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How long does it take to learn Korean?

Updated: Nov 7, 2023


안녕하세요! Koreanstudyjunkie입니다. If you've been asking yourself "how long will it take to finally be fluent?" then I got you covered in this blog.



First of all.. there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is that there is no set number of time. So it depends on the person, how many hours a day you study, how you study material, what kind of things you study, how much you practice using it, etc. I can't tell you in 2 years you'll be speaking Korean fluently, but I can help you figure out an approximate time that you can expect for you YOURSELF to progress enough to where you can either feel accomplished or speak and understand a decent amount of Korean (this is the good news by the way).


If you have no idea where to start or how to study on your own at home - check out my best tips here!


Fluency is a slippery thing! Everyone has a different opinion of what it means to be fluent in a language. Some people will say being able to hold conversations is fluent and others may say that fluency is all in the amount of grammar and vocab you know. You too are allowed to have your own idea of what fluency feels and looks like to you - and I actually encourage you to come up with your own definition and chase it down.



CAN I "LEARN" KOREAN IN A YEAR?


The answer is.. maybe. It depends on your native language and languages that you already know to a decent level. Languages like Japanese will give you a boost for sure. But for English speakers I would lower my expectations a lot.


In a year you COULD be having conversations in Korean (if you focus your study sessions on listening + tons of immersion and conversational practice with a tutor and/or native speakers). That doesn't mean you'll know every word being said or understand every single thing, but you'll be able to pick out parts and understand the overall meaning of what's being said.


You would have to study EVERY DAY for no less than 3-4 hours... and this is not an exact figure by ANY means just a guesstimate by me. But most likely it's more than this honestly.



WHAT ABOUT 2 YEARS?


I would say this is the average duration that I see people conclude to. If you study consistently everyday for 2 years, you could definitely reach some level of "fluency". Once again, this depends on how you are studying. If your definition of fluency is knowing tons of words, you'd probably make it your main focus. Or knowing "all" the major grammar points may be more "fluent" in your opinion, so that's what you put the majority of your energy to. Being able to understand Korean dramas.. TONS of immersion (listening and reading) as well as some grammar and vocab study.


Studying around 2-4 hours a day, EVERYDAY you COULD get to a pretty functional level. Base your study sessions off of your big goals or your idea of fluency and sooner or later.. you'll get there.



THE 3-4 YEAR PERIOD

Even more people that I have seen, say it took them about this long to really feel comfortable in using and understanding the language. While at this point you won't know EVERYTHING, every word, every gammar, etc., you should be able to use your Korean skills to have conversations, consume Korean media somewhat comfortably (sns, videos, shows, webtoons, etc.), and more.


What I want you to do is to Imagine a 3 year old and how much language knowledge they have at that stage of their life. They probably are saying things at this stage and know tons of words even if they can't use them all yet. That would be you! You can not expect to be at the same stage as a 10 year old who has has 7-8 years at that point of practice. Do you get what I'm saying?


Studying 1-2 hours pretty regularly, you can definitly get to the point where you are pretty comfortable in your Korean. You don't know everything and you'll still have more to learn.



LIFELONG LEARNING


When you ask "how long to learn Korean?", I just want to make sure we all know that there is no stopping point. Here the word "learn" feels so FINAL. You will forever be learning this language. As you learn more and more it will take less "maintenance" to keep it up, but there are ALWAYS gonna be words and things you don't know - just like in your native language. I learn new English words and facts about English all the time.


It MAY (just may) take you like 8,9,10+ years to reach NATIVE-LIKE fluency (which means you know almost as much or as much as native speakers and can speak as well as natives do). But just know that in a year from now, you can still be watching your favorite dramas even if you don't know EVERYTHING. You can still visit Korea and speak to natives a year from now, even if you aren't perfect and make mistakes. But they key is HOW YOU STUDY, not necessarily HOW MANY YEARS you study for.


You know what? It's been about 6 years from me and I can definitely say I have reached a pretty good level in Korean. But I am NOT FLUENT. I do NOT study everyday for hours anymore - I believe If I did I could become "fluent" pretty quickly, but I decided that I'm in it for the long haul and I'm going to enjoy my life while I continue to improve and learn. I even picked up Japanese a while back as well, and I predict soon enough I'll be able to converse freely.


I'm not fluent, but you know what I can do and what I have done? I can have conversations in Korean, although I struggle. I went to Korea for the first time, and I was able to live comfortably. I can watch videos in Korean, although I struggle to catch every word. I still can hardly watch Korean dramas without subtitles, but even so I catch and understand a lot more than I used to when I was 2 years in.



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