Language Books Review: Learn to write Korean

Hi everyone!

We’ve got a different sort of post today: a language workbook review!

Basically, a while ago, I received an email from the author of these Korean language learning workbooks “Learn to write Korean,” asking if I was located in the US, and if I’d be interested to receive a free copy each, of their Korean writing workbooks, in exchange for a fair review.

The books are described as:

“A fun two-volume Korean workbook series, tailored specifically to those who want to learn the dialogue they hear so often in Korean dramas. Each volume features 100 of the most common words and phrases from K-dramas, and provides definitions, pronunciation guides, and tracing practice (with ample space) for each word or phrase!”

I thought that sounded like a potentially fun and useful resource for us kdrama fans, and accepted the invitation. However, because I’m not located in the US, Trent (who is!) kindly agreed to receive the workbooks, in exchange for a fair review – and here it is!

Big thanks to Trent, for reviewing these books for us! I hope you guys find this useful! (Links to purchase the books are at the end of the review.)

KFG ❤️

Learn to Write Korean: Common Words & Phrases From Korean Dramas, Vol. I-II

So a few weeks ago (okay, just an itty-bit more than a few…I’m tardy, okay? 미안해…) our gracious host contacted me to ask if I would be interested in taking a couple Korean language instruction books for a spin and then writing a review.

Conveniently forgetting both my generally full schedule and (more to the point) my seemingly ineradicable, innate propensity to procrastinate anything and everything right up to the cliff’s edge of disaster (and occasionally beyond), I blithely responded that sure, that sounded cool! Love to do it!

Anyway, here we are, a bit later than we might have hoped (fine, more than a bit), but late is better than never, sez I, and who is there that dares gainsay me? (Hush, you there in the back…).

Alright, so let’s roll up the sleeves and get right into it. I’m going to proceed by posing—and trying to answer—three questions.  First, what are these books? (i.e. a straightforward physical description). Second, what are they meant to do? And third, who is the target audience?

What Are These?

The first question is the simplest. These are two workbooks, standard (U.S.) letter size of 8.5×11 inches (21.5×28 cm) and each about a half an inch (1.25 cm) thick. The covers are a standard “soft cover” of heavy cardstock, with a plain, straightforward cover design, as you can see here.

The production value on these feels quite solid: between the covers, the paper is of good quality, and is firmly bound – an important consideration, as these are first and foremost workbooks, meant to be used for writing practice (as we shall see), so it’s important that the pages are able to stay fixed in the binding – and the fonts are clear and simple, and large enough to see without eyestrain.

So overall, these are well put together on a physical level.

What Are These For?

Well, it’s kind of right there in the title, you know? Although I feel like there may be just a wee bit of misdirection surrounding the word “learn,” and the expectations it might generate.

What do I mean?  Let me see if I can explain.

Each book is composed of 100 words or phrases, and each word/phrase gets two opposing pages, with the left-side containing the phrase written in Hangul (Korean script), the pronunciation in Romanization (Latin alphabet), a brief definition, a block of practice squares with the Hangul word printed in light gray font (suitable for tracing over), and another block of empty practice squares.

The facing (right-side) page is just a full page of empty practice squares so you can, well, practice writing out the word or phrase. After all, we learn through doing, right?

Here’s a representative two-page spread to show what the format looks like.

And here’s a page that has been used as intended, with all the practice squares filled in (by me) by writing out the word.

(You are welcome to point and laugh at my terrible handwriting: my handwriting in English is likewise pretty bad, and in spite of more than two decades of practice, my Chinese handwriting is nothing to inspire poets to exclaim in admiration, either.)

And that’s it, literally.

These are a set of books that espouse the principle that you learn to do a thing by actually doing it. Which on a very fundamental level makes sense, right? You want to learn to write Korean, well, at some point you’re going to have to put pen to paper and start writing Korean.

These books are here to give you that opportunity, which is why I described them as “workbooks” earlier. They are meant to be written in; indeed, that’s their entire focus and purpose.

As you can probably see from the pictures, the practice squares on each page are generously sized, so you can really be bold in writing out those individual symbols.  That’s good, especially when you’re just learning.

If there’s one suggestion for a slight modification that I think might be helpful, it would be to have each square quartered by light gray or dashed lines, so that each square is divided into quadrants.

That’s a suggestion borrowed from my familiarity with similar type practice paper and practice exercises used to learn to write Chinese characters, the point being that a crucial part of writing legibly in Chinese is getting the relative sizing and spacing among the various elements of a character to be properly balanced.

And it’s just easier to do that when the writing space is divided into quadrants, so you can better gauge where to place each element and how to size them to make an overall harmonious whole.

This might be less of a consideration for Korean writing, where the usable symbols and combinations are much more finite, but I think you do still have to engage in somewhat the same sizing and balancing exercise to make each overall block of writing fit together legibly.

Just a thought…

Who Are These For?

