Tag Archives: Foreign Language Tip

Foreign Language Tip | Do you need to know Grammar?

I think this is a question that comes up a lot when people talk about learning a foreign language and I’ve talked about it here before too. But I was recently asked this question and it was a two-part. The first part of the question, “Do you need to know grammar to understand Korean?” and the second part, “Have you studied grammar while you’ve been learning?” So I’ll answer that in two ways.

“Do you need to know grammar to understand Korean?”

It depends. It depends your answer to two questions:

  1. What are you learning Korean for?
  2. How do you plan on using what you learn?

So if you answered the questions like, “I’m learning so I can talk to relatives/friends” or “I’m learning because I’m about to travel to Korea” or “I’m learning because of kpop/kdramas”… anything along those lines, the answer is, not really. You actually really don’t need to learn anything too in depth as far as grammar goes. You only really need to learn the basics because you’re learning Korean for conversational and entertainment purposes. There’s no real reason to understand the “why” behind what you’re saying. You just need to understand what you’re saying and be able to understand contextual clues in speech and when you speech. That doesn’t require a whole lot of grammar. It’s also the reason why I stopped doing so many grammar posts because it’s not really necessary. I’ve honestly found it’s easier to pick up Korean when you focus more on what you’re saying, context, and what it means then to learn ALL of that with grammar. It just makes it so much harder.

If you answered the questions, “I’m learning Korean so I can teach/I’m a teacher in Korea now” or “I’m learning because I read a lot of books in Korean” or “I plan on writing more in Korean” then the answer is, yes, you do need to learn grammar. If you’re doing anything with writing, reading (newspaper/textbooks/etc.), teaching, then you do need to have good grasp of grammar because you’re going beyond conversational Korean. You’re going more towards the written style and a lot of what is written in Korean isn’t actually said the same way in speech. So you’re basically learning a more in depth way to say the same things only you won’t be verbally saying or reading them. This is when it’s more important to understand why you have to use specific endings or why you have add on or conjugate differently because you have to read and understand what you’re reading or you’ll have to write and your readers need to understand what you’re saying.

The reality is… and I’ve said this before but, most English speakers only know the basics of English. They don’t know in depth grammatically correct English because they don’t speak it. And it’s the same way with other languages too.

The best advice I can give to you is the same advice that was given to me… “Learn Korean the way you speak in your native language.”

Meaning, if you don’t use a PhD level vocabulary/grammar in your everyday speech in your native language, don’t try to learn it in Korean. Learn to speak conversationally and learn to speak it comfortably. Remember to “mind your manners” as well. Meaning, make sure you’re always aware of when to speak formally and informally.

And always always always… be confident! Practice! Don’t be afraid to try and make mistakes. If you put forth the effort, eventually it’ll click and you’ll be fluent before you know it!

That’s all for now!

Am I using the Same Words a lot when I talk?! | {Foreign Language Tip}

Yes. Yes you are using them a lot. And no, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re recognizing that you use the same words frequently. You hear the same words frequently. You’re reading the same words frequently. And I want you to take a minute and think about all the words you use in English. If you think about it, you’re using the same words a lot in English too. Which means one thing for your Korean language journey…

It’s starting to “click.”

It’s not that you just keep repeating the same things over and over again to people. It’s just that as you began to speak more you’ll notice that your speech pattern has kinda moved over into your new language. You should sound a lot like yourself. So if you say, “uh” a lot in English or if you say “like” before you began a descriptive sentence or if you start a question with “So…?” in English, you may find that you’re starting to do that in Korean now too the more comfortable you get with the language. In the beginning it’s good to mimic a native speaker. But after a while, it’s time to start putting yourself more into what you say. We’ll circle back to that.

What do I mean by, “using the same words a lot?”

For example:

  • I’m going to do…
  • I went to the…
  • She and I did that yesterday.
  • He/she/I sat…
  • Do you have…
  • Is there any…
  • Do you want to…
  • Are you…
  • How much is…
  • Where is…
  • Going
  • Doing
  • I want to…
  • I don’t like…

The list could go on and on but basically, it’s the same things over and over again. However, it’s the same thing you do in conversation in English. If you pay attention to how you speak in English, you’ll notice that you say the same things a lot to people in conversation. That’s not to say you just keep saying the same sentences over and over again but you pull from a mental vocabulary bank of maybe about 3,000-5,000 words and you use these same words repeatedly*. However, you’ll end up using more of these words in English than in Korean because one of the main differences between Korean and English, when it comes to conversation, is that English exaggerates sentences. Meaning, we say more in English than we do in Korean. We go into excessive detail to describe things in English. But, you do know these same (or similar) adjectives that can be used to describe things in Korean, you just might not use them as often.


  • English: The car was so big.
  • Korean: The car was big (or large).

You don’t need “so” to describe how big the car was when speaking in Korean because the word for “big” is emphasized in speech.

Of course, we know more words than that but on a regular basis we don’t typically go outside of this word bank. And again, even in that example you’ll notice words that you say, hear or read a lot. “The”, “car”, “was”, “big”, “large”, “so.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually a really good sign.

Now, back to what I said about “putting yourself more into your speech.”

