A useful drop in the ocean

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A useful drop in the ocean

In the ocean of “learn Korean” books currently available on the market, a novice in the Korean language is sure to flounder when making their choice. The ocean includes the recently published “Essential Korean for Everyday Use,” a thick little phrasebook that covers a surprising amount of ground.
The book’s authors provide phrases neatly arranged by subject for nearly every sort of interaction in Korean society, from asking someone to dance in a club to communicating with your stylist at the beauty salon. For each phrase, they include the Hangul text, romanizations in accordance with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a direct English translation and a natural English translation. Thus, annyeonghaseyo directly translates to “peace do” and practically translates to “Good morning/afternoon/evening.”
The book’s major problem, however, is its use of government-approved romanizations, which aren’t necessarily intuitive. True beginners to Korean will be at a total loss without any context of how the language sounds. Although a CD usually accompanies the book, my copy was missing one and URLs for the promised MP3 downloads were nowhere to be found.
Eagle-eyed readers will find a couple of mistakes in the book, such as an “isle seat” (as opposed to an “aisle seat”). Nevertheless, the book is a useful, comprehensive guide for those who have some knowledge of Korean and are planning to stay here a long time.
By Hannah Bae

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