It's not impossible to learn Korean.
There, I said it. I gave it all away, right at the beginning of this post. Now you know.
Now you can go forward, keep on learning, and never again doubt the fact that you (yes, you) have what it takes to learn Korean. All because I, Some Guy on the Internet said so.
It's not so simple, is it?
You have doubts. Maybe people have told you that Korean grammar is really, really, really hard, or even brought up the fact that the United States Foreign Service Institute (FSI) ranks Korean among the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.
You can't just believe me when I tell you that still, despite all of those things, learning Korean is not just possible for you, but very possible.
You want proof. You want to see with your own eyes that someone you can learn Korean, and learn it damn well.
Well, lucky for you, I've found someone who fits that description.
Or rather, five someones
Today, I want to share with you the stories of five non-Korean people who wanted to learn Korean—and then did it.
Not only that, but they're public about it, working hard online to share their experiences and help other people learn Korean, too.
These people are living proof that you can learn Korean. They can be your teachers and your role models, your inspiration for when progress seems slow, or non-existent. They represent the Korean learner you can become, if you want to.
So, what are we waiting for? Let's meet them!
Lindie Botes is a designer and language enthusiast from South Africa, who has been studying the Korean language for about ten years.
Over the past five years, Lindie has used her self-titled YouTube channel as a platform to share her passion for language learning with the world. In addition to Korean, Lindie also speaks Afrikaans, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and French.
How Lindie Botes Can Help You Learn Korean:
Since the very beginning of her YouTube career, Lindie has been sharing her Korean knowledge and experience with her viewers. On her channel, you can find a variety of Korean-related videos, including:
- Intermediate Language Lessons
- Book, course and app reviews
- Vlogs (often entirely in Korean!)
- Study and practice tips
- General language learning advice
Lindie's support for Korean learners also extends to her website, where she shares language learning tips, as well as a few in-depth articles on the methods she uses to study her various target languages.
If you find that Lindie's learning style really resonates with you, you can even book Korean tutoring lessons with her on her website. Her one-hour lessons are very reasonably priced, and will help anyone who speaks Korean up to an upper-intermediate level.
Cassie Casper is an American teacher who has been learning Korean for approximately ten years. She began by studying resources from Korean-content heavyweights KoreanClass101 and Talk to Me in Korean, a fact made all the more impressive now that Cassie has been working as a teacher for TTMIK since 2017.
How Cassie Casper Can Help You Learn Korean:
Though Cassie does have her own YouTube channel where she posts a variety of vlogs on Korean learning and her own life in Korea, the core of Cassie's value towards Korean learners can be seen through the work she does at TTMIK alongside Hyunwoo Sun and the rest of the team.
To call Cassie a mainstay on the Talk to Me in Korean YouTube channel would be an understatement. As the only non-Korean person on the otherwise all-Korean TTMIK team, Cassie's perspective as a skilled learner of Korean has allowed her to bring unique insights to all of the channel's offerings.
She appears in many of the channel's most prominent video series, where she shares her experiences as a learner of Korean and a foreigner living in Korea.
These series include:
- Korean Culture Talk
- Korean Jigsaw Puzzle
- The "Awkward Way to Say" Series
- Essential Korean for Beginners
- Korean Study Hack
- Korean Buzzwords
Billy Go is an American teacher and entrepreneur who has been learning Korean for the past 14 years. He is the founder and face of Go! Billy Korean, a website and YouTube channel dedicated to helping people understand Korean language, grammar, and culture. He got his start in online Korean education after making grammar explanation videos for friends who were struggling with the language; the videos were so well received that he decided to make a career out of them.
How Billy Go Can Help You Learn Korean
Billy Go is all about making the complex and confusing aspects of Korean more accessible for learners. His enthusiasm for teaching is matched only by his prolific output; to date, he has published nearly 400 videos on YouTube, all about Korean language and culture.
