Korea is a nation of bookworms (fun fact, bookworm in Korean is 책벌레 – I guess some things are just universal). There are bookstores everywhere, and books are usually reasonably priced too. I’ve already purchased quite a few books here – hard not to when there’s a bookstore right in front of my building (yes, I now also carry a membership card) and I have to walk by it everytime I leave my home.
My best purchase so far has definitely been volumes 5A and 5B of the Sogang Korean series. Before coming to Sogang University, I’d heard the Sogang Korean series praised by many Korean bloggers, but for some reason I’d never gotten around to trying them myself. Since I only brought a very limited supply of Korean books from home, I figured “why not buy the Sogang books now that I actually live and work at Sogang”. Boy, am I glad I did. I’m already almost through the first volume and I must admit that they may just be the most genious resource for learning Korean ever.
The books are beautifully illustrated and contain excellent texts spanning a wide range of topics, which introduce the reader to a lot of words and phrases within all types of fields. Each chapter is divided into two parts, a reading section and a speaking section. Clearly, this is intented as a class activity, and as a beginner, I think you definitely need to speak with someone to practice the topics covered in the chapter. However, since I’m already comfortable speaking Korean, I don’t feel that I need someone to practice with. I’m perfectly fine saying the dialogues out loud on my own. I also greatly enjoy the exercises, where I get to practice vocabulary and speaking patterns. And then I obviously subject any Korean willing to talk to me to my newly learned vocabulary and speaking patterns in real life conversations at any given chance. Ordering pizza on the phone is a perfect example of one such occasion, haha.
I love how the books put a lot of focus on naturally spoken Korean, like “what to say when you don’t really remember something”, “how to make comparisons for emphasis like ‘sweet as an angel’ etc.”, “how to clearly state facts and opinions”, and “how to use proverbs in modern conversation”. An added bonus is that the textbooks don’t use one single word of English. At the end of each chapter, key words are listed in Korean, but there’s no translation. Instead the new words and grammar structures are explained in Korean in the appendix.
Even though these volumes are definitely advanced texts, I love how they are still clearly focused at the speaking part (I’ve also bought a book for practicing writing, but I haven’t really worked with that one yet.) I really missed the speaking part from the KLEAR Korean texts, which I’ve been studying with on and off for the past 2 years.
I’m now definitely a Sogang Korean convert, and my Korean friends have already complimented me for being able to use Korean proverbs and idioms more confidently now. Yay, progress! Or, as the old proverb goes, 대기만성! “Acquiring a fine skill takes time and effort.” I feel great to know that I’m certainly putting in both!