This article is a review of KoreanClass101.com, an online resource for learning Korean through audio podcasts.
In this review, I'll take you inside the premium members area and show you the main features of the website then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it's right for you.
KoreanClass101 Review: Summary
- Very substantial – tonnes of lessons, especially for lower levels
- Easy to use lesson format – audio lessons and handy mobile app
- Good for listening skills – lots of short comprehension audios at all levels
- Dialogues are too short
- Too much English “lesson” content, not enough Korean!
- No advanced reading or writing lessons
- Excessive advertising and up-selling, even after you’ve signed up.
A premium KoreanClass101 subscription costs $180 USD per year.
KoreanClass101 is a good, engaging resource, especially for beginners and lower levels.
Their bite-sized approach to study materials makes it ideal for busy people and those who struggle with motivation, but there are no magic tricks here – you’ll still have to buckle down and do the hard work yourself.
(My top recommendation for Korean learners is Korean Uncovered, which teaches you through StoryLearning®. Click here to find out about Korean Uncovered as soon as it's released!)
What Is KoreanClass101?
KoreanClass101 is an online subscription programme for Korean language learners of all levels.
Subscribers get access to a huge library of Korean audio and video lessons, presented by native speakers. Alongside this is a range of supportive learning tools, such as Korean flashcards and an English-Korean dictionary.
All of the content included in the premium subscription is available to access through a web browser or through a tablet-friendly mobile app.
A Look Inside KoreanClass101
Lessons in KoreanClass101 are organised by fluency level. Each level has a range of ‘Seasons' and other lesson modules grouped by topic or skill. Each module has around 25 lessons, but that number can be anything from 1 to over 100.
This adds up to a few thousand Korean podcast lessons, making KoreanClass101 a very abundant resource.
Nevertheless, when you’re looking at a huge variety of lesson options, it's pretty hard to know where to start! The lessons aren’t laid out in a clear learning direction, so figuring out what to do can be confusing.
A helpful feature they’ve introduced is called Learning Paths. These are lists of more structured ‘pathways’ you can follow, based on your current level and what you most want to learn.
For example, beginners can choose from learning paths like ‘Can Talk About Your Family', ‘Shopping in Korea’ or ‘Business Korean For Beginners.
This was a good idea, because it’s easier now to decide where to start. I also like how it gives you a clear picture of what you'll have learnt once you complete a learning path.
What's Included In Each Lesson?
Most lessons contain 3 audio tracks:
- Full Lesson Audio
- Review Track
- Dialogue Only Track
Each lesson normally follows the same format:
- Dialogue in Korean
- Repetition of the dialogue with a translation
- Discussion of the story and cultural insight
- Explanation of new vocabulary
- Explanation of new grammar
Once you've completed the main lesson, you can use the review and dialogue-only tracks to practice what you've learned.
The review track is for quickly reviewing and practicing pronunciation of new vocabulary. The dialogue-only track allows you to simply repeat the dialogue without listening to all of the explanations.
This is the track I suggest you work with the most.
Lastly, you’ll find some lesson notes in which tricky grammar points are explained, as well as a transcript of the audio.
Next, let’s look inside the more advanced features of KoreanClass101 that you'll find in premium subscriptions…
The really valuable part of KoreanClass101 is the powerful extra features accompanying each lesson.
The dialogue comes in an interactive format: each line is clickable, so you can click and hear the audio at your own pace, line-by-line, and you can switch the text between Korean and English. The Korean part can also be toggled between Hangul and romanization.
This works really well and is excellent for breaking up the dialogues into smaller parts, allowing you to listen and read simultaneously. It's also great for improving your listening comprehension, and remembering vocabulary.
Right after this, you get a section with vocabulary from the dialogue. Again, you can click on these words to hear the audio (at natural speed and slowed down) and see what they look like in both Hangul and the roman alphabet.
KoreanClass101 also has a personalised flashcard system, which is quite a cool feature you could have fun with.
When you get to the vocabulary part of a lesson, you can select any words you want to remember and send them to the built-in flashcard decks.
These decks use a spaced-repetition system to help you learn new words. They’re fully-customisable, so you can build up your own library of words to review whenever you want to.
The big downside, though, is that these flashcards only show you words in isolation. It's much more effective to learn words in context. So the fact that you can't do that in KoreanClass101 makes a potentially useful flashcard tool practically useless.
