Do you know how long it takes to make 잡채 (japchae)?
What I meant to say is, do you have any idea how long it takes me to make 잡채?
Let’s just say it takes a while, much longer than it seemed to take my grandmother to whip up this delicious dish of stir-fried noodles and vegetables when I was a kid.
And there aren’t any Korean restaurants that deliver to my apartment, so…
I’m not complaining, just pointing out that our supposed “culture of convenience” doesn’t stretch into all corners of existence.
For example, maybe you want to find learner-friendly Korean texts for reading practice, preferably with an English version so you can check your understanding.
You don’t want to have to buy a book and wait for it to be delivered. No, you want something you can access now.
So you type “Korean reading practice” into Google.
“Oh, you poor fool,” Google says, “Did you really think it was going to be that easy?”
Okay, so maybe you do get some scattered results for Korean short stories and other resources.
But I’m guessing you want something more organized, a list of pre-screened tools that can help you actively learn.
Well, luckily for you, I’ve made such a list below.
Unluckily for me, no one has yet invented an app that’ll give me Korean food through my phone screen.
How to Use Bilingual and Learner-friendly Texts for Korean Reading Practice
Whether you’re new to Korean reading, or just looking for support to help you improve, there are some simple ways to make sure your reading practice is worth it.
- Do regular intensive reading exercises that involve checking your understanding. For example, with bilingual texts, you can test yourself by translating a short passage and then checking your translation against the English version. Some of the resources below include other built-in exercises for intensive reading.
- Also read extensively for leisure without checking translations (at least not right away). This will help you widen your vocabulary, make reading less stressful and get you used to the idea of reading in Korean as a habit.
- Set up a schedule that incorporates both kinds of reading practice and enables you to look forward to your reading. You could do an intensive reading session in the morning as a way of gearing up for your day, and then an extensive reading session at night as a reward for your morning practice. Either way, arrange your Korean reading in a way that makes it feel like a positive addition to your life, so that you feel compelled to keep doing it.
- Combine your reading with other types of learning, particularly listening practice. If you do this, your different skills will help strengthen and reinforce one another. Some of the options below include audio features—make sure you use them!
Practice Korean Reading! 7 Spots to Access Learner Texts Instantly
KoreanClass101 YouTube Reading Playlists for Absolute Beginners and Beginners
These playlists of animated videos test your understanding of written Korean (or allow you to learn it from scratch) through common scenarios like buying a train ticket. You can logically deduce some word meanings from context, which helps your understanding of usage and aids memorization. In the videos, you’ll be looking at Hangul in a variety of situations, and you’ll be given a certain amount of time to interpret text, such as the information on your train ticket.
While these playlists don’t provide extensive materials for practice, they help you get used to practical reading in time-sensitive situations. Plus, they conveniently combine reading practice with listening practice, so you can work on your listening comprehension and your accent as you read.
The availability of content on the KoreanClass101 channel can vary for non-subscribers, but you can search within the channel to find reading resources for other levels, too, such as this video for advanced reading comprehension.
FluentU is a well-rounded resource to add to your learning routine.
But remember that combining different skills is key. Also, it really is a reading resource if you use it as such.
Completely aside from the ways that FluentU’s interactive captions and quizzes naturally incorporate reading into the learning process, you can always just click over to the Dialogue tab of any video and read the transcript. You’ll find English translations and audio clips for each line right there on the page.
As in the videos, the translations are placed below the original text in a discreet way so that you can ignore them until you need them. To access text without translations, though, you can easily turn off the translation captions in the video player, and then turn them back on when you need them.
FluentU’s customized quizzes give you personalized intensive reading practice through example sentences, video clips and a variety of literacy-improving exercises like fill-in-the-blanks and sentence reordering. For extensive practice, you can simply browse through videos as you would on YouTube and watch whatever you like with Korean captions.
This is a nifty little blog that gives you short, entertaining comics to read with optional English translations beneath them (just hit the “English” option in the menu bar at the top of the page to hide the translations or make them visible). The translations include cultural notes—on everything from Korean brands of alcohol and hangover cures, to film, currency and street food. Since the comics are isolated into small blocks, you can take your time with them and use the translations and cultural notes to make them into intensive mini-lessons.
Naver offers two sites for online manhwa (comics), one in English and one in Korean (both linked above), with some webtoons being available in both languages. Manhwa is already great for learning through visual context clues, and the presence of English translations means that you can check your understanding.
“마음의 소리,” or “The Sound of Your Heart,” is a hugely popular South Korean webtoon by Jo Seok that has inspired not just one but two television series, both of which are currently available on Netflix. It applies a bizarre drawing style and an absurd sense of humor to everyday situations based on the author’s life, and is ongoing with new comics each week in both Korean and English, though for obvious reasons the translated version is behind the original.
To find more translated webtoons, it’s probably best to start with the Korean version of the site, because many of the comics on the English site aren’t by Korean speakers. If you find something that looks interesting and it’s somewhat well-known, you may be able to copy the title into Wikipedia and find the English title by switching the article language to English.
Korea JoongAng Daily Bilingual Column
Keep up with current events in Korea and practice your Korean reading at the same time. Just bookmark this column and you’ll get new articles daily in parallel Korean-English text. This is great for extensive reading, as you can peruse the Korean version first and then glance at the English text for gist when you’re done.
Lonweb Parallel Texts
Speaking of parallel texts, Lonweb has a few that span a whole variety of languages. You’re not going to find authentic Korean texts here, but you can read about the adventures of Daisy Hamilton the detective, with parallel texts in English, Korean and Romanized Korean (as well as audio).
A note about Romanization: If you’re reading this post and therefore presumably looking for Korean reading practice, I’d guess that you’ve probably already learned Hangul. If you haven’t, I’m not sure that I would recommend picking it up alongside Daisy Hamilton or the texts in these other sources. I mean, you can if you want to, but Hangul is so easy to learn that you’d be doing yourself a favor by taking at least a few minutes to go over the alphabet before beginning your reading endeavors.
Regardless of what point you’re at, though, I also don’t think it’s necessarily a disadvantage that Romanization is provided here. For one thing, the Romanization column in the middle separates the Hangul from the English, which pads you against getting distracted by the English translation as you’re reading in Korean. Also, along with the audio, you can use the Romanization in much in the same way you might use the translation—to check your understanding (in this case, of the pronunciation).
This is a useful resource for immediately accessing Korean-English bilingual texts on your phone. Like with Lonweb, you won’t necessarily find authentic reading here, but rather parallel texts that have been translated across a variety of languages, for a variety of levels.
Texts come with “karaoke” reading, automatically self-highlighting as the audio plays, which is useful for keeping focused on the Korean text and increasing your reading speed while also learning new vocabulary in context. You’ll find everything here from simple lists of sentences to classic novels.
Life is full of little inconveniences.
But with the above resources, getting some Korean reading practice doesn’t have to be one of them.
Elisabeth Cook is a freelance writer who blogs at Lit All Over.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.