I know why you’re here.
You’re looking for something convenient, satisfying and available at a moment’s notice.
And no, I’m not talking about fast food.
Actually, e-books for learning Korean can be much more nourishing than a cheeseburger if you use them right.
But like fast food, they’re almost too readily available. So how do you get to the select few that’ll best guide you to your learning goals?
Well, you’re just in time.
In this post, I’m not only recommending six Korean e-books to enrich your language learning soul, I’ll even throw in some surefire techniques that’ll maximize each book’s effectiveness.
Ready? And so we begin…
How to Supersize Your Korean E-books
Write your notes on real paper.
E-books are digital by nature. But even when some functionality allows you to annotate or write comments on them, you can (and should) still opt to write your notes on paper. Why? Because studies have found that the mechanical act of writing itself serves as an anchor for your memory. You remember more of the things that you write because you’re engaging in an activity that creates kinesthetic and visual anchors for it.
Don’t automatically think of typing on a laptop, either. When you want to summarize a chapter, rephrase a grammatical point or make a list of important Korean vocabulary words for review, be old school and use paper instead. It’s been found to be more memory-friendly, boosting your recall of the written material. Try it!
Read the pages aloud.
You might have to read with your eyes only when you’re in the library or during your daily commute, but whenever you have adequate privacy, you’d do better to be reading the pages aloud.
Reading Korean e-books aloud forces you to practice Korean speech. Your language partner or tutor might not be available for chat, but you’ll always have yourself to talk to. So even when you’re just reading a list of Korean colors, animals or fruits, speak up and exercise your tongue in the ways of the Korean language. It will help your mouth, tongue and jaw to work together and produce the distinct sounds of Korean.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you understand the intricacies of Korean grammar, or can translate hundreds of English words, you already know how to “speak” Korean. Just as you don’t learn how to swim by reading a book on swimming, in order to learn how to “speak Korean,” you have to actually speak Korean.
Some language learners amass a huge collection of learning books, combing through them daily. That’s good, but that’s just a start. You have to open that mouth of yours…and speak!
After studying your e-book, review with FluentU.
Once you’ve studied a grammar rule or vocab list, you can’t just stop there. You need to see what you’ve learned in action to understand how it works in the real world. FluentU makes this easy.
FluentU takes real-world Korean videos—like movie trailers, K-pop music videos, cartoons and news—and turns them into personalized language lessons. With the Plus plan, you can create your own flashcard sets. What this means is that you can plug in your own vocab list of words you’re learning (whether it’s a set of basic verbs, numbers, colors or something else), and be given customized quizzes with example sentences and clips from videos.
This ensures that you don’t end up just mindlessly drifting through your e-book chapters, because you’re forced to apply the knowledge—in a fun way that will help you immediately see how relevant it all is.
Engage in 2-minute reviews all day.
The cool thing about e-books is that they easily fit in your pocket. Download them to your phone and voilà, you have them wherever you go. (And you really don’t even know they’re there because they’re basically weightless.)
E-books give you the opportunity to study Korean in very short, but productive, bursts. For example, you’re waiting for your coffee to go. Whip out your phone and read a page or a half. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Do the exercises in Chapter 2.
Your everyday routines provide these short stretches when you can just dive in and go. Use them for review. It’s not the type of studying where you sit down and shoo all distractions—you’re just going over the things you’ve studied before, keeping them fresh and saved in your long term memory.
Two minutes, five times a day may not sound much. But those minutes do add up pretty fast.
Imagine you’ll teach others what you’ve learned.
You know you’ve truly learned something when you’re able to communicate it to others—and communicate it in a way they can understand.
So while studying your Korean e-book, imagine that you’ll be teaching the material to a friend. Imagine that you’re his Korean tutor and you’ll be explaining that lesson to him.
That thought alone, of being accountable for somebody else’s linguistic well-being, will light a fire in you. Things will become a little more important. You’ll work harder to understand the chapters. When you’re not just studying for yourself, you’ll take more ownership of and responsibility for your learning.
And why don’t you take things a step farther? Don’t just imagine that you’ll be teaching Korean to absolute beginners. Actually do it! Plan on eventually finding a friend, or somebody online, who’s interested in the language. Somebody you can take under your wing.
I’m telling you, those Korean e-books will gain a new level of importance for you.
Now that you have those things under your belt, it’s time to look into some brilliant e-books that can be your guides to the beautiful Korean language.
6 Korean E-books for the Language Learner’s Soul
If this one wasn’t an e-book, it’d weigh like a slab of marble in your backpack. At over 500 pages and produced by the Defense Language Institute (DLI), the United States’ prime language education and research institution, this is a behemoth of a book.
