24 Best And Worst Online Korean Courses For 2020

  • Written byDonovan Nagel
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24 Best And Worst Online Korean Courses For 2020

Finding the best online Korean courses can be a real challenge.

I spent over a year immersed in the Korean language in a small town outside Daegu (Gumi), and I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to try most Korean courses, books and other resources.

Korean has become an enormously popular language to learn.

It’s a fun and central tourist hub, has a massive international fan base for its K-pop and attracts tens of thousands of native English teachers each year to work there.

On top of the tourism and career benefits, the benefits of speaking Korean in America and other English-speaking countries can’t be overstated.

Korean is easy to learn, and one of the most fun languages I’ve studied.

Today I’m going to give you the best (and worst) of all the online Korean courses (I’ve had the chance to use most of them).

Below you’ll find pros and cons for each Korean course, pricing and a brief summary. If there’s a review written about a product on this site already, I’ll link to it.

Some are affiliate linked but most aren’t.

IMPORTANT: Some of the items listed below are probably only loosely defined as “courses” for Korean. The reason I’ve included them is that they’re popular enough Korean tools and therefore should be included.

DISCLAIMER: The comments below are personal opinions.

The best Korean courses online (most popular Korean resources)

1. Rocket Korean

Rocket Languages

Cost: Starts from $99.95 (auto-applied discount)

Summary: I’ve always enjoyed the Rocket Languages series and the Korean edition is always one of my top recommendations. Of all the Korean course options here, Rocket Korean suits the structured learner most as it’s designed to be followed in a linear progression.

But you’re not obligated to follow their path and you can skip lessons if you want to.

The audio lessons are delivered in both a podcast-style format that’s very easy to follow, and audio dialogues that give you just the Korean dialogue you need and nothing more (which I love). Rocket Korean’s course covers all language skills very well, and their inbuilt voice recognition is extremely accurate (it uses Google’s Web Speech technology).

For structured learner types, it’s a great Korean course.

Also check out this Rocket Korean review.

What I like:

  • Comprehensive all-in-one course package for Korean
  • Ideal for students of Korean who prefer structure in their course learning as it has a very linear progression (though you’re not obligated to follow the structure if you don’t want to)
  • Korean course covers all major language skills (listening, speaking, Hangul reading + writing)
  • Inbuilt leaderboard and built-in gamification aspect

What I don’t like:

  • At this time, it still does not offer the higher level packages.

UNIQUE OFFER: If you sign up to my mailing list (use the ‘Join The Guild’ form below) and select Korean as your language option, I’ll send you a personal offer for Rocket Korean that’s exclusive to my email subscribers.


2. 90 Day Korean

90 Day Korean

Cost: $35 a month (or $47 with coaching)

Summary: 90 Day Korean’s an extremely popular course option for learning Korean and one I highly recommend. The reason why it’s called “90 Day” is not because you’re expected to be fluent in that time, but that you should be able to hold a conversation in 3 months (reasonable goal).

The “Inner Circle” is restricted to a limited number of intakes and lessons are “handpicked”.

Rather than following a typical trajectory as you do in most course products, 90 Day Korean focuses on what they believe you need (can be a good or a bad thing!).

Included in course content is the personal coaching (if you pay for it) and an active learner community.

What I like:

  • Highly practical with actionable lesson focus topics
  • Very comprehensive and detailed
  • Active community

What I don’t like:

  • Slightly dated interface/platform
  • High-end price for a subscription language product

3. KoreanClass101

KoreanClass101

Cost: Starts as low as $4 a month.

Summary: KoreanClass101 is a brilliant online resource for learning Korean (especially listening comprehension). If you’re taking a trip to South Korea and want to understand the natives, this might be the course for you.

KoreanClass101 uses audio lessons similar to podcasts. Lessons are suitable for beginners through more advanced levels. The instruction not only includes listening skills but also incorporates essential vocabulary and grammar with loads of other useful features.

What I like:

  • Large and always expanding variety of Korean lesson material
  • Polished lesson interface and downloadable content

What I don’t like:

  • Content choices are sparse beyond the beginner level
  • Too much English banter
  • While the lesson interface is nice, the rest of the site is overwhelming and confusing to navigate

4. Talk To Me In Korean

Talk To Me In Korean

Cost: $12.99 a month (or $93 annually)

Summary: TTMIK always was and perhaps still is, the most extensive, high quality source of Korean learning material.

