90 Day Korean Inner Circle: An In-Depth Review
What is 90 Day Korean Inner Circle?
90 Day Korean is a text and audio based course that takes a year to complete. It focuses on allowing you to progress at your own speed, giving you clear and concise goals to reach, and focusing on the 80/20 method for learning.
- what it’s for:
- Introduction to the language, basic conjugation, Hangul script, vocabulary, phrases, grammar,
- Learners follow their own pace
- No worthless content to memorize
- Personal learning coach assigned
- Helpful (optional) weekly assignments to complete
- Weekly reminders and Korean language and culture news
- The program is fully optimized for mobile and tablet
- Great bonus content
- Some lessons should be taught sooner
What is 90 Day Korean and how does it work? Can you learn Korean in only 90 days?
I had heard so much about the program and had often read their blog. It intrigued me, and Korean has been on my list of languages to learn for a while. But because I’ve been dedicated to learning Japanese, I never got around to trying it out… Until now!
In this review, I give the method a try for 90 days. I did have some experience with Korean, but it was pretty off-and-on. I knew some basics and phrases. Plus, I had actually learned to read Hangeul using 90 Day Korean’s free 90 Minute Challenge in the past. But, I wouldn’t say I could “speak” it beyond some set scripts I had memorized to introduce myself. I was a beginner going into it!
One of my goals for this year was to finally learn Korean. So when I got the opportunity to review it for Fluent in 3 Months, I was pretty pumped up.
Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed. And I learned that Korean is incredibly easy when you use the right method!
What is 90 Day Korean?
90 Day Korean is a text and audio based course. It’s divided into four modules, each 90 days long. Within each module is 12 weeks worth of lessons and each week contains about 10-12 lessons. It took about three to five hours to get through one week’s worth of materials.
Let me say that first part again: It’s four modules, each 90 days, or 3 months, long. So, the entire 90 Day Korean course is actually a year long. The first 90 days of the course promises:
- To get you through a 3-minute conversation
- Ordering at a restaurant
- Getting around
- Reading and writing Hangeul
- Some basic chit-chat
The course focuses on three main points: allowing you to progress at your own speed, giving you clear and concise goals to reach, and focusing on the 80/20 method for learning.
So far, I’ve gone through the first 90 days of the program, in which I’ve learned:
- How to count in Korean
- How to introduce myself, say where I’m from, and what I do for a living
- The basics of formal, social, and slang verb conjugation
- How to read, write, and romanize Hangeul
- How to build sentences and ask questions
- How to make a request
- Loads of relevant vocab for everyday situations
- Dates, times, and locations
- Food, weather, and other small talk
- …and so many more nuanced details.
Here’s What I Like About 90 Day Korean
Having spent 90 days learning with the course, I found a lot to like about it. Here’s what I particularly appreciated:
With 90 Day Korean, You Decide the Pace
Even though they have a set method in place, they created the course to be flexible. The standard program is set to “unlock” new course material each week. A reminder is sent to your email letting you know it’s time to start your new week of lessons.
But if you decide you want to work faster or slower? You can email the team and let them know. They’ll adjust your schedule to meet your learning needs! So there’s no overwhelm about falling behind, keeping up, or restrictions of a set schedule.
You Always Know Your Goals
90 Day Korean is set up like a big, well-organized “to-do” list. At the beginning of the week, you’ll learn your goals for that week and what the lessons will cover. At the end of the week, you receive a summary of those goals you should have accomplished and what to look forward to the next week.
Plus, you have a weekly assignment to complete. These assignments are optional, but they’re super helpful. The assignments focus on implementing everything you learned that week, so you can get comfortable applying it. If you sign up for the full access plan, you can turn in your work for review by your personal learning coach.
Oh yes, you get a personal learning coach assigned to you.
Your coach will help answer any questions you have, review your work and correct any mistakes. This is an invaluable resource because you have easy access to a native speaker immediately. If you are going to choose between the course-only plan or the full-access plan, go with the full-access plan.
No Worthless Content to Memorize
One thing I hate about textbooks is how little the vocabulary applies to my daily life. But in 90 Day Korean, they use the 80/20 method to learning. In case you don’t know, it’s a psychological tool that helps you memorize things faster by only learning what you need to know. You learn the 20% of words and grammar that you’ll use 80% of the time. So you’re getting the most out of your study time, and you use what you learn so often that it becomes easy, fast.
What does 90 Day Korean Include?
Besides the features I mentioned above, you get a lot of bonus features.
You get access to:
- All the course materials
- An entire module of bonus extras
- A community forum where you can ask questions, chat in Korean, discuss K-Pop and K-Dramas, and more
- The Korean Gym (bonus activities and lessons) to strengthen your skills over a variety of different aspects
- Weekly reminders and Korean language and culture news
- The program is fully optimized for mobile and tablet so you can take the course material with you for learning on the go
And, as I mentioned, with the full-access plan, you also get 1:1 coaching with your personal Korean tutor.
It’s worth mentioning that 90 Day Korean is a monthly or semi-annual subscription. That means you either pay a per-month or per 6-month fee. Because of that, you want to make sure you put aside the time to commit to the program. You don’t want to sign up and then not use it for a month. Make sure you’re ready to learn the language and commit to it. You’ll need a minimum of 3 hours of dedicated study time each week to make real progress.
Getting Started with 90 Day Korean
You can sign up for 90 Day Korean at their website. Once you sign up, you’ll get confirmation details to access the Inner Circle Course, which is where your lessons are!
