best korean learning books for beginners

What books should I use to learn Korean as a Beginner

Want to learn Korean? Here are the Korean books for beginners to learn Korean! 

I hope you’re here because you want to start watching K-dramas without reading subtitles. Kidding! It is more important so you can order proficiently in a Korean restaurant. Here are some Korean books for beginners that will help you do just that and more.

With these best Korean books for beginners you can build a strong foundation for your Korean language and advance at your own pace. The Korean language might seem difficult at first but the deeper you dive into it, the more it makes sense. Which is why understanding basic grammar rules, sentence structure, spellings – is very important. 

Top Korean Books for Beginners

Best Korean Books for Beginners — Quick Summary

Best Korean Book for BeginnersView Book on Amazon
Korean Made SimpleView on Amazon
Active KoreanView on Amazon
Integrated KoreanView on Amazon
Korean Made EasyView on Amazon
Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational KoreanView on Amazon
Elementary KoreanView on Amazon
Korean Grammar for International LearnersView on Amazon
Korean from Zero!View on Amazon
Talk to me in KoreanView on Amazon
Korean Grammar in UseView on Amazon
2000 Essential Korean WordsView on Amazon
500 Basic Korean VerbsView on Amazon

Everyone has their own way of learning a language. For some, rigid structures that list words alongside their meaning and syllable breakup in English work. For others, it is more helpful when they understand words through stories and contexts. Well, here you’ll find a fair share of your pick to help you decide which is the best book for you to learn Korean as a beginner.

Korean Made Simple

This book is on the top of the list of best Korean books for beginners because it is one of the best Korean books for beginners. The book works especially well for people who like to progress in their learning in sections. You know — nouns, adjectives, verbs and such. The format of the learning is questions and answers format which makes it even easier to remember. 

This is a sort of “pick what you like” book since you can skip chapters or do it in the reverse order as you please. The individuality of each lesson enables that. The grammar lessons, the thing that builds a strong foundation, are pretty detailed.

You might find that some sections of the book are a bit too detailed, and that’s never good. I’m talking about the section involving the alphabets in particular. 

best korean vocabulary book

This textbook is more instructional. You can buy the workbook that comes along with it as well. I like this book because as a beginner, I found about 1000 common words to use in addition to phrases, how to make small talk are all packed in 20 fun lessons. On their website, you can even find an audio guide that will help you with auditory aid.

Active Korean

The next one on this list of best Korean books for beginners is Active Korean.

I’d only suggest this book to you if you already have the most basic idea of the Korean language. While it is still a book for extreme beginners, I made the mistake of purchasing this book first. Well, thankfully, two months into some knowledge of the language this book did come in handy.

The contents of this book were curated by instructors and educators at Seoul National University Language Institute, so you know for a fact that it will be impactful learning whether it is by yourself or with the assistance of a tutor. Every single lesson that has been included in the book has been tested among students within the university to check the effectiveness of the course.

best korean learning books for beginners

Although, if you’re choosing to progress to a higher level in this series, I would recommend partnering with a tutor for a better understanding of the language. 

Integrated Korean

I was a bit wary about putting this book down on the list, but it needs to be mentioned nonetheless. Technically, this Korean bok wasn’t exactly written by Koreans but rather by people who learnt. This textbook is foreign. 

This Korean learning book is written by people from the University of Hawaii. It was used by the faculty there to teach grammar and the language of Korean at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK. It is a very reputed university to learn about the relevant languages and cultures. 

Since it was meant for university students and used for instruction by the professors, it can be a bit rigid and hard to follow by Korean aspirants on their own. But if you’re motivated enough, you can learn it by yourself as well.

best korean textbook for self study

Keep in mind that some of the content you may find in the book is a bit out of date. There are phrases people don’t use anymore and a sort of old form of content. I’d strongly suggest picking up another book if you’re going there to travel or for a short time. This is in-depth learning for those who really want to understand Korean.

Check out this best Korean books for beginners Intergrated Korean below!

Korean Made Easy

The next oen on this list of best Korean books for beginners is Korean Made Easy

If you’re looking to take the Korean Language Proficiency Test to monitor your skills, this book is a great find because the lessons curated in this book revolve around the needs to ace this test. There are twenty something lessons in this book that are designed to teach you Korean.

This is a great Korean book for beginners, especially for those who like to go as the book progresses without skipping chapters. Call it a step by step book, if you will. What I like most about this book is that even though it covers some of the most basic stuff, it is basic in an everyday use kind of way. Getting by in Korea will become easy.

Best korean books for beginners

I mentioned the KLPT before — the sections for reading and listening in this book are based on that as well.

Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean

If you can’t be funny in a new language, you can’t be impressive. That’s not entirely true, But this book, with a bit of humour and witty remarks will not only teach you Korean but will make you a good conversationalist in a language that you are just trying to learn. 

