Essential Korean Grammar
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  • Essential Korean Grammar
  • Laura Kingdon
  • Published by: Tuttle Publishing
  • Level: Intermediate
  • First Published in: 2015

Essential Korean Grammar provides explanations of Korean grammar that are in-depth yet concise, giving just enough information to demystify dense concepts without getting bogged down by details. It's an excellent choice for learners of all levels, especially those who are preparing for the TOPIK.

Review posted: 25/11/2015
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Securing a good command of Korean grammar is no easy feat for English speakers. This is largely due to the fact that Korean and English are very distant languages: unlike Romance languages like Spanish or other Germanic languages like Dutch, Korean and English have almost nothing in common in terms of their grammatical structure. Therefore, to learn Korean grammar, you can’t simply translate English grammar into Korean: you need to discard everything you know, and learn a completely new system from scratch.

Because of this, a good Korean course book needs to strike the elusive balance of being both comprehensive and clear. It needs to explain unfamiliar grammatical concepts thoroughly, yet avoid confusing the reader unnecessarily.

Essential Korean Grammar manages to do just this: its explanations of Korean grammar are in-depth yet concise, providing just enough information to demystify dense concepts without getting bogged down by details. For students of all levels — especially those who are preparing for the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) — it’s a great resource to add to your bookshelf.

Useful for all levels

Essential Korean Grammar is divided into two main sections. First, it covers the basic framework underlying Korean grammar, and second, it delves into more advanced and specific grammar points. If you’re just starting out learning Korean, the “Basics” section will be of immense value to you, as it provides a theoretical yet accessible explanation of nebulous Korean grammar points, such as honorifics and particles.

The second part, called “Grammar Points," involves more specific topics such as asking questions, linking sentences, making plans, and expressing emotions. And there are a lot of them — enough to fill almost 300 pages!

Conveniently, each grammar point is labeled with a star rating which shows how important it is in order to be proficient in Korean. For instance, a grammar point with 1 star indicates that it’s uncommon and only should be studied if you have a specific reason to know it; a grammar point with 5 stars means that it’s crucial in order to understand and be understood in Korean. If you’re taking the TOPIK, everything two stars and up is worth your while.

A common grievance learners have with language course books is that they often don’t distinguish between written and spoken language. Like English, written and spoken Korean are distinct, and the authors of Essential Korean Grammar realize this. Therefore, each grammar point comes with an indication regarding whether that particular construction is used more in written language, spoken language, or both.

Thorough yet simple

Each grammar point follows the same general format. First, there is a brief introduction explaining the overall meaning of the specific point. Then, a section called “How It’s Formed” shows its grammatical structure. The subsequent section, “How It’s Conjugated”, tells you how to modify that particular grammar point when speaking about the past, present, and future. Finally, each section ends with illustrative example sentences that show how it’s used in context.

Many language course books attempt to weave their grammar points into some kind of narrative, often following a character and explaining grammar and vocabulary throughout their daily routine. Essential Korean Grammar does not attempt to do this: it’s organized by grammar points, and does not attempt to entertain the reader with engrossing storytelling. Though we personally enjoyed this straightforward and to-the-point approach, learners who are easily bored or distracted may find it to be a bit dry.

Ultimately, Essential Korean Grammar is an excellent reference for a serious student of Korean — whether that student is just starting out or already has a good grasp on the language. As mentioned before, it’s particularly helpful for those planning to take the notoriously demanding TOPIK. We recommend pairing it with its sister book, Essential Korean Vocabulary, which will provide you with a solid vocabulary so you can put your grammar points into action.



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