I used their site daily when I lived in South Korea and watched all their videos religiously. In fact, my Korean wouldn’t have accelerated the way it did without their help. Mind you, other resources like the ones mentioned above were not an option then.

The presenters/teachers are very personable and a joy to watch, and they have always included advanced level Korean students alongside them to help out.

My only frustration with TTMIK these days is that they turned their site from an open blog to a locked paywall site. All of their incredible content that was freely accessible is now hidden or removed. Such a shame.

I still highly recommend anything they make which is top quality.

See this TTMIK book review I did a while back.

What I like:

  • TTMIK has been the premier source for Korean learning material for many years and was my primary go-to resource in Korea.
  • The courses are run by native Korean teachers with the help and input of advanced level Korean students so the balance is excellent.
  • Video is second-to-none.
  • Loads of free, high quality content.

What I don’t like:

  • TTMIK used to be an open blog that I referenced frequently as a learner but has since become a closed course membership site.
  • Since there is so much content, it’s hard to navigate and overwhelming.

5. Glossika Korean

Glossika Korean

Cost: $30 a month.

Summary: I’m a huge fan of the Glossika series.

Glossika is one of the most unique language products available and, in my opinion, one of the very few that uses a natural, research-grounded method. In fact, the Glossika method aligns very closely with how I personally learned Korean and I’ve seen tremendous success doing it.

Glossika focuses on high repetition of lexical chunks – in other words, listening over and over to a sequence of sentences at natural speed and repeating them.

It is hands down the most effective trainer for Korean listening comprehension and requires little else but frequent, daily listening/repeating to audio.

See this massive Glossika review and interview I put together.

What I like:

  • One of the most truly unique and effective methods available, in my opinion.
  • I personally had tremendous success using Glossika for Korean (and Russian).
  • Focuses on heavy repetition of natural language chunks.

What I don’t like:

  • Difficult concept to grasp for new learners of Korean.
  • Natural approach requiring heavy repetition may feel tedious to some people.
  • Slightly higher priced monthly subscription.

6. Pimsleur Korean

Pimsleur Korean

Cost: $14.95 a month subscription (or $119.95 per level)

Summary: Pimsleur’s a household name for learning Korean using spaced repetition recall. The lessons focus on practical vocabulary and expressions one might need in various scenarios. This includes greetings, common phrases, and vocabulary you might need when visiting South Korea.

In terms of just how much you get out of it, I’d say Pimsleur is a good entry point for Korean but it will only familiarize you with the basics. Treat its Korean course as a foundational course and then move on to something more comprehensive.

Pimsleur does not offer any video or written content. It’s audio only.

Read this Pimsleur review.

What I like:

  • Pimsleur was based on solid research in second language acquisition.
  • Extremely effective method despite its age.
  • Heavy repetition of Korean language samples.

What I don’t like:

  • Outdated scenario examples.
  • Too much English.

7. Cyber University Of Korea

Cost: Free

Summary: CUK (Cyber University of Korea) is a free online portal for teaching Korean language and culture (it’s also affiliated with Korea University).

There’s a tonne of useful, structured lesson content available but I find the YouTube channel easier to browse than the site itself which is cumbersome to use.

What I like:

  • Very comprehensive Korean lesson content
  • Loads of freely accessible lesson videos on YouTube

What I don’t like:

  • Dated and cumbersome website

8. Korean Unnie (YouTube)

Korean Unnie

Cost: Free

Summary: Okay it’s not a course so technically shouldn’t be here but I thought I’d list it anyway since it’s so good.

There are loads of Korean vloggers and YouTube lessons but Unnie is one of the better ones. Loads of helpful and super informative content on her channel. She covers lots of nuanced aspects of Korean and Korean culture too.

What I like:

  • Entertaining and fun video personality
  • She covers loads of Korean cultural subtleties and nuances, as well as slang
  • Heaps of videos to binge watch

What I don’t like:

  • Obviously it’s a vlog and not an actual Korean “course”
  • Some irrelevant and mindless videos unrelated to learning Korean but still entertaining

9. Coursera Online Korean Courses (Yonsei Uni.)

Coursera Korean

Cost: Free

Summary: Coursera courses are for those who are looking for a university standard Korean course. These online Korean courses are offered by Yonsei University.

The courses offer a variety of lessons are very comprehensive. The online Korean course teaches basic Korean with a specialization in vocabulary.

Coursera is also one of the few online course providers that offers recognized accreditation.