In fact, knowing how to say your name in Korean is not as important as asking directions to your hotel or knowing how to order food. And the authors of the book realize that!

This book is a refreshing change of pace in contrast to encountering books that make learning Korean a bit daunting with completely new alphabets and its tricky pronunciation. Basically, this book is designed to help you seamlessly move around Korea on your own from Day 1!

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To benefit your learning, this book comes with a CD-ROM that helps you with the pronunciations as well as the accent.

Check out the best Korean books for beginners – Mastering Conversational Korean: Korean for Beginners below!

Elementary Korean

Th next one on this list of best Korean books for beginners is Elementary Korean.

This is one of the most comprehensive books I have come across when it comes to beginners books for Korean learners. As Korean is gaining popularity in the West, more and more easy-to-learn books are being brought out for easy simple understanding. And this book definitely does the job.

This book is designed for those who want to study independently in addition to those who are taking it as a first year university course. 

This is an answer edition that has been changed to eradicate past hindrances. This edition includes illustrations that aid the learning process and help understand conversations as well. Because it comes with an MP3 audio CD, it helps with listening comprehension as well.

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Throughout the book, you will find many grammar notes and multiple elaborate examples that help you make dialogue in Korean. There are several writing exercises in the books with an answer key for you to check your progress. 

Korean Grammar for International Learners

First off, know that you’ll need to know the Korean alphabet, the hangul, to be able to get through this book. If you’re an absolute beginner with no knowledge of Korean at all, this book is going to seem like rocket science, even if you’re savvy with rocket science!

But those who know how to read, ready to be fully equipped with Korean grammar. What I like most about this book is that it has so many examples and variations to explain exactly how Korean grammar works.

To really get through the book and understand these concepts, you’ll need to spend considerable time doing the exercises. The book uses a test methodology to help readers and users of the book learn Korean grammar. 

I liked how quickly the book just got straight to the point. Sentence, sentence, the meaning of the phrase, check. In fact, it is the only book I came across that indicates the stark difference a single word or phrase can make in a sentence. This book comes with an index that helps you locate the specific things you’re looking for.

top korean books for beginners

Remember — this book doesn’t include romanticization.

Find this best Korean books for beginners – Korean Grammar for International Learners below!

Korean from Zero!

The next one on this list of best Korean books for beginners is Korean From Zero!

If some of you advanced learners are looking forward to looking back on some basics, this is the book for you. And for you beginners, this is quite the deal. For a compressive understanding of Korean, this book is the first part of a three-part series.

There is a translation of course, but this book doesn’t have romanticization either, so make sure you’ve learnt and memorized the hangul first.

Despite the core content being strong, I do have to point out that I was unimpressed by some of the typos I found especially towards the final chapters of the book. I agree that the book has helped me gain a strong foundation in Korean.

This large book has over 600 words and phrases that have helped immensely build my vocabulary and grammar. It has in fact helped me “from zero” to being equipped to ask directions to the new sushi bar around the block.

Talk to me in Korean

Talk To Me in Korean is one of the best Korean books for beginners. This book stands apart in one sense. While most books focus on reading and writing, the first book in this series focuses more on speaking styles and speech in general, mastering the Korean nuances and pronunciations.

The main aim of the book remains to ensure that you start speaking French immediately as you step foot in the country. Through a large collection of vocabulary, expressions, dialogue and example sentences, this book has it all covered!

Of course, to master speech and the pronunciations, you’ll need audio to listen and practice to. The relevant audio can be found on the website, available for free download. Making conversations has truly never seemed simpler.

If you’re looking for additional practice to hone your skills, you could always buy the Talk To Me in Korean workbook or practice your Korean along with K-drama. Give it a try!

2000 Essential Korean Words

The next one on this list of best Korean books for beginners is 2000 Essential Korean Words.

Need I say more? The title of the book is quite self explanatory. You’ll learn 2000 essential Korean words. But here’s the catch — It isn’t just words with meanings next to them. Not only does this book give you the exact meaning, it also gives you the antonym of the word along with examples of how it is correctly used in a sentence. 

Since I knew how to read Hangul, I have to say this book was much easier for me to understand. The example sentences and “how to use” section is in Korean with no translation, so it can be a bit difficult if you don’t know the language.

korean workbooks for beginners free

I was about to buy a Korean dictionary to understand words. Good thing I didn’t. Let’s just say a Korean to English dictionary doesn’t stand a chance in front of this book. A thesaurus? Maybe. But those are hard to find. 

500 Basic Korean Verbs

If you’ve ever made an attempt at learning French, you’d know how taxing verb conjugation is. Well, it’s the same in Korean. But it is with books like these that found it relatively easy.

What I absolutely loved about this book is that they have put every verb in a grid format and conjugated the word. So, at a glance, you’ll know the entire conjugation it goes through. 

