When you are considering learning a foreign language one of the first questions you will probably have is how long it will take to learn.
Knowing roughly how long it will take to learn a language like Korean will enable you to plan out your language-learning journey and optimize your learning methods to cut out anything that could slow you down.
With over 75 million speakers worldwide, a booming economy and a popular culture, Korea certainly does have a lot to offer and so it is no surprise that people want to learn the Korean language.
Learning Korean will enable you to connect with new people on a deeper level and allow you to immerse yourself in the culture more authentically.
Of course, learning a new language will be different for everyone, but having a rough time frame and understanding what can impact your learning speed will help you stay on track to achieving your goals.
This guide will break down how long it will take to learn Korean and will go over the various factors that will influence the speed at which you will learn the language so you can reach fluency faster.
Is Korean Hard to Learn?
The difficulty of a language is of course one of the most important factors determining how long it takes you to learn.
Since Korean is an East-Asian language with a completely different alphabet to English, people often associate it with difficult languages like Japanese or Chinese.
However, Korean is easier to learn than other East-Asian languages since, unlike Chinese, Korean is not a tonal language meaning you do not need to worry about your intonation when pronouncing words.
Although learning the Korean alphabet (Hangul) can seem daunting, it is easier to learn than you might first think.
Learning the basics of Hangul can take just 20 minutes and the Korean writing system uses the alphabet in a very logical way that actually helps you to pronounce the words.
FSI Estimates For Reaching Korean Fluency
FSI stands for Foreign Service Institute and it is an organization that has calculated estimates on how long it takes English speakers to reach proficiency in different foreign languages.
The FSI categorisations divide up languages based on how close they are to English, how difficult they are and how many hours it would take for someone to learn.
The Korean language falls into category five which is the final category and means that it is one of the hardest languages to reach proficiency in.
The FSI estimates that languages in this category need 88 weeks of studying at 25 hours a week to learn the language properly which is 2200 hours of total learning time.
When you are wondering how long it will take to learn Korean, using the FSI estimations are a good idea as they are based on research and will provide you with a rough guide of how long it will take.
However, there are also many important factors that will influence the speed at which you will learn Korean which are not considered by the FSI.
Therefore, it is important to take these estimations with a grain of salt and not let them demotivate you before you have even started to learn Korean.
Below we will go over the many variables that can have an impact on how long it will take you to learn Korean so you can factor these into your own language learning plans and come to terms with how fast or slow your Korean learning journey will take.
How Different Is Korean From English?
As you may already have figured out, Korean is very different from English and will certainly be a bit out of your comfort zone initially, especially if you are a native English speaker.
However, the fact Korean is so far removed from English means you are learning the language from the start with no biases meaning you can progress your learning step by step.
If you attempt to learn a language closely related to English, like French or Spanish, you may struggle with the slight differences in structure and the various ‘false friends’ in the vocabulary.
Learning Korean from scratch is obviously not easy but even if the language is different to English, it still is very possible to learn with a bit of hard work.
The Role of Previous Language Learning Experience
Another important factor to consider when figuring out how long it will take you to learn Korean is if you have experience in learning another language already.
Having learnt another language before you start learning Korean will increase your motivation to succeed since you will know the benefits of understanding and being able to communicate in another language.
Also, if you have previously learnt a foreign language, you will understand your own learning methods much more, know what works for you and be able to use these tactics when learning Korean.
Knowing which methods are best for your own language learning will certainly speed up your Korean learning process since you can get stuck into what you know is effective without any trial and error.
Another benefit of having previous language learning experience is that you know you can succeed and this will likely increase your belief in yourself.
Of course, this factor depends on what language you have previously learnt since if it is too similar to Korean, like Chinese, you might get confused between similar words and the constant mix-ups may frustrate you and slow down your progress.
How Are You Learning Korean
As mentioned above, having the best language learning method that works for you can really accelerate your learning progress.
No matter what way you choose to learn Korean you need to encompass speaking, listening, writing and reading to truly cover all aspects of the language.
However, the way in which you learn each of these skills can vary depending on your preference.
Simply using one method, like an app that only focuses on one aspect and can’t give you in-depth feedback will likely slow down your progress.
Finding a good tutor who can teach you in a structured way and improve your pronunciation as well as correct your work as you go will certainly help you learn Korean faster.
If you are not getting along with the method the teacher is using then you can always try a new one.