In conjunction with the channel, Billy has a website loaded with useful resources for all levels of Korean learners, including:
- Grammar textbooks & workbooks (3 levels, all written by Billy himself)
- Grammar explanation videos (with downloadable PDFs)
- Korean Culture and Language Q&A Videos
- Street interviews with native Koreans
- Test preparation videos (for Beginner and Intermediate learners)
- Live-streamed Korean classes (available in both abridged and unabridged forms)
Whether you are struggling with a grammar point you just can grasp, or you are just looking for some fun Korean-related cultural content, you can't go wrong with Billy and his excellent-quality Korean learning content.
- How Learning Korean Has Changed My Life
- How Hard Is It to Learn Korean?
- The Best Way to Learn Korean Vocabulary
Sean Pablo is an American YouTuber who has been learning Korean for 4 years. He came to Korea to be an English teacher for a year, but became so interested in the Korean language and culture that he's been living in Korea and learning Korean ever since.
How Sean Pablo Can Help You Learn Korean
Unlike the other YouTubers on this list so far, Sean's primary focus is not to teach you Korean. Though he regularly shares his thoughts and recommendations on how to learn the language well, the bulk of Sean's content is dedicated to Korean culture. Within that realm, he shares videos on a variety of topics that include:
- Dating culture in Korea
- Life in Korea as a foreigner
- Non-Koreans who speak Korean well
- Koreans who speak English well
- American culture (for Koreans)
- Language oddities (Difficult-to translate words, swear words, pronunciation quirks, etc.)
Sean's videos are particularly useful for intermediate and advanced learners of Korean, as nearly all of them are dual-subtitled in Korean and English. On top of that, Sean tends to speak mostly in Korean throughout, even in vlogs where he speaks only to the camera.
- Full-time YouTuber in Korea - Sean Pablo (TTMIK Interview)
- Words that are Difficult to Translate from Korean to English
- Searching for the Korean speaking foreigners in Sinchon (Seoul)
Dave Levene is an American YouTuber who has been learning Korean and living in Korean since around 2010. For the majority of that time, he has been documenting his perspective on life, Korean language and culture through a series of almost 500 videos. He is one of the most famous and longest-working non-Korean YouTubers in South Korea.
How Dave Levene Can Help You Learn Korean
Like Sean Pablo above, Dave's goal is not strictly to educate learners of Korean or English. Instead, his content is meant to entertain, providing a largely humorous look into both his own life and the lives and cultures of the people he interacts with.
Also like Sean Pablo, Dave's content is highly valuable for intermediate and advanced learners of Korean, as everything is subtitled in both languages, and Korean is spoken a majority of the time. Furthermore, his videos regularly feature Korean speakers and learners from a wide-variety of backgrounds.
In his catalog of nearly 500 videos, Dave covers:
- Pronunciation differences between Korean dialects
- Cultural differences between Koreans and non-Koreans (from many countries)
- Life in Korea as a foreigner
- Interviews with prominent Korean celebrities
- English lessons for Koreans
- Pan-Asian culture
Recently, Dave has also began a second channel (Dave's Sesang 데이브의세상) dedicated to helping English speakers learn Korean. On this channel, he goes more in-depth with his own experiences learning Korean, and shares the methods, tips, and techniques that he has found most useful over the years.
- 솔로 아티스트 HA:TFELT 예은의 첫 시작 인터뷰! Chatting +Interview with YeEun
- How I learned Korean 제가 한국말 어떻게 배웠는지 이야기!
- Korean regional dialect differences
Following in the Footsteps of Successful Learners
The five Korean learners who I have described above are just a small sample of all the non-Korean people who have managed to learn Korean to an impressive level.
After hearing these learners' stories and seeing them in action, I hope you agree with my assertion I made at the very beginning of this article—that learning Korean is not impossible.
No matter who you are, and no matter the circumstances of your life, learning Korean is a possibility for you, too. You just need to start, work at it every day, and allow yourself time to grow into the Korean speaker you were always meant to be.
Oh, and keep in mind that with one exception, every single learner on this list has been learning for ten years or more. It may not take you ten years, five years, or even two years to be conversational in Korean, but if you can stick with it for ten years, I'm sure you'll reach just as impressive a level as anyone on this list.