The team at 90 Day Korean is quite lovely. They send you a personalized video from a team member when you sign up. And if you opted for coaching, you get a personal message from your tutor after a few days as well . You’ll have one week of your first module unlocked to begin going through.
The directions are clear: Go through each lesson, complete the exercises, and then mark it as “Complete” at the bottom of each lesson. When you complete all the lessons for a week, you’ll also then mark the week as “complete.”
If you completed the week and have extra time or motivation, you can go through the “Extras” module, or hit the Korean Gym. One of the extras is an Anki vocabulary deck, so you can get practice with all the vocabulary you learn.
As you go through the lessons, you’ll receive a lot of opportunities to put what you learn into practice. The exercises range from simple Korean-English word matching to flashcard recognition and writing in Hangeul. The quizzes test your listening, reading, and writing skills. Each vocabulary lesson comes with printable worksheets. These worksheets encourage you to come up with mnemonic devices to remember the words.
My Experience with 90 Day Korean
As I said, I only had a little experience with Korean, so I started with Module 1, with the basics. Even if you’re more experienced than I am in Korean, 90 Day Korean is a fantastic resource for anyone getting started to an upper-intermediate range. I recommend starting from the beginning regardless. You’ll learn lots of cultural insights and tips that are helpful to know going forward. And the material is taught differently than any other course I’ve seen before.
What I Enjoyed
Honestly, this was my favorite language-specific course I’ve taken to date. The way Korean is presented to you… It’s so simple. Korean is considered one of the hardest languages for an English learner to study. And while I did have the advantage of knowing Japanese, which is somewhat similar, this course made Korean fun and easy.
There’s no stuffiness to the text. It’s fun, light-hearted, and uses relatable and memorable descriptions. For instance, they call formal, honorific speech “stuffy” and call everyday speech “social”. This resonates more with my native English brain because we don’t truly have “honorific” speech. But we do have “stuffy” speech. We also have more casual, “social” speech. This helps me better understand when to use different levels of formality, by relating it to what I already know. Easy!
There are also whole lessons that focus on rapid learning. These lessons only teach you cognates or words taken from English, so you know them as soon as you sound them out. No translation needed! There are so many of these words in Korean, that you already speak more Korean than you think you do.
There’s also a PDF guide for learning different verb endings that express different meanings of the same verb. (Like “will do” versus “want to do”, etc.) I tell you, if I’d had a resource like that for Japanese, I would’ve been speaking much sooner than I did. It was incredibly helpful.
The other thing I enjoyed about the course was how the lessons were broken up. Each lesson is short, sweet, and to the point. I hate wasting time, and there was no fluff. As a busy mom, I appreciate that.
Speaking of which, I started this course while I was on maternity leave with my second baby. Even though I had a hit-or-miss start because of new mom sleep deprivation and whatnot, the course was easy to jump back into whenever I could. I was also surprised by how much I consistently remembered, even with “mom brain.”
When I first started the course, the app was going to be on my “negatives” list because it was a bit glitchy and I couldn’t really use it. But, they fixed the app about a month in, and it’s awesome. It’s easy to navigate and I’m so glad the course is mobile-friendly. I’m always on the go, and I rely on my phone for all my learning.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully use all the extras, such as the community, as much as I would’ve liked. (Again, re: new baby.) But when I did use these features, even just creeping on the boards, I enjoyed the conversations and helpful info.
The other thing that’s awesome: they have a whole module dedicated to talking about real interests. K-Pop, culture, TV, etc. This is so often overlooked in courses, but it’s the real meat of what people want to discuss! I can’t wait to get to that module.
What Could Be Improved On
There wasn’t much I thought could be better — this was a well thought out, amazing course. But there’s one major point I thought could be a bit better.
Some lessons I felt should be taught sooner, and there needed to be a “basic phrases” lesson in week one. In week one, you learn countries and occupations, which is great. But you don’t learn basic sentence structure until week two and three, and “yes” and “no” isn’t even until week five. Basic phrases, called “Xpress Phrases,” are taught in week four.
I knew most of those phrases already, and I think 90 Day Korean assumes most people do, even beginners. But, I still think moving that lesson to week one would be far more helpful. Using the Fluent in 3 Months approach which founder Benny Lewis established, means I want to speak from day one. It’s hard to do that if you don’t know basic phrases or sentence structure for 2 – 5 weeks!
Otherwise, they provide you with everything you need to get started speaking Korean and succeed.
90 Day Korean Conclusion: How’d I Do, and Do I Recommend It?
So, the first 90 days of the program promises a 3-minute conversation. Did I meet that goal?
Yes, I did!
I actually happened to meet a Korean woman working out at the gym. I overheard her on the phone one day speaking Korean, so the next time I saw her, I struck up a conversation. I was able to introduce myself, say how long I’d been studying for, and ask her a few basic questions. It wasn’t flawless, but I was very excited to be chatting and understood!
Overall, I would highly recommend 90 Day Korean. I’m still working on mastering and finishing up some “extras,” and then I’ll be moving on to the next module to further my skills. But I can happily say I have a comfortable grasp of the basics of the language now.
If you decide to go for it, make sure you dedicate time and consciously choose to make it a priority. But if you do, I have no doubt you’ll see results and be surprised at how easy it was to learn Korean.
If you’d like to join the 90 Day Korean Inner Circle, you can do so here.