When learning Korean, it is best if you can learn the Hangul alphabet as it is and skip the latinized version. Pronunciation is also very important. So if you don’t have chance to go to South Korea and learn the language there, try and find a native speaker, who can help you with it.
If you are using a “teach yourself” book, be aware that inconsistencies are possible due to the fact that some of the specifics of pronunciation are lost in the process of latinization (hence the importance of learning Hangul and not the romanized version).
Don’t underestimate grammar. It is not necessary to become a Korean grammar expert, but you should learn the basics like word order and use of articles since they are essential to becoming a fluent speaker. Just like any other language, it would help if you use every opportunity to interact with the language - whether it is through music, movies or conversations with native speakers.
Metropolitan Government of Seoul is organizing Korean language classes to help foreign nationals living in Korea. The “Customized Korean Language Program” takes place at 14 public centers, including the Seoul Global Center, Itaewon Global Village Center, and foreign workers centers around Seoul. There are three and six months long courses. All courses can be customized to meet the schedules and needs of individual students. All the Korean language courses that the program offers are free of charge. (http://global.seoul.go.kr/yeongdeungpo/ )
Korean Language Proficiency Tests
TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) 한국어능력시험
TOPIK’s assesses the Korean language proficiency of Korean non-speakers and even overseas Korean. The test is hosted by National Institute for International Education under the Representation of Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Knowledge. Once there were two kinds of TOPIK tests: The Standard TOPIK (S-TOPIK) and Business TOPIK (B-TOPIK). S-TOPIK is used for academic purposes whilst B-TOPIK is for finding employment. As of 2011, B-TOPIK no longer exists.
TOPIK tests can be taken 4 times a year in Korea and twice a year for exams taken abroad. TOPIK is available in the following countries: Japan, Taiwan, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Paraguay, Argentina, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Czech Republic, Egypt, Belarus, Russia, Brazil and Cambodia.
The TOPIK exam includes the following test modules: Vocabulary/ Grammar, Writing, Reading and Listening. A speaking section to the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) may be added starting in 2015. The test has 3 exam levels- beginner, intermediate and advanced.
The duration of the test for each level is 90 minutes. The time is divided into two halves: the first half is Vocabulary/ Grammar and Writing and the second half is reading and listening
The minimum needed to pass the exam is 50 points each for first tier level (level 1, 3, 5), 70 points each for tier 2 (level 2, 4, 6). The maximum for each category is 100 points and from there an average is calculated. The exam fee is 40,000 won, or approximately US$ 40.
Information about the places where the exams are held as well as online application can be found at http://www.topik.go.kr/
KLPT (Korean Language Proficiency Test) 세계한국말인증시험
KLPT tests the proficiency of non-Korean speakers looking for employment in Korean companies. KLPT has two versions- KLPT and Basic KLPT which is for beginners with at least 200 hours of Korean classes.
Basic KLPT can be takes 4 times a year, and KLPT- twice a year (for paper based tests). The examination cosists of listening and reading. The test has 6 exam levels, level 6 being the highest. In order to pass, one must have a score of minimum 200 (minimum score for Level 1). The exam fee for KLPT and B-KLPT is 40,000 won (approx. US$40).
For more information on registration, dates and places where the exams are held (in South Korea or abroad), visit KLPT’s website.