How to Learn Korean on Your Own (And Teach Yourself)

  • February 16, 2018

If you're like me you like the adventure of diving head first into a foreign language and exploring it on your own terms.

You don't want to be limited to the material or method of just one course, and you don't have the patience to progress through a class with the speed of a snail.

You want to learn Korean, and you want to learn it now by yourself

There's nothing wrong with being an independent learner.

In fact, some of the most successful language learners are those who take the responsibility of learning into their own hands. 

So how exactly to you go about learning Korean through self-study? I'll be honest it's not for the faint of heart.

I'll be honest again and say that even though it can be difficult, learning Korean on your own can be a blast. Seriously!

In this post we'll give you some practical tips and resources to help you teach yourself the Korean language.

Understand your responsibilities

When you learn Korean in a formal class the teacher is responsible for guiding you. He or she decides what you will learn, how you will learn it, and when. 

Not many people think about this, but as a student you put a lot of trust in your teacher, and assume that they know the best way to teach and learn the language. 

This way of learning is very structured, and usually the teacher/curriculum holds the student's hand as they take baby steps in Korean. 

When you're teaching yourself, all this goes out the window. 

From now on it's up to you to decide the what, the how, and the when behind your learning. 

Where to start

There are a vast number of tools and resources for learning Korean, and if you're learning on your own it's all fair game. 

Sometimes figuring out where to start is the hardest part of learning Korean

Chose a core approach or material 

Even though you don't have a teacher you will still need to use something as the chief reference/resource for your journey into the Korean language. 

It could be a book, a course, or even an app. At the end of the day you have to get your Korean from somewhere. 

Which tool or resource you use will depend on why or how you're learning the language. 

Are you more focused on speaking and aren't too concerned with reading or writing?...Then your approach should reflect that. 

Do you prefer to start with grammar? Maybe you don't want to focus on grammar and simply want to learn phrases. 

Are you big on pronunciation?...You get the idea. 

The Korean language is vast and intricate (like any foreign language), you will pick and choose which aspects of the language you focus on.

Common approaches for self-study in Korean

1) Pronunciation-reading-vocabulary-grammar-practice 

Pros and cons of this method

  • check
    Uses all aspects of the language
  • check
    Your speaking will abilities will soar
  • Method seems slow at first
  • Pronunciation practice can seem tedious

This approach is my personal favorite, and is the one I like to use in my studies. Although it's probably not the most popular, and compared to the other two approaches it's a little complicated.

The idea here is that you learn correct pronunciation first, and develop a decent Korean accent. During and after that process you learn hangul and how to read in Korean. 

Once you can read and pronounce words in Korean you start learning a ton of vocabulary (usually a list of the 500+ most common nouns, verbs, and adjectives). Typically you use some sort of spaced repetition flashcard platform to commit these words to memory.

Note: because you learned pronunciation and how to read Korean you don't use any English on your flashcards. You simply use pictures, the written Korean word, and maybe a sound file from Forvo of a native pronouncing the word.

After that you open up a Korean textbook or course to start learning basic grammar. Anytime you come across a new rule you practice mixing and matching the 500+ words you learned before to start constructing simple sentences. 

You get this practice by writing or speaking with native speakers, and receiving feedback.

You continue to work through Korean grammar and commit new words to memory as you find them.

Native speakers are one of your most valuable assets when learning Korean

2) Grammar-practice-vocabulary

Pros and cons of this method

  • check
    Starts out with good grammar
  • check
    Learn new vocabulary as you need it
  • For some the emphasis on grammar is boring
  • Doesn't necessarily include reading or writing

With this method you start by diving straight into Korean grammar. You take the examples of grammar rules and sentences from a textbook or course, and then you do your best to practice them with native speakers. 

As you practice using the Korean grammar and phrases from your source material, you find the holes in your vocabulary. You then find the words you need to learn in order to express what you want to say (either in your textbook, course, or by some other means). 

You rinse and repeat this process and continue to learn new grammar and words as you progress through the language.

3) Vocabulary-practice-grammar

Pros and cons of this method

  • check
    The simplest method
  • check
    Huge emphasis on speaking with real people
  • check
    It can be a lot of fun 
  • Can leave you with weak grammar
  • Lacks structure
  • Doesn't work if you don't get good feedback from natives

In this method you simply learn stock Korean phrases and words that you think will be useful for you. Then you go right ahead and starting using them with native speakers. 

Ideally the native speakers correct you, and over time you make enough mistakes and are corrected to the point that you start to internalize Korean grammar.

Needless to say it's very important to get good feedback and corrections from native speakers if you use this method. 

Of the three method this one is the least structured. It's a sort of "make it up as you go" style or learning. 

Language learning feels kind of link that...

Which method is best?

That all depends on you. The most important factor in learning Korean is pushing yourself to consistently learn the language. If you do that it won't matter as much which method you use. 

Different people have had success with different methods. There really is no one size fits all approach to learning Korean (despite what advertisers and marketers might tell you). 

You can even switch methods if you so desire. Again, there's no rules here. You call the shots. Feel free to experiment. 

Here we talked about just three methods. There are likely a lot more out there. 

Tools and resourses for learning Korean on your own

Rocket Korean



Time commitment

20+ minutes a day 


Rocket Korean is a super flexible Korean course, which makes it ideal for those teaching themselves Korean.

It's built around recorded audio in the form of dialogues. The dialogues have English explanations and usually teach the language in "chunks" or phrases versus individual words (this is great for conversational Korean). 

Rocket Korean is a comprehensive course that does a good job of incorporating speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. There are also specific sections on learning hangul.

Because Rocket Korean incorporates reading, writing, speaking, and listening; you're able to freely pick and choose what you want to learn based on your learning method.

I wish more Korean courses were like this!


From $4+ per month

Time commitment

15+ minutes a day 


Koreanclass101 is designed around audio lessons much like Rocket Korean.  

But unlike Rocket Korean their lessons are in the format of podcast episodes. Each episode features two hosts who breakdown and explain a conversation between two native Korean speakers.

The hosts do a good job of explaining difficult concepts, teaching relevant grammar, and keeping things light and interesting.

There are also lesson notes for each episode which include a range of example phrases for new grammar and vocabulary. These are a godsend if you're learning Korean by yourself.

Lesson transcripts are available in English as well as Korean. There's also an in site flashcard system for learning new words and Korean letters.


$6+ per hour (varies between teachers) also Free community features

Time commitment

30 minute or 1 hour lessons 

An intro video from one of Italki's Korean teachers. 


Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers and tutors for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.

Professional teachers on the site will walk you through a structured and more formal approach to Korean, but it's really the tutors on the site that are gold for self-learners.

Tutors are usually cheap and are there for you to simply practice Korean anyway you want. The flexibility they offer to students is a huge asset and a great way to get in your speaking practice.

You can also use the free part of the site to connect with Koreans who are learning English. The idea is that you meet online to take turns practicing your respective foreign languages. This is also an awesome way to practice your Korean!

*with a purchase of $20 or more. After your complete your first lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account


Teaching yourself a foreign language can seem daunting. However it can also be very exciting. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. 

Learn to relish the freedom and flexibility that learning by yourself gives you. Most all of have fun learning the Korean language! If you do that you're likely to succeed no matter which method you use. 

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