Tried And Tested: 5 Tips for Self-Studying Korean

First of all, I don’t claim to be an expert of the Korean language. I still need subtitles when I watch my favorite Korean variety shows. But as a K-Pop fan, I’m pretty sure most, if not all, of us have heard the questions “Do you even understand what they are saying/singing?” or “Do you even understand Korean?” Well, I don’t understand everything my favorite idols say or sing about—but some, I can say I do. I’ve been a fan since 2011 and I’ve made it a point to at least learn the Korean language little by little. I realise that many of us will have only experienced Korean culture through either K-Pop or some of the nation-specific videos they have on, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an effort to learn what is a beautiful language.

Not all of us can afford to enroll in a formal language class or do not have enough time to spare to attend lessons. However, as much as we listen to the songs and watch the videos, do you know that that is also the perfect moment to learn the language? You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn while fangirling or fanboying. Here are some tips on how to learn Korean the “sariling sikap” way:

Learn the basics

Before you embark on this journey, make sure you are armed with the basic of Korean language—Hangeul, or the characters that make up the Korean words. With the accessibility of Google, it is easy to look for a chart online. You may save the photo, memorize, then research on how to put these lines together to form syllables and words.

Get inspired with oppa, unni, hyung, or noona

What could be better than practicing how to write your bias’ names? Again, it’s easy to search how oppa, unni, hyung, or noona’s names should be written in Hangeul. You may even try to list down all your bias groups’ names and members (for sure you have a lot) using Hangeul! It is also a good way to practice by copying off the Hangeul lyrics to your favourite songs.

K-Pop fans can fill up a dictionary of terms we use when spazzing like daebak (??), jinjja (??), jeongmal (??), arasseo (???), molla (??), aigoo (???), and of course—saranghae (???)! You can practice using these words so that when next time, your bias group holds a concert in our country, you can raise up a placard that says SARANGHAEYO OPPA! in flawless Hangeul cutouts.

Watch and learn from variety shows

I know variety shows are funny and nakakakilig! But have you noticed how each one of them has captions and subtitles plastered all over the screen? Like when an idol did something funny and this Korean text would pop out? If you’re lucky, fandom subbers also add English translations to these captions. Grab a pen and paper then copy off these phrases that appear along with the English subtitle. This can help enrich your vocabulary.

There are times when it’s solo interview time and PD-nims would also add subtitles as our oppa or unni talks. At the same time, our dear subbers add the English translation. So copy off these Korean sentences and the English translation. Seriously. I learned a lot from SHINee’s Hello Baby by doing this.

Side note: Thank you, lovely fandom subbers!

Sing along

To be able to read Hangeul quicker, practice with a song!

Alright. Of course you have memorized these songs by heart as soon as they come out, most probably by checking the romanized lyrics. But next time a new song comes out, try singing along to the Hangeul lyrics (see “The Problems of Romanization“). Don’t expect to be a pro right away though! Start with slow songs, and you might have to pause and repeat the songs from time to time to get it right, but it is good practice. When your speed is already improving, challenge a more upbeat song. And when you can already nail a whole song without fail—why not go for a Zelo-level Warrior LTE rap?

Research, research, research!

Many things can be found online now. There are a lot of free apps like dictionaries, translators (never rely too much on Google Translate though), and phrase books that you can easily download (that is, if your devices still have extra space not yet invaded by the latest MV or album). I even found an app that teaches the proper usage of Korean particles and sentence patterns to help me form my own sentences. All you need to do is research. You would be surprised at how many results would turn up from a single Google search. These are all readily available in the net—you just have to look for them.

Most of all, you should really have the will to learn the language. It won’t be easy at first especially since this is self-studying. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to push through and learn. But it’s rewarding in the end; soon you might be able to understand what your beloved bias is saying or even know what their songs are all about without looking at the English translation. So have a lot of courage and strength.

Hwaiting (???)!

Written by Minnie Dela Cruz

This is your captain speaking

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