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Do Koreans Speak English? (The Truth)

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

Most Koreans do speak English but definitely not fluently.

The majority of Korean students get English taught in kindergarten. But from there on, it stopped, which is quite sad. Kids stop learning English and the only way they’ll advance is by teaching it themselves.

Now, since the private education system is extremely popular. The kids tend to learn more English there, but that’s also not a given.

So why is English so hard to learn for Koreans?

Let’s get started.

In short: Most Koreans can speak English. While it’s not fluent, they can explain it enough to be understood. Now, more and more people are starting to get better at English because of Korean SNS, also known as Social Media.

Is English Widely Spoken In Korea?

English is not very widely spoken in Korea with the main reason being that most students in Korea don’t get to learn English outside study hours.

Koreans do learn English in high school but it’s often memorization instead of speaking it fluently. Now, when you go to the more foreign areas in Korea like Seoul, you’ll find more people speaking English.

So if you’re a foreigner looking to visit South Korea and can’t speak Korean, you’ll probably have a hard time. 

The majority of Koreans struggle to understand you, so it’s important that you speak slowly. Especially when you’re not native American yourself.

And because of this language barrier, it’s extremely difficult to get by outside of Korean metropolitan cities

PRO TIP: Using an audio translator will help you get by. 100% WORTH IT.

Why Is English So Difficult for Koreans to Master?

Most Koreans find English difficult to master because they don’t use it very often. If you don’t speak English very often it’ll get harder and harder to remember. The same goes for any language, and because Koreans don’t speak English outside their classes it’ll slowly fall off.

Even though English gets more and more used in their everyday language, it’s still something that’s quite hard to learn.

Think about…

It’s like learning any language ONLY in your classes and never using it anywhere else. You’ll start forgetting some words here and there.

And over time, you’ll forget the entire language. 


Writing English isn’t very hard for Koreans, mainly because they already use it when watching videos or gaming. Now, that doesn’t mean that writing is the same as spoken English.

People have different Korean keyboards when it comes to typing, and the same goes for writing. They use a different alphabet, which might be harder for them to learn.

But don’t assume that no one can write English fluently in Korea, because there are thousands of people that can. It’s just finding the right person.


Pronunciation for Koreans is the hardest part. Even though they can speak somewhat good English compared to other countries, it’s still one of the hardest things to do.

The most common mistake Koreans make is using the “R”. This is because they don’t use it in their everyday language. And saying it for the first time is definitely hard. 

So take your time and don’t rush them. Speak slowly to Koreans and make sure they understand what you’re saying.


Because most Koreans don’t write English on a daily basis it’s hard for them to have perfect grammar. Even people from the US find it hard to write sentences with perfect grammar.

It’s something that needs to be taught over the years, and can’t be learned within a few days. This is probably one of the hardest things to learn for Koreans.

Looking at the Korean alphabet, you don’t have such rules as in the US or UK. It’s a whole different dimension for them.


Learning new words and mixing different sentences is extremely difficult. If you can’t understand the basics of English grammar then it’s probably something you should practice at first.

English vocabulary gets taught in almost all Korean schools starting at kindergarten, but most kids don’t pick it up. They don’t speak it at home, or outside school.

And the people that do are either self-taught or extremely gifted.

Should Koreans Learn English?

Every Korean should be learning English because it’s one of the most spoken languages in the world. At some point, you can’t avoid it because it’s a universal language.

The people that can’t speak English will eventually be left behind and will have a hard time catching up with the other students.

Looking at the job opportunities you’ll have when you can speak another language on top of Korean is very beneficial. 

Even though it’s not ground-breaking right now, it’ll probably be more important in the future. So, think about learning another language other than your main one.

You can even do some freelance work in Korea like teaching English. This is something almost every foreigner does. 

It pays good money and is not the hardest job to do. So give it a go, you most likely won’t regret it.

Final Thoughts

After all,  most Koreans can understand some English but are definitely not fluent. There’s a small percentage of Koreans that speak English fluently and the majority of them live in metropolitan cities like Seoul. 

Outside of Seoul, it’ll be very hard to find someone that speaks English fluently. So, if your only language is English, it’s not recommended to go there by yourself.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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