on November 17, 2010
Of all the language curricula I've encountered, this particular book is one of the few that hits the critical points for being truly engaging.
Firstly, it is authentic. There is little use of Roman characters. It teaches Korean in both spoken and written forms, not leaving one handicapped without necessary reading ability. (Avoid Chinese, Japanese, and Korean books that push ease of learning over the importance of literacy.)
Secondly, this book is thorough. It incorporates explanations for many pronunciation and grammar rules, filling voids of relating to the language's mechanics for the English speaker where possible. (Likely every language has inexplicable exceptions of course.) The author details solidly the Korean language's foundations needed to progress by carefully considering grammar and pronunciation from multiple angles and situations. Included are vocabulary lists by topic weaved into the bends and turns of each chapter too.
Thirdly, in a unique way, this book manages to be quite engaging purely as an enjoyable read while simultaneously avoiding the textbook-dry approach. There are culture tips, many jokes, and clever additions that will make you laugh. The author's style is decidedly friendly and down-to-earth, admitting that language acquisition is tough and a little humor to lighten the load only helps. Somehow he balances this without becoming flamboyant, distracting, or losing the book's focus.
Overall, had I to start learning Korean over again from the start, this would be my first resource. It's an excellent introduction to the language, and I only hope there will be more to come from these authors! Deserving of 5 stars.
on January 16, 2013
I literally just finished reading (and flagging and highlighting) this book and am blown away by how much I learned in just 160 pages. For reference, I'm 20-years-old and a self studier, and have been studying Korean through books and Internet resources for a month and half. For some reason the title "Korean For Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean" had me picturing page after page of the same old generic introductions you're basically encouraged to memorize, and that initially turned me off of it. I was really lusting after "Elementary Korean", as I thought I was looking for something really intense, comprehensive, and boring...I was essentially looking for a textbook and misguidedly passed on "Korean For Beginners" assuming it was just fluff. I mean, it really sounds too good to be true in the description (you'll learn a lot AND have fun?!).
Turns out I ended up having to buy "Korean For Beginners" because I couldn't afford "Elementary Korean". And I've never been so happy to be broke. The first chapter is pretty light, as it briefly goes over the basics of Korean history and culture; at this point you'll still have no idea what you're in for. Pretty much immediately after that I realized this was the absolute best book I could've chosen. The chapters are comprehensive in terms of information yet short and lighthearted (HOW did they do that?), and they really do cover everything you need to know if you're serious about learning this language (i.e. sentence structure, particles, conjugation, negations, tenses, nuances of the language, etc.). In the first few chapters alone I received a massive amount of clarification on things I had previously learned elsewhere. Not to mention the organization is fantastic. Whatever is introduced at any point is revisited *at least* once in later chapters, so it offers the chance to review yet it doesn't feel like you're drowning in information. I also noticed that whenever I was confused or had a question about something, nine times out of ten it would be answered in the next paragraph with a line like, "I bet you're wondering _______". It was like this thing was reading my mind, and I found myself audibly laughing every time it happened, in disbelief. At one point I literally kissed this book. Just saying.
Besides being an awesome introduction to the language (and let me reiterate - not just the language in general but actually LEARNING the language), the tone of the book is just fun. I didn't think I needed a ~cool, hip~ "guide" as they were offering, but I realized after diving into it that I did. It's odd, but the casual and lighthearted nature of the narration really does help you relax while doing something that can be as frustrating and disheartening as learning a new language. I'm passionate about Korean and love it to death, but of course there are times when I feel like I'm not learning fast enough or that I pretty much suck at everything and should just give up on life. The narrator truly does "bring the language to life" and keeps your studies from feeling like a chore. And even when you're feeling a bit stuck, it keeps you from taking things too seriously and encourages you to keep learning. The cold nature of textbooks and the like can sometimes make it seem as if they're mocking you (I'm not the only one who thinks this, right?). While reading "Korean For Beginners", you never feel like you're under pressure, which in turn actually accelerates your learning due to the absence of self-doubt. I breezed through it because of this and honestly didn't want it to end! And again, it wasn't for nothing, as I know for a fact this book alone will be a huge factor in my becoming proficient in Korean.
