Let’s face it– whether it be your love for the popular Korean boy band BTS or your eagerness to upskill, you want to learn Korean as fast as possible. When looking for a way to make quick progress, the question “How long does it take to learn Korean?” is bound to pop up!
Before answering that question, we should tell you that the Korean language falls under the category of the most difficult language to master, especially for native English speakers. However, that certainly does not mean you cannot learn it!
Learning a language can be complex progress. There is no easy way to answer how long it will take you, as it depends on various factors, including the individual.
That being said, learning Korean is definitely worth it in today’s time. With the Korean economy boosting every year and Korean-pop culture gaining global popularity, the language is worth putting some study hours into.
In today’s article, we will answer your question as well as look at different factors that might influence the answer. Without wasting time any further, let’s get started!
FSI Estimates For Becoming Fluent In Korean
The United States Foreign Service Institute (FSI) estimates how long it will take to learn a certain language based on the difficulty level compared to English. There are five categories of languages, and the languages are grouped according to their difficulty level and the time it takes to learn them.
The language categories start from Category I ending in Category V, the difficulty level being the lowest in the first and greatest in the last. The FSI puts the Korean language in Category V, meaning it usually takes 88 weeks or 2200 hours to gain fluency.
However, the FSI leaves out several factors, such as the study methods, personal motivation, learner type, etc. Therefore, these estimates should not be followed religiously.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Korean?
There is no such skill or language on Earth that the entire population can learn at the same rate. Every individual is different, with different learning speeds. So, it isn’t easy to give a specific timeline on how long it may take for a person to learn a language.
We can go over how long it takes to accomplish each step in the learning process. This may give you an accurate idea.
- Learning The Alphabet
The easiest part of learning the Korean language is the Korean alphabet. The Korean alphabet comprises only 24 letters, of which 14 are consonants, and 10 are vowels. With the help of any standard lesson, or a YouTube video, you can master the alphabet in under 2 hours!
It is strongly recommended to master the Korean alphabet and strengthen your foundation before continuing with the learning process. Once you gain a good grasp of it, you will be able to read most Korean words, phrases, and sentences with ease.
- Having A Three-Minute Conversation
The next step after learning the alphabet is gaining enough proficiency to participate in a 3-minute conversation in Korean. With the right study method and course materials, you should be able to gain this proficiency within 90 days by dedicating only 1-2 hours of your day.
Sounds fake? But it’s true!
The key is to focus on the part of the language that will give you the best results. You must learn the words and phrases most commonly used in the language. Otherwise, you would be wasting time learning the things you rarely use!
- Conversational Fluency
The hardest part about learning any language, especially under Category V, is gaining conversational fluency. It is not something that can be achieved quickly without failed attempts. So, you mustn’t lose motivation and hope during the process.
In general, you would not require more than a year to start having full-blown conversations in Korean. Again, the key is to focus on parts used in the daily life of a Korean native. Just pick out the topics that people usually talk about daily.
Once you gain conversational fluency enough to get by in Korea, you can continue your studies by starting to learn more complex topics. Watching K-dramas and involving yourself in the K-pop culture can immensely help the process! Not to mention, incorporating these two can make studying very fun!
Factors Affecting How Long It Takes To Learn Korean
Everyone who wants to learn Korean has one common question: How long will it take? But, since everyone is different, it is impossible to find a specific answer to this. Below are some factors that affect the timeline of learning Korean.
- Your Language Learning Experience
Several linguistics experts have proven that bilinguals and multilingual have a better experience learning a new language than those who speak one language. This is because knowing more than one language exposes you to the rules of different languages.
Therefore, the process should be easier if you already speak more than one language. However, do not be saddened if you’re not bilingual or multilingual. That French class you took in your sophomore year of high school can still help!
- Your Learning Methods
No matter what you want to learn, choosing the right learning method is one of the most critical factors. The best way to learn and excel in Korean is by studying a proper course in a classroom setting. You also need to complete your homework, incorporate Korean words and phrases into your daily life and watch Korean entertainment to improve.
Additionally, you could download apps like Duolingo, talk with native speakers, and use eBooks to practice. Instead of doing the bare minimum, you must give it your all if you want to learn as soon as possible.