So let me circle back around to that idea of “learning” that I mentioned up above.

As you’ve perhaps noticed if you’ve been paying attention and have made it this far, I’ve so far been talking about what these books contain.  So now let me talk a bit about what they don’t contain.

The entirety of each book is just as I described above: 100 words/phrases, with space to practice writing them out.

There is no preface, forward, explanation (of anything), description of which Romanization system is being used for pronunciations, or Hangul chart (with or without a corresponding Latin letter/sound).

Nor is there any description or brief history of the development of Hangul (Sejong the Great is not amused!), any discussion of hierarchies built into the Korean language – not even the basic distinction between banmal and jondaemal (casual v. formal/polite), or anything remotely resembling an explanation of grammar.

Now, to be sure, there is something to be said for a minimalist approach.

Just jump in and start doing something, whether you really understand it at the outset or not, and pretty soon you’ll find that you’re absorbing the knowledge… You are learning through doing.

But I also feel like that is a potential recipe for frustration when you have absolutely no background or referents to build on, before you jump into the deep end and start trying to swim.

That’s why I feel that the key to whom these books are intended for, and who might make best use of them, is also contained in the (sub)title: “Common Words and Phrases from Korean Dramas.”

If you’re picking these up with absolutely no prior contact with the Korean language, you’re going to be at sea and it’s probably not going to be a very happy experience.

But if you’ve got a decent background watching kdramas, you will have already encountered most, if not all, of the words and phrases contained in these books.

Even if you don’t know a word, you may well recognize it as something you have heard – this happened to me several times, as I read a word or phrase in the book and was like, “Oh yeah, okay, I recall hearing something like that; that’s what it means.”

If you have that foundational familiarity to fall back on (and to be clear, it doesn’t necessarily have to be via kdramas – maybe you’ve taken a Korean class or two, or had Korean friends and you’ve spent some time listening to them talk in Korean – just some meaningful contact with the language), then it probably goes a long way towards smoothing out confusion that might arise from how a given Romanized word or phrase should be pronounced.

That’s because you’ll probably be able to recognize it as something you’ve heard a native speaker say a bunch of times and so your “ear” knows what it should sound like.

For example: you’ve probably heard a distraught drama character exclaim, “What to do?!,” a thousand times, so the Romanization that the book uses (“uh-dduk-hae”) – potentially confusing with no prior context – is probably enough to clue you in, and help you recognize that phrase you’ve heard.

Likewise, if you’ve had some contact with Hangul before, and how the symbols are meant to fit together to make discrete syllables, then you’re all set.

If you have no idea how Hangul is constructed, then it’s likely that you can sort of put things together just by practicing writing the words, but I’d wager it’s also going to be kind of frustrating, as you grope around to figure out things on your own.

Some things are easily explained (for instance, that a circle is an unvoiced place holder in initial position, but represents the sound “ng” in final position), and others are not so easily explained (double consonants, vowel combinations).

Fortunately, Hangul is really a very impressively efficient writing system (yay! Sejong! You’re Great!), so the basics can be explained and grasped quickly and fairly easily, but still.

Sejong The Great! Photo credit: Pinpoint Korea: Why King Sejong was so awesome. 😎

So really, I think if you do have that basic foundational familiarity, having heard all of these common words and phrases many times (depending on how many dramas you’ve seen, of course), and having some notion of how the writing system works, then this is probably a pretty good set of exercises to really get your feet wet, to jump in and get some actual familiarity with writing words and phrases.

Now, just a word about preferences. 

If you’re like me, coming from a quasi-academic, legalistic background, and always wanting to know how everything fits together, and what’s the explanation for everything, then the total lack of anything along those lines is probably going to be a bit dissatisfying.

I’m the type who wants and even expects to have that Hangul chart with approximate Latin alphabet correspondences printed somewhere upfront, and maybe a brief blurb about where Hangul came from and how it was developed, and a nod at the hierarchical complexity of the language.

To be fair, I realize that those are not the fish these books are setting out to fry, and all that knowledge can be easily found elsewhere.

But be aware that these books are not really crafted to teach anyone Korean in any real sense.

They’re meant to facilitate learning and practicing how to write Hangul, using words and phrases that their target audience – some portion of the assembled denizens of kdramaland -are already likely to have at least some passing familiarity with.

If that describes you (and would you be here if it didn’t?), and you want to try your hand at practicing writing Hangul in a reasonably structured, organized sort of way, these workbooks are going to be a good resource for you to get that hands-on practice.

~ Trent

Where to buy?

If you’re interested in trying out these writing workbooks for yourself, you can find them on Amazon!

Book 1 is here, and Book 2 is here.

Unfortunately, it looks like Amazon is only making the books available to a limited number of countries, such as the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Canada, Australia.

However, if you’re keen to get the books but are not located in any of these countries, you might be able to make use of a service like HopShopGo, that will shop &/or ship for you, for a fee.

