Total Beginner - where to start?

Hi guys!

So I promised my best friend I would start learning Korean with her in July.

There’s only one problem… I’ve never studied Korean before and have no idea where to start!

So my question to any current or previous Korean students is: would you recommend that I…

  1. start by memorising the Korean alphabet/writing system and then learn vocabulary
  2. learn some basic vocabulary and grammar first (i.e. focus on spoken language and treat the writing system as a secondary priority)
  3. strike a balance between both vocabulary and writing systems

For context, we’re hoping to take a trip to Korea next summer, so luckily we have lots of time to play with.

Any other pieces of advice (or words of warning :wink:) you guys have would be very much appreciated!

Thanks in advance :grin:


Start with the Korean Flexi Classes Intro level. Hangul will be taught there in the first few classes. For levels above Intro Level the order of the topics is not so important however for the Intro level I would recommend to study the topics in the order they are shown on the “My Level” page.
Hangul is a pretty amazing writing system and you will get it quite quickly.

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Hey Hannah, I swear we are just mirroring each others language paths here! I’m waiting to hear you start your Italian journey next :sweat_smile:

If I can give a piece of advice from a fellow Japanese/Mandarin student who dipped into Korean:

1 - Hangul is easy. As Andreas said, nail that before anything else. I remember a friend telling me you can learn it in an afternoon but I laughed it off. Turns out she wasn’t far off. It’s dead easy and super logical.

2 - After this I learned some loanwords that read exactly as they’d sound in English. This really boosted my motivation early on. Not sure why but it’s something I love to do as it gives me the illusion I am learning stuff fast! We wrote an article with 60+ here - 63 Korean Loanwords {Konglish} | This List Will Surprise You

Funnily enough, one relevant to us…

3 - Take care of the pronunciation. The romanization is a bit confusing because many Korean consonants come with two potential sounds. For example ㄱ is pronounced g or k and ㄷ can be d or t. It took me some time to truly understand this although I think I still never quite fully got my head around it. Take care of that and ask questions.

We wrote a blog on the alphabet here to maybe help give you a head start -

Flexi Classes has 4 Hangul classes with an extra review class so I’m confident after doing those you’ll be fine.

After that I’m not in a position to add much more I’m afraid!

I took the first chapter of Flexi Classes in Korean before stopping. For me, juggling 4 languages with a full time job was unrealistic! 3 is enough :rofl:

Korean is one I will come back to in the future but I hope to hear you make some great progress, which I’ve no doubt you will.

I am sure @Marine has a few tips as an avid Korean learner as well.


Incidentally there is word on the street that a Flexi Classes Italian course might be in the works :grinning:


Shouldn’t you start with German @Andreas-Mandarin-HSK_6 ?! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Haha true. step by step ,一步一步走

Ha - I was literally thinking of posting this question! I’m in Korea for work right now, and it looks like I will be here quite frequently for the next 2-ish years, so wondering how long it would take to cover the basics. However, with the extreme amount of time it’s taken for Mandarin, I’m scared to start :smiley:

I’m interested to know about tones/pronunciation too - I feel like most foreigners still can’t be understood after learning for quite a while in Chinese, and my main purpose to learn would be to try and make my trips easier and communicate (I’ve found so far that most people can’t speak English at all). Do new Korean learners find this difficult? Or is it more like Spanish where even if you say it really badly, someone can get what you mean

And final question! Do LTL have any useful beginner youtube videos similar to those they have in Mandarin, that kind of explain some basic vocab? Right now, honestly, everything sounds the same to me :smiley:

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Personally I found it tough at the start but as I’ve only taken 10-15 hours of lessons I don’t really feel in a position to comment.

If I think back to that stage in Mandarin I most likely felt the same.

What I do know is the alphabet is a piece of cake to learn and it opened the door.

Videos - we are looking into this in Marketing right now actually. Korean has oddly been the hardest one to find collaborators for when compared to Mandarin, Japanese and even Vietnamese. We’ll get there soon :smiley:

Very cool you get to go there for work though - had an absolute belter of a time in Seoul back in 2019.

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Koreans seems to adjust their ear to foreigners because they are able to figure out what you want to say really quickly and are very helpful.

Honestly you don’t need to speak Korean to live and work in Korea but it’s awesome to make the effort and it is appreciated. I will say I learned Mandarin after Korean and found Mandarin much easier.


To brush up on Korean, to make sure I covered all the material in the curriculum, I started from the review lessons for Korean A1 and I’m going take the entirety of Korean A2 and B1.

I found the beginner lessons did a great job on the pronunciation rules that you don’t get clearly explained in text books. If you start from the first lesson you’ll make great progress if you are a steady learner.


Scary!! Did you ever delve into Japanese Siobhan?

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Only to the tourist level of saying Hi, how are you, greetings for different times of day, and asking for water. My friends in Japan speak English or Korean so that’s what I use when I’m there LOL


Nice to know. I find it interesting how students of Asian languages in the west start with one and then can’t help but dip their toe into other related languages.

Many of my friends from China have tried another (Korean or Japanese namely) after studying Mandarin.

Differing thoughts on the hardest is always an interesting discussion as it seems to vary by the person.


Also find this interesting, from Korean, Chinese and Japanese I found Japanese and Korean easier to study, because no tones and you can start reading much faster. For me Chinese has simple grammar structure, but tones need to be worked on very hard from first moment you start learning characters and you can’t start reading so easy, you need to know the character to be able to read…With Korean, once you know the alphabet, you can start reading and get your vocabs from reading immersion…also for me personally it is clear language for listening immersion, similar with Japanese. For Mandarin, I think it is more difficult to hear the words out, for sure also depends who speaks them, I find the Mainland sounds more muffled. I prefer the “clearer” version from Taiwanese Mandarin.


It’s interesting you found learning vocabulary from reading immersion easier in Korean. Since no word in Korean is written or spoke like its dictionary form and it is highly contextual it requires careful reading on my part to ensure I have the full meaning of the sentence. Konglish would also randomly throw me for a loop.

In contrast for Mandarin I found once I learn a character it’s much easier to grow more. Plus there is a lot of reading material and listening material focused on HSK levels to allow for expansive reading and step by step improvement. Tones didn’t bother me much as my initial learning path focused purely on speaking and pinyin for the first month.

Everyone else I know that studied Mandarin and Korean feel the same way but we are in the same learning groups too.


In my experience, Grammar is really no fun so I do love the fact with Mandarin you don’t have to spend anytime on tenses or conjugations in reality.

With Japanese and Korean you spend many hours dissecting these and trying to get them right.

I think living in China when I was learning Chinese played a massive role in getting over those early tone fears as I could utilise it everyday. I never really felt overwhelmed by it as I was just speaking it every single day. Currently with Japanese I am learning with Flexi and then never using it with a person here in London, that slows progress down.

Moral of the story - I need to move back to Asia soon!


You’re exactly right as my experience in difficulties with Korean was very much about grammar and speech politeness levels.

Not having conjugations is a huge reason I felt Mandarin was easier than Korean…or even Intermediate-Advanced Spanish.


Wow thank you so much for all the advice guys! I’ve started on some beginner-level Hangul and after living with traditional Chinese characters in Taipei, writing letters made up of a couple of strokes has definitely been a nice experience :joy:
So far I’m finding the pronunciation to be a little difficult - those vowel sounds!! :skull: but I’m hoping it will be like Chinese tones and after a while the sounds will just become more natural