Practical, functional guide to Korean script and speech

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Practical, functional guide to Korean script and speech

As someone who has lived in Korea for a little more than four years and never learned to read the Korean script, I seemed the perfect reviewer for this text, which aims to bridge the gap between traditional, often useless Korean-language texts, and what a learner really needs to function efficiently in Korea. Unfortunately, and this is through no fault of the author’s, it made me realize the reason I’ve never learned Hangul is that, deep down, I really don’t want to. But more on that later.
Anyone who has seen the Arirang TV program, “Let’s Speak Korean,” knows Stephen Revere, the book’s author. He is supremely qualified, having studied Korean at two of Seoul’s top universities, Yonsei and Seoul National, and been the first non-Asian graduate of Yonsei’s Masters in Teaching Korean as a Foreign Language. He also does with this book just what he states in his introduction ― he teaches practical and commonly used language that is directly relevant to what most newcomers to Korea need to know, how to shop, order food, ask directions, direct taxi drivers and have everyday conversations with new Korean friends. As such, this book is an invaluable guide to the Korean language, once you’ve learned Hangul.
Which, for me, was the book’s weakness. Yes, I know Hangul is a phonetic and logical language system (and Koreans are quite rightly proud of it) that can be learned in an afternoon. In fact, this book begins by teaching the reader Hangul in just four hours and does so extremely well. But, if like me, you’re more interested in speaking Korean than reading it, this isn’t the best book for you. I’d prefer a romanization of the dialogues and vocabulary, although the accompanying tapes do make up for that lack.
Another quibble, a curmudgeonly one perhaps, is Revere’s excessively perky nature, something that bugs me on his TV show. On the tape also, there’s something about his peppy delivery that I just can’t help but picture him inside a purple dinosaur suit.
My own faults aside, I would highly recommend this text to anyone with the desire to learn to both read and speak Korean.

by Tracie Barrett
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