Thanks again for an awesome, fair and thorough review, Trent! 😃

KFG ❤️

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the_sweetroad
2 months ago

This review piqued my interest – thanks, Trent, for a thorough and entertaining review! I grew up writing Chinese in those workbooks with the quad-grids and when you showed a picture of it it brought me back!

I read all the comments and was wondering how writing Korean compared with writing the Chinese characters in very strict stroke order. Sounds like there could still be a stroke order with Korean but that the characters (words?) are much simpler.

It would be fun to learn to write the words and then be able to turn on the “Learn” mode on Viki – where they show the Korean subtitles along with the English subtitles – and be able to read the Korean words with facility. These books sound like a good resource for beginners, and thankfully there are a few websites out there now that can round out some of the context and fuller instruction the books seem to be missing.

Gomayo! Xie xie!

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@the_sweetroad – I keep forgetting that Viki has that option. I’ll have to try it. I would think it wouldn’t be as easy as it sounds because most things are not a direct translation (meaning word for word match) and of course the word order of sentences is different so without first taking some lessons, a person would not know which Korean words match the English words.

I’m going to give it a try though.

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Hi @beez, I was just talking to a friend about this on Soompi – it seems like Korean and Chinese (and other languages) have nuances and phrases that our sometimes “generic” English language just can’t capture. There are some phrases in Chinese that I don’t bother trying to translate into English, ever. So yeah, it wouldn’t be as easy as it sounds. I’m such a visual learner, though, that it sounds fun to try to connect the Korean phrases with the English translations more than I do now (which is not much).

And is it right that in Korean they sometimes don’t bother to use the subject of a sentence? In Chinese we do that, too. (For example, “he’s not coming” could become just “not coming” if everyone knows that we’re talking about “he”).

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@the_sweetroad – Correct! Yes! I’m still a beginner learner but we’re taught that more often than not things are implied from context. It made me wonder if all the miscommunications in Kdrama are realistic and if that’s why writers rely on it for creating funny scenarios. (And not so funny when we’re all screaming at the OTPs “why don’t you just communicate!”)

I’ve also noticed that I can tell when a new subber shows up in the middle of a drama because you can tell they know nothing regarding what the story is about! The subber will use “I saw… when it’s obvious from the cliffhanger that’s being picked up from the previous episode that the character should be saying “you saw…” But since in Korean, the subject of who is talking is usually understood by context and is left unsaid, the new subber gets it wrong. irrrkkkkksome

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez, I love that we have conversations going on at least three different threads right now. 🙂

And ah – is that what’s happening when the subtitles are suddenly inaccurate? It’s always a bit jarring!

I put in a report to Netflix that their subtitle for a key scene in My Mister, Episode 16, is wrong. Would love it if they would fix it. LOL.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@the_sweetroad – Oh wow. Do you remember what the error was and which scene? I’m curious.

Last edited 2 months ago by beez
the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez, I absolutely remember!

My Mister spoiler
It’s when Ji An finds Dong Hoon at the coffee shop at the very end of the show. Netflix has him saying, “My kid and my wife want to stay in the US.” But what he actually says is, “My kid and my kid’s mom” (ae omma) and not “wife” (chib saram). Up until the time skip he had always called Yoon Hee his “chib saram”, so to call her “ae omma” after the time skip is a very important contrast. Viki has it correct, but Netflix does not. So soo many Netflix viewers have been so confused, thinking Dong Hoon unequivocally stayed with Yoon Hee. With the right subtitle (“kid’s mom”) it leaves it much more open that Dong Hoon and Yoon Hee may have gotten a divorce…which quite a few scenes throughout the show seem to hint at.

So I wrote Netflix and want them to at least have an accurate subtitle out there for all of us, so even if we don’t all come to the same conclusion, we can at least have accurate information to go on. 🙂

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@the_sweetroad – I hope they listen. Netflix has done pretty well listening (and acting) to fix complaints in my experience. When they first started having Kdramas (not counting the few older classics that they’d had for a while), but when they first started having first run Kdramas, they would hold them for 8 weeks after they broadcast on S.K. I was so frustrated because all the blogs watched without subtitles (because they were Korean-American) would have their episode discussions with the international community but we in the North Americas were left out of the loop. By the time Netflix finally ran the episodes, the blogs had moved on and we were dealing with “dead” threads. And to top it off, Netflix would only release half of a series and wait another 8 weeks to make the last half available. I called and expressed how the way they do it does not work for Kdrama fandom. I imagine others called as well because they changed the way they did it!

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez — that would suck, having to wait. And it looks like Disney+ is now set on making the same dang mistake (and will hopefully learn the same lesson, hopefully sooner rather than later…). Right now they’re holding first run shows (Snowdrop, Rookie Cops) in North America (Asian territories get them as they air) until the run is over. Which as you say, sucks for those of us who might want to watch along as the shows air and have buzz and discussion going on.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – I’ve heard so much buzz about Snowdrop that I thought for sure it was already airing on Netflix.

