If you are interested in learning the Korean language while in South Korea, you’re in luck – education, especially language-learning, is a high priority in the country. There are ways to learn Korean in South Korea for every type of learner with every size of wallet.
The most inexpensive and flexible way to learn Korean or another language is through a language exchange. Seoulites in particular are very enthusiastic about learning other languages and meeting people from other cultures, so you will find no shortage of individuals who will be willing to meet up in coffee shops for a chat. Websites such as Hanlingo connect people who want to learn other languages in all parts of South Korea. Keep in mind that these sorts of websites can also help potential friendships flourish as well. The downside to a language exchange is that you have to be serious about it in order to learn. In many cases you will meet Koreans who are very talented at English whereas your Korean skills are abominable, so you might be tempted to just speak in English the entire time.
If you plan on being in South Korea for an extended period of time or are serious about immersing yourself in the culture, it might be worth it to sacrifice the money for a university Korean program. Yonsei, Seoul, and Ewha Universities offer the most well-known and approved Korean language programs and have evening classes to cater to the daytime worker’s schedule. The programs will cost you between KRW 400,000-700,000 per semester for an evening program and even more for an intensive daytime program; Yonsei’s program lets you depart with college credits on top of your acquired linguistic mastery. If you are working at the same time, be prepared to get down to the grind – the courses must be attended at least two nights at week and last up to three hours per class (with breaks). One criticism from foreigners is that university courses focus too much on reading and writing and not enough on speaking (reflective of English programs in the Korean school system), so you might want to pick up a language exchange on the side.
A compromise between private study and university pressure might be a private academy. Language academies are abundant in Seoul and probably offer the widest variety of languages for the curious learner. They cost significantly less than a university program, have more flexible hours, and you can sign up for shorter terms. Finding them might be a challenge, as they are usually targeted to Koreans and not foreigners. A few foreigner-friendly academies include YBM KLI, Ganada, and Seoul KLA.
Of course, if you have the motivation, never underestimate the power of books. It is HIGHLY recommended that you at least learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet, before coming to live in Korea and even before visiting, as it will help you immensely if even just to read place names…and it only has 24 letters. I recommend the Survival Korean series by Stephen Revere and the online Sogang University beginner’s program.
Other learn Korean resources:
Return to the South Korea Travel Guide
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