best-books-to-learn-korean

17 of the Best Books to Learn Korean in 2023

There are tons of incredible ways to learn a language nowadays—many of them digital.

Of course, learning a language with a textbook is still beneficial! In fact, many textbooks now come with digital components, so it’s easy (and helpful) to combine methods to make the most of your language studies.

If that sounds appealing, then check out these recommendations for the best books to learn Korean.

Contents

Korean Books for Beginners

1. Living Language Korean, Complete Edition

Living Language Korean, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, Korean reading & writing guide, and free online learning

Focal area: General Korean textbook

Features: Multiple books, audio CDs, additional learning materials

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 “Living Language Korean,” you get four books, nine audio CDs and a free “Language Lab” that comes with additional learning materials like quizzes, games, flashcards and more.

Complicated grammar and difficult vocab are broken down into easy-to-digest pieces that are explained simply and clearly. 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.

2. Integrated Korean: Beginning 1

Integrated Korean: Beginning 1, 2nd Edition (Klear Textbooks in Korean Language)

Focal area: Korean textbook for beginners

Features: Accompanying workbook, audio files

This textbook is ideal for absolute beginners with no prior Korean experience or skills. It was created by Korean linguists and teachers and uses effective teaching techniques to get the information across.

Lessons are based around certain topics, each of which contains a dialogue, relevant vocabulary, explanations of the grammar and cultural notes, as well as an additional passage to really present the new information in context.

Each new edition of the book has been improved and enhanced based on user feedback. Now the book includes attractive visuals and an accompanying workbook. You can also download audio on the website or buy it in CD format.

3. Korean From Zero! 1

Korean From Zero! 1: Master the Korean Language and Hangul Writing System with Integrated Workbook and Online Course

Focal area: Korean textbook for beginners

Features: Accompanying workbook, audio files, online resources

“Korean From Zero! 1” is a good choice for beginning 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 beginner-friendly phrases.

4. Korean Made Easy for Beginners

Korean Made Easy for Beginners [Book and CD]

Focal area: Korean textbook for beginners

Features: Quiz sections, audio files

This textbook is designed to be completed in a short amount of time. It contains 20 lessons, a list of the 38 most common Korean phrases and a link to audio files 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. Lessons can easily be done as part of a self-study regime.

With entertaining, cartoony illustrations, this textbook would be ideal for children who are learning Korean, but it works for adults too!

5. Korean for Dummies

Korean For Dummies

Focal area: Korean basics for business & travel

Features: Accompanying CD, Korean-English mini-dictionary

The iconic “Dummies” series is based on the concept that you should have fun while studying, and the Korean version is no different.

This “anti-manual” offers an inspiring and effective method to learn the fundamentals of the Korean language and start communicating very quickly.

With this text, it’s easy and enjoyable to study Korean. It includes useful vocabulary and idioms, phonetic spelling of Korean words, a review of common sentences and expressions, plus helpful cultural tips and business etiquette.

The book includes a CD which features recorded Korean dialogues to help you fast-track your Korean pronunciation and improve your listening skills.

Korean Books for Vocabulary & Phrases

6. Essential Korean Vocabulary

Essential Korean Vocabulary: Learn the Key Words and Phrases Needed to Speak Korean Fluently

Focal area: Common vocabulary

Features: 8,000 words, colloquial usages, tips on grammar

Perfect for beginners, this user-friendly vocabulary book is geared toward greater fluency in spoken and written Korean.

Words are arranged by topics and feature numerous examples to help you better understand how to use them in context.

Whether you’re studying by yourself or with a tutor, this book will get you started on learning the most common Korean words and expressions.

Use this book fully by creating your own flashcards to memorize the vocabulary. Write the Korean word in Hangul (and its Romanized form, if needed for pronunciation) on the front, and an image or the English translation on the back. Don’t forget to quiz yourself regularly!

7. A Handbook of Korean Vocabulary

Handbook of Korean Vocabulary: A Resource for Word Recognition and Comprehension (English and Korean Edition)

Focal area: Word recognition & comprehension

Features: Pronunciation guide, root lists

“A Handbook of Korean Vocabulary” helps second language learners remember Korean words by their roots.

Arguably the most effective approach to learning Korean vocabulary, this “root dictionary” contains over 1,500 words indexed into lists. Each list is organized around a particular hanja/root morpheme and presents a set of words (mostly noun compounds) formed from that root.

