KoreanClass101 is a part of the huge range of language education resources produced by the Innovative Language company. This, as the name implies, is part of the Korean catalog and it offers thousands of audio lessons, alongside some video lessons, starting at the absolute beginner level and moving all the way up to the advanced level.
Having said that, even with the huge range of resources available, the scope of the website can at times feel quite narrow.
For example, the amount of material available for advanced learners is limited and if you’re interested in doing anything beyond grammar, listening, and vocab practice, then the website doesn’t offer much.
It does, however, fill in a gap of material which most Korean learners have been crying out for, which is for listening comprehension.
There is no perfect, all-encompassing, website or course and you’ll find flaws in most resources. However there are some really great tools out there and if used alongside other materials, books, or classes, then KoreanClass101 is an excellent resource to improve your Korean.
The content is of high quality the lessons are, mostly, well thought out. While the website layout is pretty haphazard, this can be seen as more of an inconvenience than a deal breaker.
This review is going to try to cover every detail of the platform and give you all the information you need to see if KoreanClass101 is the right tool for you.
So without further ado…
First, you can sign up for a 7-day free trial without having to input any payment information. This gives you access to everything in their Premium plan.
But be prepared…
They will bombard you with their offers before you actually make it to any language learning, so just skip through them to begin your trial.
Also, although not the worst culprits, expect at least 1 e-mail a day from them offering you deals to join. All this, along with all the discounts, deals and offers they try to throw at you while you’re using the site it doesn’t give off a great first impression.
Once you have made it past the first lot of advertising you’ll be asked to choose a level (absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate or advanced) and from there you’ll be taken to your dashboard. The level can be switched at any time.
The dashboard page is your KoreanClass101 hub.
It’s the place where you add the pathways that you want to study, see how many hours you’ve studied, lessons you’ve completed, newest content and latest news (mostly adverts). You can begin with the first lesson they suggest in my pathways or you can go to the lesson library under the lesson heading and choose from a huge range of material at your chosen level.
There does seem to be some semblance of structure if you look hard enough.
Going along with the seasons starting at introductory and moving through the different levels. Don’t however expect it to be laid out before you in a clear structured path.
You will have to search through up to 40 pathways to find what you’re after.
How about the other lessons?
Well, some, as it turns out are quite important, although you may not realize it. Some contain important grammar whereas others are just there for listening practice, though you may have a hard time telling which is which before you begin the lesson.
KoreanClass101 did try improving things in 2017 (you can see how it used to be in classic mode) where they reorganized and renamed some of the content to make it easier for learners. However, it hasn’t been particularly effective. Whether you’re in classic mode or the new one you will still encounter the same problems of finding a clear learning progression.
There is a real smorgasbord of content though. From the absolute beginner to intermediate level there is a wide variety of lessons to choose from.
The advanced section, unfortunately, is quite a letdown and you’ll be better off looking for some Korean podcasts to listen to.
There are around 20-40 different pathways depending on the level with some having over 150 lessons in them.
Most of the larger pathways are actually combinations of other pathways so it can be easy to misjudge the true amount of lessons on the site. Realistically, you can expect between 10-40 lessons per pathway with the focus ranging from grammar, listening practice, to interesting cultural information.
There are books that you can download as PDFs alongside some of the listening lessons. This is becoming much more noticeable in the newer lessons as the site tries to expand. The book is not easy to find in its entirety. Should it be required for a lesson you can download it as a PDF at the top of the lesson page by clicking the PDF icon and clicking the button.
The layout of this website really does leave a lot to be desired and it is one of the most frustrating things to deal with while using it.
There is a real danger of missing out on important information while searching around for the right course.
If you want an online course that’s lays everything out for you, exactly when you need to learn it, I’d highly recommend 90 Day Korean. KoreanClass101 could be a good complementary resource to get more listening practice.
Another online option to add a bit more structure to your studying would be Howtostudykorean.com. It’s only for grammar but it’s free and covers everything with a clear and logical path.
The great thing about KoreanClass101 is its vast listening material and although some of the lessons, especially the older ones, can fall a little short the vast majority are really good.
