On the face of it, many may add the remark: “what isn't a difference between English and Korean”. They wouldn't be too far wrong if first impressions are anything to go by as Korean doesn't use the Latin script as standard (Korean can be Romanized). This can put people off straight away but it isn’t so very complicated?
The Alphabet is called Hangul and it is made up of 14 consonants peppered with six vowels. In a very strange and unique manner, it can be written either from left to right or top to bottom; although it is most commonly seen in left to right form due to the Latin influence. Korean people are also generally familiar with the Latin script and are therefore able to write with both. This can be helpful to any English speakers looking to learn Korean.
There are many sounds that English has but for which there is simply no Korean substitute. This actually makes it easier for English speakers rather than harder; but harder for Korean speakers who wish to learn English.
Staying with the spoken word, the stress pattern of Korean is very simple. It has no real stress pattern and all of its syllables are generally given the same stress as its neighbours. This can make an English speaker sound a little odd at first as they will tend to stress the ante penultimate syllable, as one would in English.
Perhaps the biggest difference comes when we take a look at Korean verbs and how they are used to convey information. Factors such as the subject and tense are all added onto the verb, making it longer and longer. English uses separate words known as auxiliaries instead of this and this can be a difficult concept to master for beginners. Neither does Korean require you to conjugate a verb depending on the subject of the sentence. This can take some time to get used to.
Another main point of contrast is the word order of sentences in Korean which features the subject, object and then verb order. This is completely unfamiliar to English speakers but may be a more familiar concept to those who speak a romance language such as French or Spanish.
There is a certain degree of overlap in terms of vocabulary, especially with modern terms, as Korea has had a significant American influence over the years. You still have to ensure you check every word in the dictionary, however, just to avoid using it inappropriately.
All of this boils down to one main concept and that is that you really need to think Korean if you are going to become fluent. Using idiomatic and authentic language is difficult and the best way of doing this is by stopping the word to word translation that plagues everyone learning their second language. By doing this, you will become authentic and much more instinctive when it comes to learning a foreign language such as Korean.