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I won’t lie, some of the sample sentences listed in the book aren’t exactly beginner-friendly, but it does come with a free MP3 clip that you can use to practice your pronunciation of every verb form.

Check out one of the best Korean books for beginners – 500 Basic Korean Words below!

What makes books the best way to learn Korean?

Technology has obviously become too advanced at this point in our time. It is natural to want to depend on smaller videos, short bursts of exercises on a language app to want to learn something as complex as a language. And in all fairness, I would agree with that.

But not without pointing out the real benefits that come from relying on reading material and books to learn Korean. Look at it this way — learning a language does not just mean understanding it as you hear someone speak. True fluency comes when you can read and write the language as well. What better way to learn to read than from a book that you can revisit repeatedly.

Besides, falling back on textbooks that are meant to teach school and university students are tried and tested methods of learning Korean. You can’t go wrong with that. There is a certain learning speed and registrability that comes from following exercises in a Korean workbook that doesn’t come from online content on YouTube and apps.

You could watch too many videos because they seem simple and at the end of it remember nothing. Believe me, I have been there. I mean, all I eventually remembered was “annyeonghaseyo”. Anyone could say hello. 

I’m not very pro Duolingo because of that. The app will give you basic vocabulary, but what about a solid foundation for Korean? Forgetting words is harder when you know your basics. You can pick up right where you left off.

One thing I have always enjoyed while learning a language is reading the dialogues that happen between the one terribly confused person seeking answers from a know-it-all in the textbooks. It’s terribly obnoxious but the extremity sticks with you. 

In fact, its benefits are multifold — you learn new words, impactful grammar integration, and it also helps with fluency if you read it out loud. Of course, I’d suggest getting an audio guide to learn pronunciations and the accent.

Besides, Korean culture is so immense on its own, it is the slow absorption through tangible reading material and making notes that will help you understand the differences in culture and the nitty gritties in smaller parts of Seoul or any other parts of Korea if you ever do visit.

Do I need a tutor to learn Korean?

I have pretty much mentioned whether or not you would need a tutor to get through any of the books you pick from this list. However, if you feel like you’re the kind of person who learns better with structured instructions, I’d suggest enrolling with a tutor.

On the other hand, if you prefer to learn at your own pace and figure things out on your own, you’re good on your own. Nothing is that hard when there is perseverance. Besides, learning on your own has benefits — when you have tried hard to understand something, it is likely that you are not going to forget those concepts.

Some tips to learn Korean

Yes, I have listed a plethora of books for you to choose from to get your learning Korean wagon going, but it is much easier said than done. Learning Korean can be tricky. You can’t just pick any of the books I listed until you have decided what exactly it is that you want. These are a few points you may want to consider.

  • What is your reason to be learning Korean?

I don’t mean what your purpose is behind learning the language, but rather what are the areas you’d like to focus on. Is it the need to up your vocabulary game, or you want to focus on writing practice? If it is speech and pronunciation you want to focus on, I’d suggest picking out audiobooks and relying on CDs that come with these books for practice.

  • Find out what your style is.

Some people prefer going step by step as the book progresses, and some people want to skip ahead to the parts they think are going to be most useful for them. I personally preferred reading and listening to the CD and audio along with the book. That helped my sense remain heightened as I was seeing, reading and speaking simultaneously if I read those words out loud.

  • Just some general advice

As helpful as it is to have books to learn from, I would suggest a more holistic approach to learning the language. Take help from apps, paid tutors and YouTube videos as well. Especially if you’re planning on taking the TOPIK.

For more serious avenues that require formal certification, you need more in-depth learning of the subject. Of course, hard work and consistency are unmentionables!

What’s next? — TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean)

I mentioned TOPIK in the earlier section. DO you know what that is? The reason I mentioned that you’ll need external help to prepare for the Test of Proficiency in Korean, is because these beginner books do not equip you even remotely for the test.

The test contains questions that are rarely going to be used in daily life, be it in vocabulary or grammar. The best way to train for it is to revisit old papers and do them till you get it right. Needless to say, they change every year. But that gives you a platform to understand what sort of questions will be there.

But what is TOPIK? Well, this test is designed to test the proficiency of non-native people in the language. Do not assume that if you can speak fluently, you will get a good score on your TOPIK. In fact, I have seen instances where my native Korean friends scored low grades in their TOPIK.

So, train well and I hope you found one of the best Korean books for beginners, but more for you!

Korean Made Simple
best korean learning books for beginners

With these best Korean books for beginners you can build a strong foundation for your Korean language and advance at your own pace. The Korean language might seem difficult at first but the deeper you dive into it, the more it makes sense. Which is why understanding basic grammar rules, sentence structure, spellings - is very important. 


Author: Billy Go

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