I'm learning Korean but Hangul looks hard. Is it really important, or can I get by with studying only Romanizations of words until I feel more confident?

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    I know that beta needs questions,but come on, how can you learn a language without the alphabet it is based on?
    – Mihai
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:18
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    Too opiniated, but not a stupid question, I’d say. Some people only wish to learn to listen/speak, while others want to read/write. That said, language users tend to use references to the writing system in spoken language all the time. Perhaps one or more slightly reworded/refined questions? Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 18:22
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    @Mihai I have many friends who know a lot better Korean than I do, and learned it exclusively from watching K Drama. They cannot read or write, but they have a huge vocabulary and pretty decent grammar. I, on the other hand, have been taking classes, and am not good at Korean vocab and grammar at all, but I can read/write perfectly.
    – Eilon
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 19:29
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    I was a bit sorry to see that this has already been closed - seems very much on-topic and possible to answer in an evidence-based way. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 20:26
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    @topomorto It's also an extremely common question I hear from people who are starting to learn the language.
    – user12
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 20:28

7 Answers 7


My experience is that learning to read Korean is easier than learning to read English. You will be severely limited in what you can learn if you never learn Hangul.

Picture trying to learn English using only Hangul. That would be rather tough. And you would tend to learn things such as pronunciation quite inaccurately.

Reading romanized Korean correctly is much harder than learning to just read Hangul. And moreover, learning to read romanized Korean correctly would in essence entail learning the sound of every letter of Hagul anyway.

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    I totally agree with this answer. I'd say I learned 80% of Hangul on a flight to Korea (10 hour flight). Learning the remaining 20% took a bit more time because there are some subtleties and rules with exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions. But it's really not that hard to get started!
    – Eilon
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 4:50
  • I also like to point that there's no really well established standard of romanized Korean representation. Even government official standard has been changed multiple times over decades, and still can be changed again eventually. Even Koreans are confused, and I really can't recommend learning with it.
    – Eonil
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 17:30
  • I'm studying Hangul for its own sake; I don't have a need to speak Korean just yet. Hangul is widely considered the most ideal writing system worldwide because of its ability to reproduce any sound from any language. It is also one of the most modern writing systems, though hundreds of years older than the first artificial languages. As other users have suggested, you can learn vocabulary by ear while simultaneously studying the alphabet, though both Duolingo and Memrise start with the characters. Japanese schools also start with or require prior knowledge of the phonetic alphabets.
    – MXMLLN
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 10:13

Learning Hangul is the absolute easiest thing about learning Korean.

I learned in a couple of hours in a cafe in Guatemala with a Korean backpacker girl over a decade ago and never forgot it.

Pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar are all way harder for me. I can read signs and often menus but I can't have a rudimentary conversation.

(Well I don't know all the words I can read - a bit like reading French or Turkish perhaps.)


Yes, learning Hangul is one of the first things that a student of Korean should do. There are many aspects of the language that are closely tied to a word's spelling in Hangul that may be unintuitive or impossible to carry over to romanized Korean. Among the things that get lost in translation when not using Hangul are...

  1. Pronunciation.

    • Korean pronunciation is practically impossible to correctly show in any romanization system without assigning arbitrary pronunciations to letters.
  2. Meaning and Etymology

    • The meanings of many words are often clarified by their spellings in Hangul, which is very difficult to carry over to Romanized Korean.

Additionally, Hangul is relatively easy to learn when compared to many other Asian writing systems like Kanji. It has 24 letters which are arranged into single-syllable blocks and takes only a few hours or days to get a basic ability to read and write.


If you want to know and understand Korean, you need to learn the Korean writing system.

There are a few important reasons.

  1. The Korean language uses a syllable-block system with several pronunciation rules based on the placement of a particular sound in the syllable block and how different syllable blocks interact. This is quite easy to understand in Hangeul, but would seem like total nonsense if you use a Romanized characters.

  2. There are also a lot of grammar/conjugation rules which are dependent on character placement in the syllable block. Same as with 1., if you aren't looking at the syllable block, it is much harder to make sense of and recognize the use of these rules.

  3. Material - There is very little material for studying Korean in romanized characters. You would be hard pressed to consistently find study material in a romanized format.

  4. Romanized Korean is hard! There have been two major romanization formats and the difference in sounds between English and Korean lead to sometimes bizarre or complex English compounds that can be hard to understand.

  5. Learning Hangul is easy! If you're worried, don't be! Hangul looks overwhelming from the outside, but once you figure out how the system works (which is quite simple) and how few characters their actually are (Only around 30ish(!), off the top of my head), you realize it only takes an our or two of study to know it all, and a few days of practice to grind it in.

Minimal effort, huge reward! There's really no excuse not to!


Hangul is not really that hard to be honest. You could, for example, use flashcards to remember all Hangul letters and repeated writing of Hangul will also help you to remember them.

I would say that it is imperative to learn Hangul before you start learning Korean grammar or words.

Another good way to learn Hangul fast is this game here: http://dandani.eu/language/learn_korean_hangul_game an It's simple and easy to use and I learned Hangul very fast with it, it shouldn't take more than an hour for you to remember all letters.


Learn Hangul first. It is super easy. So easy, in fact, that sometimes I use Hangul to write English when I am taking a course having nothing to do with Korean.

You can learn it in a day or 2. If you are not visually inclined, it may take a week. The other reason you should learn it first is that there are different Romanisation systems which could cause you some confusion when attempting to pronounce the Korean word.


After reading all the comments, I don't disagree because I myself am trying to learn Korean and I've been having a slightly difficult time. Though, I just wanted to ask, since Korean words are different as English (ex. Noona - Sister) wouldn't it be more helpful if you learnt vocabulary first, Then Hangul? Or I mean both since you're learning the word and the writing. I mean, I've started to learn Hangeul, but that question just popped in since I've been learning some conversation passages in the book that I study with and I don't understand it at all even if I can read and pronounce it.

  • 1
    Hi Yoyo - as this is more of a question than an answer (and I think it's slightly different to the original question asked here), would you mind re-posting it as a new question? korean.stackexchange.com/questions/ask Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 6:55
  • may be this can be changed to a comment
    – user17915
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:30

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