Want to speed up your Korean learning?
You know, so you can get to the juicy parts faster.
The parts which often tie into your motivations for learning Korean in the first place: to better understand a fascinating country with a rich history and vibrant culture; your fondness for Korean food, dramas and K-pop; or perhaps to communicate with the Korean you’ve fallen for.
No matter your reasons for learning the language, it’s important to have reliable study materials to complement your learning experience.
Especially if you’re learning Korean on a busy schedule, getting the right Korean learning books from the start can help your progress considerably.
So that’s why we’ve picked out the ultimate selection of learning books that will advance your Korean level!
8 Essential Korean Learning Books to Lift You Higher in Record Time
1. “Korean for Dummies”
The Korean edition of the iconic “Dummies” series is a must-read if you want to learn Korean and grasp the basics while having a good time in the process.
Based on the concept that you should have fun while studying, this anti-manual offers an inspiring and effective method to learn the fundamentals of the Korean language and start communicating very quickly. With boxes of useful vocabulary and idioms, phonetic spelling of Korean words, a review of common sentences and expressions to sound like a native, and helpful cultural tips, this book makes it easy and enjoyable to study Korean.
If you’re not interested in tedious lists of grammar rules and rigid structure, this is an ideal place to start if you want to learn both everyday Korean and deepen your knowledge of the Korean culture and business etiquette.
The book includes an accompanying CD which features recorded Korean dialogues to help you fast-track your Korean pronunciation and improve your listening skills.
2. “Sogang Korean”
The Sogang Korean series is a great tool for students looking for a structured, step-by-step approach to learning Korean. Very colorful, rich in content and quite possibly the best way to learn Korean on your own, Sogang’s manuals are designed to stimulate all four language skills (listening, reading, writing, speaking).
Constantly updated for effective study, all skills are connected by language objectives and organized into lessons, allowing you to acquire new skills through repetition. With a heavy focus on developing your speaking ability, you will learn specific language functions through meaningful practice dialogues, new situations and repetition.
We particularly love that the textbooks are nicely illustrated with vivid pictures and graphics to facilitate the memorization process and heighten interest.
3. “Korean Grammar for International Learners”
Grammar is arguably the most important (and challenging!) part of the Korean language, and this is the best resource to learn and master it. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran Korean student, this is a must-read. Incredibly comprehensive and designed for foreigners, this is the book to keep by your side, whether you’re looking to build a solid foundation from the start or need to occasionally review a structure you’ve forgotten.
A culmination of educational know-how from Korea’s very prestigious Yonsei University, this guide explains the most essential grammar structures and details at length. Its fundamental grammar, conjugation and spelling rules are presented with simple explanations and numerous examples for better assimilation.
We absolutely love that every grammar structure and root are conveniently indexed and listed for easier search. This is a considerable time saver if you’re looking up a particular grammar point.
To maximize efficiency and put theoretical knowledge to practice, make sure to complement the book with its accompanying exercise booklet. A good way to use it is to learn the function first, assimilate it and then proceed to the exercise workbook the following day to make sure that you have fully understood the rule.
4. “500 Korean Verbs”
Korean conjugation can be challenging, especially in the beginning. “500 Korean Verbs” is a great helper to learn the most common Korean verbs and use them in context.
Conveniently listed by topics and interest, this comprehensive guide to Korean conjugation explains effectively how to conjugate the most useful Korean verbs by tense, moods and speech levels.
It also includes a useful guide to the Korean language, including verb conjugation rules, reference tables of basic Korean verb types, and three indexes (romanized, Hangul and English) for pronunciation.
If you’re still struggling with Korean conjugation and want to learn them quickly, this is the book for you. It also really helps to hear/see these verbs used authentically, which is what FluentU makes possible.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Start using FluentU on the website or download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
5. “Essential Korean Vocabulary”
Perfect for beginners, this user-friendly vocabulary book is geared toward greater fluency in spoken and written Korean.
Whether you’re studying by yourself or with a tutor, this book will help you get started learning the most common Korean words and expressions.
For greater convenience and assimilation, all words are arranged by topics and feature numerous examples to help you better understand how to best use them in context.
Take it a step further and create your own flashcards to memorize new vocabulary more easily. Simply 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. Regularly test yourself starting with the Korean version first. Give yourself no more than three seconds to come up with the English translation. After a few days or weeks when you’re able to go through the list from Korean to English, start over and this time begin with the image/English side and produce the Korean.
6. “A Handbook of Korean Vocabulary”
When you just start learning Korean, words somehow all sound the same. If you wish there were a way to make sense of it all… there is!
Learn the roots and their meanings. That’s where “A Handbook of Korean Vocabulary” comes in handy. Arguably the most effective approach to learning Korean vocabulary, this root dictionary of Korean for second language learners contains over 1,500 words conveniently indexed by root, whether of Chinese (hanjas) or Korean origin.
Each list is then organized around a particular hanja/root morpheme and presents a set of words—mostly noun compounds—formed from that root.
Korean words are actually very logical if you know the root system. In this dictionary, each word is broken down into syllables (the roots). Knowing the roots can help you memorize words faster, and even help you guess the meaning of new words if you know enough roots.
For example, 책 can mean “responsibility,” 임 can mean “be in charge,” and 자 can mean “a person.” These roots form the word 책임자, which means “a person in charge.”
This system quickens the word recognition process, and will also deepen your understanding of the Korean language and culture.
The best way to use this book is to regularly browse it in your spare time and look up the roots of new words you learn. Be sure to read the word lists and memorize the meaning of the roots that compose the words, not just the final translations when reading the lists. It takes time, but it is well worth it!
7. “Klear: Korean Reader for Chinese Characters”
This is a good introduction to study the hanjas, the Chinese characters that form the majority of Korean words. This book details the 500 most common hanjas used in the Korean language today, starting with basics and gradually moving on to more complex hanjas.
Aside from simply offering the meaning of the roots, the book also provides clear instructions on how to write the hanja, stroke by stroke, for each character. Additionally, each lesson begins 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 culture. Be sure to practice your handwriting by keeping an additional notebook close by as well.
8. “Klear: Selected Reading in Korean”
This is the book that will take your Korean language skills a step further. Highly informative and rich in content, this bilingual textbook is perfect for advanced students looking for authentic Korean reading material.
Composed of 18 comprehensive lessons, “Selected Reading in Korean” offers 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.
If you have reached a high degree of fluency and still want to challenge yourself, this book provides the tools to deepen your understanding of the Korean civilization. At this level, be sure to complement your studies by doing your own research using Doosan’s encyclopedia for optimum outcomes.
Whatever your current level or goals, one of these books could help you reach extraordinary heights. So grab one (or several!) of these books and amp up your Korean learning today.