The best way to learn a language quickly is a native speaker that you’re friends with and speaks relatively good English. However, many people live in the middle of nowhere with no native speakers or native speakers that won’t answer questions or won’t be bothered.

So the next option would be language courses. (Which can be enhanced by the former). Unfortunately, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and other languages just don’t get taught in Colleges accross the country. So if you’re one of those people stuck in the middle of nowhere and no when, watching dramas and thinking to yourself, I wish I knew X language, this will help you get the BASICS. It won’t get you fluent, but when you do get to take classes, etc this is ONE method of learning the language. It DOES help if you have learned a previous language formally.

In general, this should also help with other languages as well, such as French, Spanish, German, whatever. It won’t work if you use animation, or dubovers. You need to be able to see the proper lip formations to be able to pick up the proper sounds and speed. Also Animation has the tendancy to have 1. Special speech designed for it (much like poetry) 2. Childish speech. 3. Improper speech. So stave off of animation unless you have a vested cultural interest in learning bits of it that way.

1. First listen to the patterns of the language.
You don’t have to study particular words, but listen for rises and fall of the language. Observe how the language stops, starts, where things are accented, not accented and figure out the corresponding intonation that goes with that. This is also a good time to pick up body gestures. With Korean, as supposed to English, it’s more of an emotional curve. Everything rises to a point and then smoothly falls. Where as in English there is a clear delineal stop after each word where the emotions are seaparte from that curve. Korean rises with the emotions. This make Korean an “emotive” language. Japanese is more like English where it has syllables and doesn’t follow an emotional curve. Chinese is clearly inflective and this makes it much harder to pick up for an English listener. The key to Mandarin, for example, is to listen for the length of the vowel sounds. Copy a few to get the hang of it. This will help you with your accent. It’s better to learn this BEFORE specific words because you are paying attention to how one thing sounds, rather than a specific set of sounds. So you can pitch your voice right, and get proper intonation for the situation you are in.

2. Look up the grammar structure of the language.
Japanese and Korean are SOV while English and Chinese is SVO (S being Subject O being Object and V being Verb). With most SOV languages there are markers for each part and transition of speech. This makes it easier to run together words. If you look up Korean you’ll find “nun” and “un” mark the subject “i” (spelled: wi) is a posessive, and so on. Look those up too. Chinese won’t have those. Japanese will. (ga, wa [ha], no, o [wo], etc) Also look for what drops in the language. Usually for SOV it’s the subject, where the object in SVO usually drops. “I am,” in English is acceptable, but in Korean “Na nun imnida” isn’t. Just the same as “Kim Yunmi imnida” wouldn’t work in English as “am Kim Yunmi.” You have to be aware of these three very basic grammar rules to be able to pick up words. Ignore the verbs for now.

3. Pick up nouns. (Subject and Object)
For example, pick up the word for “friend” or if a phrase is repeated, repeat the phrase “You want to die?” was often repeated in Chun Hyang. “Mind your Business” in My Sassy Girl movie. “I am going crazy” also is often repeated. “Friend” is often said, “yes”, “no”, etc can easily be picked up this way. Pay attention to where the phrases are used and in what context too while you repeat them. Try to approximate them first, write them down and look at the Korean Dictionary link I have posted for proper spelling. (They have a hangul chart, so don’t panic, it’ll be good for you.)

4. Verbs.
Look up next how to conjugate versb. For example in Korean there is formal and informal and it’s not dependant on the subject as much. There are no plural forms like in English for “I” “We” “She” “He” “It” “They” like in English. However, knowing present, past and future forms is important. Your Korean drama of choice (one that deals with the evolution of the characters would be perfect for this) can help you distinguish after you look it up. Reenforce it by looking at your guide.

5. Placements and repetitions.
Once you have a grasp of the basic vocabulary, it’s time to pay attention to the social situation where they belong. So “Mijeoseo” is not said in X situatuion because her grandfather is there, however, she will bow and say thank you. She was scolded when she said X in front of her parents. “Aigoo” was said when X person was crazy. The hick farmer says “Aigoo,” where the business man does not. That kind of thing. This will help you with understanding the context. Because no culture uses language exactly the same. While you might say, “I’m going nuts” to your parents in the US or Canada, in Korea you would more say, “I’m doing horribly because…”

Also look at repetitions. Often the same exact word is translated into 10 different ways. That’s not by accident, it’s part of the language the informal version of hello and goodbye is “annyoung”. Figure out the social situation, then figure out why that word is being used. Many dramas are repetitious, so use this to your advantage to view and learn from it. If you can figure out why it’s done in English, that’s good for you too.

6. Continue to pick up more complex vocabulary.
Listen and look for words you don’t know. Figure out their placing and practice them again and again.

7. Repeat entire phrases.
When you do this you should know enough of the grammar to know which word is what in the sentence. So when you repeat it and know the context, then it will work.


- Don’t assume all English words will be used properly. “Fighting” makes no sense in English, but it does in Korean. (It’s actually p’i-t’in-gu. That’s why it’s worth looking it up.)
- You can also learn about manners and customs which is also good. It will help you use language properly.
- Don’t be afraid to rewind when you want to repeat a phrase.
- Don’t be afraid to look things up. Use that dictionary, online or not and the grammar guides. Having a separate tab or window (tab is in Firefox and Safari, not in IE. IE sucks anyhow, upgrade to Firefox). with the dictionary in question.

Most of the words and phrases I learned off of Korean are from dramas. And I’ve tried them elsewhere without too many crazy looks. I also like to watch shows like Full House “Super Junior” version, which has some interesting notes on speech and X-men for picking up regular and unscripted speech. The speech they aren’t supposed to say is really good for it. Because everything goes at regular speed without annunciation, and the inflections are more culturally relevant. Also the situations will severely differ from the dramas and give a more expansive view. The more you see of a foriegn language, the better off you will be. (Though I still say stay away from animation until you have a good set.)

Oh and this won’t get you a significant other from that language you want to speak. That’s a whole other subject and I have a personal rant about that.