If the last post didn’t discourage you from learning Korean, then perhaps nothing will. Since you are still with me (or more likely you skipped the last post because it was too boring and long–I don’t blame you), below are some online resources for studying Korean that should be well worth your time, no matter what level you are coming from. If you’ve done any searching on your own for study helps, then you know that there is a lot of hastily-put-together crap that wastes your energy and time. If you haven’t, you’re lucky. Here are some of the best online resources that are out there
1. NAVER–Naver is like Google for Korea–it’s primarily a search engine that will deal with queries written in Korean or English. It also contains an online Korean/English dictionary. The site is in Korean, but don’t let that scare you. All you need to know is ‘sajeon’ (사전 = dictionary), find it in the options under the search bar; and ‘yeongeo sajeon’ (영어사전 = English dictionary), which will be one of the search bars that shows up after clicking on 사전. Or forget all of that and just go directly to the Naver English dictionary through this link. If you are more advanced in Korean, you should also know that Naver provides a Hanja dictionary (regrettably not with English translations) and a straight Korean dictionary, as well as several other options.
Naver represents the cream of the crop when it comes to Korean/English dictionaries. I’ve not seen anything better. First, it’s free, unlike those fancy hand-held things. Second, when you type in a word you’ll get definitions, alternative usages, sentence examples, and a few references of where that word was used on the web or in the news. Third, it’s quite user friendly. That said, take each definition with a grain of salt; there are still lots of little mistakes.
2. SOGANG KOREAN PROGRAM–Sogang University in Seoul is recognized by many as having the best Korean program in Korea. It’s noted for helping students to converse quickly. It also has a free website! This is probably the most comprehensive online program you will find without having to pay tuition (and maybe even still). The website contains lessons from background on Korean culture, history, politics, etc. to introductory Korean, to six levels of study (novice 1,2, and 3, and intermediate 1, 2, and 3). Each level has ten different lessons. The lessons contain listening and reading activities, as well as explanations of grammar and vocabulary. If you don’t have the time or money to take a formal classes this is likely your best bet for learning Korean. You should probably get some books though as well.
3. INDIANA UNIVERSITY KOREAN (Center for Language Technology and Instructional Enrichment)–While not as comprehensive as the Sogang site, this is a great resource for listening. At the bottom of the web page find the ‘Languages Online’ section, which will give you links to lectures for first year Korean, semesters 1 and 2; second year Korean, semesters 1 and 2; and fourth year Korean, semesters 1 and 2. The lessons are audio files that are direct readings from the Integrated Korean textbook series out of Hawaii University. If you have those books, these audio files are a perfect complement. If not, they can still be good for listening practice.
4. . MY SOJU–This website is literally an Asian media wonderland, with dramas and movies from several East Asian countries. Just click on ‘Drama/Movie List’ at the top of the page, and then find the links to the Korean stuff. There is enough material to keep you busy for years–it’s also updated regularly. Korean dramas aren’t my cup of tea as far as entertainment goes (my wife loves them though), but they often speak slower and are, well, more dramatic, which makes for easier understanding. The movies are generally faster in speech and often use colloquial forms that are harder to pick up on. The more practice the better though. Some of the stuff even has English subtitles, but don’t use that as too much of a crutch.
5. GOOGLE TRANSLATE–You’ve got to try this one if you haven’t already. It’s as easy as setting the input to English, the output to Korean, typing in your sentences (or copying and pasting from the web), and then hitting the translate button. Surprisingly, it keeps up with quite a few colloquial forms and speech levels. I wouldn’t trust it for answers on a final exam though–there’s bound to be mistakes, especially the longer or more complicated the translation text. It’s great for impressing your friends though on instant messenger. They’ll wonder how you learned so fast.
When it comes to online Korean study, the above are my weapons of choice. At least three more are worth mention though. First, Yahoo maintains a Korean/English dictionary that is pretty good, but NAVER definitely has an edge. The second site is learnkorean.com, which has lessons suited for beginners, 15 short lessons on hanja, and a few other things. Third, is a web page with links to mp3 files for the Integrated Korean textbook series produced by the University of Hawaii (same as the audio files provided by Indiana U.), along with links where you can purchase the actual book.
There’s bound to be other great resources out there that I have yet to stumble upon. If you know of any of them, please enlighten the rest of us in the comments section. Happy Korean studies!