5 quick tips for reading Korean

It’s inescapable that you will be doing a lot of reading as you learn Korean, so it makes sense to use this reading time as effectively as possible. I wanted to write about a couple of quick tips of mine that I use when I read.

  1. For reading books you MUST invest in a book stand. The biggest annoyance I had when reading a book is having it close shut when I needed to use my hands to look up a word. When a book stand you can use your hands to look up the dictionary or highlight words as you go. Non negotiable. If you’re going to be reading books, spend a few bucks and buy one.
  2. Pick something that is suitable for your level. You have to split this into two types of reading. Short and focused reading on something like an online article, a set of lesson notes from a website like TTMIK or korean101.com. For this kind of material you can choose something that really challenges you. And as you read you want to be looking up the meaning of every sentence structure and every word that you don’t understand. If it is something too complicated like a new grammar or a sentence structure you just can’t get your head around, note it for study later. You must come back to it and study it at another time.
  3. The second type of reading is a move passive approach. You should pick something that you can read even without a dictionary and understand the majority of what is going on. Depending on your level, you may not be able to find a lot of material and you will need to focus on the more focused reading above. In this more passive approach of reading you don’t stop and try to understand everything. Only if you find you are stuck and really can’t understand the gist of whats going on, and only then should you use a dictionary. As you are reading you should highlight the words and phrases you don’t understand. At the end of your reading session you can go back and scan through the words and filter them down to a small list of words you want to learn. You’ll then put these words into an Anki or Memrise deck.
  4. Don’t expect to be reading fast. Even young children who are fluent in their native language take a long time to become proficient at reading. They first learnt to spoke and then spent several years reading at a slow pace. So as a learner of a language, we can’t expect ourselves to read quickly when it even takes native children a long time.
  5. Anki/Memrise. You really should be using a spaced repetition flash card system. When you encounter a new word you want to learn, you need several exposures before you can understand it, and seeing it just one time in your reading, the word is not really going to sink in. Using Anki and Memrise should really become part of your daily routine and you should spend approximately 20 minutes everyday learning and reviewing. You can do this anywhere on your phone so you don’t have an excuse not to!
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