So, you’ve decided to study Korean. Step #1 is to learn the alphabet.
This may seem counter-intuitive if you’re more familiar with other East-Asian languages. Compare:
- Chinese (10,000 characters to learn – 5,000 to be literate)
- Japanese (with 3 separate alphabets – Hiragana (46 characters), Katakana (46 characters), and Kanji (several thousand Chinese characters))
- Korean only contains 24 characters (14 consonants, 10 vowels), which makes it by far the easiest East Asian language to begin studying
- (English even has more at 26, so Korean is technically even easier than English to memorize)
Most people would agree that Hangul should take a focused student only one day to learn (likely only 2 hours of concentrated study). And with today’s modern technology on smartphones and tablets, learning Hangul quickly and efficiently has never been easier.
The following is a review of the best smartphone and tablet apps that are currently available for learning Hangul. (It’s still our ambition to eventually create a “KeyToKorean Hangul” app someday in the future – stay tuned!)
1. Writing Princess (All Platforms)
Why it’s awesome:
- It’s available for ALL platforms – so if you have multiple devices, you can use the same app across all of them.
- It includes practice for consonants, vowels, and vocabulary.
- It includes dictation practice, games, and videos.
- The app is quickly responsive to touch and allows for some wavering strokes (some apps either respond to slowly or force too precise strokes).
- It shows the proper stroke order so that you can accurately learn the correct way to write Korean.
- The animation is a little childish and the music a bit repetitive (the target audience isn’t adult learners).
- The dictation portion isn’t incredibly accurate. It seems not to keep strokes on the screen long enough to accurately write the vocab. (Though single consonants or vowels seem to be fine.) Still, just the fact that you can listen to the word or letter pronunciations and try to write them (thus, quizzing yourself in a way), makes it a better app than most.
2. Play with Korean (All platforms)
Why it’s awesome:
- It’s available across all devices.
- The animation is really cool (though slow).
- The fact that you can switch between characters multiple times for each letter is cool.
- It shows you the correct stroke order and animates itself in that stroke order.
- It’s not completely FREE. Only the first 4 letters are available for free – then it wants you to purchase the full version.
- The animation can be quite slow.
- It requires much more precise strokes than Writing Princess.
3. 한글 따라쓰기 (Follow Me Hangul Writing) (Android only)
Android only, but 2 versions available:
Why it’s awesome:
- It shows the proper stroke order, and the characters are well designed as traditional characters.
- The KaNaDa writing app doesn’t only focus on vowels and consonants, but the combination of the two.
- From the beginning of KaNaDa, you’ll be writing in alphabetical order: 가, 갸, 거, 겨, 고, 교, 구, 규, 그, 기, etc.
- The Vocab writing app includes audible pronunciation of the words you write as well as pictures of those words so that you can begin learning vocab immediately.
- It doesn’t prevent you from writing poorly – there are no limitations set on how far outside the lines you can draw.
- There’s no “Back” or “Home” button so it’s confusing at first, but if you push “back” on your smartphone (like to go to a previous Internet page), it’ll take you to the home screen.
- There is no music, no any other sound effects (like drawing on the paper sounds) – except only the audible pronunciation of vocab words in the second app.
- The whole thing is like a well designed drawing pad. You can literally trace your finger all over the entire page.
- It’s all in Korean, so you’ll just have to play around with the buttons if you can’t read what they say.
4. 키즈 한글 HD (iPad only)
Only available for iPad (does anyone know more good iPhone apps?)
Why it’s awesome:
- It is well-designed, has good sound and animation, and includes many neat features.
- It includes audible pronunciation of the letters in a child’s voice (kids are the target audience anyway).
- It shows the proper stroke order by putting numerals around the characters in the order you should draw them. Basically, it’s an intricate connect-the-dots for kids to learn proper Korean writing.
- It doesn’t prevent you from making bad lines. So long as you touch all the numbers in order, it’ll draw your lines (this is great for kids to learn and practice).
- It includes vocabulary words with pictures and pronunciation (my son repeats the words after he hears them).
- It includes great games like card matching (memory), action games, coloring pages, and so on.
- It’s only available for iPad.
- It’s only available in the Korean store (you’ll need an ID registered with the Korean store to use it – I used my wife’s ID).
- There’s no music in the game (but that’s a small drawback).
My ranking for the apps are as follows:
- 한글 따라쓰기 (Follow Me Hangul Writing) (4.5 stars) – the best app for adult learners
- Writing Princess (4 stars)
- 키즈 한글 HD (3.5 stars because of it’s lack of availability – Korean iPad only)
- Play with Korean (3 stars because it’s not FREE)
My 2-year-old’s ranking for the apps are probably as follows:
- Writing Princess (5 stars) – it’s his new favorite app – he likes the games and videos
- 키즈 한글 HD (4.5 stars) – this is a close second – he loves the connect-the-dots and the games
- Play with Korean (4 stars) – definitely has the cutest animation, and he doesn’t care that it only gives you 4 letters
- 한글 따라쓰기 (Follow Me Hangul Writing) (2 stars) – not interactive enough for him
Other apps you can try (Android only)
There are PLENTY of apps for Android because it has a world-wide store (not individual country stores) and more developers. However, many Android apps also don’t live up to the quality that is available on the Apple stores (because anyone with a little knowledge can make something). That being said, here are a few more Android apps you can try out if you’d like:
- 한글 Alphabet (Teaches some background about Hangul as well as the strokes)
- Korean Hangul Handwriting (Finger-tracing Flashcards)
- 한글 가나다 따라 쓰기 (about as simple as it gets – a blank white background and JUST tracing the strokes)
- Hangul Writing (another very simple app for kids, but with the longest menu options)
- Korea Fun Writing (another app for kids with some games and English)