An'nyeonghaseyo! (Hello!) Learning a new language is always exciting, and can open doors to a whole new world. Nowadays, teaching yourself Korean can be much easier than you think. With more self-learning books available than ever, you can go at your own pace and choose the materials that suit you best, be that a Hangul alphabet guide or a good book on grammar.
It may be tempting to buy every Korean book and give them all a go, but that's probably not realistic! So, we've ranked the 10 best titles to buy on Amazon and eBay, including Korea Made Simple and Talk To Me In Korean. Whether you're an eager beginner or in need of some inspiration, we can motivate you! Junbihalgeyo? Gachi ga ja! (Are you ready? Let's go!)
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Table of Contents
Unless you're an experienced language learner, choosing a book that suits your personal learning approach can be confusing, especially when there are tons of books available to you. To discover what to look for in your ideal language book, keep reading!
Reading, writing, listening and speaking skills are essential when it comes to language learning, but there may be some aspects that you want to master more than others. Therefore, if your goal is to only improve on a certain skill, then you might want to buy books that include, or focus on, this content. Here are the main categories.
While most books will have an introductory chapter about Hangul, it doesn't necessarily guide and teach you to write Hangul step by step. Indeed, you could always self-learn Hangul using online resources, but finding one that suits you can take a lot of time, and you'll need the self-discipline to learn it.
Alternatively, you could go for a Hangul exercise book, where all the essential materials are prepared for you. They'll include various methods to help you remember and write Hangul properly, in a way which will motivate you even more to master the language.
Some learners like to focus on understanding and the correct usage of grammar as with time, ideally, you'll then be able to produce flawless sentences, whether verbally or written. Plus, you'll have a better understanding when reading texts or fiction in Korean, too.
So if this is your priority, we recommend looking for language books that teach you new grammar in each chapter. Luckily, you can find this material in most books!
Some learners like to focus on vocabulary or verb expansion, as you'll then be able to name different things like a local and express yourself with more suitable verbs that fit the situation. A dictionary at the back of the book can also help with this.
If this sounds like something you'd like to include, choose language books that have a significant amount of content on vocabulary or verbs, particularly if it's accompanied with example sentences which you can effectively apply into your speaking or writing.
Many people enjoy the sense of achievement of being able to translate a foreign language flawlessly, as this not only indicates you've learnt the language well, but that you can now help those who can't speak it yet, be that when travelling or as a career.
To achieve this, you can start by using books that provide both English and Korean text, which enable you to gradually work on your translation skills.
Whilst you can find dozens of materials to translate online, it's often a bit too challenging when there isn't a model answer for reference. Only some books include the answers within the translation section, so be sure to check for this.
Everyone's dream is to speak a foreign language like a local instead of sounding like you're reading straight from a textbook. But while you can achieve this by bingeing K-dramas or practising with a native speaker, it's easier to learn through reading materials. This applies to visual learners especially.
There are books out there which focus on teaching useful and practical sentences with dialogue, so you can apply what you've learnt in real-life situations. Now all you need is to have the confidence in your listening skills and perfect your ability to speak it!
As an audio learner, opt for books with access to audio materials such as additional CDs or downloadable digital files. These resources are actually a smart inclusion for all learners, as they can hone your pronunciation and listening skills.
There isn't a right or wrong way of inputting information, it's simply about which methods will enable you to succeed when learning.
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Talk To Me In Korean
Talk To Me In Korean - Level 1
The Best Way to Effortlessly Learn a New Language
Korean Picture Dictionary
A Visually-Stimulating Coloured Picture Book
Julie Damron, You EunSun
Korean Stories For Language Learners: Traditional Folktales in Korean and English
Story Time With Traditional Korean Folktales
Henry J Amen, Park KyuByo
Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean
Build a Solid Foundation of Korean Language and Culture
Ross King, Yeon JaeHoon
Challenge Your Skills by Practicing Translation
George Trombley, Reed Bullen, Bong SunHee
Korean From Zero! Book 1
An All In One Title With Textbook, Workbook and Audio Materials
Korean Made Simple
Take Easy Steps to Pronounce Like a Korean
Let's Study Korean
A Visually Exciting Book to Entertain as You Learn
Boye Lafayette De Mente, Kim Woojoo
Learning Phrases by Memorisation Through 100 Themes!
Park HyungJin, Lee SungEun
Learn Korean: Level 1 - Alphabet & Basic Sentences
Learn Hangul From Scratch
Striking the perfect balance between a simple layout and very practical content, we hope you'll love this book as much as we do! It's also extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate, so within just a few chapters you'll be able to conduct a simple conversation exchange with Koreans!
Another great feature is that it comes with plenty of written exercises, meaning that you'll be practising Hangul a lot, as well as free downloadable audio content. In no time at all, you'll realise you're acing all the writing and grammar points – learning a new language has never been this effortless!