What I like:

  • University-grade, accredited courses.

What I don’t like:

  • Time-restricted intake.

Other excellent online Korean courses

I’ve mentioned my personal preferences for Korean above but there are loads of other quality online course options for Korean.

Keep reading.

10. King Sejong Institute Foundation

Cost: Free

Summary: King Sejong Institute is another incredibly helpful and comprehensive resource that costs nothing to use, but like CUK, is made difficult by an out-of-date website.

The content is based on reputable textbooks by King Sejong Institute Foundation that are available on Amazon.

What I like:

  • Comprehensive and suitable for all levels of Korean
  • Well-structured
  • Free

What I don’t like:

  • Website is horrendously bloated and difficult to navigate

11. FluentU Korean

Fluentu

Cost: $30 a month (or $20 a month annually)

Summary: FluentU helps students learn Korean through the use of real-world video content with a video wrapper that enables interactivity. The concept behind this style of instruction is to provide an immersive online ‘course’ (kind of).

Students learn by watching scenes from Korean videos that pertain to real-life Korean culture and it features Korean and English interactive subtitling.

See my review of FluentU too.

What I like:

  • Abundance of video content to learn from (more than most people would ever need).
  • Ability to interact with Korean video subtitles.

What I don’t like:

  • Most of the sourced content comes from YouTube which is freely available.
  • Pricey for a subscription product

See my FluentU review.


12. Mango Languages

Mango Korean

Cost: $7.99 a month

Summary: Mango Languages has implemented what I believe to be one of the best ‘chunking’ approaches in its course style I’ve ever seen (very close to my own successful method). It does this by avoiding grammar Korean explanations and instead highlighting lexical chunks in colors to help you learn language patterns.

One of the best features I’ve seen in a language product. Period.

The only problem with Mango is that it’s quite lightweight on its course depth. If they developed an advanced course for Korean, I’d be a raging fan.

What I like:

  • Beautifully designed Korean course
  • Focuses on lexical chunks (color coded) rather than rules which is how I prefer to learn

What I don’t like:

  • Minimal grammar focus
  • Lack of content depth for higher-level learners

13. Lingodeer

Lingodeer

Cost: Starts at $9 a month

Summary: A less known app than Duolingo, Lingodeer teaches Korean by utilizing a wide variety of exercise types (very reminiscent of Duolingo and others). The nice part about it is that the lessons are in small, manageable chunks. The audio quality is good for an app and the wide selection of lessons keeps learning interesting.

What I like:

  • Clear Korean lesson path makes the learning trajectory straightforward
  • Provides detailed explanations
  • High quality Korean audio

What I don’t like:

  • Lingodeer feels too much like an attempted imitation of other products (lacks uniqueness)
  • Highly repetitive like Duolingo

14. Decks

Decks Korean

Cost: Free

Summary: Memrise moved its free “community” courses to a site called Decks a while back, while it continues to run a premium subscription on the original Memrise site.

From what I see, Decks is identical to what Memrise use to offer.

Decks are 100% free community-added courses (Korean and others) in the form of a gamified flashcard deck. You select a language or dialect, then go through a flashcard game of “watering plants”. It’s highly addictive and actually quite effective.

Some courses are excellent but not all courses are good. Look for ones that include audio and ones that teach phrases rather than single words.

See my video on downloading Decks to Anki.

What I like:

  • It’s an effective memorization tool for phrases and words.
  • The addictive nature of the game gets you coming back often to continue learning.
  • It’s all free.
  • There are loads of community-driven courses to choose from.

What I don’t like:

  • As it’s community-driven, you can’t always guarantee quality.

15. How To Study Korean

Cost: Free

Summary: How To Study Korean is basically a dated blog that I typically wouldn’t include on a list like this but the content is incredibly thorough and free to use, so it’s worth it.

All Korean entries include high quality audio making this an excellent source of natural Korean listening material.

What I like:

  • Tonnes of Korean content that is freely available to access
  • Audio buttons for pretty much every Korean entry

What I don’t like:

  • Basically just a WordPress blog so not developed on a structured learning management system with progress, quizzes, etc.

16. Mondly Korean

Mondly Korean

Cost: Starts at $9.99/month.

Summary: Mondly offers courses for loads of different languages including Korean and is similar in style to Duolingo and Babbel. There are even hints of Rosetta Stone in its delivery.

It’s a beautifully-designed web app and a pleasure to navigate the Korean course content.

