We’ve heard this question many times: “Hey Fluent Forever, how long does it take to learn Korean?” Well, here’s our answer as we show you how to do it faster.
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the agency in charge of training US diplomats, it takes a native English speaker 2,200 hours of dedicated study – or 88 weeks – to reach professional working fluency in Korean.
The FSI also ranks Korean as a category IV language, which is reserved for “‘Super-hard languages’ – Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers.”
Before you give up, consider that this ranking doesn’t take into account motivation, personal fluency goals, knowledge of other languages, resources available, and other variables that can significantly speed up or slow down the time it takes to learn Korean.
This article will help you estimate how long it will take you to learn Korean, based on your specific situation.
Before we begin, find the best tips, methods, and strategies to learn this language in our Best Way To Learn Korean article. Lastly, remember that the Fluent Forever app and Live Coaching program create the most effective, proven way to learn Korean.
Compared to other Asian languages, Korean is not that hard to learn.
The Korean alphabet, Hangul, is relatively easy to memorize, with only 14 consonants and 10 vowels. On the other hand, Japanese has three separate alphabets, and some characters can mean specific terms or words!
Additionally, Korean is a non-tonal language. Unlike Chinese, there aren’t special tones, sounds, and inflections that change the meaning of a word or phrase.
Lastly, a language’s difficulty and the time needed to master it depend on different personal factors. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Your native language can impact how long it takes you to master a specific language. For example, native Spanish speakers tend to find Italian and Portuguese relatively easy to pick up as a second language because of the similarities the three languages share.
If you’re a native English speaker, Korean will be entirely alien in different ways. Therefore, it will probably take you longer to learn than, say, Dutch or German.
For starters, English and Korean have different alphabets. Sentence structure also differs between the two – English follows a subject, verb, object (SVO) structure, while Korean uses an SOV structure.
These differences make coming to grips with Korean pronunciation and grammar a tad harder. That being said, keeping these distinctions in mind will help you overcome them faster!
If you’ve already learned a foreign language, you will probably learn Korean faster. To begin with, you already know the tools, strategies, and methods that work best for you when it comes to learning a new language.
Secondly, you are more likely to push through learning ruts and plateaus, as you’re aware of the learning process and expected progress.
The methods you choose will either slow down or speed up your Korean learning progress. For example, strategies and tools like apps that teach you vocabulary through direct translation can be rather ineffective.
On the other hand, methods that teach you pronunciation and use flashcards with images to learn vocabulary will accelerate your learning speed. Read more about why and how the Fluent Forever app teaches pronunciation and vocabulary through immediate feedback tests and flashcards.
The more time you spend studying Korean, the faster you will learn the language. Additionally, if you consume Korean with podcasts, stories, films, and series in your free time, you will speed things up even more.
That being said, there isn’t a right or wrong amount of study time. Everyone’s life is different, and schedules change all the time.
So, don’t punish yourself for not being able to study 5 hours a day like a full-time student can. Instead, focus on finding a sustainable schedule to get consistent study time. Every minute counts.
When looking for the best and fastest way to learn Korean, remember that motivation and attitude are fundamental and will directly impact how long it takes you to master it.
Staying motivated will help you commit to your study time and miss fewer sessions, while having the right attitude will allow you to push through learning plateaus or slumps.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how many hours to study, read the sections below.
This will naturally change depending on your personal fluency goals and timelines.
If you’re learning Korean part-time or as a hobby, you can start with 1 hour a day. At first, everything will be new and exciting, and you will probably have no problem sticking to your study sessions.
However, as you move forward, motivation can dwindle. This is when the real test begins. Try to adjust your schedule as you go, and if things get difficult or you’re too busy, focus on getting at least 15 to 20 minutes every day.
If you’re learning Korean full-time, aim for 4–7 hours a day. Regardless of the amount of time you spend studying the language, try to get in as much Korean as possible in your free time through movies, podcasts, and music.
Again, depending on whether you’re learning Korean as a hobby or as a full-time student, the number of hours will vary. For the former, strive for 5 to 8 hours a week.
On the other hand, try to do 20 to 25 hours a week if you’re learning Korean full-time. Again, in either case, adjust your time based on how you feel and your other responsibilities.
The good news is that learning Hangul is relatively easy; it can take you 90 minutes to get the basics down. After 1 week, you should have a solid understanding of this alphabet.
A good approach is to break down the Hangul in chunks and study each one in 15 minute sessions a day. This will give you enough time to learn and review the alphabet, without rushing and committing to the whole thing in one go.
Lastly, boost your Hangul studies by reading the letters out loud while you write them down.
If you spend 30 minutes to 1 hour a day studying Korean, you should be able to hold short conversations in the language 90 days after you start. To achieve this, you should focus on the most frequently used words in the language.
We have a frequency list of 625 words in Korean you can start with. Alternatively, you can speed this up even more by learning these words through the integrated flashcards in the Fluent Forever app.
When you’re able to hold short conversations, you can focus your attention on even more specific vocabulary, phrases, and subjects. After that, and depending on what you want to talk about, you can reach conversational fluency in a year or less.
For example, if you want to learn Korean to speak with your relatives, you can focus on everyday phrases and formal speech. If your sights are set on discussing K-pop drama with friends, shift your attention to K-pop-related words and phrases.
In short, yes, you can learn Korean in a year. However, the effort involved is significant.
You would need to study 40 to 45 hours a week – that’s roughly 6 hours a day – to reach fluency in Korean. That’s intense, even for someone with no job or other responsibilities!
That said, and as we’ve mentioned before, you can speed up this timeline by using the right tools. Below are a few ways you can learn Korean faster.
Whether it’s a book, course, software, or app, make sure the resources you rely on are effective. As a rule of thumb, ensure that what you choose gives you good results and keeps you engaged and motivated to continue learning.
If you want to speak Korean fast, learn the most frequently used vocabulary first. Start with our handy list of 625 common Korean words we mentioned earlier. After you’re done with that, move to other frequency lists like this one.
Surround yourself with as much Korean as possible. Think watching Korean movies, binging Korean TV series, and listening to podcasts and K-pop. The more you’re exposed to Korean, the faster you will learn.
Lastly, be consistent in your studies. Regardless of how long it takes to learn Korean, consistency and commitment will keep you moving forward. Always remember: slow and steady wins the race.
If you want to supercharge your journey to Korean fluency, there’s no better option than the Fluent Forever method. The Fluent Forever app and Live Coaching program provide a tried-and-tested 4-step methodology that gives you the fastest route to mastering Korean.
First off, the Fluent Forever app trains your ears to understand Korean pronunciation. This lets you learn and remember frequently used Korean words easily when you come to step two: building your vocabulary with personalized images through the app’s automated flashcard creation.
Third, while you learn and review useful vocabulary, the app teaches you essential grammar through sentences and phrases with words you already know.
Lastly, with some Korean under your belt, our Live Coaching program pairs you up with a Korean native speaker who’s certified in our teaching methodology. Your language coach will create effective, personalized tutoring sessions based on your fluency goals and interests.
So, are you ready to learn Korean? Start your journey with us today!