A good textbook doesn’t have to be all encompassing; it just needs to deliver what it sets out to do.
This book is written by a native Korean, Song Won, who is passionate about teaching Korean and he is also a self learner of languages! How cool is that. Self-authored books bring in a different dimension to language learning since the books usually use less technical terms and are more focused on conversational skills and application, rather than a rigid and structured approach.
Touted as a grammar + workbook (interesting combi!) that focuses on teaching grammar points for conversational Korean, this book has the following goals:
- 1. A self-teaching guide for beginners to pre-intermediates
- 2. Simplified Korean grammar textbook for conversational Korean
Structure of book:
1. Introduce Hangeul system with writing exercises
2. Teaches a grammar point in every unit (1 page on the left), followed by a page of exercises on the right
(+) Concise and to the point
To be honest, I was quite surprised at how concise this book can get. It takes a very no-frills, to the point approach and I would say that would suit the tastes of a very busy person who needs to learn conversational Korean. None of those long, detailed introductions. It just introduces the Hangeul system and provides space for you to do the exercises.
(+) Show not tell
The same no-frills approach continues to the grammar portion of the book. The book manages to achieve its goals by cutting out all the linguistic and in-depth explanations and just focusing on showing (teaching) you the conjugations. Conjugation patterns are clearly shown and taught. I can see how this would appeal to some learners who are not so keen to delving into the grammatical terms and being put off by the detailed explanations in some books.
Each unit is just 2 pages worth. One page for explanations, one page of exercises. The exercises are useful, geared towards making you apply the concepts that you have learnt. The kind of exercises that helps, not those that focuses on group activity. Great for self-learners. Even open-ended questions comes with sample answers at the back of the book, so that’s a plus. I do like how the exercises make you learn and internalise the conjugation patterns.
(?) Too little explanations
That being said, I feel that at times, this book would be much better as a complement to another main textbook or used as review book. Simply because it can come off as too bare (in terms of explanations) at times. I thought it was an interesting choice of introduce the number / counting system straight after Hangeul. Nothing wrong with that per say, but it’s a little strange when the exercises and some sample sentences are introduced when the learner has zero idea of the basic structure of sentences. Classifiers are also introduced early in the book with minimal explanations, which can come off as confusing to some. Not a major flaw, but thought it’s something to point out.
The good thing is that Song Won also as a youtube channel, where he uploads lessons for certain chapters. It’s like having a teacher guide you through, which I like.
The conversational approach
This topic totally deserves a post on its own, but thought I’ll just share some thoughts here.
Personally, when it comes to language learning, I want to have an in depth knowledge of the grammar / nuances. I see each language as a system of its own and hence I would love to know about grammatical structures like “topic marker/subject marker” instead of having grammatical structures being equated to a similar (but not the same) structure in another language (eg. English). In that sense, I can never go for a conversational approach to language learning. I need the in-depth grammar explanations, as well as the differences between similar grammar structures.
That being said, I thought this book does a great job with the conversational approach. Instead of introducing phrases / sentences to memorise as some books do, this book still focuses on grammar, just making it simplified enough to have a decent knowledge of Korean grammar and then being apply to apply it to daily usage.
All in all
For those who are keen on the conversational approach, this book is a great one to have! For those who are like me and prefer knowing the details, this book might not be so suitable as a main textbook, but nevertheless still a good one to have to learn the conjugations, review grammatical structures and do the exercises. Suitable for self learners, absolute beginners to low intermediate.
Thanks Song Won for sending over a copy! (:
What I like:
- Concise and to the point
- Focuses on conjugations
To be improved on:
- Order of some of the lessons can be better organised for a better flow (just a small point)
To purchase the book, hop over to the Korean Fashionista online store