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[Korean Book Review] Children Folktale 방귀쟁이

If you have been learning Korean for some time and are looking for a non-textbook to read, what are you likely to look for?

For most, the answer will usually be Korean children books / fairytales / folktales.

However, if you think that they are only for beginner students, you are WRONG.

In fact, I’ll argue that Korean children books are NOT for beginner students. I’ll place them at low intermediate to advanced standard. Yes, even advanced learners.

Why, you ask? Well, traditional folktales contain olden-day speech styles that will not be familiar to those new to the language, and words describing traditional activities, tools, items etc will be hard.

There’s something to be learnt from Korean children books for different levels.

 TwoChois.com kindly sent me 4 Korean children books (which I’ve blogged about here) a few days ago and I think they are so awesome I read one today and am eager to share with all of you.

Instead of reviewing the storybook in general, I’ll share how different levels can make use of the book differently.

What are these books?

These books (20 in the whole set) are illustrated Korean children folktales and each book tells the story of a traditional folktale familiar to Korean children. They are tagged at Elementary 1 Level for native speakers, but that doesn’t affect us Korean learners.


What’s so awesome?

Why are these books so different? Firstly, each book has an AUDIO CD that reads out the book to you! Not the boring, monotonous voice, but the full animated storytelling with sound effects etc. This makes the book a listening resource, in additional to being a reading resource.

The format of the book is interesting too. Besides the main story, the book ends with additional comments from the author, a page introducing a traditional / cultural element (for example, a tool used in olden days Korea). The last page introduces a 사자성어 (4 character idiom based on Hanja characters) related to the story and also a 속담 (proverb).

Sound words (의성어 / 의태어) are common in children books and I love how they highlight and bold each sound word in the story, making it easier for Korean learners to pick them out and remember how they are used. The sound words are also integrated into the illustrations and it’s soo much better to learn them with some visual help rather than seeing them in a boring textbook.


So I started reading 방귀쟁이 and this review will be based on the book!

Beginner learners

Beginner learners should focus on the pronunciation and getting the general idea of the story, instead of focusing on aiming to understand every single word / grammar used.

The audio CD is a huge help, keep playing it and read the book at the same time. Aim to follow the audio and the words of the book – this will train your “looking” and listening ability. Focus more on the audio – hear and get used to how Korean sounds like – the intonation, which words have a rising / falling tone, how the flow is like etc.

If you don’t understand the sentences / many words, it’s normal. Just try to understand whatever you want. Getting a general idea of the whole storyline is already a huge feat!

Intermediate learners

By now, you should aim to follow most of the dialogue and be able to follow the words while listening to the dialogue. Read out the story page by page and then listen to the audio again to check if there are words you mispronounced. Focus on words that have sound changes to them and see if you are able to catch these changes.

For example, 쑥 내밀었어요 should be pronounced as [쑹 내미러써요]. Mark all these sound changes in the book.

Focus on reading each sentence and aim to understand most (80%) the grammar points used. It’s okay to not know some of the sentence endings that is more used in the olden-day sageuk speech.

There are some advanced grammar point used in the book, so it’s alright to skip them for now. Don’t be too disheartened if you find some parts difficult.

Aim to understand most of the vocabulary. The sound words may be difficult, but try to remember a few with the audio and visual aids.

Advanced learners

Aim to understand every little thing – all the cultural references, grammar points, vocabulary, sound words etc. If you are curious, I spent half an hour on the book (the audio is 9 mins long) and learnt 17 new words!! 😀 😀 Wrote them all in my Korean notebook.

See, who says Korean children books are easy. lolol.

The words that are used in children books are different from what you get in news articles or TOPIK exams. For example, I never knew booger is called 코딱지 and it’s something that I don’t actually come across that easily if I always read political / economic articles or like non-fiction books.

It’s good to balance your reading materials and never scoff that children books are beneath your level or what not!


I can’t wait to start on the rest of the 3 books! 😀

If you are interested in purchasing them, you can see all 20 available books in this link.

방귀쟁이 ISBN 978 – 89 – 6567 – 179 – 4

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  • Reply
    12 November, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    Ooooh! These sound like fun and I agree children’s books/stories are not easy I was always under the impression they were 😀 bad thought.

    Thanks for the review ^_^

    • Reply
      20 November, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    12 November, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    omg so true that’s one of the reasons why i get so irritated when korean-americans say oh my korean sucks it’s at a 2nd grade level or kindergartener level but the 2nd grader understands the storybook 100% korean-dubbed anime 100% etc etc. It’s just a really rude statement to the fluent korean speaking children (they know their nouns and gion – japnaese for ). who’s only had continuous korean immersion for the past 6 + years… As for me right now i don’t have interest in korean children’s books/folk tales since it’s too advanced for me lol… and im’ better off learning more useful words.

    For example, 쑥 내밀었어요 should be pronounced as [쑹 내미러써요]. Mark all these sound changes in the book.
    >> really?? I thought it’s just pronounced the way it’s written (well your korean is better than mine so who knows) for 쑥. did you read something about the sounds change rules in korean or are you saying it because that’s what you hear from your ears?

    • Reply
      12 November, 2013 at 9:28 PM

      쑥 내밀었어요 -> 쑹 내미러써요
      ㄱhas to be pronounced as ㅇ because the rule is if ㄱ is followed by a syllable/word that begins with ㄴ then it’s pronounced as “ㅇ”

      • Reply
        13 November, 2013 at 1:54 AM

        How specific ! I know that the sound change rules I korean are logical but I do not get them lol

        • Reply
          13 November, 2013 at 10:16 AM

          Yonsei Reading 2 is great in remembering sound rules. It has a section for pronunciation. And constant listening to other Korean sources greatly help!

        • Reply
          13 November, 2013 at 10:32 AM

          The rules seem weird, but if you think of it they makes sense: people are lazy, so when they speak they run all the sounds of a word together. 🙂

          Rule about the G before an N or M sound: people know the N or M sound is coming next in the word, so even when they are still saying the G they are already making their mouths into the shape to say N or M. So the G sound actually comes out combined with an N sound: and sounds like NG. Which is why [쑥] comes out sounding like [쑹]

      • Reply
        19 November, 2013 at 2:00 AM

        I know ㄱ + ㄴ -> ㅇ + ㄴ
        But why does 쑥 내밀었어요 -> [쑹 내미러써요]? I didn’t know the sound rules travel across spaces? It doesn’t always do that though right? I know sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Can you shed some light on what I’m talking about?

        • Reply
          20 November, 2013 at 10:15 AM

          ahh I know what you mean. there are specific rules on what moves and what doesnt, but to be honest I think it’s easier if you learn via listening rather than remembering the rules. I don’t remember the exact rules but somehow it has become kinda instinct for me to know what does and what doesnt move

    • Reply
      20 November, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      there are sound rules in Korean (: I think I’ve blogged about them before but you can easily find a whole list online

  • Reply
    12 November, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Ah thanks for another great book review! 😀 I agree about children’s books being unexpectedly hard- remembering reading Heungbu and Nolbu and being confused by all the storybook archaic Korean phrases I’d never heard of!

    • Reply
      20 November, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      thanks! 😀 yeahh at first it’s quite difficult but once you get the hang of the style used in those folktales, it becomes easier!

  • Reply
    19 November, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    Oops I didn’t mean to make it a reply to someone else Shanna sorry

    • Reply
      20 November, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      heh no worries!

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