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[REVIEW] Korean Stories for Language Learners

I love bilingual readers and I wished more had existed when I started learning Korean back in 2008. Those were the days where resources were few, and it wasn’t quite the norm to think about making online purchases from foreign websites.

I was delighted when I received Tuttle’s Korean Stories for Language Learners, and yet I wished it was published back in 2008, instead of 2018. Containing approximately 42 traditional folktales in varying lengths, it is a great bilingual reader for beginners to mid-intermediate learners. Tuttle has up-ed their game, by providing an enclosed audio CD for all the Korean stories. Yay!

As usual, skip to the back if you don’t want to read my long comments 🙂

At first I was a little perplexed cos the track number wasn’t indicated in each other stories. (how would I know how to match?!) But I realised that they had done so in the inner cover of the book (when you first flip it open). So fret not 🙂

For those without a CD players, Tuttle also offers downloadable audio files from their website (link in the inner cover of the book too)

This is so important, because most laptops don’t come with the CD drive anymore. Always love the little touches like this – shows that the author / publishing house understands the readers’ needs.

The audio material is recorded by a native speaker, and there’s a deliberate attempt to read it in a clear and properly enunciated manner. It’s helpful to the language learner, but rather “textbook-y” in nature.

Structure

Passage

The book is relatively well structured, with each passage getting longer (the passages at the back are around 3 pages long). As with bilingual readers, the Korean passage is on the left, with the English on the right page.

Pre-reading Questions

After the passages, there’s three pre-reading questions in Korean, which could be used as a classroom activity. As a self-learner, I just skipped that.

Vocabulary

There’s a glossary list of the news in the passage. I usually would ignore this portion and do up my own notes. I wished they didn’t use romanisation though. )): This was a major minus for me. It’s not a complete beginner book, and even if it was, I can only (somewhat) accept romanisation in the first chapter. Personal gripe about romanisation is that it primes the learner to see the foreign language in the lens of the sounds of English, which shouldn’t be the case. Each language has its own intonation, set of sounds etc, and should be learnt as a new sound system instead. /rant over.

Culture Notes

I like this section, which gives additional insights to Korean folktales 🙂

Comprehension Questions and Writing Activity

Yeah, needless to say, I skipped this portion 😛

Additional Materials

I found it interesting (strange?) that the book chooses to include some basics about the Korean language (e.g. pronunciation of Korean sounds, how to create syllables and some basic activities) right at the back of the book. I would have thought that the book assumes that the reader/learner has some basics of the language. A complete beginner may not have found these additional materials (right at the back of the book) helpful too, given that the explanation is rather sparse. i.e. Going through these materials will not allow a complete beginner to jump straight into reading the first passage with ease. There’s still a gap.

Overall Comments

What I like:

  • Interesting content, passages get longer and more challenging towards the back
  • Audio recording provided

What can be improved:

  • No romanisation – ok this is a personal gripe

While I love folktales, I wish bilingual readers could also explore more genres of texts. Hopefully Tuttle can come up with more bilingual readers in time to come!

Find this book on Tuttle’s website (with links to purchasing sites).

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Hayro
    25 September, 2019 at 3:57 AM

    “No romanisation – ok this is a personal gripe”

    It’s not a personal gripe. I think many linguists would agree with you. there is no reason to use romanization after an introductory chapter it just holds you back and makes you revert to your own native pronunciation.

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