Often overlooked for nearby destinations, South Korea is culturally and linguistically unique. Opt to take classes in bustling Seoul or explore the quieter parts of the Korean countryside while practicing with locals, for language learners, there is no place better to learn Korean than in South Korea.
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For Anglophones, learning Korean can be tough. Many students are intimidated by the unfamiliar sounds, writing system, and grammar. Choosing the right type of program can help hesitant students overcome those fears.
If you need the safety of a team to feel comfortable speaking a new language, take a group course where you can commiserate with the other students.
If you like privacy when experimenting with a new language, find a teacher and take private lessons.
Are you concerned about staying motivated? Consider pairing language classes with cultural activities to keep you engaged with your new language.
Several Korean universities offer Korean language classes to foreigners. In the capital, Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University all offer classes to students who want to learn Korean -- and they have the extra advantage of an international student body that makes for a cosmopolitan learning experience.
In the city of Busan, Pusan National University is the most popular and highest ranked university. Their Korean Language Program reputed to be the hardest (and most expensive) available.
However, most universities have strict schedules and curriculum without much flexibility, and really only an option for study abroad students. If you’re interested in studying in Korea for just a few weeks, but would like a communal environment, consider taking a group courses at one of the many language schools in South Korea.
Often the most expensive, but certainly the most accommodating and learn-specific program is a private course. When working one-on-one, students can practice their Korean language strengths and develop their weaknesses.
However, if you're on a budget (looking at you, English teachers...), you might want to consider looking for language exchange meetups. With such a high demand for English learning in South Korea, you should have no problem at all finding someone willing to teach you Korean in exchange for your English knowledge.
Where to Go
Seoul is a city that cranked it up to eleven. The city pulses 24 hours a day, with 11.8 million people streaming to their destination. The Han River bisects the city, bisecting it into Gangbuk, the northern and more historic half, and Gangnam(as in Gangnam Style), the southern, wealthier and more modern half. Many visitors to Korea never make it past Seoul, instead preferring to explore the seemingly endless nooks and crannies of the city.
Language learners will certainly find plenty to occupy them, as well as numerous language schools and universities that are based here.
Busan is industrial, traditional and relaxing all at the same time. Students who wish to move a less frantic, but by no means slower, pace will appreciate Busan’s multitude of diversions, from traditional temples to its annual film festival. The weather is good and the people are kind. What more does a Korean language learner need?
Be warned though, Busan’s accent is quite different from the rest of Korea -- some first time visitors mistake the region’s slang and distinctive staccato for Japanese.
Americans will find that the exchange rate between South Korean Won (KRW) and the USD tilts heavily in their favor. However, while South Korea isn’t terribly expensive, the flight can be. Expect to budget around $1,000 to 1,500 USD for a round trip ticket. Once you arrive, you’ll find that the country is very wallet friendly. Fruit, oddly enough, is often priced like a luxury item. A watermelon can cost as much as $30 USD!
Language schools vary immensely in cost. Don’t be afraid to shop around, but do remember that you sometimes get what you pay for. Cheap programs (while still usually providing high quality instruction) may be bare bones and provide little guidance outside the classroom.
A more expensive program is often all-inclusive and will help organize, housing, transportation or anything else you need.
The Critical Language Scholarship offers funds to student learning languages (like Korean!) that are considered critical to US interests.