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Korean Books

Here I provide in-depth reviews of all Korean books/textbooks I have used. You can read about each and see if any of them interest you. Some are good, some are bad. I will list all of them so you can see the pros and cons of each.

In the near future, I will be adding reviews for: Making Out In Korean, A Guide to Hanja Characters (1800) and any others I run into. I will also be reviewing a few Korean dictionaries here.

Each review has a clickable link (the title of the course usually) that will take you to the website where you can purchase it (if still in production) for the cheapest price if you are interested in purchasing any of these books. If it is not in production, you may find them sold on Amazon or eBay, and other similar sites.


Integrated Korean Series
Elementary and Continuing Korean
Mastering Korean
Korean Phrase Book For Travellers
Korean For Travellers (Berlitz)
Come On Korean
Short-Cut Korean
Korean With Chinese Characters
Yonsei Korean Readings

Integrated Korean Series

The Integrated Korean series consists of 8 books. It is a great series for learning Korean and contains lots of content. The series is divided into Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate, and Advanced. Each "set" consists of two books, meaning there is Beginners 1, Beginners 2, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, and so on. Each book contains roughly 8 lessons.

The Integrated Korean series explains the grammar very well. There are a few pictures but not too many. There is no color in this series just like Elementary Korean. The content is definitely good though. Integrated Korean covers a few things Elementary Korean does not, and Elementary Korean covers a few things Integrated Korean does not. However, they both do an excellent job and both do cover the major topics very well. I find that Integrated Korean books are pretty well organized into categories for each lesson. Each lesson is usually pretty specific to a certain topic and then contains grammar after that.

For practice, the Integrated Korean books alone are just alright. Each book does contain some practice after each lesson. If you want plenty of practice however, you will want to purchase the Integrated Korean workbooks. There is a workbook for each of the lesson books. Unfortunately they do not come packaged with the lesson book so you will have to pay an extra $15.00 or so for a workbook. There are not cds included either, but there are audio files available for users to listen to online.

The content more than makes up for the lack of included exercises in the lessons books and lack of audio cd. This book series is probably the most in depth book series I have come across. The only downside of it is the series is spread out across 8 books. The books are fairly cheap however at least. Here is a link to the first two in the series. You can find the other ones from those links easily.



Elementary and Continuing Korean

First off, Elementary Korean is the first half of a two book series. Continuing Korean is the second half. Elementary Korean contains lessons 1-15, while Continuing Korean contains lessons 16-30.

This is an excellent series if you are interested in learning Korean and can handle tons of content. I say this because these two books do lack pictures, and all the other stuff that could make reading more "enjoyable". They really just present the material and grammar, but do explain everything very well. There are no pictures or colors to distract you from the learning. If you can handle this and stay focused, then these books are excellent resources for learning Korean.

Both books do come with 1 audio cd. The audio cds mainly contain the dialogs (also written out at the beginning of each chapter). The cd for Elementary Korean has more than dialogs on it because it must first teach you to read and write Korean. It has all the sounds, examples, etc. It also will contain the full vocabulary list for the first "real" lesson (the first lesson that teaches vocabulary and grammar after you learn to read and write Korean). From there on, the cds mainly just contain the few dialogs at the beginning of each lesson.

The explanations of the grammar are very easy to understand and very thorough. The vocabulary lists are very good as well. I just highly recommend these books because they are very easy to understand, nice hardback books with a good binding, include an audio cd, and also present good vocabulary and grammar.

Also, one other thing that I really like about these books is the practice they provide. At the end of each lesson there is a lot of practice. This book will provide you basically all the practice you need unlike many other books. Also, the book contains the answers in the back of the book, which is definitely needed when you are teaching yourself. There are many different kinds of practice exercises as well for each chapter.

The books are reasonably priced for a nice textbook as well. Each book is definitely worth the money and contains a lot of content. Here is the cheapest price I have found as of now. The two links below take you to the cheapest price if you are interested.

