Sunday 20 August 2023

My Korean Language Learning Resources

My Story Learning Korean

In December 2019 Netflix recommended a drama called Black to me. I loved it, and thus began my obsession with K-drama. I had started learning Japanese only six months earlier, so as much as Korean fascinated me, I told myself I would not burden myself with another new language so soon. That resolve lasted only until February 2020, at which point I started studying!

For the first year I studied completely alone. I found there was a wealth of online resources out there, many of them free. I came across a free taught course here in Australia (via the Korean Cultural Centre), but it was only based in Sydney, so I had to immediately discount it from my plans. However, then COVID-19 came along, and by the end of 2020 that previously classroom-based course had moved online. Therefore, from February 2021, I signed up for those classes too. I have been taking them ever since; however, I will finish their available curriculum (which takes you to low-intermediate level) by mid-2024.

I have studied through a variety of books (many listed below), I spent a year going through all the materials on the Talk to Me in Korean website, and I was taking my classes.

These days, not much has changed. I still take the KCC classes, I am working through a variety of textbooks for revision and expansion of my grammar knowledge, I do monthly conversation practice on iTalki, I watch videos on YouTube (taking grammar notes when applicable), and I listen to podcasts. I am also trying to build up more reading and writing practice with graded readers and by penning short paragraphs to share on Journaly.

For the moment, Korean remains the language to which I dedicate the largest portion of my available study time as I really love it.

I talked a bit more about my journey learning Korean in this video.



The following resources are ones I've tried out in my Korean-learning so far.

Please note that I am not receiving any incentive to recommend any of these resources. Nor can I say they will suit every learner, as everyone's learning style is different. I am sharing only my personal experiences with these assets and cannot guarantee they will benefit everyone.


Practical Korean - This was the first textbook I bought to learn from. It is okay, but I didn't like the over-reliance on romanisation, and it is very basic. If you just want to learn some quick phrases for travel, it's okay, but I don't think it's the best option for serious new learners. Also see my comments on Basic Korean below.

Basic Korean - While still not perfect, this book was better, I felt, than Practical Korean (above). There's still a lot of romanisation, but it offers a little more for beginners. Even so, there are better resources out there. I almost didn't bother including these two books in this list of resources, since I don't fully recommend either; however, since they are the ones that seem to be the most readily available in general bookstores (at least here in Australia), I wanted to at least mention them and share my thoughts, so that new learners can consider if the books will suit them or not. After the first few months, I stopped using both these books in favour of other resources and haven't opened either of them since.

Essential Korean Grammar - This is an invaluable resource for checking grammar patterns and their usage. You can search via the index at the back or by the type of sentence you wish to create (e.g. a cause and effect, a wish etc.) The notes on their use in speech versus writing and their frequency in everyday language are a good addition.

500 Basic Korean Verbs - A brilliant quick reference guide showing each verb conjugated into some of the more frequent/basic grammar patterns.

Vitamin Korean - I only recently started using this series of books as a bit of revision, but I really like them. They are nicely presented and easy to follow, with plenty of exercises to test comprehension along the way. I definitely prefer these to Practical Korean and Basic Korean and wish I'd come across them sooner than I did.

Korean Grammar in Use - Another good series. As the name suggests, the focus is on grammar, so this is a series I have recently started working through for additional grammar revision. It's not suitable as a sole source of study, given the limit of its focus, but it's great for grammar review and practice.

Korean Pronunciation Guide - I got this book about two years into my studies and found it really useful. It explains well some of the more complex sound-change rules and comes with audio tracks for listening and shadowing. Very comprehensive.

Real-Life Korean Conversations for Beginners - These two books (beginner and intermediate) from Talk to Me in Korean are really useful study tools. Each chapter introduces a conversation that is followed by explanations of several grammar patterns found within the dialogue. They are nicely presented books and the grammar is well explained with plenty of examples. I also own a few other books from Talk to Me in Korean (My Daily Routine in Korean, Survival Korean, Slang Expressions and Q & A Sentence Patterns) and they are all well-made works that I found interesting and useful, but I decide to highlight this one (or rather two) in this resource list as they are the ones I found of most benefit in my studies.

500 Common Korean Idioms - This one is still a bit too high-level for me; however, I wanted to get it because I love idioms in any language and I thought it would give me something to aspire towards in my Korean language-learning journey. It contains a good selections of idioms that are well explained.


2024 Update!

I have one new book to recommend that I bought after creating this post and which am currently using in my studies:

사각사각 매일 쓰는 한국어 일기 한 조각

This book offers writing prompts in a variety of subjects based around daily life. Each chapter introduces a topic with a brief paragraph to read. Following this, a suitable grammar structure for responding to the topic is presented. There are then a few short questions to answer as a warm-up before answering a final question with a longer response. An example response from one of the authors is also included if you need further inspiration. I like the format a lot, and when I have written my longer paragraph, I type it as a post in Journaly (linked above) to get any corrections to my text.

Easy Korean Reading - This is an easy beginner reader from Talk to Me in Korean. It really is for beginners though. Once you get to pre-intermediate level, you will probably find it too easy.

Korean Short Stories for Beginners - A pleasing collection of diverse tales suitable for beginner to low-intermediate. They also have a slightly more advanced volume aimed at intermediate learners that I also enjoyed working through and which was a little more challenging.

Lang-wich - This fairly new venture takes classic English novels, simplifies them, and sets them in modern-day Korea, creating reading material suitable for high beginners. The books come with audio, too, and they are fun to read and just right for the level they are designed for. You can also sign up for their free email newsletter to get a short weekly reading practice paragraph on diverse topics and a monthly additional email highlighting cultural points and recommending other Korean learning resources.