Some of the language courses aren’t that great (e.g. Arabic) but Korean and others are done fairly well.

What I like:

  • Beautifully designed app and web interface makes it a pleasure to use
  • Clear and easy progression through the Korean lessons
  • Inexpensive

What I don’t like:

  • Linear learning path
  • Fairly repetitive and monotonous

17. Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone Korean

Cost: Starts at $6.49 a month.

Summary: My biggest complaint about Rosetta Stone used to be for its astronomical price tag but it recently switched over to a subscription model (to compete) and now is comparatively cheap.

RS was actually one of the first paid products I used to learn Korean (and I used it A LOT).

Rosetta Stone is a household name that everyone’s heard about. It tends to get sharp criticism for its method but as I’ve pointed out in the past, people criticize Rosetta Stone because they’re either: a) impatient or b) not willing to allow the method to work for them. Rosetta Stone is all about intuition – it doesn’t give you quick answers or translations.

You infer meaning gradually.

No Korean grammar rules are given. Just intuitive inference.

See my massively popular review of Rosetta Stone.

What I like:

  • Rosetta Stone is, to this day, one of the few major Korean course products that is genuinely innovative and different
  • The RS immersion approach (using pictures and intuitiveness to learn) is a powerful approach that works (if the student’s patient)
  • Very comprehensive overall
  • Inexpensive (used to be outrageously expensive until they changed to a subscription model)

What I don’t like:

  • Inappropriate cultural images
  • Very formal dialogues used in scenarios that are unnatural (see my review where I explain this in detail)
  • Voice recognition is often inaccurate for Korean

Online Korean courses that are low on my list and not personally recommended

Some online Korean courses are popular but not in my opinion, not very good.

I’ve listed them all here (if you disagree, comment below).

18. Transparent Language

Transparent Language Korean

Cost: Pricing varies

Summary: Transparent is one of the most surprising online Korean courses I’ve tried.

The system and interface are antiquated and slow which is a real drawback, but if you can look past it, Transparent Language provides a real depth of Korean course content.

The voice recognition comparison is non-existent in Transparent Language. It relies on recording on your voice and showing you your sound wave to compare with the native speaker’s sound wave.

No inbuilt system to automatically compare sounds.

I remember when Rocket Korean used to do the same thing but recently incorporated Google Web Speech to compare pronunciation which was a game-changer. I don’t know why Transparent Language haven’t done this since it’s so easy to implement (and free to develop).

The Transparent Language course has a “Produce it. Say it.” section that literally asks you “Were you right?”.

In other words, no way to automatically detect whether you were correct or not – it relies on your own determination. This is incredibly outdated.

Overall, if you can look past the outdated design and deficient voice recording aspect, Transparent Language Korean is an outstanding course option.

What I like:

  • Korean dialogue is 100% natural speed
  • Extensive coverage and depth of content

What I don’t like:

  • Outdated and slow interface that’s a pain to navigate
  • Pronunciation section has no inbuilt voice recognition to compare to native dialogue

19. Minji Teaches Korean (YouTube)

Minji Korean

Cost: Free

Summary: Minji Teaches Korean is another of my top YouTube picks. It’s kind of cheating putting a channel like this here on a course list but it’s such a great channel that I feel it’s worthwhile to add.

Minji does brilliant and informative videos on Korean language and culture.

What I like:

  • Both entertaining and very informative on Korean nuance and culture
  • Tonnes of video on her channel

What I don’t like:

  • Another Korean vlogger and therefore not an actual course

20. Udemy

Cost: Prices vary widely

Summary: Udemy has seamingly endless amounts of independent courses for Korean to choose from. Far too many for me to go through and review here but it’s worth checking out to see what you can glean from the list. Read the reviews.

My advice is to wait for sale periods when courses are dirt cheap and then buy a bunch of them.

What I like:

  • Tonnes of course options for Korean in many different dialects.
  • Udemy can be very affordable if you wait for their regular sale periods (prices drop enormously).

What I don’t like:

  • The problem with Udemy, as with any community-driven site, is that quality varies considerably with each Korean course instructor.

21. Duolingo Korean

Duolingo Korean

Cost: Free.

Summary: Duolingo has become a staple for many language learners – a completely free household name to rival established companies like Babbel and Rosetta Stone.

I’ve personally have never liked Duolingo and I think it’s an overrated, infantile game that offers little value other than being an addictive distraction and procrastination from real learning. People go through entire courses on the Duolingo platform and come away with little more than a cartoon trophy.

