Learning any language requires a lot of time to master vocabulary, grammar and various language skills such as listening, writing, … It takes a lot of time. You will probably need some good tools such as textbooks as well. In my next article in the Morning Lands’ Book Club series, I’m going to review a book I’ve used when I just started out: Korean Made Easy For Beginners.
Korean Made Easy For Beginners, The Book
Learning a new language is difficult. Learning a new language on your own might seem impossible. For some it might very well be impossible since they need the structure only a classroom provides. For others on the other hand all they need is a really good entry textbook. However, finding that perfect entry textbook for self studying can be challenging. Believe me, I had my share of challenges when I started learning Korean.
My first book was a complete mispurchase. I spent a lot of money on a useless book. Luckily, my Korean partner’s mother came to the rescue. She spent an entire day, an entire day (!), plowing through heaps of textbooks searching after a perfect textbook just for me. She finally settled on Korean Made easy for Beginners by Seung-eun Oh and published by Darakwon. Yes, it has the same publisher as my previous reviewed book, Korean Grammar In Use – Beginning. It was a godsend gift given to me by a Korean mother with holding too much kindness in her heart.
I used this book to really get started learning Korean. The entire structure of the book with chapters slowly but surely introducing new language topics is ideal for the Korean learner who wants to do everything on his/her own. I can highly recommend this textbook therefore to anyone. It is a perfect entry level Korean language textbook.
The entire structure of Korean made Easy for Beginners makes it excellent for the lonesome student.
Let me give you a quick overview of what I think are its good and bad points.
The Positive Beginning
[pullquote-right]Korean Made Easy For Beginners is made up by 5 chapters introducing Hangeul and 20 regular chapters.[/pullquote-right]
There are a lot of good things to say about Korean Made Easy For Beginners. However, the first positive point of the book is the entire structure. 5 chapters introducing Hangeul and 20 regular chapters make up Korean Made Easy For Beginners. The 20 regular chapters in turn are all structured the same: It always begins with the grammar section introducing the key grammar topics used in the dialogues that section that follows. Each chapter always has two dialogues and generally there are also 2 dialogue tips explaining the more nuanced aspects of Korean language. Following the dialogues are the pronunciation rule introduction (1 per chapter); additional vocabulary and useful phrases. Each chapter ends with two pages of exercises, giving you opportunity to practice grammar, reading and listening; and a word on Korean culture. This might seem overwhelming, but no chapter ever overwhelms, all chapters are well balanced.
The book stays true to its title and does go out of its way to make Korean easy for the student. How does it do that? Easy. First it ensures all dialogues use natural and modern Korean. This ensures you don’t end up speaking Korean using a strange or old fashioned expressions. Furthermore the grammar sections always use plenty of examples and simple language to explain each separate topic. The book never tries to overwhelm you as it only teaches what is necessary for the dialogue itself
A fun distraction each chapter has are the culture sections at the end of each chapter. These short culture tidbits on Korean culture really helps you form an image of what Korea is like and what to (not) expect in the East-Asian country. Language is a representation of the culture in which it was born. So it is no surprise almost all textbooks include culture and this book does it quite well. It is never boring; but also it isn’t trying to be too upbeat about its culture. Perfect reading.
The Negative Beginning
However, for all the good points Korean Made Easy For Beginners has, there are still a few negative points to talk about. Nothing in this world is perfect, not even a master work. Not that I’m implying this book is a masterwork.
My biggest complaint with this book is the amount of exercises it offers each chapter. The amount of exercises is simply too little. In general each chapter has about 5 to 7 exercises; 8 at the most. Of those 8, one or two are listening exercises and one is a reading exercise. I think anyone will think this amount is insufficient. To master the grammar and vocabulary, you will need to come up with your own way to further practice what you have learned.
Another complaint will sound familiar if you have read my previous review. As mentioned, Darakwon published this book and that comes with its downside. You can download all audio files from the Darakwon website, but that site is hopeless mess of outdated technology. It is a relic of the past and its usability suffers from it. The website relies on technology that is incompatible with ALL modern browser. No, not even the latest version of Internet Explorer works. If you want to download the files from the Darakwon website you will need to use the compatibility feature of your Internet Explorer, which is a must. It is utterly atrocious and something I only figured it out for myself after hours cursing Darakwon for its outdated (English) site.
So if you ask me whether I would recommend Korean made Easy for Beginners to someone who wants to learn Korean. I would wholeheartedly say yes. The book is well structured and well paced for any type of student. It never feels it rushes and thus starts pumping too much new topics into the head of its reader. While the amount of exercises are minimal, this minus point you can solve easily yourself.
Once you’ve ploughed through a few chapters and you feel you really want to master Korean, I would recommend to complement Korean made Easy for Beginners with Korean Grammar in Use – Beginning.
PS: This book is adorned by fun looking cartoons to brighten your learning experience.