Axon wrote:A Korean family has opened a cozy little cafe a few minutes from my apartment. They speak some English and good Mandarin but I would like to learn a couple of polite phrases in Korean to order food, pay, and thank them. It's clear that if I could speak Korean, we would use Korean - they're far more comfortable in Korean than other languages.
I can't realistically get any kind of Pimsleur or Teach Yourself shipped to me here in China. This week I'll have the chance to go to a bookstore and check out some courses from a Chinese base.
At this point, I'm only concerned with this one very specific aspect of the language, though of course I know it would serve me well to have a basic foundation. What are some free online audio-based resources that can help me with polite "transactional" Korean? And, taking into account what you folks know about Korean, should I start by memorizing cafe phrases or start with general beginner materials?
Try DLI Headstart Korean
It's a good example of a typical survival course for military personnel (and their families) when they need to deal with locals. Audio is of decent quality overall, and if you put in the work you can build a small but useable repertoire of vocabulary fairly quickly.
A couple of notes are that it's all romanized (*eeeewwww*) and the register is pretty damned formal, in addition to being polite even though I think that these Koreans would be happy to hear any foreigner put in a good effort to speak Korean even if it's pretty formal. Among Koreans (especially in Seoul) it's quite common to encounter something less formal but still polite even in situations where you might think that the more formal register is appropriate.
For something more substantial, and if you don't mind learning online, then try out Korean From Zero (all three volumes are available to use for free online but only the 1st volume is available as a complete free download. If you want the other two volumes, only their audio is a free download; the books aren't free.)
There is some good discussion here about beginners' material for Korean.