Learning Korean is no easy task and the plethora of learning materials online and offline can make the task seem overwhelming.
When it comes to offline materials, textbooks are a must, but it can be hard to know which book is best for you when there is no way to know the contents of the book before buying.
That’s where I come in. 😊
In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to some of the best books available to learn Korean based on my own experience. 🇰🇷
I’ll also explain the level and contents of each book so that you come out of this blog feeling confident when buying materials for your language studies.
Check out each of these books below to find the best textbook for you.
Korean Grammar in Use - Beginner
This is the best book for beginner Korean learners and it would take a lot of convincing for me to think otherwise.
I started off learning Korean with this book and still go back to it to review basic grammar. This book starts with teaching the reader hangul and then systematically progresses through grammar.
Each lesson includes natural Korean conversations translated into English, a clear and simple explanation of the grammar point, tips to keep in mind when using the grammar, and practice activities. Each lesson is not more than 4 pages long.
At the end of each chapter, there are mini-quizzes that give you the chance to review what you learned.
Every grammar form in this book is used frequently by native Korean speakers.
If you learn everything in this book, you will see a dramatic increase in your Korean skills.
You can find this book on Amazon and in almost any bookstore in Korea.
This book was created by the same publisher as the above textbook.
It is a vocab book that teaches the 2000 most commonly used words in Korea. They say that the mark of fluency is knowing 10,000 words in a language, by the end of this book, you will be a fifth of the way to fluency.
With every new Korean vocabulary word, there is a translation of the word in English, Chinese and Japanese.
There is also an example conversation to show the context the vocab might be used in as well as a list of words that the new word is commonly used with.
This book is a must for those looking to gain a strong foundation in Korean vocab.
This book is a collection of traditional Korean stories written in simple Korean.
Each story is about 1-3 pages long and is written in Korean and English. At the end of each story is a word list of vocabulary with translations. The book also includes pre-reading questions, comprehension questions, culture notes, and writing activities.
Check out this book for reading and writing practice.
You will certainly become more comfortable with common vocabulary and the Korean sentence structure.
See our detailed review of this book.
Talk To Me in Korean Books (1 - 3)
These are great books to start learning Korean from.
They start from the very beginning with introductions. Each lesson is short, fun, and easy to digest.
By the end of these three books, you will be able to hold a simple conversation in Korean.
Inside the books, you will find vocab, grammar, and cultural lessons. In each lesson, there are example conversations, clear explanations, practice activities, and quizzes.
The books also come with access to audio recordings through Talk To Me in Korean’s app. You won’t be disappointed in this series, find them on TTMIK’s website.
See our review of this book series.
2000 Essential Korean Words - Intermediate
This textbook is the intermediate version of the above 2000 Essential Korean Words.
It is set up exactly the same as the beginner version except the vocabulary is at the intermediate level.
Check this book out if you want to improve your vocabulary.
Korean Grammar in Use - Intermediate
This is the intermediate version of the above Korean Grammar in Use.
The format of this book is the same as the beginner version above. The only difference is that this book teaches intermediate-level grammar and uses more Korean than English.
Buy this book if you are ready to advance to intermediate-level Korean grammar.
This is a book full of common Korean idioms that will impress any Korean you use them with.
Each lesson contains 10 new expressions that you are taught through conversation and practice activities. After studying this book I found that I could understand a lot more in conversations and could better convey what I wanted to say in Korean.
This book also made learning Korean more fun because I got a response from Koreans whenever I used an expression I learned.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their Korean skills or wants to impress their Korean friends.
The average learner might not find this book helpful as it focuses on test-taking skills and academic grammar and vocabulary, but for those studying to take the TOPIK II test, look no further, this is the book for you.
TOPIK II 한권이면 OK contains 3 sections.
It starts with a listening section which comes with a CD that allows you to practice listening to questions and answering them, just as you would on the actual TOPIK test.
As you go through each question, there are tips and explanations written on the sides that let you know the answer to each question and the most efficient way to take the test.
The next section is writing. While this section is a little short, it gives good tips and explanations. The last section is the reading section. Each question is taken from past TOPIK tests.
By studying this book before taking the TOPIK, you can become familiar with the test and get the score you are aiming for.
Talk To Me in Korean Books (4 - 7)
These are the next 4 books in the TTMIK book series.
They are set up very similarly to the above books except with more advanced material.
Try these out if you liked books 1-3 or are looking for a fun, easy-to-understand Korean learning experience.
This is the advanced version of the two Grammar in Use books above.