Elementary Korean
Continuing Korean

Mastering Korean icon

Mastering Korean is an excellent book for learning Korean. It is very popular and also a very successful book.

Mastering Korean consists of a very large book and either cassettes or cds. On the cassettes/cds there are many exercises, which are all guided by native speakers. There is definitely plenty of repitition to help you learn.

On the exercises in the book (which follow along with the cassettes/cds), they drill you constantly on patterns for forming different sentences. The patterns are very good on teaching you the language because you get drilled the pattern of the sentence so much, that you can say the sentences without really thinking anymore.

The lessons teach you a great amount of "tourist" type conversations. If you plan on going to visit Korea, then this book will be a great help. The lessons you will learn include topics such as weather, the town, going places (restaurants, shopping, finding your way around), making phone calls, and talking about yourself or the time. These topics can be very useful if you plan on visiting.

If you need to just make a trip to Korea and don't plan on fully developing your language skills further, this is an excellent book for that as well. It will teach you the language more than most travelers books, but it covers mostly travelling conversations and is all Romanized, which may be beneficial if you do not feel like you wish to learn the actual Korean alphabet.

There is only one reason it did not make my favorite products list. That is the fact that it is Romanized, meaning all the Korean words are written using the Roman (English) alphabet. This may or may not bother you. Some people like it and like to learn this way because they find it easier. Other people find it more difficult (like myself).

Overall this is an excellent book to learn from. It comes with a lot of audio listening (either cassettes or cds) and is just overall an excellent resource for learning Korean. It's main strong points are traveling conversations and exercises/drills to help you learn the sentence patterns.

I'm having trouble getting the link to run directly to the page with Mastering Korean on it. It opens the main page instead. For now, use the search field at the top and just type "Mastering Korean" and it should come right up.

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Korean Phrase Book For Travellers

This book by B.J. Jones is a handy travelling phrase book. It covers all the travelling topics, but does it in a nice, unique way.

This book provides sentences that would be used when saying the vocabulary words. Many others do this too, and then just provide a list of other words you could use in the sentence and you have to figure out how to switch out the words on your own, which can be confusing sometimes. This book uses color coding. It underlines the word to switch out in both the English sentence and the Korean sentence. It may not sound like much, but it is a very useful and nice touch for the book. It also has each section of the book color coded. It is divided up into Introduction, Korea and Its People, On Arrival, At The Hotel, Moving Around Town, Travelling, Driving, Shopping, Meeting People, Eating And Drinking Out, Personal Services, Money Exchange, Communications, Health and Fitness, Entertainment and Pastimes, and the Reference Section, along with a grammar guide. Many of these topics are covered in other books, but some are not.

Within each section, it is divided up further. Each section has subsections, depending on what exactly you are doing. Travelling contains details about travelling by train, car, air, along with tourist attractions, and more.

I really just like the organization used in this book. It is neat and easy to follow. It is a small size as well so you can carry it around anywhere you go. It is a great travel book!

By the way, it does have everything in Romanization and Hangul as well.

This book is available at SHOP.COM.


Berlitz Korean Phrase Book icon

Berlitz Korean Phrase Book icon is a useful little book if you plan on doing some travelling there, but are not interested in fully learning the language. It contains 1200 useful phrases and 2000 useful words. Topics include shopping, eating out, tipping, sightseeing, and relaxing.

It contains a brief section on learning Hangul, the Korean language, but does not go into pronunciation very much. Instead, just Learn Hangul here.

You do not need to learn to read Korean if you wish to use this book. It also tells you how to say the words using the Roman alphabet (The one English is written in, so you should already know it). It is useful to see the word in both the Roman alphabet and the Korean alphabet.

One other benefit of seeing the Korean alphabet listed is you can show the book to someone who speaks Korean if you are unable to understand them, and they can just point to the correct answer. It lists common responses they will give to your questions. This can help you communicate better if you are not very familiar with the language.

