About a year ago I discovered the book 한국어 한국문화 from the website hanbooks.com, a great site for buying Korean books, music and DVDs. I was looking for something to supplement the textbook I was using and to study outside of my lessons. To be honest, I am not sure what initially drew me into the book or why I chose this one, but I am so happy I did!
한국어 한국문화 (pronunciation “han guk eo han guk mun hwa”) or Korean Language and Korean Culture is a book which can be used as a textbook in a language class, or independently for self-study. Initially when I got the book, I had been studying Korean for about one year, and I would say the level was a little difficult at that time. However, after a few months, I could truly appreciate the book and learn a lot—without needing to constantly use my dictionary. One of the good points of the book (which can be tricky at first) is that there really isn’t any English in it. The book is set up so clearly though, you don’t need English, and can immerse yourself in learning Korean.
한국어 한국문화 has 25 chapters following the story of a girl who moves to Korea from China to study. In the first chapter she arrives in Korea at the airport, and throughout the book she meets friends, buys an apartment, and eventually gets married. The situations are all very real, and things a student first living in Korea would face, well maybe not as far as the engagement chapter, but you get the gist! 😉
Each chapter begins with a written overview, intended to get you thinking about the topic and start making guesses about what will happen next in the story. There are also questions which go along with the dialogue you listen to on the CD that comes with the book.
The next page has the dialogue you just listened to in a written format, along with a focus on the grammar points of the chapter and vocabulary.
The next page is divided into two sections. The first has a list of vocabulary and pictures you need to match with them. After that there is a short dialogue, again relating to the story line, and a few follow-up questions to ensure comprehension.
The next two pages are more independent, or less assisted from the previous pages in the chapter. There is a short reading which is then followed by a writing activity and an activity which can be done with a partner.
After that, there are a few pictures and helping words, which you use to create the next scene in the story. This is great because it is structured but still offers the opportunity to be creative and use the material you are learning independently.
The next two pages are full of extra cultural details to supplement the learning done in the chapter. This as well as the last page in each chapter, a Q&A page, are both more challenging, with more complex Korean and are geared for a more intermediate learner. This is one of the things I love about the book—it helps you constantly raise the bar or your language expectations, and introduces you to natural or realistic Korean.
I would definitely recommend한국어 한국문화 to anyone studying Korean. It is much more exciting and engaging than your average language textbook, and the chapters are short enough and independent enough that you can pick it up and do a chapter here or there without feeling lost.
I would say, however, that it probably wouldn’t be wise to use this as your ONLY textbook, and that it is best used as a supplement to other material.