All of the lesson material is also available for download, so you do have that option if you prefer printed worksheets. They're just a PDF version of the lesson transcripts, nothing extra. I wouldn’t say that these are really useful unless you’re forced to work offline, because you’ll be missing out on the interactive component. Still, some learners like this, so it’s good to have.
Bonuses For Beginners
In addition to the lessons, there are some great extra resources for beginners, which can be valuable for first-time Korean learners. Some are PDFs you can print out; others are interactive.
When you're just starting out, Korean can seem intimidating and you really need a lot of solid information on the basics: grammar, phonology, the mysterious Hangul writing system! The last thing you want to do is waste time and stifle your progress by trying to piece it all together from various websites. Here, it's neatly in one place:
- Overviews of the language
- Introduction to Korean Grammar
- Interactive Korean Verb Conjugation Chart
- Interactive Korean Alphabet Chart (Hangul)
- Introduction to Korean Writing (PDF)
- Key Korean Phrases
Other Notable Features
A couple of other cool features are a quiz function, which gives you vocabulary and writing tests based on language from your lessons, and a searchable Korean-English / English-Korean dictionary.
You access the dictionary from a convenient search bar, and it contains all of the language from the lessons. One downside is that the search tool doesn’t always recognize romanized Korean words. This means it’s more useful when searching in English than the other way around.
The quizzes are pretty easy and very short, so I’m not sure you’ll find them useful for really testing yourself. Beginners will probably find them fun, though.
KoreanClass101Review: What I Like
These are some things I really like about KoreanClass101…
- It's a very substantial resource. There’s a huge amount of lessons, covering just about any subject you can think of, and the library is updated regularly with new material.
- The course is well-designed. Coming up with enough quality content to produce an entire Korean course is not easy. The content is impressive, though. Grammar points and language vocabulary get repeated over the course of each level, which helps reinforce what you've learnt.
- The podcast lessons are short and practical, so they're perfect for anyone whose time is limited and needs quick, visually-engaging lessons that are easy to follow.
- The difficulty levels are just right. Once you’ve worked out what your current level is and tried a few lessons, you'll find that the progression from level to level is logical.
- Vocabulary is well-selected and the dialogues are (for the most part) based on life-like situations. This means the lessons teach the kind of useful language that's actually spoken by people in Korean-speaking countries. The team also helps you work on your pronunciation with clear, simple infographic videos that tackle one tricky sound at a time.
- The line-by-line clickable dialogues with audio, Korean transcription, romanization and English translations are pretty awesome! To me, this is the best perk of the product.
- The handy mobile app makes it really easy to listen to episodes when you’re on the go (driving to work, at the gym, lying on the beach…) The line-by-line audio feature even works on your phone, which is cool.
- The detailed lesson notes are super helpful for explaining Korean grammar points – these are found at the end of each lesson.
KoreanClass101 Review: What I Don't Like
In spite of all those good things, there are also a few significant weak points in KoreanClass101:
- The podcast presenters speak way too much English and not enough Korean. Some lessons take almost 3 minutes to get to the Korean part! Absolute beginners might like this, but it’s not ideal. The sooner you start hearing mostly Korean, the better. Even at the higher levels, the dialogues are all very short and some learners may find it frustrating.
- There is a lot of up-selling and cross-promoting related products even after you sign up, which is really annoying. Nobody wants flashy adverts on their expensive Korean course. They even spam you in the introduction to many lessons, which really damages the user experience!
- The resources don’t always seem very cared for, which is a bit of an anticlimax after you’ve paid good money for the course. It mostly bothered me to find inconsistencies across the different study tools. For example, in the interactive dialogues, sometimes the romanization and English lines don’t match up with the Korean lines, making it impossible to use them for review. Other lessons are missing the romanization altogether, or the audios don’t work, or there are no review tracks at all. There are also words in the database that don’t come with audio recordings. I wouldn’t call these deal-breakers, but you certainly are left feeling a bit neglected!
- The vocabulary lists and flashcards work with single words out of context, which is a real missed opportunity. We remember words in sentences better, because a sentence provides a real-life association. In KoreanClass, the new words start off in context in the dialogues, but then when you want to revise them later, the context is gone. Sure, the flashcard program often has sample phrases, but I'm a big believer in keeping words in full sentences at all times – especially when revising.
