So, I recently bought a great book that I’ve been meaning to buy for ages. It’s called “Useful Chinese characters for learners of Korean”, and claims the following on the front cover:

  • Learning Korean is easier when you know Chinese characters!
  • Learn frequenly used Chinese characters in Korean!
  • Enhance Korean vocabulary by using words written in Chinese characters!
  • This book will make it easy to read and write Chinese characters!

It appears that the authors are extremely fond of the exclamation point, hence my blog post title 😉

Anyway, for those of you new to Korean or unfamiliar with the word hanja, it is simply the Korean word for Chinese characters. Of all the languages I speak, I’ve always memorized some of the vocabulary by linking it to other words I already know. Like for instance with Italian, it hardly comes as a surprise to anyone that “impossibile” means “impossible”. Both words have Latin roots like so many words in European languages. And this is exactly where Korean gets tricky for learners with no prior knowledge of Asian languages. If you don’t know a Korean word, you just don’t know it. With Korean being so heavily influenced by Chinese (more than 60% of Korean words are Sino-Korean) it doesn’t really help that you may know a lot of Latin roots, as they are not applicable here. Enter “Useful Chinese characters for learners of Korean”! With this excellent ressource on my desk my inner linguistics geek is twirling with joy. Because now I can learn all the basic words with Chinese origin and hopefully start to gradually develop the missing “language sense” which can allow me to infer the meaning of a word without having learned the word before.

예를 들면 (For example), the Korean word for single/unmarried is 미혼, which is composed of the two hanja characters  and . Knowing this will make it easier to infer that other words beginning with 미 (meaning ) refers to not being something same as using “un-” in English. The book is full of such “word-builder” examples showing how one character is used in several other words. It also contains exercises and practice sheets. I’m not sure that I have any desire to learn to really write hanja but to be able to recognize and above all pronounce the characters would be a huge leap forward.

So far, I love it.

Happy studying – 열심히 공부해요!

6 Comments »

    • Hi, thanks for your comment! I can recommend all the resources published by TalkToMeInKorean.com (their online store is http://www.mykoreanstore.com). Here they have introductory books for learning Hangeul (Korean script) and tons of other work books to help you learn Korean. On their main site they have grammar lessons available for free download as well. Super awesome site. With just 6 months of studying with them, I’m not fluent but I feel comfortable speaking Korean 🙂 Happy learning!

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  1. Are you sure those books are for beginners? When i was in high school , i had bought a book teaching basic Japanese, it did contain some scripts , its meaning and pronounciation but long after that I realized it lacked one important part, it’s how to write the characters . Is it true that we should begin with learning to write the logogram characters first? I have no ideas, i had tried Chinese and Japanese before but lacked good resources so i gave up. Seriously, i was looking for the super easy material to start from scratch. Thank you, I will read more older posts of yours , hopefully i will find something useful

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  2. Hi, they are definitely for beginners 🙂 You can check out the Hangeul introduction book here: http://mykoreanstore.myshopify.com/collections/featured-items/products/hangeul-master-book

    Compared to Chinese or Japanese script, the Korean script is a phonetic alphabet, which you can easily master within 1-2 weeks. This post is about use of Chinese characters in Korean, but that is for intermediate/advanced learners. I only just started studying these now after several months of only Korean script. Right now, mykoreanstore.com has a promotion on their “Beginner package” where you get the hangeul book and 3 workbooks in one discounted bundle.

    You can also look up their free grammar lessons at http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/curriculum/

    Hope this helps 🙂

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  3. I have the same book, and we seem to use it in the same way. I don’t feel it necessary to learn how to write the characters, but it helps to be able to know/infer the concepts behind words when you see them written in Hangeul.

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    • Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog. I absolutely agree. I feel it has had a huge impact on my general language understanding, and just being able to recognize some characters when you see them in print is also very helpful.

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