Reading Korean with Culture - I only recently started with this series, having seen them recommended by another Korean learner. I am starting from Book 1 for revision, even though it's too easy for me, and I like how the reading practice is combined with cultural information about Korea, vocabulary etc. All up, it's another good textbook series from the same publisher as Vitamin Korean that I mentioned above.

Korean Stories for Language Learners - This is a nice graded reader in which the stories are based on Korean folklore, with the text getting gradually harder as the book progresses. There are vocabulary lists, cultural comments and accompanying audio. There is a second book in this series, too, that follows the same lines: Korean Folktales for Language Learners. The stories are different in each, so for those keen on reading practice and folktales, it's no bad thing to get both.

Intermediate Short Stories in Korean - This is definitely well into intermediate-level reading and is the most advanced reading I have done so far. The stories are okay, but there are other languages in this book series, and having already read one of the others, I was a bit disappointed to find that many of the stories are the same between books, so if you study more than one language with them, it's the same content each time. If you only study one language, though, that's not a problem.



Go! Billy Korean is my favourite YouTube channel for Korean. He presents on grammar topics ranging from beginner to advanced, has a full free video course on Korean politeness levels and also posts other fun content such as interviews and comedy skits.
Talk to Me in Korean I have already mentioned above in terms of their books and will talk about again below in regards to their courses, but their YouTube channel is also worth a look for videos on grammar, vocabulary and Korean culture.
Korean Studio offers short, snappy videos on different grammar points and vocabulary/word usage. Concise and easy to follow.
Just Learn Korean has videos for beginner to intermediate levels with a focus on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
Alpha Korean Class has a strong focus on Korean culture but also covers grammar and vocabulary. Some content would suit beginners, but many of the vlogs require a more intermediate-level comprehension.
Prof. Yoon's Korean Language Class has some good beginner content following a textbook style of teaching. He also does regular live-streams where viewers can ask him questions on anything related to the Korean language.
Your Korean Saem offers videos that cover grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening practice.
Korean Gem has videos on slang and idioms, Korean culture and grammar.
Learn Real Korean has videos on grammar, expressions and vocabulary, and also a series where she describes pictures as a means of acquiring new vocabulary and learning how to express yourself in Korean.
Just Korean offers videos on grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary, particularly comparing different grammar and vocabulary and looking at their usages, similarities and differences.
Namuori Korean is a podcast-vlog. Each topic is presented in a form suitable for beginners one week and then in more detail for intermediate learners the following week. She also runs a series on useful Korean phrases.
Choi SuSu presents podcasts and vlogs for both beginner and intermediate learners. Nicely presented and easy to follow, you hear the dialogue once with just Korean subs and then again with English translations added above those subs for difficult words.
Korean Language Trainer is a fairly new channel offering beginner podcasts. The script is first read at a slow speed and then repeated at a normal speaking speed. There is both the Korean text and an English translation on the screen.
Tayoni offers a podcast with full Korean subs. Her text is a little more complicated that Choi Susu's (above), so probably best for low-intermediate learners and above.
Didi's Korean Podcast is a fairly new channel with podcasts that would suit, to my mind, learners low-intermediate and above as she speaks reasonable fast and uses grammar that's often above beginner level. However, there is a transcript in Korean shown on the screen and English subtitles are available if needed.
Heeya Korean is a podcast series for intermediate and advanced learners. The first few paragraphs of the transcript are given for each video, but only patrons/members can access the full transcript, so it's not suitable for beginners, as your listening comprehension needs to be good.
A Piece of Korean has a series on grammar aimed at beginners; however, most of their recent content is conversation/news-related and is presented only in Korean, so would be suitable for intermediate learners and above.


Essential Korean - Podcast episodes on grammar, vocabulary etc. Slightly sporadic posting, but suitable for beginners.

Talk to Me in Korean - A mix of podcasts with the current focus being on a weekly topic in which vocabulary is presented across three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). The first part is a mix of English and Korean, but in the advanced section they only speak in Korean. Some of their older content also covers grammar explanations etc.

A Piece of Korean - This is a higher-level podcast on news, current affairs and culture. You need to be at least intermediate level to follow it.



I follow several Korean language-learning accounts on Instagram. These are some of my favourites for useful content:

My Korean Aunt Next Door - Korean Go Mintcherry - Dylan_Korean Teacher - Korean Study Junkie - Korean Bam - Korean Soulari - Jin Korean - S.kapetokorea - K Studies with Fe - Hoon Korean



Talk to Me in Korean - I did a one-year subscription to TTMIK and went through all the materials they had available at that time, which included the Essentials course comprising 10 Levels. The Essentials course used to be free, but they have just changed to a paid-only model, except for their podcasts and YouTube content. I think their courses, books etc. are all great, but there are good free resources available out there too. They do regularly offer 50% discount on their subscriptions, though, so watch out for those opportunities on their social media accounts if you want to sign up. There are also textbooks and workbooks available to accompany each level of the Essentials course, but I have never used any of those myself. Some of their other books I have already commented on in the Books section above.

Korean Cultural Centre - If you are based in Australia, you can take free online classes (using the King Sejong Institute curriculum and presented by native speakers) via the Korean Cultural Centre.


Below are a few websites I use/have used in my studies.

Grammar/Vocabulary: Say Hi Korean - Go! Billy Korean - Dom & Hyo

Dictionaries/Translation/Conjugation: Papago - Naver Dictionary - Korean.verb app

Reading: Naver Webtoon - Naver Webnovels - Natively

Media & News: SBS Korean - Kids News - Junior Naver - Podbang

No comments:

Post a Comment