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Learn to read, write, hear, and say the Hangeul 한글 characters used for written Korean 한국어. Unlike Chinese/Japanese characters, the Korean language has a phonetic alphabet, so after a few hours of practice, it’ll be possible for you to read a Korean newspaper or book aloud. You won’t understand any of what you’re reading, but you can sound out the words and be understood (more or less) by a native speaker. You may be surprised how many things you’ll understand that were mysterious or totally opaque before, but which become obvious and interesting once you know just this one thing.

If you’re enthusiastic and have a good mind for language learning, you can skip step one and go straight to LingoDeer, but here’s how I learned to read, speak, and write 한글:

  1. KOREAN LETTERS
    This is a very simple flash card app that’s appealingly goofy in its lo-fi aesthetic. It walks you through the entire Korean alphabet and sounds out the basic vowels and consonants. It’s hard to imagine an easier way to learn this body of material, and once you finish, you’ll probably be suprised at how painless it was.
    Korean Letters for iPhone
    Korean Letters for Android
    Even though this is a pretty rudimentary app, it costs $1.99 to buy the full version, so if you want to try before you buy, there’s a free Lite version here:
    Korean Letters Lite for iPhone
    Korean Letters Lite for Android
  2. LINGODEER
    This is a full-blown language app that teaches the Korean language (한극어) up to an intermediate level. That’s a LOT of work, and we’re not asking you to do that (until level three, anyway). LingoDeer charges money for this phenomenal resource, but for our purposes, you can get the trial version that, conveniently enough, gives you an in-depth look at 한글 for free. The easy Korean Letters app is great for learning the basic sounds, but LingoDeer shows how to understand more complex Korean characters, which commonly contain three or four letter fragments and may have up to six! In our dojang, students often appreciate knowing how to do things exactly the right way, so LingoDeer shows how to write characters using the correct stroke order, which is a subtle but important difference. Some of this is overkill for learning simple Korean words spoken aloud, but it’s a useful foundation for learning Taekwondo terminology in Korean (achievement level two) and deeper language study.
    LingoDeer for iPhone
    LingoDeer for Android
  3. DUOLINGO (Updated 27 August, 2021)
    Duolingo is the world’s leading language study app, but its Korean unit is feeble compared to LingoDeer’s. That said, it has an especially robust section on learning Hangeul, including the correct way to write each letter by hand. If you find Korean Letters too rudimentary and LingoDeer too difficult, you can download Duolingo for free, do its comprehensive Hangeul section, and forget about the rest.
    Duolingo for iPhone
    Duolingo for Android

Note that LingoDeer can also be used via web browser on a desktop/laptop computer. You can do that at lingodeer.com and here’s a link to take you directly to the Korean study course. To take the first step and learn the alphabet, there’s nothing wrong with using the browser version. The app is more helpful if you want to actually learn the language, because you can whip out your phone whenever you have five minutes to kill, and do something useful and satisfying instead of doomscrolling Instagram or whatever.

Good luck, and if you need help or want to practice, ask a RVTKD instructor.

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