For the current Black Friday sale on Benny Lewis' website, there's a steep discount on 90 Day Korean. So I thought I'd try it. Yes, if you've read previous versions of my resource post you'll know I already thought it looked useless, but I thought I'd give it a shot because I have money burning a hole in my pocket for some reason.
To be blunt, from my experience so far, it sucks.
On another website, when I was looking for reviews, the creators said they felt a need to create a course that provided "hand-holding". Well, from the taster I've gotten from this course, the program does just that - to the point there's little thinking needed by the learner at all.
The famous first "90 Day" module has content that in my view can be learned in 30 days or less, if you're dedicated. I went through Coursera's course which was somehow more thorough, and learned more from that than I did here. There was a few odd things I learned in these "90 Day" modules, stuff I'd never seen before in my perusing of beginner material available for free and legally on the Internet, but for the most part, it was Korean 101, or even more basic than that. I think they leverage the fact that "the average Westerner" is scared of Korean and other Asian languages, so they try to make it "digestible" but ultimately it talks down to you with a lot of English didactic text that is too friendly, sickeningly sweet even.
They claim to use the "80/20" principle, teaching you all the words you need to know without the fluff. To be honest, from the modules I actually completed as of the date of this initial posting, the words were all stuff I already knew from other sources, or stuff I couldn't remember even with the help of their mnemonics.
Speaking of those, those are kind of stupid. I get why they might be helpful for some since Korean is a more "syllabic" language that can have many similar-sounding words, ones which are often short. But can we not trust the learner to learn the sound system properly, even if they're not experienced in language learning? They don't have to systematically learn it and go through a grammar with IPA, but they can remember the sound if they hear it enough, and repeat it aloud especially. I know I do. Yes, "eel" sounds like one of the Korean words for the number one. But you'll probably remember the association before the word, right? I don't know. This is coming from someone who never used such a technique to remember most words in her first L2, though you might take that with two pinches of salt since that language has many cognates with English and the learner herself dislikes the method out of wanting to prove her brain is better. Though does using one technique over the other make you better? Ah, that probably invalidates this review.
I didn't study about 7 of 12 of what can be considered modules. I passed all the final tests by looking up vocabulary as needed, since my knowledge from other resources covered what was on the four tests.
The first module covers conjugating in the present the formal form (-습니다) and what they call the "social" form (casual polite [-요]). I'd say it teaches about 150 vocabulary words, maybe 175 - that's an estimate since I didn't study vocabulary after the first two modules. Among the things they go through are irregular verbs, how to count, and before that they challenge you to learn Hangul in 90 minutes (something which you can do without signing up, since they offer the handout in a pdf through email. Or you could just watch one of the million videos on this topic on YouTube, or any other place really). Lots of 90s here, you'll see.
My impression is that this is intended for k-pop and k-drama fans who only know how to say '오빠' and just want to write basic sentences in tweets to their idols. Or it's meant for business people or others living in Korea who don't really want to learn the language, think it's difficult, and need something excessively "fun" and "accessible" to make them want to communicate outside their English bubble.
Was that harsh? Maybe. Have you used 90 Day Korean? What did you think of it? You probably liked it more than me, judging by all the positive reviews I see on the Internet.
Coming out of this experience, I can say I like searching for ways to learn by myself and figuring out the puzzle even if it fries my brain, as opposed to being told I can have a three-minute conversation in Korean when all I'm learning is how to politely command someone to do something, say my name and occupation, and where I'm from. I want the meat. I want to discuss politics. Give me that ammunition, and I'll be happy.
I might continue on to the second level to see what I learn, or I might try to get my money back, since it was quite a sum. But I must say there is a dearth of semi-guided online courses like this for this language.