Whether you like learning with textbooks, on courses, in classrooms in person or with tutors online, the most important thing about your learning method is that you enjoy yourself and are eager to keep going.
Also consolidating your Korean in your spare time is important and the method you choose to do this can be up to you.
Using a mix of different methods that allow you to converse with natives and practice your reading and writing will, of course, accelerate your Korean learning journey. Similarly, not finding the right learning method can certainly slow things down.
How Much Time Do You Have to Study Korean?
Learning a language is all about putting in the hours and therefore how often you spend each day or week learning Korean will ultimately dictate how quickly you learn Korean.
Of course, your personal circumstances will decide how much free time you have to spend on learning Korean and so it is important to consider this when calculating how quickly you will learn the language.
A student on a placement in Korea or someone who is retired will obviously have more available hours than someone working a job or raising children and therefore they will progress more quickly with their language learning.
However, no matter your circumstances you should still be able to find at least twenty minutes to an hour a day to focus on your language learning goals.
There are plenty of moments in the day to sneak in some language practice, for example, listening to a Korean audio lesson while you do chores or practicing your speaking while on the drive to work.
Small amounts of learning, practicing and consolidating on a regular basis will snowball your momentum and allow you to progress with Korean at a faster rate than someone learning once a week.
What’s Your Attitude and Motivation Toward Learning a Language?
One factor that will heavily influence the speed at which you learn Korean is your motivation for learning and attitude towards the language and the learning process.
Although these factors are hard to quantify, it is always productive to be aware of why you want to learn Korean and maintain a positive attitude throughout the learning process.
Keeping yourself reminded of the reason behind your goal will allow you to push on through tricky times and get to the other side.
Also, not letting frustrations with the learning process and difficulties of the language get the better of your attitude will prevent you from slowing down when things get tough.
Whether you are learning Korean for an exam, a love interest or because you have dreams of relocating to Korea, holding onto your personal motivation and keeping your outlook positive will certainly speed up your learning process and propel you to faster fluency.
Can You Learn Korean in a Year?
Of course, it is technically possible to learn Korean in a year.
Although the FSI estimates an 88-week learning period, you can fit the 2200 hours into one year if you study just over 6 hours a day.
Of course, studying for almost 43 hours a week is very intense and would mean putting in more hours per week than you would for a full-time job.
However, if you have an upcoming gap year that you want to fill, becoming fully proficient in Korean is an admirable goal to have achieved at the end of it and immersing yourself in the Korean language by living in the country will speed up your learning even more.
Of course, for the majority of people, it is unrealistic to expect that level of study.
If you wanted to study every day for twenty minutes it would take you twenty years to reach the estimated hours for fluency and increasing that time to an hour a day would cut that down to just 6.5 years.
Now, if almost 7 years still seems like too much time to dedicate to becoming proficient in Korean then you can speed up the process by optimizing your learning process.
How to Learn Korean Faster
Regardless of the regularity of your studying, there are certainly ways to achieve fluency in Korean faster and it is all about making the most of the time you put in.
As mentioned above, picking the right method and using the right resources can ensure your accelerated progression toward your goal.
Getting high-quality resources and insightful help when learning Korean is vital to making the most of the time you invest and will cut out time wasted on unproductive exercises and tasks.
Focusing your studies on the most used words will of course speed up the time it takes you to learn Korean.
Stop wasting time learning vocabulary that you will never use and make sure to put your energy towards words you will actually use. This will again remove any wasted time stuck on needless things.
Immersing yourself in the language is the best way to become fluent as quickly as possible.
No matter if you cannot hop on a flight to Korea, listening to Korean Drama and K-pop songs as well as reading Korean news are all great ways to immerse yourself in the culture of Korea.
Consolidation and revision of what you have learnt is the best way to solidify what you are learning in your head.
You won’t be able to retain what you have learnt if you do not revise and so going over your lessons is a vital tool to gaining proficiency as quickly as possible.
How long it will take you to learn Korean is in your hands.
No matter how much you want to learn the language, it is all about putting in the hours, finding the right method and sticking to a plan.
Following the tips above will enable you to optimize your Korean learning journey but you won’t progress at all if you don’t start.
Finding out how long it will take you to learn Korean and what you can do to increase your speed is a productive task for setting out a goal but the quicker you start the quicker you will finish.
So get started with a tutor, read some of our online guides and put yourself out there!
Your Korean language learning adventure begins now if you want it to, so what are you waiting for?