Learning Korean on The Side

Once I have a good foundation in japanese I wanted to learn some korean. I hear it’s fairly similar. I was wondering how much of a distraction to improving my japanese this would be. Or maybe it would help by internalizing some of the similar grammar? Anyone here has experience with learning both languages?


I don’t know Korean, but I do have experience in learning two languages at the same time.

My advice for these situations would always be to get to intermediate (preferably high intermediate) level on 1 language first and then start with the 2nd one. At that point, you’ll have a different focus on both languages: on one you might be actively practicing reading while on the other you’re just starting with the grammar basics. It makes sense and it’s practical for the learner.


Well yes, it would be way too messy to learn two languages at the same time, with two different scripts and all. I’m just wondering how feasible it will be to get into korean at some point, if I shouldn’t even think about it or if the similarities make it worthwhile. What exactly do you mean by intermediate/high intermediate?

You should at least be able to read a Japanese book, even if you get stuck from time to time and have to use a dictionary a lot.


I agree with @jprspereira you should get to at least an intermediate level with one language before going into another. I learned Korean to a comfortable degree and now I’m learning Japanese and because they are so similar in sentence structure I end up confusing myself sometimes saying 저는 태です when speaking. It is very doable, however I recommend focusing on one and get a good grasp before learning another. When you learn one it’ll greatly help you with the other language in terms of syntax


Oo, my experiences are finally relevant. When I started studying Japanese (~a year ago), I was proficient enough in Korean to be able to have super basic conversations and very slowly make my way through reading simple texts with a dictionary. I’d say I was an…advanced beginner?

That in mind, learning Japanese while continuing to learn Korean hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would be. So far, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. I’m not sure why I haven’t had any issues learning the two languages concurrently, but here are some ideas off the top of my head:

  • The set of sounds you use to pronounce Korean is so different from what you use for Japanese (or any other language for that matter). I think this makes it difficult to cross wires. Even with words that sound similar (e.g. でんわ/전화, しゃしん/사진), it’s usually easy to recognize which one sounds Korean and which one sounds Japanese.
  • I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken several trips to Korea and Japan. All the experiences and memories of speaking with/listening to people there must surely help to keep the languages separate in my mind. Definitely find ways to speak with and listen to native speakers – this advice holds even if you aren’t learning two languages at once.
  • The grammar similarities are helpful and reinforce each other in my experience so far
  • Don’t laugh, but I used to worry that my brain wouldn’t be able to store all the data for 2 more languages. Turns out that’s not been a problem, don’t really think I’m scratching the surface of what a brain can handle. Really underestimated that thing.

I’ve been building a WaniKani-like SRS tool for Korean vocab. It’s mostly all worked out and I expect I’ll put it online within a couple months. If you’re interested I’ll share it with you then!


I learned both languages. I found that if you don’t study properly, the two languages will interfere with each other and cause some difficulties when you’re learning. The way I found to avoid this was to make sure when I learned something in one language that I learned how to say it in the other, and then I would practice saying them both one after the other. When I did that, I could help my brain distinguish which language was which.


Yea, I’m interested. I thought it would be cool to learn the big three, japanese/korean/mandarin, but I do worry it might be way too much for my brain to handle and the similarities could confuse me more than help. Thanks for sharing your experience.

My experience has been like this so far! (also, what @jprspereira said)

I would say that I’m at an early intermediate stage in Korean. I’m quite confident in reading 한글 (hangeul) now and understand enough vocabulary and grammar that now learning Japanese is not that confusing. The biggest difference is motivation. In Korean, I was very motivated previously, but I’m now less motivated but am able to just read and enjoy learning through texts. In Japanese, I am I motivated in a well-rounded way.

A couple helpful points:

  • Korean is also SOV (Subject+Object+Verb), like Japanese… and the particles are used fairly similarly (so far as I can tell). This has helped me gain a lot of confidence in learning basic Japanese sentence formation.
  • Korean shares similar roots, especially in words descended from Chinese. For example, the words for bag, student, ten thousand, three, five, nine, teacher, etc., are similar enough that the vocabulary can cross over.
  • The Korean phonetic system is fairly easy to learn. There’s only one system.

Some causes of language interference:

  • In Korean, a couple ‘letters’ in hangeul look like hiragana, but that’s ok. Actually, the Korean ‘yo’ and ‘ya’ helped me in a funny way to learn them in hiragana. The katakana for ‘ro’ looks like the Korean ‘m’ consonant. The Korean ‘J’ consonant is similar to katakana ‘su’
  • The first time I visited Japan, my ‘second language situation’ mind initially made me want to speak Korean. The same thing happened in the past where I would want to speak Spanish in Egypt and Korea. This is a normal part of the process, and eventually the mind adapts. FYI, I currently live in Korea but have visited Japan three times since May.

I recommend TTMIK for Korean learning… and some YouTube pages.


Hmm, Korean here. My Korean is far from perfect, but from growing up speaking it with my parents, I think I understand the nuances of a lot of the language and it has been a huge help in learning Japanese. I’m assuming that the opposite transition will also be intuitive as well. In fact, on BunPro, I did take the time to make a Korean translation note for nearly every grammar point that I thought was very similar in usage and meaning. I could compile it into a big list, but it would probably take quite a bit of time. Examples are:
未だ = 아직도
結構 = 꽤
まず = 우선
どんどん = 점점
ぜんぜん = 전혀
Not to say that these Korean translations exactly match the original nuance and usage, but when you already have a general idea of either one, its quite easy to understand the context of which the other might be used.


Haha your “second language situation” really hits home. Last fall I spent a month in Korea, then went to Japan for another month, and for the first two weeks I absolutely couldn’t get out of the habit of wanting to say 감사합니다 to people… I’d stand there awkwardly for an eternal 3 seconds until I could remember ありがとうございます. It wasn’t a problem for anything else, only “thank you”.

I’ve definitely said to people in Korea without thinking. I think my mind subconsciously reverts to “say it in that other language you don’t usually speak” (my Spanish is pretty strong, it’s my default “other” language).


Honestly I still don’t get why the japanese had to invent two whole alphabets for exactly the same sounds. Why couldn’t they just pick katakana or hiragana and go with it?

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