This language WILL be mine!!!

I am SO EXCITED to share this with you!

Not long after I got here, I purchased a gem of a book called, Essential Korean for everyday use published by Hollym.

The book is brilliant because it teaches Korean expressions, but it’s not just any ol’ expression book, because each expression is set up in the following format:



then (drum-roll, please!) the literal English translation

English translation

It’s one of the few books on learning Korean that shows you, word for word, what each Korean word means in the order it’s being said.  Which is absolutely brilliant, because then you can intuit what the grammatical structure is just by being exposed to it.  For those of you not familiar to Korean at all, this may not seem like a big thing – but grammatically, Korean is SOOOOO different from English, that the English translations we get of sentences seem to have zero relationship to the words we are learning, and most — practically all — of the books out there fail to show us the word order, which makes finally understanding the grammar next to impossible, and then it is academic.  Being able to visually see that the Korean translation for “I didn’t order this” literally says, “this order did not.”  is HUGE, vs. some dry lesson where the book/instructor breaks down the grammar for you and it’s all conceptual…

Okay, but brilliant as it is, it was still just too overwhelming for my absolute beginner mind to retain any of it, but it is excellent, excellent, excellent for an intermediate learner.

One year and hundreds of dollars and four courses later, I just discovered some of Hollym’s other series for learning Korean.  And they are equally brilliant.  No.  They far outshine everything out there on the market for self-study, and it presents the material in a very natural way.

First off in the series are two books written by a Korean American to teach their own second-generation American children Korean – totally removed from Korean culture and in the American vacuum, Time for Korean.

Because it’s designed for upper elementary school children and not preschool, it’s not like being forced to watch teletubbies or anything, but respects the intelligence of absolute beginners while totally understanding that they are absolute beginners.  (so there you have it – I just needed a parent to teach me like they would teach their own children!)  It’s set up is the elementary school classroom, which is PERFECT for us English teachers in Korea, as this is the environment we spend most of our time in.  And it’s also set up so only a couple new words are introduced at a time, and the hanguel is introduced a little at a time, all perfectly in concert with the words you need the most to communicate right away.  And the children’s voices are clear, natural, and endearing.  All I can say is:


from the first lesson "please stand up" and "please sit down"

Following this is the second series by the same author, called, Yes you can speak Korean! books 1 and 2.

I did not purchase these two books, as there were a lot of kiddie songs and flashcards in it that DID make me feel like I was 7 years old again.  However, I might need to re-think this, as there is a little bit of a jump to the next Hollym series, which is absolutely brilliant.

The Hollym for beginners series consists of four books: Writing Korean for beginners, Reading Korean for beginners, Speaking Korean for beginners, and Listening Korean for beginners.

All of the books work in concert with each other, so you get triple or quadruple reinforcement for the lessons.  (though I would suggest taking them on in the order I’d introduced them above, cycling through all four books for each lesson that comes up) and the exercises are really well thought out and not mindless dribble.  Hollym has scored a home run with this series because it’s so thoroughly thought out and holistically put together, and most importantly of all, introduced naturally.  As I said, there’s a little jump from absolute beginner to these, but I also think anyone who’s lived here for a year and picked up a few words just by osmosis would be able to work through these and learn.

I AM a total fan of Hollym publishers now because all their books are a cut above the others, and I’m really pumped to work through these books on my own!  The books here in Korea are cheap, but you’ll pay about 75% more for them ordering internationally, not including shipping.  But they’re well worth it.  You can reach Hollym’s website here to order.

I also purchased Arirang Korean Basics 1 which is from the Arirang tv’s Let’s Speak Korean t.v. show.  (this is the government’s English-language station carried all over Asia, Australia, (other places?) and on-line, promoting Korean culture to foreigners)  I HATE HATE HATE that show, because it’s down-right distractingly goofy and moves too fast for me, but this particular book, the first in the series, is very good for sticking to survival Korean in a very very helpful manner, (most of the survival Korean books are written like travel phrase books and NOT convenient or helpful for picking up the language in a meaningful way) and is chock full of cultural tidbits, some of which I’d never seen before.

What a relief!  Now I don’t have to date Korean guys! (just joking – sort of!)

Added:  it’s still a patriarchy here.  :(  Very rough for a western raised girl.

9 thoughts on “This language WILL be mine!!!

  1. Those look very interesting.

    I’ve been surprised at how much I have “retained” using Rosetta Stone for about a year or so now. The method it uses to pull you through learning seems to work on my old brain.

    We’ve been taking our sons to Korean language class here for some time now, mostly during the Summer. But it’s a school designed for children of Korean speaking parents, so it is too much for them to really retain any of it.

    But they love being there surrounded by Koreans so we keep at it anyway. I used to have hope that they might learn it, but so far they only really learn it from me, and I am not much help.

  2. Chosunking,

    Thanks for the links – I can see how they work the way it is introduced and the subject matter they chose, but it’s also so stark and the guy’s voice is a little robotic!

    IN OTHER NEWS — I’ve found someone who can teach me starting in a month — the Korean wife of the last native English teacher!!! I’m trying to round up the only other foreigners in town (all five of us – that’s another story) to do it as well so I have someone to practice with and motivate me to actually complete my studies!

  3. Hey, I know I’m late to this, but –

    Isn’t Korean grammar very similar to Japanese grammar? Like, where the subject can be omitted if the context makes it “obvious” enough?

  4. Yes, that’s correct about the subject often being eliminated.

    Supposedly Japanese is slightly easier to learn than Korean, less sounds and less formalities, but similar enough that it’s very easy for Koreans and Japanese to pick up each other’s languages.

    That’s all I’ve heard but don’t know enough to say for certain.

  5. I love the sounds of Japanese but it’s totally the opposite of English. I can also recognize some characters were “transferred” from Chinese to Japanese, so that’s always amusing to see.

    But yeah – this explains how an 11-year-old girl from Korea was able to pick up on Japanese, being immersed in Japan for approximately 6 months to start her debut (BoA Kwon).

  6. There is a book called “Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean.” There might also be one for Japanese.

    Many Korean words have Chinese root words, so if you can learn one root word, then all the branch words that are related are easier to pick up. If you’re like me and appreciate logical associations like that, then you’ll appreciate how enriching this can be.

    However, I have to have a few more basics underneath me before I can tackle it.

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