If you're serious about learning the language, I also suggest Kyubyong Park's other book "500 Basic Korean Verbs". In fact, these two make a super effective pair and I highly recommend that you buy them together. I believe "Korean For Beginners" was the perfect way to ease myself into the language and has prepared me for more straightforward books like "500 Basic Korean Verbs" and, eventually, "Elementary Korean".
I'm about to start it from the beginning and soak everything up a second time (and a third, fourth, fifth, etc.). Seriously guys, don't write this book off because it seems too "fun". It's definitely fun, but it's also an invaluable learning resource every aspiring Korean speaker should have in their stack.
on January 14, 2011
I taught myself beginning and intermediate Korean (my proficiency now is high advanced), and if this book had been available when I started learning Korean, I don't think I would have used it. If you're an absolute beginner who is intimidated by the language, this book might be an interesting introduction, but I'm not convinced that it would help you communicate with confidence about even basic topics. The book teaches a lot about the language and culture, but it's lacking in practical content, and a bit superficial and slow-moving even for a beginning text.
The primary goal of this book appears to be familiarizing beginning learners with the pronunciation and demystifying the language and culture. It's definitely entertaining. The tone of the textbook is uniquely informal and enthusiastic--I've never seen a textbook author write with emoticons before--although it can be a bit chatty at times. There are many great cultural insights and some nice anecdotes, including funny and potentially embarrassing miscommunications.
The problem is in the way that the language is introduced. The back cover says that "new words are explained in terms of how you'll find them useful to communicate with new friends," but I didn't find that to be the case. The way vocabulary is introduced didn't seem at all intuitive to me--basic greetings aren't mentioned until almost halfway through the book. The text explains that the motivation for this design is that you become familiar with the building blocks of the language before you start learning conversational skills, but the problem with this approach is that you learn words and grammar points with no context to put them in, which makes them much harder to remember. Chapters 9 and on are better in this regard, but should have included more of the vocabulary and grammar that was introduced in previous chapters.
In my opinion, the greatest weakness of the book is that there are virtually no practice exercises. Yes, this book tries to be fun, and exercises are not very much fun. But without opportunities to practice, students will find it difficult to remember everything they've learned and apply it to practical conversation. A few reading comprehension passages, listening tasks, and roleplays would have gone a long way towards improving students' ability to have a conversation in basic Korean.
The enclosed disc is not bad. There are recordings of most of the sentences in the text, which is a nice touch. There are videos that show a Korean person's mouth as she pronounces various words, which is an interesting idea, but it might have been more helpful to include animated drawings of the inside of the mouth to show how consonants and vowels are articulated.
If you're looking for all-around competence in the language, I recommend that you go with a different text, such as Elementary Korean Second Edition. It's more expensive and demanding, but will ultimately offer you a better grasp of the language.
on September 12, 2010
I considered Korean to be a language that I would find too difficult to learn, so I was a bit worried when I decided to tackle it. This book quickly dispels any preconceived notions of difficulty. In fact, the book draws you in and brings a sense of confidence as you progress through the chapters. It combines clarity and logic with a lighthearted "take" on the the Korean language. ("Lucky for you, almost all Korean words follow certain fundamental pronunciation rules.") In fact, as it integrates culture with language, the book stirs up a sense of excitement---yes, indeed I can do this!
on August 10, 2011
Let start by saying that the effectiveness of a language textbook has as much to do with the reader as it does with the author. Everyone has a different learning style and some books are better fits than others.
