Language Learning

Fluent Languages

I'm quite fluent in Korean and recently received the highest score on the fluency test. I want to spend several more years living in Korea to reach native fluency.

I am now working primarily towards fluency in Chinese. Will likely move to China for intensive study in the near future.

After mastering Chinese and Korean, I'll move on to a third. We'll see what when the time comes.

Tips for Serious Language Learning

After nearly 10,000 hours of self-studying Korean and reaching the highest level of Korean fluency, TOPIK 6, I've learned a lot about effective language learning.
  • Create opportunities for ultralearning (sustained, obsessive study). Spending months or years dedicated solely to learning a language is both incredibly effective and rewarding. My Korean improved by far the most while living on farms in South Korea on my gap year.
  • Measure your trajectory in focused hours per week.. "I've been studying for 5 months" doesn't mean much. Instead, ask yourself—how many uninterrupted hours do you spend interacting with the language every week? That's the best yardstick.
  • Input is significantly more important than output early on. This is beacuse 1) you generally listen and read more than you speak and write, 2) it gives you context & confidence to understand more of what's being said in a conversation, and 3) it's hard to speak beyond the limits of what you know sounds right.
  • Get off Duolingo. It's great as a one-stop-shop for picking up a bit of the language in a few weeks. But if you're a more serious student, you're better off combining tools that each serve one particular role best—a dedicated SRS like Anki, materials designed for one particular language like TalkToMeInKorean, etc.
  • Passive listening isn't real practice. It simply doesn't come close to the effectiveness of active listening at a desk with pen and paper. This is coming from someone who's spent hundreds of hours walking around listening to Korean podcasts.
  • Don't study in libraries. Choose places where you can speak aloud what you're reading or repeat back what you're listening to. This will strengthen your speaking skills at the same time.
  • Build a habit of daily practice. Add an hour of language learning to your evening or morning routine. Deliberately set aside time for it—the time won't find itself.
  • Have fun with it. You retain knowledge better and can go further if you're genuinely having fun, whatever that looks like for you.
  • Put in the solo hours. I see a lot of people trying to learn a language just with a tutor, friend, or language buddy. This is a nice supplement, but dedicated solo practice consisting of repetition and memorization is the meat and potatoes of language learning.
  • It's a fallacy that learning language takes longer as an adult than a childr. While kids absorb knowledge faster, adults can apply greater sustained effort, taking them farther in the long run. An adult's 8 hours studying at a desk beats a child's 3 hours chatting with friends.

Tools for Serious Language Learning

All Languages

  • Anki. Spaced reptition flashcards. An essential tool amongst language students.. and med students.
  • Workaway. A platform that connects host famillies with travelers. I spent a year living in Asia while volunteering through workaways, and they were a great way to get plugged into the local community and practice my target language. People in these communities tend to enjoy language exchange and are excited to help you improve.
  • Italki. A solid place to find tutors for speaking practice if you're currently living in a place where you can't speak the language.


  • TalkToMeInKorean. TalkToMeInKorean produces loads of helpful and entertaining content. They are 100% worth the subscription. Their IYAGI and TalkToMeIn100%Korean audio series are especially great.
  • A great online substitute for an introductory textbook. The content is created by an English speaker, so he helps clarify a number of things a Korean might not be able to.
  • Naver Dictionary. I've seen too many Korean learners who ignorantly use Papago or Google Translate. Naver Dictionary is far better because 1) dictionary entries provide more than one single translation, and most words between English and Korean don't directly map 1-to-1, and 2) it's loaded with many real usage examples.
  • Hanja Dict. For every Korean word that is of Chinese origin, there are many other Korean words which share one of the component characters. Hanja Dict helps you define a new word in terms of words you already know by searching via component characters.

    Imagine you know the word 판매점 (store) and 음식 (food). If you come across the word 식점 (a restaurant), you can use Hanja Dict to search up 식점 and see that it has one character from 음식, one from 판매점, so it's a split between food and store. Restaurant: a food store. Cool!
  • Dict Box. The best iOS offline dictionary, for when you're studying on a plane, or the jungle, or space.
  • 안녕하세요 Hoodie. Creates opportunities for spontaneous Korean conversations. Speaking from personal experience :)


  • Pleco. A great mobile-first Chinese dictionary. I have to say, it is not as good as Naver dictionary, because it only gives insight into words and not phrases. I wish there was a better dictionary—please let me know if there is.
  • Chinese Mnemonics Mnemonics are proven to improve retention, but it's sometimes hard to think of a good one. This is a nice search engine for character mnemonics.
  • More to come...