For those of us who have learned a language for quite some time, we are roughly familiar with the good textbooks / online resources for that language and we often forgot how hard it was at the beginning to sieve through all books and websites and find the useful ones. There are tons and tons of resources out there, online or print, but sadly, not all of them are good and some are really really horrible. For 1st time foreign language learners, it’s an even harder task.
I’ve started learning Japanese recently and once again, I was faced with the same difficulty. I’ve tried several websites and a few books (in Chinese/English) and none of them were working right for me. I’m lucky that I’ve the experience of learning Korean and this time, the search was less difficult and I’m glad I’ve found the resources I want (most of them in Korean 😀 ).
So… I just wanna share some tips about choosing that 1st textbook, and hopefully it will be helpful ^^
1. Avoid books in (with) Romanisation
That’s pretty much the golden rule when it comes to serious foreign language learning. I’m not particularly fond of books that includes romanisation together with the real writing system too. Either you get tempted to read the romanisation (for an easy way out) or you get distracted.
Some of the more ridiculous books have CHINESE WORDS instead of romanisation (to cater for the Chinese market). Hello?! That’s even worse. At least Korean is closer to the English alphabet. Chinese is a tonal language and you will end up speaking tonal Korean (?!) if you use rely on that to learn Korean. 撒嚷嘿哟 O.O
2. Master Korean in 30 days! (yeah right…..)
Beware when you see such titles. They aren’t usually good resources and nothing will be explained properly. All you get are chunks and chunks of sentences that ‘are used in the everyday life’. Foreign language learning is not about memorisation of sentences. Well… I’ve yet to come across people who actually remembered the sentences without knowing the grammar underlying it.
That’s not to say that there aren’t decent books with such ridiculous titles. I have a couple of them which are quite good. With slightly more decent titles like ’50 grammar structures in 50 days’. I guess they are forced to use such titles as a marketing strategy for the time-strapped language learners (:
3. 2500 ‘must-know’ words for TOPIK Basic
Another type of books that I hate. I’m convinced that such books are out to cheat your money. First, language learning is not… a school subject. There’s no such thing as ‘chapters tested’ that guarantee only certain words will be tested. Even if your sole goal is to pass TOPIK basic, I’m sure that certificate is used for some other purposes that will require the use/knowledge of Korean… Which I think you will fail if you only know that 2500 words. I may sound harsh, but I’m really against the idea of ‘must-know’ words.
It’s one thing to use that as a guideline and another if you are too.. fixated with knowing that 2500 words.
4. Get a book with Mp3 files / CD
Decent language books with usually come with the mp3 files.
5. Get those that are in a series
For beginners, the best bet is a textbook that is part of a series (from beginner to advanced). They are usually more established and a great way to start. You will develop that ‘sense’ of choosing a good textbook with time ^^
6. For multilinguals..
Depending on the language you are learning, try to learn it using the more appropriate language. I think it makes sense that more good resources will be available for Romance languages in English compared to in.. say.. Korean? That’s a generalisation which may or may not be true. I’m more comfortable learning Japanese in Korean > Chinese > English.
Feel free to share your experience too ^^