When it comes to learning a foreign language, Spanish, French, and Italian seem to be the most popular choices. While Korean may not be at the top of your list, there are several fantastic reasons to learn Korean.
In this guest post, Billy Go from Go! Billy Korean explains the benefits of learning Korean, and shares his tips to help you overcome three common challenges you may face on your Korean-language journey.
People often ask, “Why should I learn Korean?” I may be a bit biased when it comes to this question since I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Korean, but there are several fantastic reasons to learn Korean.
I’m a 29-year-old Los Angeles native, and I have studied Korean for over 10 years. I can also speak proficient Japanese, conversational French, and basic Mandarin and Cantonese. Of all the languages and cultures I’ve studied, Korean has definitely proven to be the most useful.
Because I could speak Korean, I was able to get three different translation jobs during college. These were all part-time jobs which paid well, had flexible hours, and were more pleasant than most other jobs available to a college student.
After graduation, I found my first real, full-time job thanks to my Korean-language skills, and I don’t see an end to the benefits of being able to speak Korean.
The promise of a better part-time job may not be enough motivation for you to study such a difficult language. Fortunately, employment opportunities aren’t the only benefit of learning Korean.
When you learn Korean, you’ll also make new friends. There are over 80 million Korean speakers in the world, which means there are millions of Korean speakers who could be potential friends.
Many of my best friends are native Korean speakers whom I met in Korea and through the internet, and I can’t imagine not having met them. There’s nothing wrong with having more friends in more places!
Plus, if one of your Korean-speaking friends becomes a boyfriend, girlfriend, or even a spouse, then you’ll always have an important use for the language. Since I began teaching Korean, I’ve met many people who learned Korean specifically to date a Korean boy or girl. When you have a clear goal for yourself, you’re more likely to learn the language faster and more efficiently.
Some people begin studying Korean because of their love for Korean dramas (K-drama) or Korean pop music (K-Pop). It doesn’t matter why you start learning Korean; as long as you have a clear goal, you’re more likely to be successful.
Awareness and Self Improvement
I’ve noticed that people who study Korean (or any foreign language) are generally more open minded and understanding towards others. In order to learn a foreign language, you not only have to learn the language, but also the culture and mindset.
Speaking English will give you exposure to other English speakers, but there’s a world filled with over seven billion people who have different beliefs and opinions. The more you can learn about different people, the more open and accepting you will be.
Getting out of my comfort zone has taught me a lot about the people in the world around me – at least about the people in Korea. Self-improvement is another positive side effect of learning Korean.
Keep in mind that learning Korean can be challenging. It may not be as hard as you think, but it’s not necessarily easy.
Korean is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. There’s a reason that government programs allot at least 2,200 hours of rigorous study for a person to become proficient in Korean, while they only allot around 575 hours for Spanish students.
Here are a few challenges you may encounter when you begin learning Korean.
Korean is a S.O.V. (Subject – Object – Verb) language. This means that the subject comes first in a sentence, followed by the object, and then the verb. This is different from English, which is a S.V.O. (Subject – Verb – Object) language.
While making simple Korean sentences is usually not a problem, the difficulty arises as sentences become longer and more complex.
The Korean language is filled with particles, which are words used to construct most grammar forms. Unfortunately, these particles do not have simple English translations, and their translations can vary depending on the sentence.
As such, you need to learn particles through examples, memorization, and repetition. Although particles can feel like a roadblock at first, like anything in Korean, you can master particles with time and practice.
You can say “hello” in English to any child, teenager, friend, adult, teacher, relative, or elder without getting in trouble with regards to politeness. In Korean, however, politeness levels change based on your audience.
You may use polite Korean to speak to someone older or someone you just met, casual Korean to speak to a close friend, and honorific Korean to speak to your boss. Fortunately, there are simple rules to help you determine the speech level required in certain situations, and these rules can be memorized quickly.
Despite these challenges, with practice, and lessons with a qualified Korean teacher, anyone can learn to speak Korean.
Don’t get discouraged, it’s important to keep going, even when you hit one of these three roadblocks. Know that everyone else who has learned Korean has been where you are, and you’re more than capable of achieving any goal that you set for yourself.
You Can Reach Your Goals in Korean
I love teaching Korean, because I love to help people reach their goals. I really enjoy watching people learn and improve.
It’s almost magical to see someone, who could barely say “hello” in Korean a year ago, learn to carry on full conversations, and even teach grammar to other beginners. Trust me, these are not rare cases.
People who have specific study goals are more likely to succeed; so set aside the time and put in the work.
행운을 빕니다 (Good luck!)