This is just a quick review of two Beginner Korean books I have.
Read and Speak Korean for Beginners
This books teaches very basic vocabulary and things that would be beneficial for someone moving to Korea who hasn’t had much time to learn Korean. An effort has been made with this book to make things more interesting and fun as it has pictures and flash cards. It contains a lot of things needed for someone who immediately needs to use Korean but doesn’t exactly explain much grammar.
It also doesn’t explain how to read hangul and relies too much on romanisation. This is probably because they want learners to know instantly how to say something but unfortunately Korean never translates properly. Reliance on romanisation of Korean words can be damaging to your Korean skills as well. It is also unnecessary as hangul is relatively easy to learn – you can learn how to read and write and basic pronunciation within a week. When I first started learning Korean my teacher told us to ignore any romanisation in text books because it doesn’t help. The sooner you learn to read Korean the better.
This book is not bad though. It contains a lot of activities and comes with a CD. Combined with a more in-depth book that explains more about reading and writing Korean it is beneficial.
Easy Korean for Foreigners
This contains English, Japanese and Chinese translations. Now if you are thinking that’s a lot to put in a book, wouldn’t it get messy? Yes… yes it does.
When you are learning another language you really want to focus only on that language. You don’t want to be flicking through pages and your brain getting distracted by other languages. This book does however, explain about hangul and how the sounds are made, but only briefly. It has a lot of pictures of things but no translation of what they are. So if you guess wrongly (for example: does the picture of the legs mean legs, shoes or knees?) you really have learned the wrong thing.
Some of the translations into English are not quite correct. Perhaps there was not a native English speaker involved in writing this book. The book also jumps into sentences without really explaining sentence structure- which is very different to English. The book has a lot of pictures, which is why I bought it, but it really does not explain them well. Nor does it really explain much grammar. There are short grammar lessons at the back but in my experience a beginner needs more examples than what is given. It comes with a CD but I haven’t listened to it as I am too put off by the messy formatting and mix of languages.
This book may be easy to use for Japanese or Chinese learners, but I can definitely say for English speakers- don’t waste your money.
So what books do I use for learning Korean? I’ll review those in another post sometime.