With that in mind, I have to say that Korean for Beginners is an excellent fit for me. I enjoy learning about grammar (whether I am always PERFECT at it is another thing entirely) and my goal is to be both fluent and literate in Korean. If you hate grammar with a passion and/or only intend to learn enough to ask the ajuma at the restaurant for more kimchi, a phrase book like Korean: Lonely Planet Phrasebook would probably suit your needs. If, however, you view grammar as a necessary evil and are ready to take the plunge, spend the extra couple of bucks and buy this book.
The first thing I like about this book is that the authors do not push romanization of Korean words. They emphasize learning to read Korean from the start. Many Korean textbooks will start you out with a convoluted, Anglicized spelling before teaching you how to read Korean. Since the Korean alphabet was specifically designed to be easy, why not take advantage and give yourself an edge in learning?
The second thing I like about this book is that the grammar is very technical but cut into bite-sized pieces. Irregular verbs, future tense, vocabulary lists... All there but always just the right size for absorption. Reading and writing Korean is very easy for a non-native to learn. Korean grammar, though... Let's just say that we learners need all the help me can get. I am particularly pleased that while the authors included sample sentences, they did not waste their time and mine on boring, unrealistic sample dialogues. Instead, the authors include culture notes, humorous stories, tongue twisters... Fun!
The book is a great bargain since it includes a disc with sample sentences and videos demonstrating proper pronunciation. Since I am not really a beginner and am using this book for review, I cannot comment on whether this book is good for an absolute beginner. I just know that I really like it for the thorough review it gives. I would recommend that an absolute beginner buy two or three books on the topic. That way anything that is unclear in one book can be explained in another. I can say, though, that Korean for Beginners is a fantastic bargain and one of the better Korean language books to come out lately. I recommend it without reservation.
This book is good for: Anyone who wants to really understand Korean. Grammar geeks. Anyone needing a Korean review.
This book is not good for: Weekend tourists with no interest in learning Korean. Grammar-phobes.
on November 20, 2010
This book is perfect for what I needed! I was dissapointed my college doesnt teach Korean as I am going to Korea for a year for college.. So I needed to learn as much Korean as I could before going. This book is great for getting started and the author is great at making learning interesting(you probably wont fall asleep like with some others Lol)
Anyway I didnt know any Korean before this and now I have a pretty good start for when I go overseas! Again praise for the author and thanks!
on February 11, 2011
Now, if you are a beginner at learning the Korean language, this book is for you. Actually, I would recommend that anyone who is beginning to or wants to learn Korean use and read this book before they move on to other material. I love the way this book teaches the reader how to understand, write, read, and pronounce Hanguel (the Korean alphabet). The CD that accompanies this book is EXCELLENT. It contains reading for all the letters, examples of words, and many of the examples phrases. I personally used this book as my first source when I chose to learn Korean and I must say, I am VERY VERY VERY glad I did. It allowed me to better understand all of the following books and softwares I used after I finished this book. Remember, this is a BEGINNERS book so don't expect to be an Advanced Korean speaker after this. You will, however, have covered all the main areas in the Beginning field of Korean Language learning and will be able to understand Korean dramas, music, and tv shows a lot better than when you first began. This book also contains a lot of good and useful vocabulary that will be used often when you talk in Korean.
on February 8, 2012
I bought this about two days ago. I ordered a rush on it and received it the next day, well packaged.
I read the first 2 or so chapters... I already learn how to read Korean like the pronunciation of each syllables and how each character should be read all in one day. Now, I learn pretty fast. So, it all depends on everyone's speed of learning.
This book breaks it all down very well and it's easy to follow. It comes with a CD rom to help with pronunciations. It's also very an entertaining read and definitely not a boring textbook.