Have you ever met someone who seemed like they were trying to be someone other than themselves? It’s not a very comfortable situation to be in. When you’re learning Korean, it’s good in the beginning to find someone to mimic so you can work your pronunciation but then once you’ve figured out how to pronounce words, it’s time to incorporate your own personality and mannerisms into your speech. You can’t use someone else forever. That’s how Korean can become difficult because you’re trying to sound and speak like someone else. So you want to start sounding like yourself more.

That’s it for now. More tips coming soon!


*The average adult knows well over 45,000 words but may never use more than 10,000-20,000 of them. Of course this number varies by person but this is the general number.

듣고 있어요? (Deud-go isseoyo?) | “Are You Listening?” [Foreign Language Tip]

I’m so sorry you guys!! I have had this sitting in my email for over a week!! I meant to post it here on Tuesday!! I have another one that was also supposed to be posted this week so I’ll be editing and uploading that one as well very shortly!

It is time for the first foreign language tip of the decade!! Woot! And I decided to use this time and talk about passive listening as a way to learn Korean. For those of you who don’t know what passive listening is, this is the exact opposite of active listening. I’ll explain both.

Passive listening – listening casually. This can include:

  • Listening while you’re doing other things
  • Background music where you’re kinda paying attention but not really but you are catching a few things here and there
  • Listening while you sleep

Active listening – listening and paying close attention. This can include:

  • Listening while taking notes
  • Listening and pausing to repeat what you hear
  • Doing a combination of the above
  • Listening and responding to the things you hear

Is there a problem with either one?

No. It all depends on how you learn. Some people learn better different things. But the question is, how do you know if you’re benefiting? Are you really listening? Test yourself. If you listen passively, try actively listening. Do this by replaying the same thing you were just playing and really pay close attention to what you were just listening too. How much did you understand? If you listen actively, put the notes away and just let whatever you were listening to play as if you were watching tv and browsing on facebook or something on your phone. How much did you catch? How much did you understand?

The key to doing either of these methods is testing yourself. You can very well be missing opportunities to improve your Korean by simply doing a method that you heard works for others but may not necessarily work for you. Now, if you’re not interested in really learning to speak Korean but just want to be able to understand some things here and there then I would suggest continuing to passively listen. But if you are trying to really learn Korean, I would suggest weekly tests of what you heard during the week.

You can this in two ways:

  1. Replaying things that you’ve heard without any notes or assistance and paying attention to what is being said without relying on your memory. Just listen and see what you understand. The key here is also to not translate. Stop mentally translating. You’re missing things when you do this.
  2. Creating two separate sheets of notes
    • one set has all the detailed notes
    • The other set has words from your notes that need to be defined based on the audio. Don’t define them until the end of the week without your notes.

So for example:

Let’s say you use k-dramas to passively or actively listen and while you do so you write down words/phrases with definitions and when to use them.


  1. Write short sentence dialogue, translate with context
    • 내가 도와줄게요. (naega dowajulgeyo)
      • 내가 (naega)
        • this is used to mean “I” but it’s different from 나는 because of the endings.
        • 가 | subject of the sentence – what the sentence is about
        • 는 | topic being talked about in the sentence
      • 도와줄게요
        • comes from the verb 도와주다 meaning “to help”
        • 까(요) is like asking for permission to do something
    • “I will help you.” (if you need it) or (if you’re okay with that)
  2. When to use this phrase?
    • Based on the video, it would seem that this would be used more formally since the two individuals don’t know each other year. However, this can be used with friends in informal situations too since you can drop 요.

Okay, so that’s just a little quick example of how I do active listening. Your method is probably different but this is the way that helps me. Now, after you’ve taken your notes, go back and watch the video again at the end of the week, turn the translations off and see if you comprehend it without your notes or the translations. You can do this same thing if you choose to listen to kpop songs, audio books or podcasts in Korean as well.

And remember, there isn’t a “one size fits all” method to language learning. Sometimes you have to customize your method in a way that works for you. But whatever you do, don’t give up!

어, 응, 네, 예… Ways to “Yes” in Korean | Which one do I use?


Okay, so… random…

How many times have you ever thought about the many different ways there are to say something in Korean and thought, “which one am I supposed to use and when do I use it?”

I thought about how difficult this was for me when I first started learning Korean. It was one of those things that would kinda confuse me a bit. I wanted to use the proper words in the proper setting at all times. (Perfection is the worst.) I was terrified of making a mistake that I even pondered over how to properly say… yes. That’s right! When to properly say “yes.”

Thankfully, I’m over that now and I have no problems just speaking and being corrected when I do say something wrong. It’s a process.

But, let’s go over the ways of how to say “yes” and when to use it. You know, since we’re already on the topic and all.

어 and 응 are very informal ways to say yes.

  • These are typically used in conversation with people of your own age or with close friends or just with people you can speak informally with.
  • It’s kinda like saying, “yea” or “mmhm” when you’re agreeing with someone in English.

네 and 예 are more polite

  • 네 can be used in informal and formal settings
  • 예 can be too but it’s more of an old school type of speech. It’s not really something that’s said on a regular basis unless you’re listening to older people speak. You can still use it if it’s more comfortable for you. 

And of course, as a bonus!

오케이 or “ok” still works too!