When living abroad, your phone is your safety blanket. It’s how you stay connected, keep organized, and it can help you look busy in awkward social situations you don’t want to be a part of (just me?). There are thousands of apps to help with your transition to South Korea (a translating app for starters) and as an EPIK teacher myself, I’ve narrowed down my favourite (FREE!) apps I use religiously and hopefully they will help make life easier for you too.
1. Kakao Talk
When I first arrived to Korea I thought, “I don’t need Kakao, I have WhatsApp and it’s basically the same thing.” I was wrong, so wrong. EVERYONE IN KOREA USES KAKAO! When you meet someone they won’t say, “what’s your phone number?” They’ll say, “What’s your Kakao?” Kakao is an app where you can make free calls and texts as long as you have data or wifi. I personally love the animated Kakao emoticons and use them in my teaching materials because my students get a kick out of it and anything that makes me cool in their eyes works for me.
2. Google Translate, KORLINK, & Hangeul 101
Some people have a knack for learning new languages, I do not. Thus, I rely heavily on my language apps when communicating in Korea. I couldn’t pick one so I have three of my recommendations:
DUH!! Translate Korean to English or English to Korean by typing a word/phrase or, my personal favourite, take a picture of a street sign or a menu at a restaurant and the app will magically translate it for you in English (I can hear my mom gasping in amazement from here!).
If you want step-by-step lessons of conversational Korean starting from SUPER beginner, I recommend KORLINK. It’s podcast style and the two hosts will teach English speakers conversational Korean starting with “hello” and “thank you” all the way to advanced sentence building.
Hangul (Korean alphabet) is a lot easier to learn than you think. To give you a little history lesson, Hangul was created in 1443 by King Sejong and his intention was to make it easy for everyone learn. Hangeul 101 has helped me improve my reading of vowels and consonants, plus the app is simple to use. You can go through and learn the entire alphabet and take quizzes to see your progression, which I do when I’m bored on the subway.
3. Google Maps
WARNING: If you’re looking for a specific place (i.e. a restaurant) there’s a 50/50 chance it’s not actually there anymore, even though it’s still on Google Maps. South Korea opens and closes new businesses everyday it seems, which can make Google Maps a little frustrating at times. However, the app has helped me find core locations such as subway stations and informs me what buses and trains to take/what time I should take them if I want to be somewhere for a specific time.
4. TuneIn Radio
This is for anyone who misses radio stations from back home (ME!). Every single morning, starting from as early as when I learned how to turn on a radio, I would wake up with my favourite morning DJ’s to get my news, music and gossip fix. This app streams my go-to radio stations from back home in Toronto and it’s comforting to listen to familiar voices and stay informed of what’s going on back in my hometown.
5. netTALK CONNECT
This app is what I use to call my parents back in Toronto. There are a plethora of options to call home (Skype, Google Hangout, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc) but this is the app I use most. Like the others, it features free app-to-app calling and you can talk for hours as long as you have data or wifi.
What are additional apps you recommend for EPIK teachers? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was created for EPIK e-Press.