Korean FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions concerning Korean and learning Korean. If you don't find the answer to your question, please get in touch, we're happy to help!

Where is Korean spoken?

The Korean language is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. Most of its native-speakers live on the Korean peninsula. There are also major Korean-speaking communities in the bordering regions of China, on the Japanese islands, and even within the former Soviet Union.

Relatively large Korean communities can also be found in the USA and the UK. Other communities are found in Singapore, Thailand, Guam, and Paraguay.

How many people speak Korean?

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people, which makes it the 15th language in the world by the number of native speakers.

In the 2010s, Korean has gained popularity among foreign language learners, largely due to the spread of K-Pop and Korean culture. On Duolingo (a language learning app) alone there are over 200,000 students. However, the total number of people who speak Korean as a second language is currently unknown.

What makes Korean difficult to learn?

There are a few peculiarities that can make learning Korean rather difficult. Grammar, syntax, and word order are very different from English and many European languages. Verbs coming at the end with conjugations (there are a lot of verb ending forms in Korean), particles instead of prepositions can be tricky to understand.

Korean also has a lot of complicated pronunciation rules and one and the same word if pronounced differently can have very different meanings.

Another area causing difficulty may be the honorifics – different forms are used in Korean to show different levels of politeness.

Is Korean a tonal language?

Korean is not a tonal language like Chinese or Vietnamese. In these languages, tonal inflection can change the meaning of words. In Korean, the form and meaning of root words remain essentially unchanged regardless of the tone of speech. There is also little variation in accent and pitch.

Is Korean similar to Japanese?

The general answer is yes. Korean speakers understand Japanese to a small extent. Many language learners find learning one language after the other relatively easy.

There are similarities in word order, word endings, and counters. There is some shared vocabulary: usually Chinese loanwords borrowed by both languages.

Is Korean similar to Mandarin Chinese?

These languages are not related, they belong to different language groups. However, during the course of history, Korean absorbed a lot of Classical Chinese vocabulary. Around 60% of modern Korean vocabulary derives from Classical Chinese.

However, this is the only similarity. The two languages have very different grammatical systems using different logic. They also differ greatly phonologically as well.

How did the Korean language develop?

The origins of the Korean language are quite obscure. Modern Korean descends from Middle Korean, which in turn descends from Old Korean, which descends from the Proto-Koreanic language which is generally suggested to have its linguistic homeland somewhere in Manchuria.

"Proto-Koreanic" is not a well-defined term, referring to the language spoken in prehistoric Korea during the Bronze and Iron ages. There is evidence suggests that Korean and Japanese belong to the Altaic language family, which also includes Turkish and Mongolian. Many scholars believe that the language emerged from a single cultural source.

Chinese, although it belongs to a completely different language family, influenced Korean greatly throughout history, which is reflected in a large number of Chinese loanwords in Korean.

The modern Korean writing system, hangul, was devised in 1443.


Korean Vocabulary Books

Learn Korean - Quick / Easy / Efficient

Learn Korean - Quick / Easy / Efficient

This vocabulary book is a curated Korean word frequency list with 2000 of the most common Korean words and phrases. Following the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), this book is built to streamline the learning process by concentrating on the core words and sentence structures. The result is a unique book ideal for driven learners and language hackers.
Korean Vocabulary Book

Korean Vocabulary Book

This Korean vocabulary book contains more than 3000 words and phrases and is organized by topic to make it easier for you to pick what to learn first. It is well suited for learners of all levels who are looking for an extensive resource to improve their vocabulary or are interested in learning vocabularies in one particular area of interest.

Korean Flashcards

Korean Quizlet Flashcards

Korean Quizlet Flashcards

These Korean flashcard sets contain 1300 of the most important Korean vocabularies sorted by topic. Each set represents one topic which allows you to dive deeper into areas depending on your priorities and interests.

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