There are so many incredible ways to learn a language nowadays.
You can opt for smartphone apps that specialize in bite-sized lessons for long-term casual learning.
You can travel abroad to learn a new language among dozens of other foreign learners, right in the center of the country in which that language is spoken.
You can even learn a new language from the comfort of your home!
Still, there’s some serious merit in the good old fashioned way of learning a language: Sitting down with a textbook, some paper, a pencil and some serious self-discipline.
If this sounds appetizing to you, you may do well at learning Korean from home with some excellent Korean textbooks. There are hundreds of great texts out there designed to improve your Korean language skills, too.
Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best books to learn Korean so you don’t have to spend valuable language-learning time searching.
Before we dip into our top list for Korean textbooks for newbies, let’s explore more about how learning with books can be the best thing you can do to your Korean study routine.
What Makes These the Best Books to Learn Korean?
- Old fashioned textbooks are still used for a reason. University language courses today still use a tried-and-true textbook as the core of their curriculum. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
A good textbook will guide you through the essentials of the language in an orderly fashion, giving you a solid foundation for later learning.
- Many textbooks in Korean provide dialogue sequences that can help learners improve their reading fluency. Textbooks are excellent for teaching students how to read and write in a language.
And when we look at languages like Korean from an English-speaking perspective, there’s a lot to learn. From characters to romanization, reading in Korean is best taught with a textbook.
- Reading Korean books can help provide some cultural context for the Korean language. You might be learning Korean because you’re a fan of Korean culture, want to eventually become an expat in Seoul or maybe you plan on traveling to a South Korean city for business reasons.
If these are your reasons for learning, it’s vital to know more about Korean culture to accompany the language. Even if you’re just learning for fun, knowing the culture of a language can help you understand the language better.
The 10 Best Books to Learn Korean on Your Own
The 10 textbooks below are the best books for learning Korean. They’ll help you develop your grammar, vocab, reading, writing and other language skills in a guided way.
Just remember that textbooks, as incredibly useful as they are, don’t always show the full picture of the language. If your goal is to sound natural in conversation and be able to actually apply everything you learn to real life, we recommend pairing any of these textbooks with the authentic Korean program on FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. But the program is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
In other words, you get a structured and guided way to experience the Korean language as it’s actually used by native Korean speakers. The immersive, entertaining content makes learning much more memorable!
This Korean textbook boasts some seriously positive reviews and it certainly makes sense why. It’s not just a textbook: It’s an entire learning package!
By purchasing this, you get four books, nine audio CDs and a free “Language Lab” that comes with additional learning materials like quizzes, games, flashcards and more.
You can go from beginner to advanced with this one complete course, using techniques that have been tested over time by science and experience and have proven to be effective. Complicated grammar and difficult vocab are broken down into easy-to-digest pieces that are explained simply and clearly.
The newest edition of this Korean book is a refined textbook course that aims to make Korean language learning more approachable to beginners.
The textbook covers eight main themes that’ll get you speaking everyday conversations about common topics like yourself and your family, directions, descriptions and more. It’s also very graphic-heavy, featuring elegant illustrations that demonstrate key terms and words during lessons.
Along with the textbook, you’ll be able to access an accompanying app with games and more learning features to reinforce your studies. This textbook also includes pull-down flashcards, making it an excellent all-in-one package!
If you’re just trying to absorb a ton of expressions and phrases in a short period of time, “Let’s Speak Korean” is the perfect textbook for you.
It aims to teach newbies over 1,400 expressions with pronunciation and “grammar guide marks,” which clearly link the Korean words with their English translations within larger sentences, so you know exactly what you’re reading.
Although there’s no formal grammar instruction included here, the guide marks help learners get a sense of the grammar in a more natural way, making it possible to construct your own sentences once you’ve learned enough phrases.
The textbook also has downloadable audio tracks to perfect your pronunciation skills by listening to authentic Korean native speakers.
If you need a textbook that’s designed to be completed in a short amount of time, this is the one. It contains 20 lessons, a list of the 38 most common Korean phrases and an audio CD for pronunciation help.
The textbook works up to basic conversation skills through listening, writing and reading instruction, which includes the chance to test yourself on your progress.
With multiple self-study lessons and entertaining cartoony illustrations, this textbook would even be ideal for children who are learning Korean. And adults too, of course!
This textbook is ideal for absolute beginners with no prior Korean experience or skills. It was created by actual Korean linguists and teachers and uses effective teaching techniques to get the information across.
The lessons are based around certain topics, each of which contains a dialogue, relevant vocabulary, explanations of the grammar used, cultural notes as well as an additional passage to really present the new information in context.
This particular edition (the second edition) has been improved and enhanced based on user feedback and now includes attractive visuals and an accompanying workbook. You can also download audio on the website or buy it in CD format.
If you’re getting into Korean culture and language because of K-Pop, you’re not alone. This textbook is perfect for Korean learners who love to listen to K-Pop.
Even if you’re not a big fan, using music to study can be a great way to add some variety to your learning!
More of a vocabulary/phrasebook than a full textbook, this book compiles 500 modern Korean slang words that appear often in K-Pop. There’s no grammar instruction and example sentences are presented in English with the Korean word defined being the only Korean included.
Still, the sample dialogued are silly and light-hearted and this book makes a great little companion for any more serious textbook.
You may have heard of the language-learning podcast and learning program by the same name. This textbook is based on many of the Korean lessons from that program and is complete with audio files, grammar lessons and exercises.
The book was designed to be used for self-study and comes with sample dialogues and exercises meant to be done on your own.
More specifically, this textbook focuses on spoken and conversational Korean and will get you speaking by the time you finish it. Free audio is available online and an accompanying workbook can be purchased separately if you want even more practice.
“Korean From Zero!” is a good choice for beginner learners who want more bells and whistles than a simple textbook. This beginner-centric book contains a workbook, audio, online help, grammar lessons, character practice sheets, bilingual glossaries and more.
The “From Zero” part of the title holds true here: This book will get you started even if you have absolutely no experience with Korean. It starts slowly and goes over every aspect of reading, writing and understanding Korean as it teaches grammar concepts and vocabulary on top of a few beginner-friendly phrases.
This textbook by Talk to Me in Korean is meant for upper beginners to intermediate learners, since it features short stories meant to be used as reading practice. In fact, the book is specifically aimed at students who have been learning Korean for at least a month and want to start reading but find most authentic written material too difficult.
In this book, you’ll find 30 stories on relatable topics that will push your understanding and language skill forward without being too challenging.
This is another awesome short story-based textbook. The compilation of 30 engaging and entertaining short stories features paragraph-by-paragraph translations so newbies can study each paragraph as they go and make notes of new or unfamiliar characters.
You’ll also get audio files for each individual story featuring a native Korean speaker.
Through these short stories, the textbook aims to teach over 1,500 essential vocabulary words as well as showing many typical sentence structures and grammar concepts in context.
These resources are perfect for beginner Korean learners who need a more traditional approach to learning a new language. We suggest pairing these textbooks with high-quality Korean characters manuscript diamond paper for practicing your writing.
So pick up one of these best books to learn Korean and get ready to learn!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.