How do you prefer to learn something new?
Some work best in a lecture hall.
Others do better with apps or visual content.
And then there are the traditional learners who love a good, in-depth textbook.
If you’re one of those textbook learners, you’re in luck! We’ve put together a guide full of the best books and e-books out there for Korean reading.
No, these aren’t super boring textbooks. They’re books for every type and level of learner! No 학생 (hagsaeng) – student will be forgotten.
Is It Really Necessary to Learn How to Read in Korean?
- If you plan on traveling to South Korea, you’ll find that very few signs, buildings, storefronts or maps are written in English. Even in major cities like Seoul and Busan, you’ll be hard pressed to find a substantial amount of information in English. You’ll need some decent reading skills to even get around your hotel or hostel.
- To become fluent or even halfway decent at the Korean language, you’ll need to learn how to read 한글 (hangeul) – Hangul. Fluency requires an understanding of many different aspects of the Korean language, and reading is one of them.
- Hangul is actually quite simple, and you can learn it relatively quickly. So it’s certainly worth starting right away! When you compare 한글 to other East Asian writing systems, it’s unique in both its form and construction. If you’re already familiar with Chinese or Japanese, Korean will be quite different but also simpler to figure out alphabetically.
Do textbooks still seem a little intimidating or difficult to you? You don’t have to start with books. You can make learning Hangul even simpler: just start with a one-minute FluentU video clip.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each bite-sized video comes with subtitles in Hangul, romanized Korean and English. Just hover over the Korean word to pause the video and see its definition, part of speech and an associated image. This method makes memorizing Hangul easy!
Access the full FluentU video library on your web browser or, better yet, learn Korean on the go when you download the app at the iTunes store or Google Play store.
Hit the Books: 10 Textbooks for Students to Learn Korean by Reading
These 10 books cover a lot of methods, learning styles, levels and topics. You’re sure to find your perfect fit!
“Let’s Speak Korean”
This great little textbook, which comes with audio track access, can help beginning learners master over 1,400 Korean expressions.
The textbook is great for learners who prefer to rely on the visual aspects of resources rather than blocks of text. “Let’s Speak Korean” is packed with charts, cute drawings and color-coded elements to make learning basic Korean words and other elements of reading much easier.
We suggest this book for younger learners, as well.
“Korean From Zero! 1”
This product is a cross between a textbook and an online course. Korean From Zero! has a ton of features, including an integrated workbook with an answer key, MP4 audio, online support, hundreds of new words and expressions, a한글 guide, a grammar guide and bilingual glossaries.
Because of how much content is packed into the textbook/course, just about any level of learner can benefit from using it. However, “Korean from Zero! 2” or “Korean from Zero! 3” could also be good reads for more advanced learners.
“Korean Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning the Korean Language”
Do you enjoy simplicity? Korean may seem like it’s all complicated, but this book breaks the language down into simple, easy-to-understand chunks of information.
“Korean Made Simple” is perfect for learners of all ages, but beginning learners will probably benefit the most from reading it. There are roughly 1,000 basic Korean words and Korean phrases in this book, which are broken down into 20 simple and fun lessons.
“Learn Hangul in One Hour: A Complete Course on How to Teach Yourself the Korean Writing System”
It may sound impossible, but you can learn 한글 in under an hour. “Learn Hangul in One Hour” prides itself in being a complete guide on how to teach yourself the Korean writing system in only an hour.
However, in our opinion, this book would best be supplemented with another 한글 resource in order to effectively learn 한글 in such a short period of time.
Still, this book is worth it. It breaks down the sounds of the alphabet and the various elements that compose 한글. You’ll need supplementary materials to learn comprehension, meaning and grammar, but this inexpensive guide is still handy to have.
“Become a Hangeul Master: Learn to Read and Write Korean Characters”
Another textbook that comes with audio resources, “Become a Hangeul Master” is a surprising gem.
From the cover, it seems like the kind of how-to guide that’s best suited for casual Korean learners, K-pop fans and absolute beginning learners of Korean. But this couldn’t be further from the truth—this book breaks down 한글 radicals and alphabets to their stroke order, meaning and pronunciation.
Visual representations will help you remember what each character looks like. A great resource for beginner, intermediate and advanced students!
“Korean Alphabet with Writing Workbook: Introductory Guide To Hangeul Series”
“Korean Alphabet with Writing Workbook” is a useful introductory guide to Korean characters. We suggest this book if you’d prefer to take an easygoing approach to learning Korean characters.
You can pick one character to learn per day. For each vowel and consonant, you’ll learn to memorize the proper pronunciation and stroke order with the assistance of drawings and visuals. Then, you’ll move on to words and phrases.
“Korean Hangul Practice Notebook”
This book was made to be written in. If you want to work on your writing skills in addition to your reading skills, “Korean Hangul Practice Notebook” is worth purchasing. It’s an inexpensive little book and definitely worth it.
It’s worth noting that this book is a simple notebook with triangle-style graph pages, not a textbook or reading guide. But reading and writing go hand-in-hand in language learning, so practicing your writing can only help matters. To effectively learn how to read and write in Korean, you’ll need a good Korean writing notebook.
“Fun & Easy! Korean – English Picture Dictionary”
Every language learner should have a dictionary on hand. This Korean-English dictionary not only fills the role but does it with a bit of humor and fun graphic design.
“Fun & Easy! Korean” is perfect for readers of all ages, as it has large text and clear categories. However, there’s no romanization in this book, so beginning learners may struggle to use it effectively.
“Beginner Hangul Writing Practice Workbook”
You can never have too many Korean writing workbooks!
Writing characters by hand is a great way to build muscle memory and memorize different 한글. “Beginner Hangul Writing Practice Workbook” has every 한글 listed with stroke order and pronunciation, followed by extensive worksheets and quizzes on what you’ve learned.
This practice workbook was designed with both beginning and intermediate learners in mind.
“Korean Alphabets in a Picture: Learn Korean Alphabets (Hangul) Super Fast
How can you, a native English speaker, memorize complex Korean characters? Associate each character with an image! This is the approach “Korean Alphabets in a Picture” has taken.
With this extremely visual book, you’ll learn different vowels, consonants, compounds vowels, consonant variations and much more.
Due to how visual this book is, kids will be able to learn with it very well. However, beginning learners of any age can surely benefit from this textbook.
There you have it! Some of the best books to learn Korean by reading. Which ones will you choose?
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.