10 Reasons Why Learning Korean is Painful

  1. Hierarchical language / honorifics

Korean is a hierarchical language and thus speech levels exist from informal to most formal. A confusing part is that these honorifics don’t simply divide by age difference. You might have to speak formally to your friends who are older or younger than you or might have to mix informal nouns with informal verbs. ????

“Did you eat?” can be written as follows depending on your relationship with the other :

밥 먹었어? – For friend who’s in the same/similar age

밥 먹었어요? – For stranger who’s in the same age or for friend who’s a bit older than you

식사 하셨어요? – For those who are older than you

식사 하셨습니까? – For those who are older than you, but you are in a more formal situation like at work or at military

진지 잡수셨어요? – For those who are much older than you, like grandparents.

Rice :

  • Informal = 밥
  • Formal = 식사
  • Very formal = 진지

Did you eat? :

  • Informal = 먹었어?
  • Formal = 먹었어요? / 하셨어요?
  • Very formal = 잡수셨어요? / 하셨습니까?
  1. Korean grammar structure

While English grammar structure is Subject + Verb + Object, Korean grammar structure is Subject + Object + Verb. The difference between these two structures make Korean harder to learn for English speakers or those who speak language with similar grammar structure.

I like apple.

Subject + Verb + Object

나는 사과를 좋아한다.

Subject + Object + Verb

  1. Difficult pronunciations

Some words are just so hard to pronounce like double consonants. There’s really no easy way to explain or write it down in English because there’s no such pronunciation. Many Koreans explain double consonants as “pronouncing a consonant but in a stronger way.”

ㄲ = gg or G!
ㄸ = dd or D!
ㅃ = pp or P!
ㅆ = ss or S!
ㅉ = jj or J!

Or just a small mistake in pronouncing the word might put you in a wrong place. ????

Korean words : 치즈 vs. 치질

Korean pronunciations : Chee-jeu vs. Chee-jil

English words : Cheese vs. Hermorrhoids

But Koreans also have similar difficulties with English.

  1. Confusing connectors

English connect sentences with phrases like but, however, and, whereas. Koreans also have these words : 하지만, 그리고, 반면에, respectively.

But Koreans can endlessly connect sentences without writing or saying connecting words like but, and, however, whereas.

  1. Similar words with different vibes

If you see something that’s slightly yellow, you would say the color is yellowish, right? But in Korean, if you see something yellowish, there are so many expressions you can choose to say depending on its “vibe.”

Yellowish = 누렇다, 노란색이다, 노르스름하다, 누르스름하다, 누리끼리하다, 누르딩딩하다 and more.

(Each word is so hard to explain and hope we get a chance to explain it later ????)

  1. Variations for sentence endings

Koreans love playing around with Korean language. There are hundreds of sentence endings you can make. How can this happen? It’s because Korean grammar is Subject + Object + Verb. It ends with the verb! And there’s so many things you can do with Korean verbs by mixing up different tenses, honorifics, and tones

“Let’s go home” in Korean with different sentence endings :

집에 가자
집에 가요
집에 가죠
집에 가자고요
집에 갑시다
집에 가시죠
집에 가야지
집에 가자고
집에 가세

  1. Complicated particle rules

Korean words always come with particles, without space in-between. “A particle is a word that has a grammatical function that doesn’t fit into the main parts of speech.” And these particles have grammatical rules that you have to understand to thoroughly write and speak Korean.

~ 은 / 는 – topic particles

너는 – you are
엄마는 – mom is
생일은 – birthday is

~ 이 / 가 – subject particles

내가 – I am
엄마가 – mom is
생일이 – birthday is

  1. Word spacing

Chinese and Japanese doesn’t have spaces between the words. Latin based languages, such as English, Spanish, and French, have spaces in-between each word.

Well, Korean have spaces between words but with exceptions. These exceptions make word spacing so confusing and many Koreans also have trouble with them.

If you, by mistake, put space in a wrong place, the meaning of the sentence can change totally.

아버지가 방에 들어가신다.