This was my greatest fear as soon as Netflix dipped its big red toe into Kdramas. As more and more streaming networks pick shows up, it would become like all tv – trying to decide which networks to spread our funds and subscribe to.

I never dreamed back when I wanted more people to become kdrama fans so we could have discussions far and wide, that bigger Kdrama expansion would result in this. (I’ve already resigned myself that I won’t be watching Pachinko any time soon, maybe never.)

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Hi @beez, Pachinko is coming out March 25 I believe! So very soon. All you need is an Apple TV+ subscription ($4.99 per month) and you can watch the episodes as they’re released. We’ve had an Apple TV+ subscription for a couple years now, so I watched Dr. Brain live. They have other good shows on Apple TV+, like Ted Lasso. (Ted Lasso is HILARIOUS, especially Season 1. Season 2 gets a bit wonky.)

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@the_sweetroad – I get how it works. (Last year my son gave me his free apple subscription that came with his new iphone.) I’m talking about having to stretch your subscription money far and wide the way we do with all the other shows we want to watch. You want to watch Game of Thrones, better have HBO. Wanna watch Star Trek series, better have CBS Paramount, Marvel – need Disney, etc.

It’s become the principle of the thing for me (because I’m old and we don’t like change).

That’s the way Kdrama is becoming. It was so much simpler when there were 2 places to watch – Viki and Drama Fever.

Most of y’all are probably too young to remember “water cooler tv’. That’s when, because we only had so many channels, everybody watched the same thing. So at work the next day everyone gathered around the water cooler (or coffee machine) and talked about the same shows. It also made it easier to tell a joke. Now if you make a joke or throw out a funny quote, if the person doesn’t subscribe to the same streaming networks, the look on their face is “huh?” 😆

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

OK, so you know Apple TV+. When Dr Brain was coming out we Apple TV+ people had to inform/ instruct others who didn’t have it :). But besides Dr Brain and Pachinko, I don’t think Apple TV+ is doing much else with kdramas….so it might not be worth it.

And yes! I totally remember water cooler TV, Must-See TV (NBC), and watching The Simpsons on Sundays :). The series finale for Seinfeld was such a huge thing!

I only recently got into kdramas so I missed the boat when it was just Viki and DramaFever, but I can understand how much simpler it was then to find stuff. It’s a blessing and a curse now that so many platforms are picking up so many shows. I wouldn’t be here if our Netflix hadn’t shown It’s Okay to Not Be Okay….but now that I’m more into the kdrama world there are some shows I want to watch and can’t find them on any decent platform.

It’s funny – I used to bemoan the fact that my kids didn’t know what it was like to wait a week before their favorite sitcom would air again. But now with Wanda Vision, Hawkeye, The Mandalorian, Boba Fett, and other shows coming out once a week again….the younger generation is starting to learn patience. Hehe.

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent, Yeah, that really stinks. I didn’t realize Disney+ was holding them over as well. Live discussions are so fun!

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

By the way – do you have the Korean spelling for “chip saram”? I would’ve thought that means “house person” (which, of course, makes no sense. But if that’s a way that I haven’t learned yet to say “my wife” or “my spouse”, I’d like to learn it. (I’ve only learned 제 아내 and another word that I don’t know how to spell in Korean that sounds like “puhween” or “pwyeen” (rhymes with “queen”). 😆 Possibly spelled 부인.

Last edited 2 months ago by beez
beez
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@the_sweetroad – I found it!
우리 집 사람
“my (our) (good) wife”

Thanks. I’m always excited to learn new words/phrases!

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Sorry I missed this – I was off the computer all day yesterday. Glad you found it!

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez — yes, I noticed fairly quickly on my first viewing of My Mister that Dong-hoon had his wife listed as 집사람 in his phone, and the subs translated that as “wife”. I assumed “house person” is a colloquial usage. (Interestingly, Google translate translates 집사람 as “housekeeper” in English).

Also, Google translate says 부인 is 妻子 in Chinese, which is just the straightforward Chinese word for “wife.”

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Thanks, Trent. Back when I watched My Mister, I wasn’t learning Korean them so…

I still find it takes concentrated effort to really listen. I’ve become so used to reading subs until I’m lazy when it comes to listening.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@the_sweetroad @trent – The more I think about that 집 사람, the more annoyed I get. That’s got to be some holdover from ancient times when women were housebound. And now I kind of wish I had joined in the MM rewatch to see if ML treated his wife in that fashion. I don’t remember him being that type of person but I regret not watching again to see. Then again, I’d have to do the research on how exactly that term is used and how it’s thought of in S.K. today. It may not have any real significance today, at least not in the way I’m perceiving it. Oh well, I’m not rewatching anytime soon as my plate’s too full and I have to be in the proper mindset for MM depresses me.

