Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An adequate hanja dictionary, January 12, 2012
This review is from: A Guide To Korean Characters: Reading and Writing Hangul and Hanja (A Mini Dictionary of Characters for Modern Readers) (Hardcover)
I want to give this three and a half stars. There are lots of other 4 and 5 star reviews, so I figure I'd round down to give a contrasting oppinion.

I am a student of Japanese. I recently decided to try my hand at Korean as well. I am very fascinated by the fact that the great majority of Kanji compounds in Japanese have direct Korean analogs, even if Hanja aren't used in official Korean writings any more.

I purchased this book with the impression it was the Korean equivalent of a favorite book of mine, Japanese Kanji & Kana Revised Edition: A Guide to the Japanese Writing System (Tuttle Language Library). Indeed, the entries are more or less done the same style.

While the book will meet my need of owning a Korean reference dictionary for looking up the Korean pronunciations for various Hanja, it fell short in a few regards.

First, and most importantly, the ordering of the entries is by stroke order. Perhaps this is standard among Korean and Chinese references, but especially for learners, this order is mostly useless. I would much have preferred that they used frequency ranking or grade-level instead.

Second, the introductory section is extremely terse. It reads very much like the one found in Kanji and Kana, but they ran out of ink or something! I really wanted to better understand the difference between the hun and eum readings of a hanja and to see how these concepts compared to the on and kun readings found in Japanese. There is also no section on different fonts or punctuation marks used in modern Korean. (As a beginning Japanese learner, I found this section in Kanji and Kana to be extremely interesting and insightful!)

Lastly -- and this is a minor thing, but one I will probably find constantly frustrating me -- is the final page, which has a lovely chart of hangeul, is glued funny! It makes it a little difficult to flip to the final pages of the book, where all the indexes are. (And anyone who's ever used a Chinese character dictionary knows most of their time is spent searching through the indexes!)

All-in-all, I think I will be happy with this purchase. The book is a good size and is visually very appealing. Each hanja entry is clear, with both the large print character and a hand-written font showing the general stroke order (which can differ from the Japanese stroke order!) Each has two or three compound words exhibiting how the hanja is used. (Annoyingly, the other hanja in the compounds are not cross referenced). In the back, there are two pages which have "commonly confused characters" and "common abbreviations". The ENTIRE book is in Hanja and Hangeul and there is no romanization at all, which I personally love, and it gives the book a very authentic feel.

So tl;dr, A Guide to the Korean Characters is a terse, simple Hanja dictionary. I would not recommend it for students who have no exposure to Hanja, but for those with experience in Japanese or Chinese or who know some Korean and want to learn the Chinese characters for the words they already know, it is a cute, adequate dictionary.
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