How to Find Time to Learn Korean if You’re Too Busy

매일 너무 바빠서 한국어를 공부할 시간이 없어요.
I’m too busy every day that I don’t have time to learn Korean.

This “I don’t have time to learn” argument somehow always reminds me about a story of a man from my country, Indonesia, who seemed fond of making excuses that he couldn’t find time to be a good father to his children because he was so busy working and doing good things for the community (he has like… 10 children or so, no kidding), but he still managed to marry another woman, who was a lot younger and prettier than his first wife. (Polygamy is legal in Indonesia).

어이가 없죠?

Now, if you think about it, how could he find the time to hunt for a second wife? He said he was too busy for his children! So it was not that he didn’t have any time, it turned out the real problem was the way he set his priorities.

No time for old wife, but there’s always time for a new one. Men…

You might have similar problem. Like everyone else, you have 24 hours a day, but instead of studying Korean, perhaps you choose to spend your time doing ‘everything else but’.

Of course we’re busy everyday. We’re too busy to review flash cards or read a grammar book or listen to Korean audio CD, but somehow we always have time for Facebook, Twitter, TV, chatting endlessly with neighbors, nagging at our boyfriend, reading gossip columns, forever searching for people’s reviews on the latest iPhone, or getting involved in some futile argument on the internet.

The problem could be that you haven’t made learning Korean a priority.

That’s why I think, the first thing you need to do is to decide whether or not the mastery of Korean is an important thing to you. Mastering Korean is not an easy task, and it will take a lot of your time. The fact that you can only be fluent “after many many hours of learning” (unless you’re a genius or an Indigo child, maybe) is something you need to keep in mind. Are you willing to put in the hours?

If you think Korean is irrelevant to your life goals, it might be better for you to spend your short time on this planet with something else exciting and worth pursuing. (I do mean this. I’m not going to persuade you to learn Korean. You need to decide it on your own. Seriously, there are millions of other things to learn and do to enjoy life).

Once you’re sure that you really want to learn Korean, it should be easy (or easier) for you to make it a priority, something you need and want to do before ‘everything else’.

I’ve been learning Korean every single day without taking a break since July 15, 2011. No matter how busy I am, even when I was sick or traveling, I’ve always managed to study new words or new grammar from my books and the internet.

I don’t hire tutor to teach me, so no one makes me do homework. I don’t even set any fixed schedule to study.

(Because if I decide on a certain time, for example, “15.00~15.15: learn Korean for 15 minutes”, I will always fail. Something else always comes up, or I just don’t feel like studying, or I just sabotage myself, and I feel guilty afterward.).

So how do I manage to learn every day?

“Addiction” is the key.

Do you know what causes “addiction” for example, to cigarettes, binge-eating, overeating, or drugs? Do you know what triggers addiction?

It’s almost always a negative feeling. Something happens and you feel depressed, frustrated, or angry. When you experience these feelings, your addiction will kick in, and you take that cigarette, even though you know it’s bad for you. Or you overeat after a bad day even though you know your food will turn to ugly cellulite the next day.

Do you know why you keep doing it?

It’s because those things that you’re addicted to can make you feel better almost instantly, even if only for a moment.

Do you realize that if you’re addicted to something, for example, cigarette, you don’t need to schedule ‘cigarette time’ the day before? You just step outside and smoke.


There are 2 requirements so you can turn learning Korean into an “addiction”.

1. Learning Korean makes you feel good.

You get ‘high’ when you memorize 5 new words or 10 new sentences, or understand a dialog in Korean movies, or whatever. You know you’re getting better and better each minute you spend on studying. You get satisfaction of being able to speak one more Korean expression.

2. Use your study time as an ‘escapism’, to take time out from your daily problems for a little while.

Some people read books to escape. Some stare blankly at TV screen. Some use drugs. Some get drunk. You learn Korean.

Imagine if you study for 5 minutes to lift your mood, every time you feel down. Think of it as ‘cigarette break’ to give you time out. Three times of short breaks, and you’ll be spending 15 minutes learning Korean.

This way learning every day feels easy. If you’re “addicted”, you won’t be struggling to keep your motivation or fighting your own laziness, you will find time and place to study, no matter how busy you are. Just keep your Korean books close and handy.

Remember that you need daily exposure to Korean language in order to become fluent.