Try to not let the disorganization get the better of you. There’s a lot of good content here. Going into all sorts of pathways and lessons will give you enough material to help you improve your Korean as well as keep things fresh.
The Lessons at KoreanClass101 can be broken down into a few categories that are of a similar structure. The main, and most useful, is the dialog lessons which are around 15 minutes long and normally involves 2 or 3 presenters explaining different grammar points or listening situations.
The presenters for these lessons are native in Korean and fluent in English. All of them are living, working or studying in Seoul.
They do engage in a lot of casual chat in English and for those who like a more laid back approach this style may suit, especially at the lower levels. They are very friendly and can be pretty entertaining, however, the constant English chatting limits the Korean you’re exposed to.
This can be especially frustrating at the higher levels where the casual chatting could be a perfect way to practice listening and learn about how the language is used in real life situations if it were done in Korean. And while the amount of English is curtailed as you move up levels, it can still feel like missed opportunities to get more practice.
The lessons tend to follow a set order:
- Dialogue with translations
- Vocabulary from dialogue with examples
- Discussion of grammar with examples
- Listen to the dialogue again
They have a good flow and should you want to slow it down or speed them up at any point you can do that with the function at the bottom of the screen. If like me, you found the English a little too much or just want to get to the crux of the lesson quicker then you can go through each individual part yourself.
Scrolling down you have the option to go through the dialogue from the lesson and have a look at the vocabulary. It also contains an excellent set of lesson notes.
These have the write up of the grammar point from the lesson and are written mostly in English with the examples also written in hangul. They are very thorough, have information on how to use the grammar and how it is conjugated.
It shows you the context with examples taken from the dialogue as well as others that come from other places. Also, it gives you helpful hints as to where the grammar comes from and some cultural information as to where you may come across it should you ever visit Korea.
The other types of lessons you may come across are focused more on practicing your listening skill as opposed to teaching any grammar. Some just contain the dialogue and grammar sections and as said before while others are designed to go along with a book that can be downloaded as a PDF from within the lesson.
There are some pathways that only contain 3-4 minute dialogues focused around a topic or experience someone might have in their day to day life, presented in a blog format. You’ll find these more often as you move up levels.
Within the lesson itself there a range of different tools you can use to help tailor your own personal learning experience. These, of course, are available depending on the plan you choose. Basic users can access the lessons and the notes however all the more useful features can only be accessed at the premium price point.
This part of the lesson had some good features to help you understand and practice the conversation. You can of course go through the entire dialogue in one straight shot or you can break it down it to smaller, one line chunks.
The dialogue can also be slowed down to half speed and if you’re a little more sadistic sped up to x3 with a function on the playback bar at the bottom of the screen.
You can also download the audio to your device, however, depending on your situation using the app may be more useful.
The dialogues are available to be read in hangul and their romanizations. You can access the English translation for the dialogue and have it appear on the same page as well. Confusingly, though, not side by side. So if the dialogue is long you will find yourself constantly scrolling up and down to try and match the Korean to the English.
Not all lessons have the romanization but these are at the later levels where your reading should be at a level for it not to be too much of a problem.
Also next to the line by line play button there is an option where you can record your own version of the sentence, listen to the playback and compare the waveforms.
Speaking is a very difficult skill to practice on your own and this is a great addition for those who are stuck for options. It does play out at the same rate as the original sentence, so if you’re not quick enough you can find your time runs out before you finish recording.
There are some alternatives, italki offers 1-1 Korean classes online, which are very convenient and affordable. Alternatively, you could find a language exchange partner on either italki or HelloTalk.
Something really missing here is some kind of listening comprehension test. Something that gives you a chance to check your understanding and test yourself before rushing into the translation.
Moving on from the dialogue you find the vocabulary section of the lesson. Similar to before you have the option to listen to each word or phrase, record yourself, plus you can listen at half speed. You can also have the English translation appear with an example sentence separate from the one in the dialogue.
The website has a few options to help you with vocabulary memorization. Some are much more effective than others but the least useful and thankfully least common one is the video.
