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Which book on how to learn Korean is best?

Korean is spoken by 75 million people worldwide. Whether you’re emigrating to South Korea, vacationing there or want to watch K-dramas without subtitles, learning the Korean language will give you a newfound appreciation of the unique and vibrant culture.

Talk To Me In Korean Workbook Level 1 is a workbook that will teach you Korean through visual, written and audio content. This book is accompanied by an online resource with over 800 lessons that will teach you how to read, write and speak the language.

What to know before you buy a book on how to learn Korean

Before you delve into the Korean language, you should have a general understanding of its structure: the alphabet, grammar and speech levels. If you plan to take the official proficiency test of the Korean language, you may want to consider taking a foreign language class, which will take you through the steps of properly learning to read, write and speak. 

Hangul (or Hanguel)

“Hangul” is the Korean alphabet system with 10 basic vowels and 14 basic consonants. Unlike other Asian languages, there are only 24 total characters to learn, making it fairly easy in comparison. Many English speakers can learn this alphabet within a couple of hours.

Honorifics and speech levels

When speaking the Korean language, you should use honorifics to address people who are older or superior to yourself. There are seven speech levels, or verb paradigms, that indicate the formality of a conversation.

  • Hasoseo-che: This is very formally polite and only used in films and historical texts.
  • Hasipsio-che: This is formally polite and used with strangers in formal settings and when speaking to customers.
  • Haeyo-che: This is casually polite and the most common speech level in Korean learning books. It is used between strangers of equal age and colleagues.
  • Hao-che: This is formal but neither polite or impolite, used by people temporarily holding authority and when using a more old-fashioned dialect. 
  • Hage-che: This is neutral, used when older people address younger people and when adult males are conversing.
  • Haera-che and Hae-che: This is casually impolite, used between close friends and relatives and when speaking to children.


The Test of Proficiency in Korean is an exam testing the fluency of a nonnative Korean speaker. This test is divided into two levels: TOPIK I and TOPIK II. TOPIK I covers reading and listening while TOPIK II covers reading, listening and writing. Your test results will be valid for two years after the results are released.

This test is essential for most South Korean endeavors; attending university, obtaining a work visa, attaining a practitioner license, applying for permanent residency and obtaining an immigrant visa for marriage. If you’re only planning to visit South Korea or another Korean-speaking nation, a language translation device might come in handy. Even if you have a decent understanding of the language, a translator can fill in the blanks if you come across unfamiliar words and phrases.

Steps to learn Korean

Start by learning the alphabet. This will only take a couple of hours and will set you up for future steps to mastering the language. After you’ve memorized the alphabet, you should learn basic Korean vocabulary, such as colors, animals, numbers and dates — possibly through online or paper flashcards. Following vocabulary, you should learn common verbs and phrases and later begin focusing on the levels of speech and honorifics. Work on your pronunciation as you become more comfortable, and be sure to immerse yourself in the language through Korean dramas or conversations with natural speakers along the way.

What to look for in a quality book on how to learn Korean

Online companion

Every well-written language learning book has an additional online resource to further your knowledge. Despite how helpful a physical book can be, it will always fall short in the audio department. Great language learning books address this shortcoming and usually provide free access to their own websites where you can listen to pronunciations and converse with native speakers to ensure you are becoming properly fluent.

Written and visual aids

Don’t make memorization a painfully grinding venture. Your Korean language book should have images, charts and other visual aids to help you memorize and make connections between words and phrases. Verbs are often written in conjugation charts and vocabulary is usually accompanied by a photo for reference.


Nothing is more frustrating than coming across a phrase that you cannot decipher. A great language learner will have a vocabulary list, index or quick reference sheet at the end of the book to assist when you forget certain lessons.

How much you can expect to spend on a book on how to learn Korean

Korean language books cost $12-$20 each. 

Book on how to learn Korean FAQ

Do Korean and English share any words?

A. There is a term called “Konglish” that refers to Korean versions of English words. Traditional Korean borrows some English words for terms that it does not have words for, although they are pronounced slightly differently. 

How long does it take to learn Korean?

A. On average, it will take at least three months to become fluent enough to have short and simple conversations. Of course, this depends entirely upon how much you practice and how easily you grasp other languages. 

What’s the best book on how to learn Korean to buy?

Top book on how to learn Korean

Talk To Me In Korean Workbook Level 1

Talk To Me In Korean Workbook Level 1

What you need to know: This workbook is designed to be used in conjunction with the free “Talk To Me In Korean” website.

What you’ll love: This workbook has six review categories and 13 types of exercises that follow the 800 lessons from the website. It has listening and reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing, listening and pronunciation categories to ensure you can learn the entire scope of the language.

What you should consider: You need internet access to listen to the lessons.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top book on how to learn Korean for the money

Korean Picture Dictionary: Learn 1,500 Korean Words and Phrases

Korean Picture Dictionary: Learn 1,500 Korean Words and Phrases

What you need to know: This is a picture dictionary with the most common Korean words and phrases.

What you’ll love: It has 1,500 words and phrases to learn, written in the Korean and English alphabet. There are example sentences to show how words are used and additional online sources for audio learning.

What you should consider: This book works as a basic reference but will not teach you to be entirely fluent.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

The Korean Verbs Guide (2 Volume Set)

The Korean Verbs Guide (2-Volume Set)

What you need to know: This is a two-volume guide to common Korean verbs with conjugation charts.

What you’ll love: There are 100 verbs with conjugation charts and visual aids. There are three sample sentences for each word and quizzes throughout the book to check your progress.

What you should consider: The verbs are not organized in any logical order.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Gwen Swanson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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