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?
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.
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...
- Korean pronunciation is practically impossible to correctly show in any romanization system without assigning arbitrary pronunciations to letters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.