- How Different Korean Is From Your Native Language.
Depending on your native language, Korean can be easy or extremely difficult to learn. For example, the language is considered especially hard for native English speakers. At the same time, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic speakers find it easier to grasp Korean.
- Time You Dedicate Towards Learning Korean
Needless to say, the time you dedicate to learning can slow down or speed up the process. According to studies, people dedicating 1-2 hours of their day to learning Korean achieve fluency faster than those who attend weekly classes.
You may dedicate these couple of hours to do anything– whether it be studying grammar, learning new words to improve vocabulary, or watching a movie.
- Your Motivation And Attitude Toward Korean
Ultimately, your motivation and attitude toward Korean will decide how long it will take you to gain proficiency in the language. Naturally, staying motivated is the key to learning anything. You will never achieve the goal if you feel like giving up after every incorrect answer.
Similarly, you must approach Korean with a positive attitude. Even though it is a difficult language to learn, it is certainly not impossible. You must not give up simply because FSI says it is hard to learn!
Can You Learn Korean In A Year?
Since several complex factors are involved, it is difficult to determine whether one can learn it in a year. Some people may learn it in less than a year, while it may take over two years for slow learners.
But is it possible to learn Korean in a year? Absolutely! According to the estimates provided by the FSI, we can conclude that 6 hours of everyday study or 43 hours of weekly study can help you learn Korean in a year.
Then again, this is only an estimate and not a proven fact. Remember to adopt the best learning methods and dedicate the time and energy you’re comfortable with. Do not overdo yourself, or you will do more harm than good!
The Fastest Ways To Learn Korean
The key to fluency in any language is through everyday studying and practice. There are various ways to learn Korean. With an abundance of both online and offline options, you have plenty of choices. Below are two of the best ways to learn Korean.
- Attending A School In Korea
There is no better way to learn a foreign language than to take a language course in that country. You may move to Korea and attend a language school there. Not only will the course be of the highest quality, but you can also make native Korean friends to help you build your everyday conversational skills.
Moreover, schools start teaching from the very basics, meaning you will have a strong foundation. You will start at the very bottom and proceed to learn the most complex words and grammar rules. By attending a school in Korea, you will be able to achieve expert proficiency in Korean in less than two years!
- Learning Online
Not everyone has the budget to move to Korea and pay the offline school fees. This is where online courses can help you! If you have a tight budget, you have plenty of online options to explore. Many globally popular Korean schools provide online language courses.
Here are some good options:
- Hanyang University’s Online Korean Course
- King Sejong Institute
- Yonsei University’s First Step Korean
Learning Korean can take a lifetime if you don’t use the right resources. Investing your time and money into the best Korean learning program can go a long way. As far as the question, “How long does it take to learn Korean?” is concerned, there is no single answer.
The only way to determine the answer is by determining your learning speed. Once you figure out good study methods and prepare a suitable study schedule, the question will no longer be unclear to you.
Do not forget to enjoy the learning process while you’re at it! You do not want to remain stressed about reaching fluency throughout the learning period. Make it fun by watching K-dramas and listening to K-pop songs; you will become fluent in Korean in no time!
We hope we were able to provide an answer to your question in our article. For suggestions or questions, leave a comment in the feedback section below.
While different people may have different opinions, the FSI categorizes Korean as one of the most difficult languages to master. It is especially hard for native English speakers who are not bilingual or multilingual. However, it is certainly not impossible!
You can master the Korean alphabet in a few days with practice and have some day-to-day conversations in Korean. However, it is impossible to master any language and become proficient in it in 3 months. That will require you to do this for at least one year or more.
Needless to say, Korean pop culture has been increasingly gaining popularity worldwide. Moreover, the Korean economy is better than ever. Therefore, learning Korean would help you in some way or another.
Duolingo is good for practicing Korean once you have learned the basics. However, it is not recommended to rely entirely upon Duolingo if you wish to excel in it.
The Korean language is the most similar to Japanese in terms of grammar. Both Korean and Japanese have Chinese words in their vocabulary. If you already know some Japanese and Chinese, you will have a much easier experience learning Korean.