If you find visual aids such as colourful imagery a much more stimulating and motivating way to learn, you'll love this book. You'll be learning vocabulary and sentences based on 38 different themes, which, most importantly, all apply to real life!
With Hangul, romanisation and English translation accompanied with all sentences and vocabulary, this book is very beginner-friendly, and you don't have to pressure yourself and make mistakes while reading them aloud.
Who doesn't like story time? With the aid of English translations, you'll be able to learn a lot of vocab and verbs all while reading Korean folktales. Not only you will understand the Korean culture more, but each story is accompanied by a comprehension exercise, the best way to practise your reading and writing skills!
With 42 stories included and an audio CD, the folk tales gradually increase in length, making sure you steadily progress on your language journey. You can always read the stories at your own pace too, of course.
This book is best for those who want to build a solid foundation of the Korean language. Besides detailed coverage of Hangul, it explains most irregular Korean verbs in depth, which are rather complicated to conjugate while constructing sentences – a grammar point that not all books cover.
With Korean historical facts included, you'll be learning and understanding Korean customs and culture as well as mastering the language aspect. And soon enough, you'll be confident enough to chat away and even teach your friends about Korean culture!
This book has a very structured content, so even after a few chapters you will have mastered reading Hangul and have the basic skills to understand and ask questions in Korean. In each exercise, there's a translation section which ensures you'll learn the Korean/English equivalent properly.
Though it's very accurate and concise, some of the vocabulary and ways of speaking demonstrated in this book are a little old-fashioned, so you might sound slightly odd when talking to younger Koreans if that's your aim!
Unlike many others, this title comes with a workbook, so you'll have plenty of practice learning grammar, Hangul and more by heart. Besides audio materials, you can find supplementary materials on their YouTube channel, and there are continuation titles available once you're done.
We do have to point out there are some minor mistakes and even incorrect corresponding answers in the answer book, which might be frustrating or even difficult for those who don't have language support.
If you're an audio input learner, then this is your book. It uses Hangul without romanisation, so not only you are 'forced' to learn Hangul quickly, but the audio material guides you to pronounce Korean like a pro!
As it does mainly focus on vocabulary, and not so much on grammar, even after finishing the book you still may not be able to conduct real-life conversations. It doesn't have many exercises for practising either, so you may need to supplement this guide with another grammar title or workbook.
With many illustrations and numerous entertaining exercise designs, this book is perfect for visual learners of the Korean language. It covers all the basics you'll need to know, so don't worry if you've missed out on some core language-related knowledge previously.
The downside of this book is that there isn't an answer book, so unless you have a friend who knows Korean checking your answers, you may never know your mistakes. The content is rather easy as well, so unless you are a complete beginner you will find this book a little unchallenging.
This phrasebook is pocket-sized, making it easy to carry around with you at all times. With 100 different themes, you will learn some vocab from each theme followed by useful sentences that could be applied in real-life scenarios. Perfect to bring along while travelling in Korea!
As this title relies heavily on one's memorisation and has no illustrations nor audio materials, it may not suit those who want to build their skills from a strong foundation. However, it's a good pick if you have some understanding of the language, and are seeking some simple conversational exchange.
If you're an absolute beginner in the Korean language, then you will find this book useful. It focuses on learning all vowels and consonants of Hangul properly through writing and uses the method of resonating them with the English alphabets for easier learning. It also teaches you some very basic sentence structure.
Audio material isn't available for this book, so you will have to rely on YouTube or other online resources to learn the pronunciation of Hangul. Also, if you have some experience, perhaps from watching K-dramas, you might find this book a little too easy!
Hangul is considered one of the most scientific languages in the world, as the basic consonant letters (g/n/m/s/ng) were designed to imitate the shape of the vocal organ when pronouncing the sound. However, with 14 consonants and 10 vowels, it can take as little as 2 hours for one to master it!
Today, around 75 million people speak Korean around the world, and with K-pop and K-dramas continuing to dominate the entertainment world, the interest of learning Korean is ever-growing.
Repetition in writing is the best way to learn the Korean alphabet, so we thought our stationary-related products might be useful on your journey to becoming a Hangul pro.
Being able to speak a foreign language, even just a few sentences, is very exciting and significantly closes up the distance between people with different cultural backgrounds. And next time you visit Korea, you'll be surprised at just how many locals respond to you with a big smile when you test out your new vocabulary!
So why not start learning now? You won't regret it! An'nyeong! (Bye!)
Author: Angina Chow
No. 1: Talk To Me In Korean｜Talk To Me In Korean - Level 1
No. 2: Tina Cho｜Korean Picture Dictionary
No. 3: Julie Damron, You EunSun｜Korean Stories For Language Learners: Traditional Folktales in Korean and English
No. 4: Henry J Amen, Park KyuByo｜Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean
No. 5: Ross King, Yeon JaeHoon｜Elementary Korean
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