The thing I like most about this book are the tourist tips. It is not a book that just teaches the language. All throughout the book, it gives recommendations and tips that will be helpful to you. For example, it mentions etiquette Koreans use when eating in the food section, advice on tipping, information about registering for the hotel, and everything else you may wonder or not be sure about given the situation you are in. It will guide you for your whole travel experience!

It isn't very in-depth when it comes to teaching the language, but it is extremely useful as a phrasebook for travellers, providing excellent phrases, words, and little bits of advice along the way. It is a small size so it is easy to carry around anywhere you go!


Come On Korean

Come On Korean is a little more in-depth than Korean For Travellers when it comes to teaching the language, but it is certainly not a Korean textbook for learning the language. It will provide information about all the common basic conversations, but no more than that. It does not teach grammar, and does not have any of the tips you could use for travelling that Korean For Travellers has.

On the good side, it does contain a more varied look at the language. It covers more conversational topics. It uses cute and humorous drawings throughout the book to help you learn the vocabulary. All of the terms and phrases are written in both Hangul and the Roman alphabet as well.

Because it covers more topics, it may be helpful if you are travelling to Korea for a longer stay, but still do not wish to learn the language completely. It would be a nice addition to Korean For Travellers for your trip.

I just checked the availibility on this book as well. It also does not appear to be in production anymore. You can find it on eBay sometimes, and there are some listed on Amazon.com selling used (very good condition or some are even new!) for about $6-7. A fairly decent price, but Korean For Travellers (Berlitz) has an unbeatable price.


Short-Cut Korean

I would not recommend this book. It has some pros, but it has many cons. There are better choices out there.

Short-Cut Korean does have a large amount of vocabulary covered. It covers topics similar to those in Come On Korean, a more varied approach for travel, but one thing I do not like is it does not provide the words in the Korean alphabet as well. It only has Romanization. If this is all you are interested, it may work just fine for you.

One thing I noticed in this book that is covered more heavily than any other is some vocabulary lists are covered pretty well. The terms for the different kinds of drinks are covered very well in this book. You do not find those in many other books. It will cover situations such as going to get a hair cut as well, which is less common in other books.

The main flaw in this book is the lack of Hangul, the Korean characters. You cannot show someone the book and ask for help (easily...they can try to read it though). Also, if you run into any Korean characters, which you certainly will, it provides no basis for reading them. The only thing dealing with Korean characters is a short 2 page section at the front of the book that lists the Korean characters and their English counterpart.

I recommend you try something else.

I checked the availibility on this book. It does seem to be available any longer. I cannot find it listed. It may occasionally show up on eBay, but I think you should just let those auctions pass :)


Korean With Chinese Characters

This book is for the more experienced learner. Once you understand Korean well enough, you can further your studies by learning the 1800 Hanja characters Koreans learn. Koreans use 1800 Chinese characters, which they learn during school. You will see them used in newspapers, along with some textbooks.

You do not have to understand Hanja to be able to communicate in Korean. It is a way to further your learning if you have been studying Korean, and you wish to learn more.

Korean with Chinese characters is divided up into volumes. I currently own the second volume, but I assume the others are the same.

It covers one Hanja per page. First, it will show you the Korean word, and then the Hanja character for that Korean word. Then, it actually explains those Hanja characters, something you don't see very often! It explains why that character is used and what it means. Lastly, at the bottom it shows the proper stroke order for writing the Hanja character.

All of these make studying Hanja fun and exciting, as well as teaches you everything you need to know about the Hanja characters. Stroke order is important, and it covers it. There are little drawings throughout the book as well that go along with the explanations of the Hanja characters.

This book is very useful. The only drawback is you will have to buy all volumes to learn all the Hanja. There are 1800 hanja, and volume 2 covers 128 of them. It does teach them in an exciting way though. Other Hanja books simply provide the term and the stroke order. They may cover all 1800, but they can be very dull to some people.

This book is an older one as well. It is no longer in production, but may occasionally be found on eBay. There are some copies listed on Amazon.com as well in the "used" section. These books may be in very good condition and some are even unused. This is a good one to look for on there.


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