Beginner’s Korean
Leave Us a Review
  • Beginner’s Korean
  • Kangjin Lee and Jeyseon Lee
  • Published by: Hippocrene Books Inc
  • Level: Beginner
  • First Published in: 2007

This book is Ideal for both classroom use and self-study, the lessons combine dialogues with vocabulary lists and clear explanations of Korean grammar. In every lesson, students will also come across important cultural information and helpful travel tips. The book comes with a guide to the 'hangul' writing system and a bilingual vocabulary index.

REVIEW BY Mike Sullivan Book EXPERT
Review posted: 09/01/2014
Have you used this book?

The two authors of this book Jeyseon Lee and Kangjin Lee have very reputable backgrounds which immediately single this textbook as being a little bit more special than a normal beginner Korean book. Jeyseon Lee lives in San Diego and works at the University of California as a Lecturer in Korean, she also holds a PhD in Korean Linguistics from the University of Hawaii. Kangjin Lee lives in South Korea and lectures at the College of Business in Jeonju and has a PhD in Economics from the University of Hawaii. The table of contents shows how there is an introduction, alphabet and pronunciation guide, Romanization of Korean, 12 lessons and a key to exercises, and finally a CD track list. The introduction differs from most other beginner textbooks by providing an in-depth explanation about Korean, such as how many people speak it, dialects, some background information like how many Japanese words are included in this language and the use of Chinese characters. Within short, yet highly informative paragraphs the authors also provide details on how Korean is an honorific language and discusses Korean grammar in a more in depth manner.

The pronunciation guide suffers a bit from being too overly detailed with the usage of linguistic terms which not everyone might be familiar with, however this is rather understandable. It is important to provide an accurate explanation of how to pronounce each sound, especially as the authors come from an academic background, but most normal learners will end up skipping this section. An example of this is the information given about Korean consonants, that they are plosive, fricative, liquid and nasal. For most people this isn’t very understandable, so unfortunately although it is a very professionally written piece it is not very accessible. This problem is encountered again in the part about the Romanization of Korean, in truth a beginner student just needs to have a simple guide showing the Korean alphabet and how it is written in English with an audio track on the CD with someone pronouncing each character. This means that again this section will probably be skipped by any normal student. This is made worse by the subsection names such as resyllabification, final closure in syllable pronunciation, and tensification. As it has been made overly complicated the following reading exercise, a text in Korean that the student has to read, is rendered quite pointless as the authors didn’t provide a clear easy to follow guide to reading Korean.

The first lesson is called ‘Greetings,’ we are introduced to the language with simple sentences under a subsection entitled ‘Patterns.’ We are shown each sentence in Korean, in Romanization, and in English, which is pretty much the perfect way for introducing a very different language as the student can become accustomed to Korean, to how it should be read and with a translation underneath. However, there is no explanation as to what the student should do, whether they should just try remembering the sentences, write them out, or something else. The next subsection puts the sentences into context with model conversations followed by an English translation, however it is only by putting the CD on that you will discover that the sentences and the model conversations have been recorded and can be listened to. Oddly the book’s lessons make no references to audio tracks or even track numbers. The model conversations are followed by a vocabulary list divided by nouns and pronouns, verbs, adverbs and conjunctions, which can also be listened to on the CD. Grammar is introduced via a long text over several pages long; unfortunately this again suffers from the authors’ desire to have a comprehensive explanation in order to give the learner a proper understanding of the contextual nature of Korean. The normal standard for teaching grammar is to provide a short English explanation, example sentences and exercises to reinforce the student’s learning. As such this method that has been used is too passive; it isn’t enough to just have to read about grammar within context, it needs to be coupled with proactive questions and answers. Therefore, it’s probably better to study all other parts of the lesson first and then come back to the grammar pages afterwards, and also review the grammar pages again once you have also completed several of the other lessons. This will make more sense to someone with some knowledge of Korean rather than someone who has just started.

The grammar subsection is followed by further study, this encompasses useful vocabulary lists like occupations, but reveals an assumption that the student studying this book is at university as the other lists include the names of university schools and degrees. There is further information given about Korea in a subsection called cultural notes, so for example, family names are explained, and finally the lesson ends with four exercises. This includes translation and also a requirement to write a short text. However, it is very surprising that considering how many pages are dedicated to grammar explanations and even cultural details, that there is only one short page with actual exercises for the student to complete.

"There is no doubt that it is a very good beginners textbook, especially as there is so much interesting information about Korea, however it is really only suited for self-study and needs to be studied at the same time as another textbook which has many exercises."

The other eleven lessons include asking for directions, day and time, shopping, transportation, hospitals and drugstores. Each lesson follows the same pattern as lesson one and the final lesson is followed by answers for all the exercises and then the appendices. To add to the overly long grammar explanations found throughout the book the first appendix is a brief version of all the grammar introduced in the book. It might have been recommendable to have this brief version incorporated within the lessons and to have put the long explanations in the appendix instead, however it is very useful that for learners like myself who just want a simple overview of grammar there is this easy to follow guide, but also other learners who want more information are catered for. The second appendix is a vocabulary list for all the words (Korean to English) taught in this textbook, it is very useful to refer to but would benefit from page numbers so that it is easy to find where in the book that particular word is taught. The third appendix is another vocabulary list but this time from English to Korean.

The authors have taken the path of providing an introduction into Korean language and culture which is complete, to have everything fully explained and put into context. There is no doubt that it is a very good beginners textbook, especially as there is so much interesting information about Korea, however it is really only suited for self-study and needs to be studied at the same time as another textbook which has many exercises. It would be quite useless in a class as there are simply not enough exercises and too much written information which would act as a distraction to students. Although it is a comprehensive beginner’s book it would really benefit from a simplification of the grammar explanations and to be sprinkled throughout with more exercises.



Leave your review for 'Beginner’s Korean'

Fields with * are required.