Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Korean Lessons in Alabama

Dear Korean,

I am a 35 year old English-speaking American living in Birmingham, Alabama. Is there anywhere local for me to take Korean language classes? I have tried local Korean Catholic churches but they tell me they are all for kids. I would like to learn in order to visit the country one day as a Tang Soo Do student.

Anonymous Coward

Birmingham, Alabama!! The Korean's first college roommate was from Decatur, Alabama, "the fourth largest city in Alabama and the home to the second largest Wal-Mart in America!" as he would proudly say. The roommate invited the Korean to his future wedding, and told the Korean to bring a box cutter so that he can cut the rope around his neck after the roommate's friends lynch him. The Korean was not sure if his roommate was joking.

The Korean is shocked that there is a local Korean Catholic church there to begin with. A little help, AAK! readers from the Deep South?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.


  1. I traveled to Huntsville for business and was surprised to see Korean restaurants. I stopped in one and saw a flyer advertising that an adjacent church was offering to teach Korean to the locals. I later found out that Kia has a manufacturing facility not far from that restaurant. I know it is a bit of a drive, but this is certainly an option. Of course, Rosetta Stone may do the trick as well!

  2. Is there a local college in the area? Perhaps you could learn if there are Korean students studying there who would be willing to help you out.

    My second suggestion is a little wilder - learn what you can in the States but save the real language training for when you get to Korea - there's no school like being there. Total immersion isn't for everyone but if you're a Tangsoodoer you're a stout fellow to begin with.

    Apropos of nothing, I spent a few days in the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in the Deep South (in Florence, Alabama). It was a little strange.

  3. I grew up in Birmingham, but never noticed a Korean community, but then again it could have been there an I was unaware. I have lived in Huntsville for many years, and as the first commenter notes, there does seem to be a good Korean community there. I am aware of at least one place where Korean lessons are available in Huntsville, and you could probably find private tutors easily as well.

    I'll ask my brother, who still lives in B'ham, if he knows of any Korean community and/or Korean lessons being available.

  4. One of my best friends lives in Birmingham, AL and I can confirm that there is a Korean community there. I've been to the Korean Catholic church so I can confirm its existence as well. Hell, I know some Koreans that went to school at Auburn without getting lynched.

    I think the best bet would be to try to find someone willing to teach one-on-one.

    All that being said, I just wanted to mention that my friend's Korean accent mixed with a deep southern accent is pretty f'ed up.

  5. dj,

    The Korean once spoke at length with a Korean-Mexican in English. The accent was a total trip.

  6. Just curious if anyone has actually tried the Rosetta Stone program. It seems interesting...I wanted to learn Korean too, but mostly for a trip to Korea since I've never held a decent conversation with her and we just both kind of sit in an awkward silence and stare at each other. I'm sure there is a lot of stories and things to share. I'm planning to go crosstown to a college, but it's going to be inconvenient to get there and cost a lot of time and money in gas so Rosetta Stone if a viable option might be better for me. Thanks and sorry for a slight hijack.

  7. annyeong hoseyo-
    I live in Korea and I have lived in Birmingham, Alabama--- Birmingham is great with a vibrant Korean culture. As well as Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. How dare you criticized the "deep south?" All you show is ignorance--which I can forgive. Learn---

  8. Korean car companies are moving production to the South, because of cheaper operating costs, I am guessing. KIA has a place in Birmingham and I believe Hyundai or Daewoo opened up one on the border of Alabama and Georgia. This my dad all gleaned just by reading the newspapers, English and Korean.

    My parents actually bought a house in Birmingham as an investment. They'd be a bad source for Korean lessons tho, as they don't spend that much time there and they are um native Korean speakers.

    There's actually quite a few Koreans chilling in Mexico and sprinklings through Latin America. A lot of Latin American countries had laxer immigration policies in the 60s and 70s, so some people went there first. My mom actually immigrated to Argentina before coming to the States and she speaks fluent Spanish. Her English is nothing like my father's and for a long time, it had a slight European flavor to it, which would confuse people, cos my dad sounds totes Korean-tastic. Her English has unfortunately gotten worse, cos she basically only speaks Korean in her day to day. Her Spanish is actually still amazing. People who just talk with her on the phone are usually shocked to see her little 5'1" Korean ajumma self in the flesh.

  9. Susan,

    1. Where is the criticism against the Deep South in the post?

    2. According to the 2000 census (linked at the official website of Birmingham,) there are 138 Koreans in Birmingham. One hundred and thirty eight. The Korean's high school in Cerritos had more than 138 Koreans. If you call that vibrant, your bar is set very low.

  10. This comment is in regards to the question about Rosetta Stone. I am not Korean and decided to try to learn Korean a few years ago when I met my future wife. I first picked up some Korean textbooks to learn the alphabet and took a class at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Doing this was great, because I picked up the basics and learned quite a bit about the culture from the professor (who happens to be the one that teaches Jim Carrey's character in "Yes Man"). Because the commute was too great, I picked up Rosetta Stone. Though I haven't been very good at taking the time to study, it has been great thus far. Expect total immersion. It won't go over vocabulary or the alphabet, but instead shows you four pictures and speaks or displays the word or phrase that best describes one of them. It is your responsibility to choose the correct image. Of course, you will be wrong 75% of the time at first. After trial-and-error, you will figure it out. While I'm sure there are better one-on-one or classroom programs (and immersion in Korea is certainly the best option), Rosetta Stone is a great option for someone trying to pick up the language without any classroom options. I would certainly supplement with basic textbooks and some books that The Korean has recommended in prior posts for cultural understanding and historical perspective.

  11. Heh, heh... the ZenKimchi was born in Decatur, Alabama.

    Actually, it's been known more for its BBQ champions as of late.

  12. Regarding Rosetta Stone, I was greatly disappointed with it. The version I had was basically flash cards, and they didn't have English explanations. That was not a problem when it was obvious what was in the picture. But when it got to more abstract ideas, like "right" and "left," it just showed a picture of a car in front of a church. How was I supposed to know what it was talking about?

    Out of the software out there, my favorite has been Declan's Korean program.

    Re: auto manufacturing
    Actually, the Hyundai plant is near Montgomery, and the growing Korean population between Atlanta, Montgomery and Birmingham is too new for census figures to accurately portray.

  13. Hello,

    Here I found a directory with webs to learn languages. There is a list for Korean. I hope they will be useful:


  14. I am a 26 year old Korean-American. I'm here in Huntsville, AL for Army Advanced Individual training. i'm gonna be here till the end of the year so contact me if you want private korean lessons. take care.

  15. Hi, I just moved to Birmingham from Japan. I was studying Korean in Japan and want to continue the lesson here also. Did you have any luck finding class or tutor?


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