Korean words are very logical if you know the root system. This system quickens the word recognition process, will help you memorize words faster and can even help you guess the meaning of new words.

8. The Kpop Dictionary

The Kpop Dictionary: 500 Essential Korean Slang Words and Phrases Every Kpop Fan Must Know

Focal area: Korean phrases & slang

Features: Pronunciation guide

If you’re getting into Korean culture and language because of K-Pop, you’re not alone. This book is good for Korean learners who love listening 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!)

This vocabulary/phrasebook compiles 500 modern Korean slang words that appear often in K-Pop music.

Beware that there’s no grammar instruction here. Also, the example sentences are presented in English with only the one Korean term included.

Still, the sample dialogues are silly and light-hearted. This little book is a fun companion to a more serious textbook.

Korean Books for Reading Skills

9. Korean Short Stories for Beginners

Korean Short Stories for Beginners + Audio Download: Improve your reading and listening skills in Korean (Learn Korean for Beginners Book 2)

Focal area: Reading for beginners

Features: English translations, audio files

“Korean Short Stories for Beginners” is an awesome short story textbook. This compilation of 30 engaging, entertaining stories features paragraph-by-paragraph translations so beginners can study each paragraph as they go and make note of unfamiliar characters.

Through these short stories, the book aims to teach over 1,500 essential vocabulary words. You’ll also see many typical sentence structures and grammar concepts used in context. 

The text includes audio files for each story read by a native Korean speaker.

10. Easy Korean Reading for Beginners

Easy Korean Reading for Beginners (English and Korean Edition)

Focal area: Reading for beginners

Features: Designed for Korean learners

This book was specifically written for students who have been learning Korean for at least a month and want to start reading but find most authentic written material too difficult.

Produced by the Talk to Me in Korean team, this text features 30 short stories. “Easy Korean Reading for Beginners” is best suited for upper beginners to intermediate learners, and is meant to be used to boost reading skills and comprehension.

The short stories cover relatable topics and will push your Korean language skills without being too challenging.

11. Selected Reading in Korean

Selected Readings in Korean (KLEAR Textbooks in Korean Language, 13)

Focal area: Reading for advanced students

Features: Pre- and post-reading activities, English translations, Korean-English glossary

This text is for students who have completed a fourth-year level in Korean, or about 500 study hours. “Selected Readings in Korean” is perfect for advanced students looking for authentic Korean reading material.

Throughout the 18 comprehensive lessons, you’ll find a very erudite presentation of Korean traditions, culture and society.

Each lesson features pre-reading activities, authentic reading texts, explanations of key vocabulary and idioms used in the extract, extensive exercises and group activities to elevate discussions.

This book will take your Korean language skills a step further. Be sure to complement your studies by doing your own research on information presented in the readings. Try using Doosan’s encyclopedia for optimum results.

Korean Books for Other Language Skills

12. Read and Speak Korean for Beginners

Read and Speak Korean for Beginners, Third Edition (Read & Speak)

Focal area: Reading & speaking skills for beginners

Features: Flashcards, audio files, games & puzzles

The newest edition of this book is a refined textbook course that aims to make Korean language learning more approachable for beginners. 

The textbook covers eight main themes that’ll get you speaking everyday conversations about common topics like yourself, your family, directions, descriptions and more. It’s also graphic-heavy, featuring elegant illustrations that demonstrate key terms and words during lessons.

Along with the textbook, you’ll be able to access games and puzzles so you can have fun while reinforcing your studies. This textbook also includes flashcards, making it an excellent all-in-one package!

13. Talk To Me In Korean Level 1

Talk To Me In Korean Level 1 (Downloadable Audio Files Included) (English and Korean Edition)

Focal area: Listening skills

Features: Audio files, accompanying workbook

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.

If you’re studying solo, good news! This book was designed to be used for self-study. It also comes with sample dialogues and exercises that are easy to do on your own.

This textbook specifically 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.

14. Let’s Speak Korean

Let's Speak Korean: Learn Over 1,400+ Expressions Quickly and Easily With Pronunciation & Grammar Guide Marks - Just Listen, Repeat, and Learn! (Beginner Korean)

Focal area: Speaking skills

Features: Audio files, cultural tips

If you’re trying to absorb a ton of expressions and phrases in a short period of time, “Let’s Speak Korean” is the perfect book for you.