My father is going into the room.

아버지 가방에 들어가신다.
My father is going into the bag.

  1. Final consonants

Korean language has final consonants, the letter written under the vowel.

For examples,


ㄹ and ㅆ at the first two letters are the final consonants.

Some words have a final consonant and some don’t and it makes Korean learners quite confusing.

Just remember that final consonants can be everywhere.

  1. Difficult spellings

Double final consonants, silent consonants, words that doesn’t have same spelling as it pronounces, changing vowels depending on sentence structure…

잃다 (il-da) – lose

읽다 (ik-da) – read

싫다 (shirh-da) – hate

  • Letter from UoH –

This post, of course, is not to make you give up on learning Korean, but to tell you that it is natural to feel difficulty in learning Korean. ???? In upcoming posts, we’ll share more informative and fun tips about learning Korean language. That’s why we made a whole section of ‘language’ in our website!

UoH will always be with you on your Korean learning journey! WE GOT THIS ????????


UOH Horang
Comments (13)Newest First
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Evelyn Odoko A year ago · 0 Likes

Yea is kind of true is quite difficult most especially in the spelling aspect I find it hard to spell correctly…thank you so much for the insight….I won’t give up????

Eva A year ago · 0 Likes

Hmm I think it’s not that painful. Korean seems for me a very logical language. It’s a lot to learn but by now for me it has clear structures. I struggle with learning and remember vocabulary.

Nelly Casanova A year ago · 0 Likes

Thank you ! It’s realy difficult… I try and try again !

Elise A year ago · 0 Likes

That’s why I think it’s so great that you Koreans can speak English!!
Korean is so different!!
Google translate does translate, but sometimes you get special sentences.
I now understand that after your explanation!!

M Santiago A year ago · 0 Likes

Interesting article! I started this journey 7 months ago, basically on my own. Definitely a challenge! So many things to learn, but practice, patience, motivation and support are key to achieve anything! Any language has it’s own difficulties. I always remember this: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!”???? It doesn’t matter how long it takes, time will pass anyway! So, at least I want to understand, communicate and show my respect to this amazing culture by learning their language. Let’s see how far I can go!
To all language learners out there: It’s never too late to learn a new language!

SANDRA A year ago · 0 Likes

Every day I try to learn as much as possible this language which is so far from French but which gives me so much pride.

VICTORIA LIZZY A year ago · 0 Likes

Before I started learning Korean, people already told me how complicated it is yet I give a try and thank God this is my 7th months of learning I can hold a basic conversation and writing. Tho it hasn’t been easy, sometimes I feels unmotivated as if I wanna give up but whenever I looked back and see how far I’ve gone then I pick up my books again ????????
I must say, Korean is a very interesting and great language to learn if you’re determined and motivated.my motivations are kdrama, BTS,UOH and my Korean friends and I promise never to disappoint them????????????????
다들 너무 사랑해요 ????????

Ramyasree Nair A year ago · 0 Likes

Great! It would be difficult but I won’t give up!

Shreya Upadhyay A year ago · 0 Likes

Learning since one year crossed all difficulty levels

Iamsnehi A year ago · 0 Likes

It’s been a year when I have started learning Korean.. I faced all these problems in the beginning but now I am used to them.
But I am still struggling to use 는 , 가/ 이 according to contest..

Maria Isabel Pereira Belo de Queiroz A year ago · 0 Likes

Good job on trying to make Korean Language Lovers give up learning…. but as the language is hard (to be learned) sao are we (to let it go) ㅋㅋㅋ.
I love the Korean language so much and for that I didn’t lose my mind during the hard time in the Pandemic. So thank you very much for showing us everything related to Korea.

Jennifer A year ago · 0 Likes

I really enjoy learning the Korean language. In an attempt to not confuse myself too much I often try not to think too hard about grammatical rules. I’m going to lose my mind if I start thinking about the why of certain rules. I just tell myself that’s the way it is and move on ????.

Sin P A year ago · 0 Likes

Learning korean is going to be very difficult but still i want to learn.

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