Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Korean Language Lesson Series – Methodology

Dear Korean,

I am a Korean-American in my 30s and I didn't learn the Korean language when I was a kid, except little tidbits. I want to learn more and someday speak fluently. What books, methods would you recommend?

Keep on trucking!

- Eager Beaver

Dear Eager Beaver,

The Korean Mother is a high school Korean language teacher. After going through a few different books, she found Integrated Korean by University of Hawaii Press to be the best textbook. The Korean has no reason to doubt her judgment -- she has been teaching foreign language for 25 years. (The Korean Mother was a high school English teacher back in Korea.)

The Korean himself learned a few foreign languages from scratch – English, Spanish, and currently Chinese. (Please, hold the applause. Puedo solamente hablar el mas basico del Espanol, and xianzai zhege xingqi shi wo de di wuge xingqi xue zhongwen.) Each person learns things differently, but here is one man’s method of learning a new language.

The method can be summarized into the following: Learn the grammar first, while memorizing a ton of vocabulary. Construct a lot of different sentences by plugging in the vocabulary, and memorize those sentences as well. Speak, listen, and write at the same time.

The drawback of this method is that it takes a lot of rote memorization. But the Korean believes that rote memorization is inevitable in language learning. An average six year old child knows 13,000 words and idioms. You have to catch up to that number somehow, and it’s not going to come to you naturally.

But the Korean recognizes that Korean language education in America has a pretty shaky foundation. There isn’t a huge worldwide demand, so there isn’t too many studies and research about how to teach it effectively. It’s especially difficult for European language speakers, since the grammar is radically different.

Therefore, the Korean will run Korean Language Lesson Series from time to time, trying to explain in a way that hopefully is easy to understand. In the meantime, if you have any question about Korean language, you know what to do – ask the Korean.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I have to concur with the Integrated Korean assessment. There is very little good reference material out there for Korean, but this book series has tons of examples for each grammar point (where other books don't bother to explain new grammar half the time).

    Also, depending upon where you live, there may be South Korean classes available. If you live in the L.A. area, check out, where the Korean government funds the classes so they only cost $40 for 10 weeks.

  2. I find this to be helpful for now. and The first being a website where you learn the alphabet and hear the sounds as well as how to write them. Since I'm teaching myself this was a huge help in hear how the sounds are. Very good stories to go with it as well. The other comes off my textbook from Tuttle called Elementary Korean 2nd edition. The site is a literal transcript of the book which comes with a CD. Everything is available and they are working on getting the other books to go along with it. I personally love it because it's organized and having used the other site I can already read the characters.


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