Choosing Korean textbook for beginners self studying out of six series
Self studying Korean

I suddenly need to choose the best Korean textbook for me

I decided to drop Ewha textbooks.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to stop using them only two chapters in.

  • I feel bad for the money I spent on 3 books – Ewha consists of a textbook, a study guide, and a workbook and each one has to be purchased separately.
  • I feel bad for the knowledge I may have lost – there may be some useful information about Korean language in there that won’t pop-up in another Korean textbook I pick.
  • I feel bad because I won’t be able to write a full review of them.
  • I feel bad because quitting feels a bit like failing.
  • I feel bad because many other people studied with Ewha just fine.

Still, I will feel even worse if I continue to use them.

I suddenly need to choose the best Korean textbook for meBecause my favorite part of the day has turned into a chore.

And I can’t afford to learn Korean like that because I’m sick.

People probably think that being sick and bedridden all the time is very dull and boring, with a lot of staring into the walls and the ceiling, but with every single daily task turning into a huge endeavor both for me and for people taking care of me, my limited energy depletes quickly and the day doesn’t seem to have enough hours just like it doesn’t for people running around trying to catch up with their normal lives.

Every tiny little thing that most people don’t give any thought to, such as brushing my teeth, takes a big chunk out of my active hours. From the point where a bottle of warm water, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a basin, and a towel are brought to my bed to the point where I’m drying off my hands and face, I’m already ready to go back to sleep and my day has only just begun.

Due to this, on a good day I have about half an hour of study time, with having to take frequent breaks.

On a really bad day I can hardly remember which language I am learning.

Which is why those moments with a Korean textbook, a notebook, and a pen are so precious to me.

When I reach that point in the day, I am finally doing something I want to, not something I have to.

It is not just a hobby and a fun activity, it is a break from counting the minutes to a medical breakthrough which doesn’t seem to want to happen, it is a break from fearing which new symptom is life-threatening and which one should be ignored, it is a break from…

Bah, forget all that. Even perfectly healthy people don’t want to study from a textbook that annoys them! 😆

At a pace I was going it would take me 5 or 6 months to thoroughly study all three books. Almost half a year with enjoyment sucked out of something that had always been exciting for me.

That’s how long it took me to go through Sungkyun Korean 1, but for some reason, despite all its faults, I enjoyed that one.

And so I decided that the best thing to do is to stop using Ewha textbooks for now.

You are probably wondering why they ruined the fun for me so much.

I will write a review of the two chapters I did from all three Ewha books, to explain why I didn’t like them (and mention which parts I did like).

But for now I am faced with a difficult question:

How do I choose my next Korean textbook?

There were few Korean textbooks to choose from when I first started learning Korean. There are soooo many now. Which is absolutely great for someone who loves both Korean language and textbooks in general. I am definitely that someone. Choosing the next textbook is so exciting! 😀

And overwhelming. 😯

In my dream world I own bookshelf upon bookshelf of every Korean textbook ever published, from the ancient stab bound tomes of the old to the newest multimedia books published a few weeks ago, all illuminated with warm ambient lights, ready for me to pick off the shelf whichever of them catches my fancy at that moment.

Back in the real world, I need to choose one.

(Or two. 😈)

I love picking out a new textbook. Honestly, it’s part of the fun. Almost as much as learning Korean from it is. But to feel satisfied with my choice I need information. Lots of information.

Sadly, there are no reviews for most of the Korean textbooks on the market. And even for those that there are… well, I read a great review about Ewha and yet it wasn’t a good fit for me.

Studying from Ewha study guide 1 - 2 with Korean notes (참고서)

I’m not flying completely blind here, though. I found several sites, including a Korean one, where I can preview (click 미리보기) the first pages of most Korean textbooks, but for beginner ones first pages usually means Hangul lesson. Since I have known Hangul for over half a decade now, that is something I don’t need.

I did check higher level textbooks from the same series to bypass the Hangul lesson and get a general feeling of the set-up of each series, but textbook set up is so similar across the board that it’s difficult to see any difference just from a cursory glance.

I realized that first deciding which type of textbook I want would narrow down the choices.

What type of Korean textbook do I need as an upper beginner?

I would be the most comfortable with an integrated textbook – one that teaches reading, speaking, listening, writing. One where I would get all the beginner grammar, and almost all of the basic vocabulary I need.

It would eliminate the need to, each time I go to study, decide  which book to study from at that moment (as I said I am pretty limited both time- and energy-wise), and it would physically be easier for me to only use one book since I have to clip the textbook into place like I showed in my DIY book holder for bed post.

I would also like a textbook that was designed specifically for self-study. Maybe it’s just that textbooks aimed at University students are not good for studying-on-my-own me, even the Ewha one that has a study guide and is trying to play both sides?

It would also be great if it was available for all levels. That way, once I find one that I enjoy using and I’m done with it, I only need to go to the next one in the series.

This has narrowed down my choices quite a bit. But not enough. I had people recommend Talk to Me in Korean textbooks to me. I was pretty satisfied with my very first Korean Made Easy textbook published by Darakwon, and Darakwon has no fewer than three different series of integrated textbooks. Then there’s two other self-study textbooks series I discovered from smaller publishers.

That’s six.

I actually e-mailed Darakwon and asked them which of their series they recommend for a person who is studying on their own and who doesn’t intend to take TOPIK. Let’s see if they reply.

Ok, let’s say I narrowed down the choices to Korean textbook that has integrated approach to language teaching, is designed for self-studying and has all levels already published.

