So, you’ve learned Hangul, the Korean alphabet! You’re excited and ready to get moving! And then you look at a block of Korean text and realize it’s a bit overwhelming. Well, don’t worry, I’ve got an easy way to read Korean faster that you can start doing right away.
There are a lot of great ways to learn Korean for free online these days, and this is another one. The bonus is, this can be done in small bites. Even though it’s simple, it’s really effective and it helped me a lot.
Try this EASY way to learn to read Korean FASTER!
Here’s the secret: Social Media.
No, really. Use social media like Twitter and Instagram to improve your reading. (PS You can also follow me on Instagram here – I post a lot of study inspo!)
I’m a K-Pop fan (that’s putting it mildly). I love a lot of groups and soloists, but my absolute favourite is Taemin, who is also part of the group SHINee. When I first learned Hangul, he had just recently left for his mandatory military enlistment. Somehow I found an account on Twitter that basically provided 3X a day updates on what was being served for meals during basic training. (This sounds vaguely creepy but she got the menu off the military website, it was openly available to anyone.)
I love food so I was interested in the content anyway, but I quickly learned it was an amazing and easy way to learn to read Korean faster. Even as a beginner, it wasn’t too hard because the nature of Twitter is that content is in short bite-sized snippets. I set an alert so I would always see the new tweets and every day I practiced sounding out the words one at a time.
The bonus of doing this:
When I started, of course I didn’t understand most of what I saw. I recognized words like 밥 (rice) and 우유 (milk) because I had learned them in my Hangul class, but the majority of the words were a mystery to me. However, I had visual clues to provide context (the account included an artist’s rendition of what each food was). Also, the food items were listed for me, so hitting the translate button made it really easy to see what a word meant.
Before I knew it, I knew how to say things like soup, stir-fry, and stew, as well as various items like cucumber, pork, and eggs.
I was so disappointed when the account went dormant after the basic training was over, because it was a fun account to follow! I still go and scroll down to find old tweets for practice sometimes.
Find your faves on Twitter or Instagram
Of course, you don’t need to follow a random food-based fan account for your favourite performers. Most of them have social media accounts as well. Sometimes they have their own solo account (such as the Instagram accounts for each BTS member) or they have a collective group account (such as Stray Kids, also on Instagram).
Most of the time, they will post their photos and include a caption in Korean – sometimes they may write it in English or Japanese, but odds are good that it will be in Korean. It’s a fun way to practice reading because if you’re a big fan, you’re probably already interested in what they have to say.
How to use it to your benefit
I usually like to start off by reading it out loud to myself. When I was first starting with Korean, that was honestly all I could do anyway. Reading it aloud helps me with my pronunciation. And the more you listen to other Korean content like dramas and movies or even songs, the more you’ll be able to fine-tune your own pronunciation.
Then I determine which words I recognize. Sometimes I recognize half the words. Other times I only recognize one or two. Some days I don’t understand a single thing and that’s okay too. However, if I can get some of them, then I can make a good guess about what the caption means as a whole.
I think it’s important to remember this – as nice as it is to understand every single word, being able to get the gist of the sentence or paragraph is a huge deal. I’m a native English speaker and there are plenty of words I may not understand in an article or a book. But as long as I understand the sentence as a whole, knowing that one word is not an issue.
Once I’ve guessed the meaning of the caption, I click on the translate button. In-app translation is not perfect, but it’s usually close enough to see if that guess is right.
Another fun thing can be to type out the words in Papago. This gives a more accurate translation but it’s also typing/writing practice!
It’s not just for K-Pop fans!
I used the example of following idols because I do follow a lot of them. It’s the music I love most, so it makes sense. But you can also follow other celebrities like the actor from your favourite drama or the lead actress from the movie you just watched. I follow most of the actors from Squid Game. Some of them are very active on Instagram and I get regular short reading content.
I also follow several backup dancer accounts, like Simeez who has danced with Taemin, SHINee, and others.
Basically any celebrity who posts on social media in Korean is great for practicing your reading. It’s obviously a big bonus if you’re a fan of theirs, so follow all your faves and get reading!
Try this easy way to read Korean faster
Don’t get discouraged by large chunks of text that overwhelm you. Start smaller with shorter captions. You’ll also have more fun reading your favourite idol’s Instagram posts. It’s better than a paragraph about a topic that doesn’t interest you!
Have you tried this yet? Here’s a challenge for you – go follow 2 or 3 social media accounts and get started!