YouTube is home to a myriad of creators catering to people interested in Korean language and culture, but not many have the presence of Billy Go.
The 36-year-old American has nearly 544,000 followers, amassed through a decade of engagement and several hundreds of tutoring clips and posts.
His YouTube channel, which started in 2012, “Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean” mostly features short-form videos of 10 minutes or less that teach the Korean alphabet, words and phrases, as well as some tips on Korean culture, travel or life in Korea.
“While there were some free online lessons on the Korean alphabet in those days, those were often unorganized and required foreign learners to sign up for an entire lesson just to find the answer to a simple question,” he said.
It was his Korean friends whom he met at college in 2005 who sparked his interest in Korea. In the years that followed, he studied the language outside classroom alone.
By 2010, he was comfortable enough in Korean to answer questions or offer tips on Korean to users of Reddit, Facebook or other online platforms.
“Basically, I gave answers to their questions about the Korean language. I wasn’t being paid for this, but I was willing to spend hours every week answering the questions. It was rewarding to be able to help others who were trying to learn the same language that I was learning,” he recalled.
Over the years, his YouTube channel has blossomed into a business, with him publishing his own series of books, launching online courses and operating a separate website called gobillykorea.com.
He described his journey to mastering Korean as opening “a door of opportunity.”
“Studying Korean has helped me to become a popular YouTuber while allowing me to meet my Korean wife. It has opened up so many doors that I never knew existed. I owe a large portion of my life to having studied the Korean language, and I can’t imagine what I would be doing now if I hadn’t studied it,” he said.
So how did he study?
In the beginning, he copied all of the basic Korean letters from a book and their English Romanizations to memorize them.
“Then I wrote Korean words and sentences over and over again, which helped me to remember the Korean alphabet.”
One of his tips for learners was to just speak Korean as much as possible.
“My brain was used to making sentences in English and having to organize everything almost backward made even the simplest sentences tricky for me. Actually using what you’re studying will make the most noticeable difference," he said.
"If you’re using a book or lessons, go out and use what you’re learning. Make friends who you can practice with, and just use whatever you can. Don’t let the fact that you’re not yet able to speak Korean prevent you from speaking Korean.”
For his favorite Korean word, he chose “bae,” which has multiple meanings, including pear, boat and stomach.