But which level textbook do I start with considering I scored in the 80s on the mock TOPIK exam and have a vocabulary of almost 2000 words?

Should I start from beginning or from my level?

I presumed that most Korean textbooks follow the same curriculum, teach the same grammar and vocabulary.

This is not the case.

Korean textbooks Korean Made Easy for beginners by Darakwon and Sungkyun Korean 1I had already gone through two beginner textbooks (Korean Made Easy for beginners and Sungkyun Korean 1) and despite learning all vocabulary in them I didn’t know majority of the Korean words in Ewha textbooks.

I expected the textbooks to start with the most common words in Korean but it seems educators each have their own priorities in choosing which Korean vocabulary to present.

Grammar is no better. My textbooks all taught informal polite style -아요/어요/여요  but I have seen others that start with formal polite -(스)ㅂ니다.

Also each of the three textbooks I used chose several different grammar concepts to teach that other two didn’t.

I mentioned before that I didn’t get enough practice of the -(스)ㅂ니다 form so starting all the way from the beginning again with the textbook that uses formal polite form wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Then again, I want to move forward. I want to learn more grammar forms instead of rehashing what I already know for the third time.

It may seem to you I am overly complicating things, and while I do have a tendency to do that, a textbook can make or break a student. Their quality is crucial.

Especially for me.

I don’t really have the luxury of picking up Korean from movies or dramas, or YouTube music videos and interviews, or pretty much anywhere really. It’s just me and the textbook.

So it’d better be good.



6 thoughts on “I suddenly need to choose the best Korean textbook for me”

  1. Hi Luna
    I came across your blog when I was researching on the drama Extraordinary You which was actually the webtoon July Found By Chance.
    I’m so sorry to say that I kept your blog link but never thought of reading your posts until today. Never realised how much I missed until today! I love how you express your thoughts and how your personality shines through the words. =)
    I had a stroke 2 years ago at the age of 39 and my left limbs mobility will never be the same (i had an aneurysm on my right brain). Although I’ve been told that I made very good progress in regaining mobility to date, I’m still trying to find the best way for me to lead my life. And yes, when lunchtime is around the corner, I’ve just washed up and breakfast just about done. The hours are never enough. -_-|||
    I attended Korean classes back in 2012 and after 3 years the motivation fizzled out. But I never lost the passion for buying books. I’ve been to Korea 3 times and every time I came home with books that I loved looking at wishing I knew enough vocabulary to read them. I’ll share the titles with you as soon as I dig them out of the store room. Perhaps you might get an idea of the kind of books to help you study better.
    Till then ‘Luna 화이팅’!

  2. Hi, I can see that you are struggling with the same thing as me! I would really like to know what textbook did you end up with ^^ Because I just can’t find the right textbook for me…. and I want to hear your opinions on the textbooks! ㅋㅋㅋ 감사~~

  3. I absolutely understand you. And this is so annoying! I’ve been interested in korean culture for more than 10 years. Nobody heard of kpop then in my country :) But somehow language learning wasnt my priority. Maybe because I went to language university and I had to study 3 different languages. After graduating I met this guy… well, accidently, he’s Korean :D So I decided to finally do it. Lemme tell you, having a native 24hrs a day in your house can be both helpful and not. In my case, he’s not. So I started by choosing textbooks. Oh my gosh, so many! And many of them absolutely awful! I hate it when I have to go through shopping conversations or “are you a university student?”. Nooo, Im almost 30, I need to step it up! I signed up for korean classes. The only classes in my city found by accident by my friend. But there are many people and some of them are still kids, the learning process is still like school for them. Slooow. But at least some progress now.

    Now, I went to Korea for the first time. My dream has came true. And what? I feel helpless… all my studying for nothing. I can understand some words but no sentences. I suddenly found myself in a place where I only learned polite korean and speaking to my bf’s parent politely is a big no-no. I need honorifics. Which I haven’t learned. So I just shut up. I pretend I don’t speak korean at all. This is a big slap in the face for me. I ran to the bookstore and bought TTMIK textbooks. I feel like they’re the only ones not so boring. But where’s the honorifics? None. So I look it up everytime I find new grammar point and make notes. And I walk around the city and take photos of signs and try to remember. Make notes. People talk fast and its almost impossible to understand them :( Oh and they say different things than in textbook conversations (shopping for example).

    Sorry, my comment has became too long! Anyway, I just found your blog and wanted to share how I admire you. Even though Im perfectly healthy, I feel like we share some helplessness in this case of self studying :D I also feel like because Im getting older, my brain isnt working so good anymore. I can speak 4 languages but all of them Ive learned in my teenage years or early 20s. Now its so much different! And I feel it and its frustrating. The brain isn’t like sponge anymore, more like wet towel that won’t absorb no more.
    Anyway, keep it up! I wil follow your blog and support you! Greetings from Korea! ♡

  4. Despite being bedridden, you’re still very productive in your studies! I admire your passion for learning and will to push through! What keeps you going in studying? Often I get all worked up and let myself down with my studying. It comes and goes in bursts of productivity… and slow input, low output. ;D

    1. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m productive :)

      What keeps me going? I enjoy doing it, haha.

      Most chronic illnesses and disabilities don’t affect person’s drive and motivation. Only a few do, such as depression. So I don’t think it’s something a person has control over. You’re either lucky or you’re not.

      I’m unlucky that my illness destroyed the possibility of actually achieving fluency in Korean, but I’m lucky that it left intect my ability to enjoy studying it.

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