- Lots of teaching, not much immersion. One issue I have with the lessons is, ironically, the fact that they are just that: lessons. What do I mean? Even in a 20 minute lesson, you get maybe 30 seconds of sustained listening to Korean (the dialogue). The rest is teaching explanations of vocabulary and grammar. It isn't that the teaching isn't useful or good quality, it's just that you need to spend more time with the language if you actually want to learn it! I would like there to be more material for extensive listening, so you can just listen and enjoy without always having to learn something new.
- Another missed opportunity is the ‘Korean Songs’ listening lessons. Instead of hearing the actual songs, you just hear a monotonous reading of the lyrics. Where’s the fun in that? Hearing the real thing would be immersive and great for learning the language!
- Vocabulary lists from the lessons don't always contain all the useful words from the dialogues. It's often the case in the lessons that you want to know what a word means, but it's not in the vocab list. You can look it up in the dictionary on your homepage (and from there, export those words to flashcard decks), but it's unnecessary and interrupts the user experience.
- The user interface is complicated because there’s too much going on. As a newcomer, it’s quite difficult to work out a clear learning progression. I had to skim through lots of pathways to find lessons that made sense for my own Korean goals. The variety is nice, but messy, so you still feel like you’re flying in the dark sometimes.
How Much Does KoreanClass101 Cost & Is It Worth It?
KoreanClass101 works on a freemium model. This means that it's free to create an account and use some of the early lessons, but you'll have to pay to reach the best content and special features.
There are various different subscriber options and as you might as expect, the longer you subscribe for, the cheaper the deal. The prices are quite reasonable, in my opinion.
If you take a one-year premium subscription as our baseline – this costs $180. That's a lot more than the cost of a Korean study book, but substantially less than other commercial products like Rosetta Stone ($399) or Pimsleur ($345 for 30 lessons), for example.
Overall, I think KoreanClass101.com is a substantial and well-made resource for learning Korean that's easy to consume. And, despite my issues with the teaching format, I think you'll find it useful if you decide to sign up.
However, if you're looking for a comprehensive beginner programme that will take you all the way to the intermediate level in Korean and that uses a much more fun, engaging and effective method, then I have something special that might suit you better…
Korean Uncovered: A Better Alternative To KoreanClass101
While KoreanClass101 is reasonably well-structured and has tonnes of lesson content, I wouldn’t call it the most fun Korean programme.
That's where Korean Uncovered is different.
Korean Uncovered is a comprehensive online beginner course, that takes you from a complete beginner in Korean up to an intermediate level. And it's fuelled by a fun and unique method called StoryLearning®.
StoryLearning is a process that was invented to teach you languages naturally. It’s so natural, in fact, that it’s based on how human beings learn their native language.
In the course, you'll learn through an exciting, original mystery story told in Korean, and written especially for beginner learners.
Although you learn through story, you also have a native Korean teacher and experienced language learner by your side, all the way through the course, giving explanations in English and tips to learn the material fast.
Uncovered teaches all of the key aspects of the language – reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, speaking and writing. So, by the time you've finished, you'll be a confident intermediate level Korean speaker, ready to go out and actually use your Korean in the real world!
What You Get With Uncovered
- Complete 20-module course to learn to speak Korean with confidence through StoryLearning™. This is a method that relies on your brain's natural way of learning.
- 60+ video lessons with your experienced Korean teacher. You'll learn with the same method that's attracted worldwide attention, from the BBC, Independent, Open University, European Commission, El País, and more!
- Learn the secrets I used to learn 8 languages and how to use them yourself to learn to speak with confidence & take part fully in conversations with native speakers.
- Fully downloadable programme so you can learn faster – anywhere, any time, and on any device… even without an internet connection!
- Complete learning material, including audiobook, translations, printable worksheets… everything you need to get started and find success with your language learning!
- Expert pronunciation training videos, so you can perfect your pronunciation and speak like a native from the start.
- Money-back guarantee, so you can buy without risk today, and get a full refund if you don't love it.
If you're determined to learn Korean and looking for the most fun and effective Korean course around, I'm confident you'll love Uncovered!
Ready to start? Click here to find out about Korean Uncovered as soon as it's released!