easy to learn when I see them here or on Lingodeer. But Lingodeer is my number one resource right now, the balance of audio practice, new words/grammar and repetition seems perfect for me right now.

January 25, 2018

Do know Lingodeer's Chinese lessons do provide Hanzi (Chinese character ) writing exercise as one has to memorize hundreds or thousands. Is this the case for Lingodeer Korean by any chance? I did a few chapters yet have not seen any writing exercise in the Korean

Maybe you can familiarize yourself by reading some PDF documents in Korean and try for yourself

FYI, the sequence shown in the video is not a must as I just realized I do my own way for some of the Korean alphabets (aka Hangul)

January 26, 2018

Thanks for the list. I've done just a few skills, but it's good to be aware of what kind of problems there might be in the course.

January 24, 2018

Hopefully, they will fix it/them soon. I mean some of them are just human errors done in a hurry. Seldom, native speakers miss seemly trivial things that the learners, on the contrary, find very overwhelming. lol

This reminds me of all those old renowned university professors that I once had who were gurus in their own disciplines yet very unskillful in teaching, meeting their students' eye levels. ;p Putting oneself in others' shoe require an even greater depth of subject matter knowledge, IQ as well as EQ, I think. :D

January 25, 2018

I have just complaint about the sentences and phrases that are used in Korean over here. To be honest, I didn't learn much in this course and that frustrates me for wasting my time. Korean is a very difficult language for me as I can't link the words with anything I know. So I must repeat and repeat constantly... Luckily I have other 3-4 places (books, online ...) where I go and exercise and I find them better. I walked out on Duolingo 2 years ago (the German they were doing vs. English was just driving me up the walls - now is better). But I am afraid that I will walk out again soon as I am not interested in flying dogs and exploding radios. Or maybe Koreans have these topics and I don't know. (?) :D Anyway, you did a great job in explaining some things. And I am sure there are far more!

January 25, 2018

Well, often we just need to take it easy, wait a bit and let the time solve our issues! :D It seems the contributors are stuck between a rock and a hard place since they have to maintain and update both "Korean course for English speakers" as well as "English for Korean speakers" while there are only 6 of them doing the job on a pro bono basis. Guess we all have to admit that time & patience are the essential elements in delivering quality outcomes. :D

Regardless of the slow progress on this end, it is definitely a good choice made you that you are relying on multiple sources for your Korean learning journey! ;) Enjoy!

January 26, 2018

"Spotted that sometimes only polite form answers are accepted as correct and at other times, it was totally the opposite. Both polite and casual forms should be accepted." That was definitely the most frustrating part for me. It would say i was wrong but I would never be able to know what form of speech it wanted by the question asked so either answer should be accepted. ^_^

Also I just finished the tree so yay!! I've been using duolingo to supplement my Korean textbook and its worked really well for that! Its fun for practicing vocab and grammar but as an overall language learning tool I've always found duolingo limiting since you aren't getting any explanations for what you are learning. But who am I to complain when its free! Its a great tool for practice even if there are errors in the lessons ^_^

January 26, 2018

OMG! Congratulations! You must have worked hard to earn your own Korean tree completion! Good on you!

Hope you try out various contents in Korean to improve your reading and listening skills even further! ;D

p.s: Regarding your earlier comment on Lingodeer, well I spotted a few sentences that are grammatically flawless yet sounding a bit unnatural. Just checked Lingodeer Korean course before recommending it to others. I mean those were nothing major but indeed it implies that one should use lingodeer as one of many resources for his or her Korean learning just to be 100% sure. Despite those few, overall, it is still outstanding.

Also, I must say gamification is an excellent 21st-century trend for learning yet I do not want any of us to become a hostage of this concept and completely discard good old ways of language learning as some ideal mix of old and new seems the most effective. ;D

January 26, 2018
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