You’re going to need a PDF reader to see the text and Flash to hear the accompanying audio. The e-book is made up of 8 units, with each unit containing 3-4 lessons, ranging from greetings to asking for directions.
The book is focused on conversation and comprehension, not grammar—although grammar points are highlighted when necessary.
Each lesson opens with a dialogue—for example, between a shop keeper and a buyer. The rest of the lesson is then used to slowly deconstruct the whole conversation, the phrases and vocab used. There are plenty of exercises at the end of each lesson to keep you on your toes.
This e-book also includes a writing section, as well as a Korean-English and English-Korean glossary. What more can you ask for?!
This e-book is the namesake of a very successful website called Talk To Me In Korean, co-founded by Hyunwoo Sun.
The contents of this book have the same flavor as their blogs, podcasts and videos. It’s an easy read, with the pages not overly crammed with text. There are drawings or pictures every once in a while. Overall, you get the feeling that the folks contributing to this material are having fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.
This e-book is perfect for absolute beginners of Korean. Like the title says, the topics range “from greetings to numbers.” The lessons are conversational in nature. But they don’t just teach you what to say first and then what response to expect. They include an interesting quirk or two about the language, and even explain some cultural tidbits that readers will find immensely helpful. So as you learn about the language, you’ll also learn to appreciate the warmth of the culture and the politeness of its people.
“Talk To Me In Korean” can best be used with the Korean audio lessons available on the site, and when you’re done with this level, there are books for eight more levels available!
There’s a solid team behind this e-book: a professional interpreter, a linguist and two native speakers. So you’ve got both sides of the coin represented.
“Korean from Zero” is a textbook and workbook rolled into one, with an MP3 download and online support. It’s a must-have for the Korean beginner or for those looking for a firmer grasp of the fundamentals.
The book has a different approach from others of its kind. It opens with a crash course on Hangul (the Korean writing system). It’s the team’s belief that if you learn to read in Korean, your eyes will be opened to the patterns that lead to phrases and sentences. You won’t be mindlessly memorizing lines or waiting for a specific response to your stock questions.
Take heed, there are no Romanized versions of the language after the introductory section. You’ll have to read this one in Korean, but the first section of the book will teach you how.
This book will literally attempt to do what it says in the title. In just an hour (or, maybe more realistically, two), it’ll teach you how to read Korean.
At 50 pages, this book is a great introductory resource for remembering the sounds of the Korean alphabet. You’ll indeed come away with a basic understanding of the language.
The book is able to achieve this through the use of mnemonic devices, like word associations, to help you remember the sound of what you see. It makes the language not only easy to learn, but hard to forget.
It’s fun, it’s upbeat and it’s unpretentious. After this e-book, the lines and stick figures around Koreatown will take on real meaning for you.
Want to know how different grammar rules are used to form basic Korean sentences? Want to learn the language while having history and cultural lessons on the side? Then “Korean Made Simple” is perfect for you.
This e-book is from a guy named Billy who taught himself Korean and is now working as a Korean translator and online teacher. He understands the struggles of language learners and he’s created a book for beginners to really get into the proper frame of mind to learn the language.
The whole book has about 1,000 words and phrases distributed over 20 lessons, and starts off with an introduction to Hangul. As you swipe through the pages, learning new words and being introduced to grammar concepts, you’ll soon realize that you’re reading in Hangul without any Romanization!
“Korean Made Simple” is followed by two more books that go ever deeper into the language.
“TOPIK Guide” e-books
The hardcore Korean learners out there are probably going to be taking the TOPIK at some point. TOPIK stands for Test of Proficiency In Korean. It’s a test administered by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) to foreigners who want to be employed in Korean companies in and out of the country.
But you can take the test not just for career advancement, but as a simple proof of your competence in the language—as there are reading, listening and writing sections.
The “TOPIK Guide” is a whole self-study package that includes videos, audio files and past TOPIK tests that all help you to boost your scores.
There are two types of TOPIK tests, so there are also two packages offered. The TOPIK I package is geared towards beginners (levels 1-2). The TOPIK II package is designed for intermediate (levels 3-4) and advanced (levels 5-6) students.
Each package comes with multiple e-books that cover self-study, grammar and vocabulary.
You’ll find these e-books valuable resources in the run up to your exam. The vocabulary e-book in the TOPIK I package, for example, will contain the words you’re expected to have already learned. They may not be tested directly, but you’ll certainly find them littered all over the reading and listening sections of the test.
The TOPIK Guide, with its insider view, can give you the edge needed to ace the exam.
And that rounds out our list.
You are now officially out of excuses for not reaching your Korean learning goals.
The six e-books above will help you get to the next level in the language—whether you’re an absolute beginner, an intermediate or a seasoned student of Korean. Apply the study techniques you learned in the first section and there will be absolutely no stopping you from reaching Korean fluency.
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