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez, Yes, I think that’s a holdover from olden times. In MM, Dong Hoon supports his wife as she goes through law school and opens her own law firm. He also does most of the housework. So he definitely does not treat her as his “house person.”

Of course, their marriage has a bunch of other problems.

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

I hear you – listening is harder than reading. When I watch Spanish TV and films, I turn on the Spanish subtitles and keep the original audio in Spanish…and that has helped my Spanish language-learning a ton. Hearing the language while reading it seems to cement it into the brain even more.

Can’t wait to get more Korean under the belt and be able to do that w/ Korean….but that will probably take years :). I DID just order the box set of My Mister scripts, though – and they’re all in Korean – so I will get some real motivation for learning Korean so I can read the things!

You’re obsessed with Healer, I’m obsessed with MM. Haha.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

@Trent @the_sweetroad – here’s what I’ve found. Rosetta Stone is immersion but that was not working for me until I learned some basic Korean because sometimes you look at the pictures with the text they provide and I’m looking at a young lady bent over with her hand on her hip and I’m thinking “this word must be “tired”. But no, she was “hot”. 😆 The last thing I need is to learn mistakes that’ll need to be unlearned. Then there are things where they show you several pictures, but whoever is in charge of Korean for Rosetta Stone doesn’t get how native English speakers process things. So out of all the pictures, you learn by elimination. But if one of the pictures refers to a woman as “sir” so you eliminate that as a possible answer then it throws off all your remaining choices. (By the way, I complained so much that they’ve actually added translation bubbles now that you can click on. But sometimes this translations are off like with the “sir” when addressing a female.)

I’m also doing Talk To Me in Korean but my issue with that is you’re learning to read at the same time as learning to speak and the reading can be frustrating only because it slows down everything. Like being in elementary school again with the kids who aren’t very good at reading aloud slowly stuttering over evey word only this time it’s me. 😆

I’m finding that the best match for me is Pimsleur with TTMIK for the spelling to be sure that I’m catching those silent sounds on the ends of words. After all, as children, we learn to speak and then a few years later, a teacher or parent teaches us to spell the words we already know.

Can I ask – what method(s) have you been using?

I also got slowed down by those darn particle/object markers!

Last edited 2 months ago by beez
the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez, For Korean I don’t have any methods yet, so your tips about Pimsleur and TTMIK are great, thanks!

Have you guys heard of Gus on the Go? It’s an app that you pay for, but they have many languages and have you play games to learn common words. It’s a kids’ app, but it’s so much fun and takes you through different vocabulary. I have it for French, German, Chinese (Taiwan), and Spanish. You have to pay for each language, though. I should look it up for Korean.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  the_sweetroad

That reminds me, I meant to say
1) Rosetta Stone probably still has its ongoing special of s179 (that can be broken up in payments) for ALL languages. They used to charge over $500 for access to only one language!
I do go back to Rosetta periodically until it gets beyond my comprehension. Then once I’ve advanced in my other methods, I return to Rosetta again.

2) Pimsleur has an app with a couple of games for $20 bucks a month but I got stuck on the same track (the numbers/counting) so I stopped listening/using it for about 3 months yet I paid for those months – I realized that on Amazon’s Audible app, I can buy the exact same tracks (minus the games and flashcards from the app which I didn’t use much anyway) for $20 bucks per volume. So, I was stuck at Lesson 18. I cancelled my subscription to the app and purchased the “book” (it’s only audio, no written words) on Audible that contains tracks 16-20. And now I’ve since purchased another 2 books with tracks 21-25 and tracks 25-30, respectively. And there are another 11 books to go (55 tracks). Now it doesn’t matter if I take a break from Pimsleur to concentrate on spelling and grammar with TTMIK. I only buy when I’m ready to move on to the next set.

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Good idea. Thanks @beez!

The threads are moving fast today…I can’t keep up! 😆

David
David
2 months ago

Context is everything in Hangul, especially for the “informal” words in these books. I am not sure who the audience is, perhaps in the US 12-16 age range. I wouldn’t imagine college students or older purchasing these books. One wouldn’t use Kdrama words in everyday use, unless of course your friends are studying to be in a Kdrama. For non-Koreans (which is me), the jondaemal vs. bampal speech can be a huge landmine. Technically, there are 7 seven levels of speech level. The words used the books are considered “low form” – casual. Always in favor of learning new words but don’t really this is the way to do it, unless one is young.

So, nitpicking on the 2 examples shown here – for “It’s okay” the common Romanization is “gwaenchana” – different that used in the book. The other example was hajima, literally means “Don’t/do it” – many of the Kdramas also use this as “Stop/it” which should have be included in the book. Simple video on sounding rude in Hangul if interested about one minute in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXN7Gv8-jfw

Personally, looking back on studying Korean, I would skip learning Romanization, good video on the why –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2jPpO7VG5k

This was a touch topic. Nice job on the review!

