Beginners guide to studying Korean in Australia or outside Korea on a shoestring budget

Study Korean in Australia

K-pop, Gangnam style and the recent Korean wave of popular culture have turned the spotlight on the former Hermit Kingdom. The Korean wave has spurned a small but growing band of foreigners learning Korean. However, the Korean language still falls in the shadow of Chinese and Japanese in most overseas countries, including Australia. Korean is rarely taught in mainstream secondary schools, universities prioritise alternative Asian languages such as Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian, and there’s also a lack of private schools outside of Korea teaching Korean.

While there may seem a lack of obvious options to learn the Korean language, Australia is still a great place to study Korean. To study Korean in Australia you need to be creative, passionate and have the right resources. This is where Asia Options comes in to help! In this article, we share seven tips for learning Korean in Australia, and because many of our readers are students we decided to do it on a shoestring budget. Although we focus on Australia in this article, all steps can be easily replicated in other countries.

1) Korean Learning Resources

The first step is to get your hands on the right resources. There is a wide range of learning materials available in bookstores and online but our pick is TalktomeinKorean (TTMIK). This is an excellent and free resource to learn grammar and the user-friendly format makes learning Korean surprisingly addictive.

Mobile apps are another cheap and convenient option. Asia Options recommends Memrise, WordPower, and of course, DuoLingo. These apps offer a free version but to maximise your learning you might want to look into upgrading to the paid version, which are reasonably priced anyway.

Also, if you haven’t learnt Hangeul, we recommend learning the Korean characters as early as possible. The logical and manageable character system can be memorised in a weekend.

2) Goal setting

The next step is set out your goals and a schedule. This is particularly important for those learning Korean at home. Learning a language can seem novel and fun at first but second language learners often lose interest after a month or two. This is why it’s important to set both short-term and long-term goals to ensure you remain motivated.

Sample goals:

  • Schedule to learn Korean 20 minutes a day.
  • Learn 300 words in three months
  • Learn three phrases a day
  • Speak basic Korean conversation in 6 months
  • Develop enough language proficiency to order a meal at a Korean restaurant
  • 30-day challenge, 20 minutes of listening practice per day.

Make sure you have a hard copy of your goals, whether that be writing out your goals or printing off a list, and placing this somewhere you can review on a daily basis. Another great way to track your daily progress and stay motivated is to sign up to the smartphone app Coach. Coach allows you to add your custom-made daily goals to a list and you can tick them off during the day as you achieve them.

3) Find Korean friends

In major cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane finding Korean friends shouldn’t be a problem but in smaller cities, you may have to look more carefully. University campuses are a great way to find Korean students, and working holidaymakers will also be keen to make local friends and to practice English. You can also use apps like Hello Talk and Tandem to help you find language exchange friends nearby, just be weary of some users who aren’t there to learn languages!

4) Social Media

Now that you have one, two, or more Korean friends it’s time to connect with your friends through social media. You can add your Korean friends on Facebook but if you really want to impress them and communicate through their main medium of online communication, download Kakao on your smartphone. Kakao is a Korean version of WhatsApp. Speaking directly in person is a great way to learn a language but chatting online also has its own unique benefits. Not only does chatting on Kakao offer you a chance to hone your typing and reading skills, it’s also easy to save conversations through a screenshot or copying and pasting phrases into a notes application. Remember to revise words and phrases you learn through Kakao conversations. It also helps to keep a dictionary (hardcopy or digital) and your Korean notes close by while chatting. To increase your opportunity of talking online, you can add Korean students from Korea on Kakao through Hello Talk.

5) Language Exchanges

This step may only be eligible to you based on your geographical location but in several major Australian cities there is the option of joining language exchange programs on campus or public language exchange groups. You can find these, or set up your own, on Meetup(start by searching ‘language exchange’ in your city).

6) Get a Korean Tutor – Cheap!

Getting a tutor for anything in Australia is expensive but that’s where Italki comes in. Italki is a nifty online marketplace for Skype classes with a wide range of different languages, including Korean classes. The beauty of learning Korean on Italki is that you can shop around for language teachers with different levels of experience, class times and class prices. You can find a teacher for as little as USD $5 for a 30-minute class on Skype.

Once you have picked the teacher that best suits your needs you can organise a one-on-one class on Skype and pay for the class with PayPal. Due to different time zones around the world and the large international community on Italki, you could even arrange classes at almost any time or day of the week. You can have a class during your lunch break or in the morning before work or class – just turn off the camera if you don’t have time to wash your face!

As an Asia Options’ reader, you can get USD $10 free credit your account by signing up following this link

6) Get into Korean Culture

The last tip is to develop an interest in Korean culture by downloading Korean dramas, taking up Taekwondo or eating out once a week at a Korean restaurant. While these activities present an opportunity for you to put your learning into practice, there is also a range of other benefits. First, a Korean hobby or activity can inspire and motivate you to study and especially for those hooked on watching Korean drama. Second, developing an interest in Korean culture will help make learning about Korea apart of your lifestyle and improve your understanding of Korea. Thirdly, developing an interest in Korean culture, particularly Korean food and alcohol, will help you connect with your Korean friends and offer more topics for conversation. You can also learn more about Korean culture and quirky news through websites such as koreanbang. KoreaBang also has a great glossary of slang words you can learn.

More tips on how to learn Korean in record time!

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Olly Theobald

Director at Asia Options.
Olly works in Hangzhou China and is enthusiastic about entrepreneurship, e-commerce, Asia education, data science, and foreign languages. Olly is a graduate from RMIT University and the Hopkins Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies. Olly speaks Mandarin and Korean.

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