Learning Korean

From Lingodeer to Language Class

Throughout me learning Korean, one insight has gotten clear; The more time, money, and attention I invest, the faster I make progress. Now, this is true about everything you do to some degree, but I found it to be especially true in combination.

I started my first baby steps with free apps like Duolingo, which feature basic vocabulary but barely any grammar. And as they are free, they have to constantly remind you to buy a subscription.

As soon as the initial curiosity with them waved off, the apps became a bore to interact with. I eventually switched to a higher quality app: Lingodeer. Back then, 70€ for a lifetime subscription seemed like a hefty investment, but actually was still on the low end considering I wanted to learn a life skill. Lingodeer was of higher quality because professionals were paid to work on it and the grammar was better explained with its interface simple but gamified enough to make me come back. My learning accelerated, but was far away from grasping basic conversations.

Only once I started a language course in Korea did I make substantial progress. 1400€ for a 3-month course, plus 80€ for the books. Learning for 4 hours a day with a professional teacher with books specifically made for learning Korean; it could have only been better if I would have learned 1-on-1 and not with a group of 12 students.

More exposure to the language, more time spent on learning, and higher quality input were the key. Now, my Korean is not fluent by any means, but I can understand and have basic conversations. Basically, enough for the everyday small talk.

What strikes me the most about this, is the requirements for fast progress in learning skills: Time, money, and interest. Everyone has the last, but the higher the income of your household, the better the access to high quality education, and the more time you have to use it; not everyone can just drop 1500€ on a language course. If you grow up in a low-income household, getting access is even harder if you work and have no energy or time. Additionally, our society is not structured to focus on helping those with the least opportunities, so they are the ones struggling the most.

In a sense, it is amazing that free apps exist in the first place, but wherever it is Duolingo, Lingodeer, or one of the dozen others, they can only work as a substitute. I would only recommend them for the first steps in the language: To get familiar with the alphabet and accumulate some basic vocabulary. If you are still determined to learn the language a month or two after regularly using the service, search out high quality teaching to start making substantial progress.

But this applies to every skill; Spend money on high quality resources and get taught by professionals. It is an investment into yourself that nobody can take from you.

High quality input requires high quality investment.