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  David

Thanks, David. Yeah, I tried to be clear that I wouldn’t be relying on these books to learn to speak Korean; they are using the general k-drama audience’s presumed familiarity with hearing these words and phrases as a hopefully useful springboard to practice writing Korean script.

I can only imagine the disasters that would spring up if someone who had just been innocently watching a lot of k-dramas bopped off to Korea and started tossing around all of the phrases they had picked up–informal, used between peers, friends, or lovers–in general encounters with the public. Yikes!

beez
2 months ago

@Trent – nice review, Trent. Your suggestion of quartering the boxes would be so useful because there are many syllables that contain up to 4 symbols. My writing looks so strange and uneven because I often forget to leave room for this and then when it goes back to only 2 syllables, I’m trying to stretch them lonnng so everything lines up neatly (which mine never do). I think I’ll use a ruler and add the lines to my Korean practice tablets. 👍

And thanks for the hopshopgo link as I’m always seeing something I want from other countries but they don’t ship to the U.S.

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez — thanks! Yeah, writing in a script that you didn’t grow up learning or that you haven’t already spent a ton of time with is an exercise in learning the right proportions and relationship between the parts. That’s why I thought the extra lines might be useful as a guide…

mikereport
mikereport
2 months ago

I’ve always wondered about Romanization of Korean words. So, with subtitles you see the characters’ names Romanized, but then it’s really a strain to hear them pronounced in the dialog. My pronunciation of the Romanized words is quite different from how they sound in the dialog.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  mikereport

@mikereport – Romanization of Korean is weird. Most Korean language teachers say to ignore it. Why? Because 2 letters together like “oe” make the “waaay” sound. 🤕

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  mikereport

@mikereport — yeah, Romanization of any language that isn’t based on a Latin alphabet is just taking a really rough stab at representing the foreign language sound using a Latin alphabet approximation. You just have to develop an ear for what the native sound is like, and then key the Latin alphabet representation to that sound, and not to how you usually think of that Latin alphabet letter when it appears in your own native language. It’s tricky and takes time!

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

When people ask me about Korean, I say it’s like pronouncing in between western sounds. Like singing the non-existent notes between the keys on a piano. 😆

the_sweetroad
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Interesting!

Shahz
Shahz
2 months ago

Thanks Trent . I am also in the category that I would need more. Too curious by nature but a good staring point.

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  Shahz

Shahz — thanks for reading! It’s true that pure practice takes actual work…I mostly want to ramble around satisfying curiosity, as you say.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Shahz

@Shahz – Have you seen Tree with Deep Roots? It’s history with all the entertainment of a historical drama (which it is) but it dramatizes the creation of the Korean alphabet (and bonus: it stars Jang Hyuk).

Shahz
Shahz
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@ Beez. I have had it on my list for a long time but never got there! And I think that I would really enjoy the premise around the creation of the Korean Alphabet and who can say no to Jang Hyuk!😍. I will bump it up my list for April.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Shahz

@Shahz – Yay! You won’t be sorry!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago

Salutations, Trent. I thought you brought to life both workbooks with your very informative post. The books do seem rather drab in their appearance and presentation. That being said, the concept the authors have used does work. However, like you, I am someone who needs a bit more context. Otherwise, I will (and do) go down every rabbit hole until I am satisfied I have all the information I need.

So, what are you going to write about next? 😝

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Thanks, Sean! Yes, I think the minimalist approach does have much to recommend it–just get in there and start writing, darn it! But I’m just too fond of getting sidetracked and distracted, you know?

What’s next…hmmm. What’s the next prompt, anyway? 😏
(I confess, I am getting more and more of an itch to go rescue my currently moribund blog. I will probably never clear the backlog…maybe if I just do super-truncated “flash” type write-ups until I’m caught up? Hmmmm. 🤔

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Perhaps, Trent, you could keep the backlog nice and succint by picking an image from each show and then using a Likert Scale put one of the following ratings underneath it: Awesome, Nearly Awesome, Worth A Look, You Need To Decide, Watch Something Else 😂🤣😝 You could do this in one post, or as a series of posts.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago

Trent – this was very well written. Thanks for posting the alphabet. I am still schlepping my way through my calligraphy of Chinese characters which is a never ending work in progress. Hangul looks so much easier. Fangurl picked the right person for this job.

After 10 years of KDrama watching I think I could get something out of it. I would need to sit there with the book and a copy of that alphabet and work my way through it. I am a firm believer in immersion as the best tool for learning a language. I just need to figure out how to live in the same house with So Ji Sub before he got married. 😉

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

— Thanks! as always, grateful when you spare your time and attention to take a gander at my meanderings… KFG actually deserves the plaudits for including the Hangul/alphabet chart. She is the one that spiced things up with the selection of extra graphics (besides just my amateurish photos of the books), for which she deserves many thanks!