A relic from the olden days of KoreanClass101, this is a 2-minute video that reads aloud 5 words from the vocabulary section in Korean, then in English. Then a second time around in English only giving you 5 seconds to repeat back in Korean.
Next is another tool that doesn’t really offer anything that hasn’t been offered already, the slideshow.
It is just a rehash of what we have seen already in the vocabulary section of the lesson. A translation and an example sentence that you can listen to and read along with. Something that looks very shiny but is in fact not all that useful.
A little more useful but still not particularly great is the quiz. Similar to slideshow it just feels like it was added as a cool feature without offering any solid learning experience.
It’s broken down into 2 parts. The first is just a true or false section asking you about the vocabulary from the lesson and whether the Korean matches the English. The second is a writing section where you have to write the word in Korean from the English translation.
This was a good idea that was poorly executed. This really would have been served better as a listening comprehension test. The writing part is not too bad, spelling is something all levels need improvement on but if you don’t know how to type in Korean, then it is completely useless.
These are 2 of the more solid tools that you can use for your vocabulary learning on the website. In the vocab section of the lesson, there is a box you can check next to each word which allows you to add to a set of flashcards and/or your word bank.
You can customize your flashcards into different decks and they work in a similar way to many other spaced repetition flashcard apps such as Memrise or Anki. They show you the Korean or English of a word then you have to translate it. If you get it correct it will be a while before you see it again, if you get it wrong then it will come up more often.
It’s nice that you’re given example sentences as this adds context to the words and phrases you’re learning, making them much more useful.
There are huge libraries of lists available for you to choose from. Again, however, similar to finding lessons be prepared to go digging. Finding what you want might be difficult as there’s no real organization to the lists apart from simple alphabetical or at what date they were added.
The word bank is your own personal list of words that you can export to your hard drive to print off, listen to, look through and read as well as give labels to, should you want to categorize any words. You can also go to any of the lessons that these words appear in so as to hear it in a few different contexts. All the words have the translations and the romanizations available.
There are a few other things I wanted to mention that are available on the site. The first of which is the Korean dictionary. It’s a great tool which offers translations of whatever you type into it whether that’s Korean or English.
Also, the ‘My teacher’ section is something available at the premium PLUS price point.
This is marketed as your own personal tutor available any time of the day or night for you to practice your Korean. This, however, is disingenuous at best. What it actually appears to be is someone for you to send work to, whether that be recordings or writing, for them to mark and suggest improvements. You can send them messages and they will give you assignments once a week to work on.
However, a better option to get personalized feedback would be to use italki to find a private tutor.
The app offers an excellent way to access all of the resources through your mobile device. It has all the same functions as you would find on the website making it quick and easy to access all your materials wherever you are so long as you have an internet connection
Having briefly touched on this earlier there are 3 main price points that you can use to access this website.
The prices that you’re shown are actually only available if you pay for 2 years at once. There are lots of subscription lengths available which will change the cost per month. The most expensive is a 1-month subscription which will at least double the price.
Basic – $8/mo
Premium – $25/mo
Premium Plus – $47/mo
There are a few differences in the price plans but the main ones are as follows.
Basic: Access to the lessons online and on the app. All grammar from the lesson notes available online and to download as a PDF.
Premium: Basic + all of the tools on the site except 1-1 instruction found in the ‘My teacher’ section
Premium PLUS: Everything included in the Premium plan, as well as the so-called 1-1 instruction. I’d recommend steering clear of this plan as the value just doesn’t seem to be very good.
Overall, like any language resource, KoreanClass101 has its positives and negatives.
There is a huge variety of material available. Some of the extra features are useless, others are pretty solid but can be found on a lot of other sites and apps.
If it is listening practice that you’re after, then look no further than this site, there is nothing that offers as much at the lower to intermediate level.
If you are at an advanced level then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, whether that’s podcasts, YouTube channels, or something else entirely.
The structure of KoreanClass101 is a big let down as well. You have to spend a lot of time searching through trying to figure out where to go next, which is something that should have been sorted out years ago.
Again like any tool though using it alongside other resources will really help enhance your learning.
It’s at an affordable price point and should you want to go and try it for yourself, you can sign up using their 7-day free trial to get access to all their premium services.