I do recommend everyone who wants to learn the Korean language basics to buy this book.
on November 17, 2015
I've had this book for about 3 months now, and I study from it every week. I was completely new to the Korean language when I got the book. I must say it has been a good introduction. The book says conversational Korean, but before the author teaches you how to speak Korean, he spends time explaining exactly what it is you're saying. I'm past halfway now, and I think it's a book more about grammar than conversation. If you're looking to learn how to speak quickly, this is not the book for you. However, if you are interested in learning the language and understanding the logic behind it, then I think this is perfect. Even if you're not a beginner, I would recommend it. The chapters are short and not overwhelming, so I have been able to absorb what I learn without becoming frustrated (at least with the book, lol). Also, I really appreciate the cultural excerpts that are in every chapter, I think these have helped a lot when it comes to cultural understanding.
There are aspects of the book I do not like: (1) There are no practice exercises. For language learning this is an absolute must. If I depended on just this book, I would have trouble applying the Korean I learn from it. (2) While it is a good introduction, it is by no means comprehensive. There are aspects of grammar the book does not explain well enough.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who asks for a good introduction to the language. I think even people at intermediate level may also find it useful as a refresher. Korean has been a challenging language for me so far, if you're just starting out, don't give up!
on January 13, 2015
I wanted to learn Korean because my Tae Kwon Do school is taking a trip there this summer, and though I probably won't be able to afford to go this year, they said they plan to take this trip again in two years, and by then, I should be able to save enough money to go. I figured I'd prepare anyway. I got this for the kindle (fire hdx) and though I only just started studying it, the book itself is excellent. It emphasizes grammar and pronunciation, which are extremely important I think. Yes, it is a little light on the vocabulary, but it gives you the tools to pick up more vocabulary more easily than if you were just winging it, because it helps you to develop an ear for the language. It also has no exercises, but that's why you actively study it rather than just reading it cover to cover. The only reason I am giving this four stars rather than five was because of the difficulty I had with the downloadable content. The downloadable content took three calls to mayday to deal with, and after the third call, I realized it cannot be accessed on the kindle, and only can be opened on a computer. I was hoping I could just press on links in the e-book and it would innitiate the audio or video, but that did not work. The link for the downloadable content is located at the end of the table of contents (only the third mayday guy was able to find it for me). Once accessed, it comes in a zip file. There is no way to open a zip file with the Kindle as of yet, according to the third mayday guy, who was most knowledgeable, plus, I've tried. Once opened on the computer, it did not run like a CD ROM. I believe this is because Some of the drivers were outdated and couldn't be found on the internet through the links were within the zip file. There is audio and video content in the zip file. There is a folder for audio files called "audio" and those files are in mp3 format and labeled so that they could be matched with their place in the book, just match them up as you read. They are also in order in the folder with where they are in the book. These files can be transferred via usb or email to your kindle as I'm sure the kindle can read MP3 files. The video content was much more of a challenge. Within the zip file, there is a video file called "FLV" which are video files in .flv format. Why they chose this format over mp4 or something more common is beyond me. None of the software or drivers on my computer were capable of running .flv files since all I had was Windows media player and Windows media player won't run .flv files. So I had to download a software that would run those files. I tried Real player, and it was a waste of my time and hard drive space, and though it worked to run the files, unless you pay $5.99 a month for a premium account with them, you are bombarded by constant ads and pop-ups, so I uninstalled it. Don't get it. I then went ahead and downloaded a software called Free video player. It was free like the name implies and it did not have adds, and most importantly, it ran the .flv files. I do not know if you transfer .flv files to your kindle. if the kindle will have the drivers necessary to read them, as I haven't tried and do not intend to, as I am comfortable enough accessing them on my computer. As for the quality of the downloadable content itself, It's pretty good. It matches up with the place they are in the book, and it pretty much does or says exactly what the book suggests it's going to say or do. The videos are actually very convenient once you can access them. The videos draw the characters for you as it pronounces them so it teaches you the correct way to write them if you are inclined to learn to write Korean. Korean seams pretty easy to learn since the Hangul is a phonographic script. If anyone has found a better way to use the downloadable content so it works like a real CD-ROM, let us know.