I too wish I could improve my Chinese writing… I took a short Chinese calligraphy class in college, which mostly taught me that 1) it’s harder than it looks (even though it looks plenty hard), and 2) my lack of artistic talent extends to calligraphy, alas.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent – I always love reading your posts and comments! Your command of adjectives is inspiring.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– just how many Chinese characters are there? I think I heard 2,000?

kfangurl
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez Just jumping in here to say that there are more than 50,000 Chinese characters, but apparently if you know 2,000 that’d be enough for you to be able to read a newspaper. 😅 And apparently an educated Chinese person would know about 8,000 characters, on average. 🤯

Chinese was part of my education for 12 years, and I honestly don’t know if I actually know 8,000 characters. Probably not! 🙈

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Oh.
My.
Goodness!
🧠🤕

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG — jumping in, and I promise I’m not trying to “well, actually” you here, I just get an irresistible itch when I see characters being discussed 😏…

You’re correct that there are around 50,000 characters. The magisterial 中文大辞典 aka The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Chinese Language (which ironically was actually largely based, at least in its first edition, on the slightly earlier Dai Kan-wa Jiten, a Japanese-Chinese dictionary)lists 49,905 characters in 40 volumes. There was a copy of both works at the East Asian graduate library when I was in grad school, and it’s seriously cool to look up various characters and see historical references and evolution of characters through time. There’s even a brief Wikipedia entry on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhongwen_Da_Cidian

THAT SAID, the majority, probably the sizeable majority even, of those 50,000 are not in daily use or even current usage, not even close. Contained in that number are a whole bunch of characters that are archaic, rare, super-specialized, etc. We’re talking some characters that were used in scapulimancy 4,000 years ago and haven’t seen the light of day for many centuries, probably. I’d be willing to wager a respectable sum that even fairly highly educated native Chinese speakers–unless their field is anthropology or linguistics or something that specifically deals with old characters–wouldn’t truly recognize more than 15-20% of that 50,000 total at best.

In fact, the portable character dictionary I used to carry around in Taiwan (Far East Chinese-English Dictionary) contained just over 7,300 individual characters (I’m looking at its successor on my desk right now; my first copy eventually fell apart from use). And even that number includes quite a fair number of reasonably rare or somewhat archaic characters. (A few years ago, I went through just for fun to see how many I honestly recognized–pronunciation, generally accurate meaning, etc–and as I recall I got a bit more than half, maybe 4,000 or so?). So it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a highly educated Chinese person might know in the 7-8,000 range. Although again, honestly, more than once I’ve encountered college educated native speakers who weren’t sure of pronunciation or meaning for some of the more obscure characters from that dictionary. This is not meant as a “gotcha” observation, just that a lot of those characters really are not used that often at all in day-to-day use.

Your citation of “2,000 characters to read a newspaper” is a very common observation; I’ve heard that same thing many times. Interestingly, when I was dabbling in Japanese for a couple semesters way back when, I picked up a copy of the Kodansha’s Essential Kanji Dictionary, which purports to contain the 1,945 characters recommended by the Japanese Ministry of Education for use in newspapers and magazines. So that 2,000 number even has some support in another language that still uses characters… But yeah, you can be literate and read modern Chinese at an educated level with 3-4,000 characters, no problem, I should think.

(Does that mean Chinese only has 3-4,000 words? No, of course not (I know you know this, this is for anyone who may not have considered it before). The secret is to realize that most modern Chinese words are formed by character compounds–putting two or more characters together in combination–and then also there’s a variety of particles to convey what we would think of as the equivalents of tense, conjugation, inflection, etc. in English).

(Also, we are not even considering here the split between “traditional” and “simplified” characters–are the simplified versions new characters, or variants of the old ones? (Probably the latter, but…))

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Omo! Otakay!

schol-no.gif
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

Thanks Fangurl! 💖 😘

@Beez – I worked on strokes and how to hold and when to put pressure on the brush for a long time. Like pages and pages of strokes. I still struggle to be “One with the Brush”. One can strive to be like Wang Xizhi and Yan Zhenqing to only end up like Mi Fu (Madman Mi), frequently bowing to stones without possessing an ounce of his genius.

Besides the number of characters described by Fangurl, there are also five different kinds of scripts. Jeez, oh man. Yeah Beez, it is deep.

I have major respect for those who have mastered this. Fangurl – you are included. I always pay attention in CDramas when the scholars are writing papers. I am like, I need to kowtow to this dude because his stroke skills are awesome. 😆🤣 🧐😆

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– my mind was already boggled when I thought it was only two thousand!

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

— how I wish I had the talent to write a good running script; I think it’s the prettiest form, personally, because it flows, but is still readable. Grass script is so undisciplined that it’s mostly unreadable to my barbarian eyes. I also have a fondness for the solid orderly feel of kai shu (regular script), but I’ve never particularly cared for li shu (clerical) or zhuan shu (seal script).

