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[Korean Textbook Reviews] Survival Korean

I don’t like phrasebooks.

And I still stand by that.


Survival Korean, published by the TTMIK team, doesn’t feel like a phrasebook.

I read it from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed it, not to mentioned learnt quite a number of things!


I’m going to review this book from two perspectives:

1. A Korean learner using it as a guidebook of some sort

2. A traveler who doesn’t speak Korean or have minimal knowledge

Basic introduction: This book is divided into several situational themes and in each theme, relevant phrases / words are introduced, with detailed cultural explanations, relevant sample sentences and sometimes, additional vocabulary are also introduced. For sentences, the explanations might include some breakdown but doesn’t really explain the grammar points. At the end of each sub-chapter is a “break time” section where they introduce very relevant cultural / practical tidbits or information.

Yes, keyword is #relevant.

Onwards to the review!

1. As a Korean learner

This is definitely not your usual textbook. You shouldn’t be using it as a main book or the first place to get new grammar knowledge.

Personally, I think it works best as a two-in-one combo read: To revise and contextualise what you have learnt elsewhere and to get loads of interesting and relevant cultural and practical tips!

It’s a great read on its own and it helps you see how you can really apply the words you have learnt into actual, real-life situations.

Unlike those run-of-the-mill phrasebooks, the phrases here are really what Koreans use in everyday situations and they are just .. relevant.

You might think, duh! But having seen quite a number of phrasebooks with stilted language and awkward sentences, this is a gem for Korean learners.

A lot of thought is being put into introducing each word or sentence and they go into great details, like having a Korean friend teach you how to order food in restaurants, explaining cultural tidbits like how menus are written on the walls (in Korean) for many Korean restaurants and how some restaurants would have password locks on the bathroom doors and you have to look at the receipt for a code to use the bathroom!

Little things like this may seem to be too trivial for people who are familiar with Korea but they are really useful info for those who are just starting to learn about the country, language and culture!

For Korean learners, romanisation should be ignored, instead look at the Hangeul.


The sample sentences are also very colloquial, so it’s a welcomed change from usual academic style textbook where they make sure all the particles are included. In spoken Korean, particles such as 을/를 are usually excluded as in 영수증(을) 드릴까요?

2. For the traveler / expat / anybody

To be honest, I don’t think anyone can learn a language just from a phrasebook. Or any ONE book. There is no quick solutions to language learner, but I concede that one is not going to learn every single language every time he/she travels to a new place. And for frequent travellers, doesn’t quite make sense to buy full textbooks to learn a language if you are just staying there for a year and then moving on to yet another country.

But it’s still great to make the effort to try to learn some phrases and I think this is where phrasebooks can come in handy.

And for Korean, this is really by far the best one I’ve come across to pick up some Korean skills!

RELEVANCE is key, and having the book would make it handy to communicate and navigate around most situations quite easily.

For those longer term expats with some basic proficiency, I feel that this book would help you level up quite a bit. It’s full of sentences that you hear on a daily basis, and full of phrases that you actually use. Instead of having to navigate the usual textbooks with all the academic and formal stuff, this book is great to become conversational.

For the traveler, I don’t know how relevant it can be. I’ve never tried going to a country where I can’t speak the language at all, so I don’t know how people usually do so. At least this book is so organised, it’s easy to find something you wanna say and you can either 1. say it, or 2. flip to the page and point at the phrase to get the message across hahaha.

Although whether you would understand the reply is a different story…

I’m actually curious how people use phrasebooks to travel! Share some stories please 😀 


Very random but I loveeee how Keith and Hyojin are the main models for the book! I know both of them but haven’t seem both in a long while! D: So it just seems extra endearing to see their photos in the book hahaha.


What I love best about the book is definitely the Break Time section! The stuff here is gold I think hahaha. Things that most textbooks don’t tell you and most travel guides are well… for travelers and they won’t think of telling you things like how you need a 100won coin for a shopping cart in supermarkets HAHA.

I feel that this book is best for beginner / intermediate learners but it’s still an awesome read for advanced learners! I found myself nodding along as I read about the cultural bits and thinking “ohhh why didn’t this book exist when I was just starting to learn Korean” LOL. I learnt quite a number of new things – the most memorable one being the differences between the different types of taxis! I

All in all, a great book to have on your bookshelf, as long as you have some interest in Korea / Korean! (:


What I love:
1. Relevance, loads of it

2. Great details of every single situation and you can just tell how much effort is put into generating this content

3. Cultural bits

4. A good source of conversational / colloquial Korean

To be improved:

1. eh nothing. 😀

Buy it here: MyKoreanStore

Learn more here: Book Intro – Survival Korean


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