It is just like the others except that it is almost entirely in Korean. The concepts in this book are not used often in everyday conversations, instead, you will find them in written Korean or in an academic setting.
Try this book out after making your way through the first two books in the series.
This book is for those who are confident in their Korean abilities when it comes to everyday conversation, but are wanting to take their Korean skills to the next level so that they are able to function in formal environments like school or work.
Readings in Modern Korean Literature is a compilation of famous Korean short stories and poems.
The whole book is written in Korean except for English translations of the stories and vocabulary.
This book is very advanced and will take some real focus and patience to get through.
Each chapter includes a story or poem, vocabulary from the reading, an introduction of the author, a cultural note, comprehension questions, and the translation of the story into English.
While anyone at any Korean level can learn Korean idioms, I put this book in the advanced section because it is written completely in Korean.
So it takes an advanced learner to be able to understand what is being taught in the book.
If you are an advanced learner, this book is filled with common idioms that will boost your Korean skills.
Each idiom has a picture that helps the reader visualize the expression, an explanation of what the idiom means, and an example sentence that uses the idiom. At the end of each chapter, there is a short quiz that tests how well you remember what you learned.
At the very end of the book, there are crosswords that help you practice what you learned and a place to write notes.
This book is very similar to the above one except that it focuses on Korean onomatopoeia. Korean has a lot of onomatopoeia that is used frequently while speaking or writing.
This book has all of the onomatopoeia you will want to know.
It is set up exactly like the above book, except, no crosswords or place to take notes.
This is another book created by the crew at TTMIK. News in Korean takes real stories from Korean news articles and broadcasts and breaks them down so that the reader can understand and learn from them.
For advanced learners who are already confident in everyday Korean conversation, the news is a great way to learn new grammar and vocabulary.
Each chapter starts out with the full article written in Korean. Then in the ‘study notes’ sections, the article is broken down into individual sentences with translations and notes.
A one-line summary of the article and a short quiz are then given.
The reader can also get some listening practice by listening to each article being read on the TTMIK audio app.
The Little Prince (and books like it)
When you get to an advanced level of speaking Korean, it can often be hard to find textbooks that teach you anything new.
Instead listening and reading Korean can often be more useful to advanced learners than any textbook.
Translated books are a great way to learn new vocabulary and expressions that are often not taught in text books.
This book, “The Little Prince” was translated from Korean to English. The book is set up so that the Korean version of the book is on one page and the English, on the other. Advanced vocabulary is written in a word list at the bottom of each page.
You can find hundreds of books like this if you are willing to look around.
If you live in Korea, you will be sure to find some at your local bookstore.
For all levels
It is never too late or early to start learning Korean Hanja.
This book was created by the team at TTMIK and teaches the most common Chinese characters used in the Korean language. Hanja is a great tool for memorizing and understanding Korean vocabulary.
It’s also a really useful skill to have when walking around in Korea and will certainly impress those around you.
Each character is introduced with an explanation of the Chinese character, the pronunciation in Korean, the stroke order of the character, example words that the character is used in, and example sentences.
At the end of every chapter, there is a quiz to test how well you learned the characters.
This is by far the most fun book on this list.
After studying this book you will be able to talk to your peers using all the trending expressions and words. Korean Slang contains over a hundred common slang words. Some are out of date, but most of them are still used frequently in Korea.
As you learn the slang in this book, try them out with your friends to see which ones are ‘in’.
Each word is introduced with an explanation given in both Korean and English. The word is then used in an example Korean conversation that is translated into English.
Slang is just as important to understanding and speaking Korean as academic language or any other kind of language, so don’t skip out on this book!
Books about Korean culture
This book has everything you could want to know about Korean culture and customs.
It is written completely in English and is organized like a glossary. Each topic has a brief explanation of the historical connections and how it relates to modern Korean life.
If you are curious about Korean culture or have a hard time understanding it, this is the book for you.
Have you ever wondered how Korea became the global superpower it is today?
Especially with its export of pop culture? You have probably heard the words ‘Hallyu Wave’ before. This book explains why Korea became the global pop culture beacon that it is today and the strategy the South Korean government used to get it there.
If you have an interest in Korean culture or Korean pop culture this book is a must-read.
And that completes my list of the best books to learn Korean. 🇰🇷
I have personally bought, used, and learned from each one of these books. So, if you trust a random person on the Internet, try them out!
I can guarantee you will learn something new and become even better at Korean.
Thank you for sticking with this list to the end!
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