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– that would be one very crowded house! I l, for one, would be latching onto whatever galactic wormhole you use to get you there, and because I know several fangirls who’ve claimed So Ji sub as theirs since the 90’s and they are not going to let us take that trip without them. I had one of them tell me that I could have his left thigh and that is all that she’s willing to share. 🤣

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – that cracked me up! 😅🤣😂 If I ever find that wormhole I will make sure to give you a head’s up!

Last edited 2 months ago by phl1rxd
beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– My girl! *high five*

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – picture this: the year is 2015 and So Ji Sub is chilling out at his house after a hard day on the set of Oh My Venus, when all of a sudden a giant wormhole manifests in his living room and here come the two of us. I swear I am crying laughing over here just thinking of it. 🤣😂😆😅

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@phl1rdx @Beez – lol, ladies 😂😆🤣

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Sean – I can guarantee there will be no graphic to this one. I would be laughing too hard trying to put it together.

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– Ahhhhh. I see so while you’re busy laughing… I’ll bring him back on Tuesday, okay?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – A-OK!

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

See? This is why we get along so well!

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Phl – it would be a great scene to behold 😂🤣😂

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
We hurriedly step through ignoring the shock on his face as we warn him of the other hoards of fans that somehow managed to follow us through and rush him out the back door! 😆

At first, he’s slow on the uptake but after I blather out the words “Hurry-one- of them-says-she’s-willing-to-only-share-your-left-thigh!” He probably thinks it’s cannibals coming and leaves with us.

But phl1rxd, do we play kai bai bo for who gets which days with him? 😉

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@seank – I must’ve been punch drunk or dealing with lack of sleep when I wrote that. 😆

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – You are good Miz B! No worries, as I only need him for an hour or two each day for discussion (I would love to hear about his life growing up and some background into his many dramas) and to make sure the three of us eat a good, healthy dinner. He is all yours otherwise. 😘 However, we can play kai bai bo for the dinner menu choices. 🍳🥪🥩🍝🥘🍤

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

– Well, since I have no such high and thoughtful aspirations I’ll just cover my face in embarrassment for now 🥺😖 (That doesn’t mean I’ll give up my time with him though. Let’s see, you need 1-2 intellectual hours each day. I can handle that! That gives me 22 hours to do whatever before the intergalactic time travel wormhole cops can locate him.) 🤣🤣🤣

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – 😅🤣😂😆😁😉

lotusgirl
lotusgirl
2 months ago

Nice review! I am interested in something of this nature but would like arrows with numbers for learning exactly how each letter is formed. Since I’m linguistically inclined, I would need something with more heft.

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  lotusgirl

@lotusgirl — Thanks! I hear where you’re coming from, but my experience with Hangul (limited as it is) is that it really is very simple to form the strokes; none of the symbols has more than 3-4 strokes (setting aside the compound vowels and the double consonants, which are just combinations and duplicates).

Chinese characters are where it’s really important to have some notion of proper stroke order…when I was first learning Chinese, out in the wild, so to speak, on the mean streets of Taipei, my written characters looked like the typical misformed foreigner abominations until I started to get a grasp on stroke order and proportionality of each element (at which point they became still ugly, but legibly, recognizably ugly…).

I think Hangul benefits from the same notion of stroke order (I find that I am unconsciously importing my ideas of stroke formation direction and order from my experience with Chinese characters), but because they are simple, it’s just easier to write them.

(I am not making a moral or aesthetic judgment here either way…I think both writing systems are amazing in their own way, actually).

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  lotusgirl

@lotus girl – You’re correct because my Hangul books say that each letter must be put down in a specific order and that native readers can tell when the correct order is not followed.

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago

@Trent – What a fun, and informative, read. I’m likely the target audience for the workbooks, but I think I would mostly enjoy them as pronunciation and definition guides, rather than as tools for learning how to write Korean. And, possibly, as novelty coffee table books – “Oh, these? I just dabble in them when I watch Korean dramas, you know.” 😂

Without more context – or need for, for that matter – I’m not sure I’d find writing Korean phrases that inspiring? But never say never.

Trent
2 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

Aw, thanks, Leslie.. And yes, that would be an awesome flex to pull on the coffee table front. “Don’t mind these, I was just doing a little Korean writing before you dropped in…doesn’t everyone?”

Trent
2 months ago

Ahahaha…I love the surprise cameos from Bogummy and one of my personal faves, KGE. And big thumbs-up to sporty-in-sunglasses Sejong! (I was expecting the Gwanghwamun Plaza version, to be honest… 😎)

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – These photos made me laugh. KFG is so spot on in her visual choices, right?

kfangurl
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Yay that you like the images I added, Trent!! I was SO taken by that picture of Sejong in sunglasses that I just had to use it! 😎