7 reasons Korean is easy to learn

I’m pretty sure that headline is a complete lie. It should read, “7 reasons Korean is not quite as brutal for native English speakers to learn as Japanese or Arabic or Navajo.” Alas, that’s not such a snappy headline, and hardly fits the previous, “5 reasons Korean is tough to learn.”

But I think you get the idea. So – skipping, skipping – here’s the content, some of the advantages to hacking Korean:

  1. Written from left to right, top to bottom: Stuff we take for granted in English but that can add another annoyance to the process. Thankfully, Korean is like English here, though it isn’t traditionally.
  2. Spaces between words: Another factor that makes Korean seem easier to learn than Japanese. Or if “easier” isn’t the right word, perhaps just more familiar.
  3. Uniform grammar: The language seems to fall into a fairly logical (and hopefully repeatable) structure. It’s different from English grammar, which makes it difficult, but it’s simpler in many ways. It doesn’t conjugate for person (“she walks” vs. “I walk“), it doesn’t have separate cases or noun declensions (“I” vs. “me”), and a few others I can’t remember right now but that will come in handy later.
  4. Punctuation almost identical to Western punctuation: Sure, the grammar differences mess things up, but at least the symbols themselves look the same (for the most part).
  5. Relatively easy to spell: Surely it can’t be as easy as Spanish, but it’s definitely easier than English. That’s fantastic because spelling was never my strong point. The tough vocabulary will be the stuff based on Chinese. For everything else, hangul – the Korean alphabet – works the same all the time (no “two-vowels go walking” nonsense).
  6. No tones: While tonal inflections still have some emotional significance, they’re more like accents. They don’t change any of the grammar. This is a ridiculously pleasant surprise. Tones are part of what make Chinese languages, to say nothing of African, so insane for native English speakers.
  7. Lots of English mixed in: I’ve only heard about this, so I’m still not sure what counts as lots. We’ll see, though. Hopefully I’ll recognize a fair amount of common words, like taxi and hotel.

On top of that, I have two additional bonuses working in my favor:

  1. I only want to have conversations: I’ll learn some of the writing to get by, but I’ll mostly focus on learning the oral side of Korean. That’s a nice short-cut. Reading and writing Asian languages is usually the hardest part about learning them.
  2. I’ll be living there. This is the biggest circumstance working in my favor. Lots of Koreans, especially in Seoul, know at least a little English, which might make it hard to practice Korean. But seriously, it’s their country – how much more immersed can I get? Welcome to survival.