It aims to teach beginners over 1,400 Korean expressions. It also includes pronunciation and “grammar guide marks,” which clearly link the Korean words to their English translations within larger sentences. That way, you always know exactly what you’re reading.

Although there’s no formal grammar instruction included here, the guide marks help learners get a sense of Korean grammar in a more natural way. Once you’ve learned enough phrases, it’s possible to construct your own sentences!

The textbook also has downloadable audio tracks to perfect your pronunciation skills by listening to native Korean speakers.

15. Korean Grammar for International Learners

Korean Grammar for International Learners

Focal area: Grammar

Features: Multiple indexes, accompanying workbook

This book from Korea’s very prestigious Yonsei University is the best resource to learn and master Korean grammar.

Incredibly comprehensive and designed for foreigners, this text will help you no matter your level. Use it to build a solid foundation from the start, or review a structure you’ve forgotten.

Grammar, conjugation and spelling rules are presented with simple explanations and numerous examples for better assimilation. Plus, every grammar structure and root are conveniently indexed for easier look up.

To put this theoretical knowledge to practice, make sure to complement the book with its accompanying exercise workbook. Learn the function first and then use the workbook the next day to make sure you fully understand the rule.

16. 500 Korean Verbs

500 Basic Korean Verbs: The Only Comprehensive Guide to Conjugation and Usage

Focal area: Verb conjugations

Features: Reference tables, multiple indexes

Korean conjugation can be challenging, especially in the beginning. “500 Korean Verbs” is a great way to learn the most common Korean verbs and use them in context.

This comprehensive guide to Korean conjugation explains how to conjugate the most useful verbs by tense, mood and speech level. In terms of organization, they’re conveniently listed by topics and interest.

The text includes conjugation rules, reference tables of basic Korean verb types and three indexes (Romanized, Hangul and English) for pronunciation.

17. Korean Reader for Chinese Characters

Korean Reader for Chinese Characters (KLEAR Textbooks in Korean Language, 10)

Focal area: Korean writing system

Features: Writing guide, English translations, review sections

This book is a good introduction for studying the hanjas, which are the Chinese characters that form the majority of Korean words. “Korean Reader for Chinese Characters” details the 500 most common hanjas used in modern Korean.

You’ll start with the basics and gradually move on to more complex hanjas. Beyond simply offering the meaning of the roots, the book also provides clear instructions on how to write every hanja, stroke by stroke. Additionally, each of the 40 lessons begin with a reading extract featuring the hanja vocab.

While not essential for beginners, it’s a good option if you’re interested in Korean literature or want to learn more about this important aspect of the Korean language.

FAQ About Learning Korean with Books

Why should I use textbooks to learn Korean?

Textbooks are still used for a reason. As you’re probably aware, university language courses use a tried-and-true textbook as the core of their curriculum. That’s because textbooks get results. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

A good textbook will guide you through the essentials of the language in an orderly fashion. This will give you a solid foundation for continuing your Korean language learning—with or without more textbooks.

How will textbooks improve my Korean language skills?

Many Korean textbooks provide dialogue sequences to help learners improve their reading fluency. Textbooks are excellent for helping students learn how to read and write in their target language.

When we look at languages like Korean from an English-speaking perspective, there’s a lot to learn. From characters to Romanization, reading and writing in Korean is best learned with a book.

Of course, to blend reading in Korean with other kinds of media, try reading transcripts of podcasts or videos before listening to them.

For example, the authentic video-based learning program FluentU uses both transcripts and interactive subtitles to reinforce your reading skills. With FluentU, you can learn Korean through movie clips, music videos and other authentic media.

The transcripts can be downloaded for on-the-go reading practice and pre-video prep. The subtitles let you check the meaning of any word and add it as a flashcard for later review. You can also take your Korean learning on the move with the iOS and Android apps.

korean learning books
This kind of authentic learning is crucial for getting more context for any book learning you do. It allows you to internalize new vocabulary and grammar structures and feel more confident using them yourself when the chance arises.

What other benefits do Korean textbooks provide?

Reading Korean books can help provide cultural context for your Korean language studies.

You might be learning the language because you’re a fan of Korean culture, because you want to become an expat in Seoul or because you plan to travel to a South Korean city for business.

If these are your reasons for learning, it’s vital to know more about Korean culture to accompany the language. And even if you’re just learning for fun, knowing more about the culture can help you understand the language better!

 

These resources are great for Korean learners who want to use a textbook approach for learning the language.

So pick up one of these books to learn Korean and get started!

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