After I was hit by the Hallyu wave way back in 2016 after listening to Blood, Sweat, and Tears by BTS, I became interested in checking out different forms of Korean entertainment like K-dramas, Korean movies, Korean variety shows, and more. It was not long before I could recognize a few of the often-used words and say short phrases like “hello” “sorry” “thank you” in Korean.
As 2021 started, I took on the challenge to learn Korean, a language mostly new to me. Now, let’s be real here.
No one can reach fluency in just 30 days especially if the new language has a new set of alphabets and very different grammatical structures. I couldn’t find any sort of 30-day challenge with the end goal of having learned a whole language so I modified my goal a little. However, it was still difficult.
Have a 10-15 minute conversation in Korean and try to understand a short K-drama episode without any subtitles.
A detailed description of how it went down by the weeks...
I started with learning the Korean alphabet, Hangul. I found a great YouTube channel that got me to completely learn Hangul in more or less 24 hours. I made flashcards for all letters with one side Hangul and the other side as Hindi alphabet (my native language) because the sounds matched more than they did with English which made getting the pronunciation easier for me.
After learning Hangul, I was introduced to the advanced Korean alphabet with double consonants and hard alphabet rules (받침). I was almost about to give because they were really complicated to remember but somehow, I kept going.
Towards the end of week 1, I started to learn from howtostudykorean.com lessons. I completely dropped romanizations and tried to write and read more Korean. But, the howtostudykorean.com lessons had too much in every single lesson, making it hard to keep up. At this point, I made a list of all the free Korean learning resources I could find.
I started studying every day from the free TTMIK podcast and made notes in a notebook to revise them. But, I realized I was going too slow and wouldn’t reach my goal like this. I started studying from hour-long Miss Vicky videos and would sometimes study from short 3-4 minutes Korean Unnie videos.
I would sit every day and revise all the previous things I had learned before moving on to something new or it would become too confusing to keep going on.
I started spending more time learning Korean than my academics because I enjoyed figuring out new grammar lessons. I could understand Korean by relating it to my native language, Hindi. The grammatical structures and pronunciations were somewhat similar.
I tried to read small Korean passages to improve my reading and speaking because that was one of the areas I was struggling the most in. I also improved my listening skills and tried to understand the native Korean accent by watching K-Dramas on Viki with the learning mode on.
This week I stumbled upon a tweet that was asking for people interested in forming a Korean study group and I instantly replied to the OP after which they added me in a group direct message and later to a Google Classroom where a few of the more experienced learners shared material and did their best to clear our doubts.
The study group later evolved into a discord with many members and regular Korean learning sessions. The organizers even arranged weekly quizzes to test our improvement and would give us some kind of homework that every day for consistency, ALL FOR FREE!
The week went by with little self-studying and mostly relying on the material provided by the study group mentors to revise and study ahead.
By the final week, I was able to speak small sentences like “How are you?” “Who are you?” “Where are you?” “I want to eat” “What are you doing?” “Please give me..” “My name is…” and more!
I was amazed by how far I had come when I was just starting to learn Hangul a few weeks ago. I was able to read Korean a little faster than when I had started although it was still very slow.
My Korean study group did a longer quiz to determine the levels we were at to give us a better learning experience and out of the 6 levels in the group, I was already at Level 3 with my knowledge of a few grammatical structures and a lot of random vocabulary from K-Pop songs and K-dramas.
Did I reach my goal?
After the 30 days were over, I tried having a conversation over chat with a native Korean twitter friend. Even though it was a pretty basic conversation and my friend had to compromise a little, I was able to understand most of the conversation though I did make a few guesses here and there.
Our conversation lasted for about 9-10 minutes which feels like an hour if you’re an amateur like me. My friend was impressed with the amount of Korean I was able to learn in only a week and gave me words of encouragement.
For my second goal, I tried to watch an episode of one of my favorite K-dramas, Best Mistake. The episode was only around 10 minutes long but understanding it was way harder than I had anticipated it to be.
I wasn’t able to understand more than 50% of it due to the complicated vocabulary and slang but I was able to catch onto a phrase or two and understand a sentence here and there. With that, I guessed most of it and ultimately had to rewatch it with subtitles to understand what happened in the episode.
My Advice to language learners:
1. Gather all the resources you can get
2. Try to listen to songs or watch movies/series in your target language
3. Make a plan and try to stick to it
4. Learn grammar and vocabulary simultaneously than focusing on one at a time
5. Be consistent with practice and revision
6. Expose yourself to the culture
That was the end of my trying to learn Korean in 30 days challenge.
Obviously, I have a long way to go before I get fluent in Korean but the challenge was a good head start to a long journey and I’m happy I didn’t give up when I encountered problems in learning Hangul, or else my journey wouldn’t have started. Happy language learning!