Their Korean course might serve you well to get you acquainted but there are better ways to spend your study time in my opinion.

Check out my comparison of Duolingo and Babbel.

What I like:

  • Free to use.
  • Fun downtime activity in between real study periods.
  • Appealing to young people and those experimenting with Korean before committing to a paid resource.

What I don’t like:

  • Tedious, repetitive point and click on easily predictable answers.
  • Addictive gamification that feels productive but is, in fact, time-wasting.

22. Michel Thomas Korean

Michel Thomas Korean

Cost: Starts from $11.99

Summary: I reviewed Michel Thomas extensively a short while back and ended up with almost nothing positive to say about the course (both levels). The Michel Thomas method (for all languages including Korean) is, in my opinion, full of holes and defies current research conclusions in SLA.

I’ve upset the MT fan base by saying so (I recently shared my theory on why they’re so defensive).

The basic premise of Michel Thomas is that you relax like a client in a psychologist’s chair, and let the teacher control your learning. You’re told “never to try to learn”, no memorization, no outside practice, no student responsibility.

Michel Thomas teachers guide students through correcting their every mistake on the spot.

There’s no Korean listening comprehension training and no natural conversation opportunities during sessions.

Overall, Michel Thomas might be a useful primer (some languages do appear to be slightly better than others) but I would never recommend this course to anybody.

Read my controversial review of Michel Thomas.

What I like:

  • Michel Thomas does a good job of breaking down and explaining difficult concepts in Korean.
  • To a certain extent, MT teaches students to learn ‘lexical chunks’ over explicit grammar rules.

What I don’t like:

  • Teacher-controlled learning has been proven by SLA researchers to be an ineffective strategy.
  • Michel Thomas teaches zero listening comprehension for Korean and offers no opportunity for natural conversation practice.
  • The course teaches you about Korean, but doesn’t teach you Korean.
  • Way too much English.
  • Celebrity endorsements and a total lack of research on Michel Thomas’ part are major red flags to me.

23. Living Language Korean

Living Language Korean

Cost: Starts from $25

Summary: I was never a fan of Living Language when I reviewed it several years ago. I’m including it on this list because it is one of the big names and most popular courses for Korean (plus I get asked about it from time to time).

I found Living Language to be bland, incorrectly levelled and just a very uninspiring grammar-heavy course.

What I like:

  • Very thorough in its grammar explanations

What I don’t like:

  • Incorrect levelling – especially for higher levels
  • Trashing of competitors in its marketing is extremely off-putting

24. FSI Korean

FSI Korean

Cost: Free

Summary: FSI (Foreign Service Institute) is a government entity that trains diplomats and government officials in foreign languages. It offers Korean along with many other languages online for free (including audio recordings).

The problem with the FSI material is that it’s literally been around for almost a century.

It’s ancient.

So although you can download their comprehensive Korean course for free with audio, be aware that the material is literally photocopied booklets that were typed up on typewriters making it almost illegible.

If you’re patient, there’s some good value in the FSI courses but it’s so dated that I personally wouldn’t bother.

What I like:

  • Being a US government entity that trains diplomats, FSI naturally has incredible Korean course depth.
  • Free and easy to download lesson + audio on many sites (the link below is the easiest to access).

What I don’t like:

  • Archaic course.
  • PDF material is still just a photocopy of the original, typewritten paper so it’s dreadful to read.

Summary: Best online Korean courses

I think I’ve covered just about every online Korean course option currently available.

Whichever Korean course you go for, you need daily Korean practice with native speakers – ideally in person if you can (even better if you can do it in South Korea).

But if finding native speakers near you isn’t feasible, then italki is an incredible platform to find really affordable practice partners and tutors.

Overall, your success is determined by your own determination and strategy.

Even if you had every course on this list and more, you can still fail at Korean without the right motivation and consistency.

Likewise, even poor Korean courses can be powerful in the hands of someone with the right attitude and learning style.

If you’re looking for tips on how to learn Korean and overcoming various language learning struggles, make sure to subscribe below by ‘Joining the Guild’ (select Korean as your target language).


Know of a Korean course that I didn’t mention?

Share it below in the comment section.

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Here's what you should read next:

7 Things That Helped Me Pick Up Korean Quickly

My 11 Month Progress Video Learning The Korean Language

10 Reasons Why The Korean Language Being Difficult Isn't True

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Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic

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