It takes patience and dedication to learn any new language. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, so you should not feel disheartened when this occurs to you. The important thing is to learn from them so you can avoid making the same errors again.
As you continue your Korean learning journey, you may encounter several common mistakes beginners make when learning Korean. Allow us to share these errors with you so that your journey to mastering Korean will be smoother and more enjoyable.
1. Over relying on romanisation
When faced with unfamiliar Korean characters, most beginners panic and turn to romanisation to read the words. While romanisation can be beneficial when studying specific languages, it has the opposite effect when you learn the Korean language.
Romanisation cannot do justice to the actual sounds that Korean words and phrases are supposed to produce. It is best to learn the proper pronunciation of the Korean language rather than rely on romanisation. That’s because Korean consonants tend to be pronounced more abruptly than English consonants.
Additionally, you will notice a difference in your tongue position when speaking in Korean and English. Therefore, it is impossible to replicate the proper pronunciation of a Korean word by relying on romanisation. Hence, it is advisable to master Hangeul as soon as possible and avoid romanisation.
2. Overlooking the politeness levels
Respecting your elders is an essential virtue for Koreans. As such, they emphasise using the proper honorifics when addressing their seniors. Depending on the circumstances, using the wrong politeness level can put you in an awkward spot.
It can be challenging for a beginner to fully grasp the various honorifics as they vary according to a person’s age or position of power. Using the incorrect honorific when addressing someone can make you seem rude in the person’s eyes even though there is no intention to offend.
3. Overusing pronouns
It can be easy to spot non-native Korean speakers as they often overuse their pronouns. We constantly use pronouns when speaking and writing in English simply because the language is built to function this way. So, when we are writing in another language that we are less familiar with, we subconsciously transfer this practice over.
However, the Korean language still works without the constant use of pronouns. When talking about someone or something, you only need to make the subject clear by labelling them as the topic. You can ignore any other pronouns afterwards until you switch to a different matter.
4. Using the wrong numbering system
The Koreans utilise two numbering systems, the Sino-Korean System and the Native-Korean System, and they are required to use both depending on the given situations. As such, it can be confusing for beginners to understand which system to use initially.
It is common for beginners to utilise the Sino-Korean System when referring to their age or to count the numbers. However, it is vital for you to avoid doing so. When talking about your age in Korean, you should always remember to use the Native-Korean System.
5. Memorising blindly.
When learning a new expression in Korean, beginners tend to cross-reference the phrase with similar terms in the English language. While doing this can be helpful, you should avoid memorising them blindly as they are often not identical.
For example, when you translate 'so' into Korean, it shows '그래서[geu-rae-seo]'. However, this word carries limited usages when compared to its English equivalent. You may use ‘so’ freely when speaking in English, but the same does not hold true for '그래서[geu-rae-seo]', which can only be used in specific contexts. Therefore, it is imperative to understand when and how to apply these expressions rather than blindly memorising the corresponding English phrases.
Your journey to Korean proficiency may not always be smooth sailing, and you may make mistakes here and there. If you find yourself struggling with the subject, you should consider enrolling in a Korean language course. At ONLYOU, our experienced teachers will guide you in the right direction and help you avoid these common beginner mistakes.