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Learn Korean, Part III

screenshot of LingoDeer app for iPhone

In the ongoing saga of my efforts to learn the Korean language, I have a third installment for those who may be interested in this exciting and satisfying cultural journey. Having studied every day since mid-November—some days as little as 10-15 minutes, other days up to 3-4 hours—I have a number of new observations:

  • I started learning Korean in earnest when DuoLingo finally released the Korean program for its highly successful app that offers dozens of other languages. This was the subject of my second blog post on learning Korean. After a little over a month, I concluded that I was becoming a master of DuoLingo, but not really learning Korean: I could get question after question right without really feeling like I knew what I was doing.
  • A little research led me to try LingoDeer, a lesser-known app, but one that specializes in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. I worked in both apps simultaneously for about two months and decided that I prefer LingoDeer because it:
    • has grammar tutorials built right into the app, so it’s not necessary to consult the website for explanations and context for a given lesson. I like the self-contained portability of the app, which lets me study in short bursts whenever I’m trying to fill a few minutes in my day.
    • has a more clear and methodical method of introducing concepts. it feels like one lesson builds into the next, where in DuoLingo, I felt like concepts were often thrown together with little explanation or continuity.
    • tries harder to make sense. DuoLingo had an odd habit of making nonsensical sentences to translate. this meant if you had the confidence to write “This chicken rides a horse” you really knew what you were doing. . . but it also seemed to make things harder than they really needed to be.
  • The more I practice the more fun I have. Surprise, surprise: much like Tae Kwon Do study, it’s not very satisfying to make a half-hearted effort, but when I really throw myself into practice, I make all kinds of connections and insights that I wouldn’t if I were treating it as a chore.

Although I still use DuoLingo from time to time—since it seems to offer more vocabulary training, and the slightly different focus from LingoDeer is sometimes useful—I’ve switched my focus to LingoDeer and recommend it enthusiastically as a good starting point for anyone interested in learning Korean. It’s available for iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) for free.

By the way, if you’re wondering things like “is Korean really hard?” or “what am I getting myself into if I take on a project like this?” I have some stats that may provide some insight. According to the LingoDeer dashboard:

  • I’ve been using this app for 68 consecutive days.
  • Over that time period, I’ve logged 36 hours of study in new lessons and review. This does not count time spent in vocabulary/grammar flash cards and other types of drills. Not sure why the app doesn’t log that type of learning.
  • After 2+ months, I’ve learned 80% of the LingoDeer curriculum, and I will likely finish sometime in April, or maybe by the end of March if I put together a few strong weeks.

I don’t consider myself very talented at learning new languages, so although I can’t predict how long it’ll take anyone else to cover the same territory, you should know that I’m definitely not a linguistic prodigy who’s been hellbent on learning as fast as humanly possible.

I had over a month of DuoLingo experience in the bag before I started LingoDeer, so that surely counted for something. Nevertheless, 36 hours logged over 68 days if just a smidge more than half an hour of work per day. Much of this time has been squeezed in while waiting for mundane things to happen: waiting for water to come to a boil when cooking a meal, lying in bed drinking coffee in the morning, riding the World’s Slowest Elevator in my building, waiting for the washing machine to finish so I can put clothes in the dryer. . . and so forth. So many minutes that would’ve otherwise disappeared into something inane like looking at Facebook or Instagram were magically turned into real knowledge, and this meaningful pursuit has been enormously satisfying.

Feel free to ask anything about my experience so far if you have any interest in joining me in this exciting effort to learn Korean.

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