Are you looking for the best Korean textbooks?
As a beginner learner, the materials can make such a massive difference to your ability to absorb a language.
Picking a wordy or dry textbook, or one that simply doesn’t fit your ”style” can be a huge motivation killer.
Trust us, we know.
The Best Korean Textbooks For A Beginner
We have rounded up the 8 Best Korean Textbooks, putting them head to head in an ultimate fight to the death!
Click on the links below to skip straight to the review!
- Integrated Korean
- Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK)
- Korean from Zero!
- Elementary Korean
- Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean
- Korean Grammar in Use
- Korean Grammar for International Learners
- Korean Made Simple
Why Should I learn from a Textbook?
You shouldn’t do anything, this is entirely up to you!
Some language learners can’t even think about picking up a stuffy old textbook, preferring to learn through apps or even Youtube.
For others, the tried and tested method simply works best.
Textbooks are great for revisiting tricky grammar rules, or for explaining awkward language quirks.
They also help to develop your reading ability, much earlier than other forms of learning.
But not all textbooks are created equal, so it’s essential to spend the time picking the right one at the beginning of your language journey.
Which Korean Textbook Should I choose as a Beginner?
Luckily, there are some fantastic choices out there for beginners, and we are confident you’ll be able to track down something that will work for you.
Wait, don’t start yet.
If you want to truly maximize your learning efficiency, we offer you one piece of advice:
Learn Hangul First
Learning the Korean alphabet (it can be done very quickly) will speed up your entire learning process, leaving you to focus on the more challenging aspects of the language.
So if you’re ready, let’s dive into the best Korean textbooks your money can buy!
#1. Our Top Pick: Integrated Korean: Beginning 1
First up is the KING of Korean textbooks.
Ask any Korean language learner what their favourite study-guide is, and nine times out of 10, they will say the Integrated Korean series.
Integrated Korean is AMAZING. Many language schools around the world use these books to teach.
So we gave this to one of our interns who is a Korean language noob.
A big bonus of this book is that it doesn’t fall back on romanization of words. Thank you is written as 감사합니다 instead of “gamsahabnida”.
Ok we get it, it’s hard at first, but falling back to the roman alphabet supports bad habits.
We definitely don’t want those when learning a new language.
The book covers a wide range of topics, from shopping to working in Korea.
Vocabulary and grammar are introduced and explained with ultimate clarity.
You can also access the FREE audio files to accompany the workbook from their website.
The Integrated Korean series teaches beginner-level Korean in an easy to digest and fun way. Even if sometimes the vocab is a bit random.
By the end of this book, you’ll have a solid beginners foundation of Korean grammar. This means you will be ready to progress through your studies.
So how did our intern like it?
“Integrated learning was a great introduction to the Korean language. The book was fun, easy to use, and a great way to start my language journey.”
Of course, it’s not perfect.
To get access to the books to answer key, you’re required to register through their website and pay a modest fee (around $10).
Also, as with any textbook, you really need to make sure you are putting in the work to build your speaking skills.
It’s also built entirely for a beginner, so you won’t learn how to form the most complex of sentences (that’s what the later books are for)
For this, we would recommend a language exchange app such as Hello Talk (check out our review here)
The Best Korean Textbook?
Overall, if you are looking for THE best Korean textbook, you really can’t go wrong with Integrated Korean.
You can purchase the book, as well as others in the series, here.
If you read our review of the Talk To Me In Korean App, you will already know we are big fans.
Chances are you’ve already heard of them.
Now TTMIK is one of the most popular learning platforms for a reason.
Since their foundation in 2009, over 5 million people have visited their site.
They were even recognized by the Prime Minister for their content!
This book basically represents TTMIK’s online teachings in a printed format.
Great if you are old-school, or simply prefer printed media.
Each lesson is accompanied by an audio file which is both witty and engaging.
These books are incredibly user-friendly, presenting a clear explanation of grammar facts and rules.
The visuals and design are beautifully done. This really makes a difference from staring at a stuffy old textbook.
For complete beginners, grasping subject and topic marking particles can be especially tricky.
These books do a great job of explaining those nuances in an easy to understand way.
Best of all, the guys at TTMIK are incredibly helpful and actively engage with the language learning community.
They go out of their way to help their students and answer their questions.
Nowhere else have we seen such devotion, so this is a real selling point for TTMIK.
One complaint we often hear is that pretty much all of this textbook is available for free, on the TTMIK website.
They have added some extra information to each of the chapters for an extra challenge.
But if you are looking to save some money, it is true you can access most of this for free.
If you’re looking for a very simple and beginner-friendly textbook, then Talk To Me In Korean is a great choice.
We advise purchasing the associated workbook so you can really put into practice what you have learnt.
Who is this for?
The VISUAL LEARNER who enjoys surfing Youtube.
If you’re a big Youtube fan, chances are you’ve heard of the Korean from Zero channel, fronted by the charismatic George.
George originally became famous as the publisher of the hit series Japanese from Zero, launching the Korean version from the success of his Japanese resources.
Renowned for his over the top, yet down to earth teaching style, George focuses on teaching you ‘every-day’ phrases.
As the name suggests, the book is perfect for a beginner with zero knowledge. It starts with an assumption that you KNOW NOTHING.
If you’re unfamiliar with Hangul, Korean from Zero! gives a great introduction.
It even teaches you how to type in Hangul, which is pretty useful!
Be warned, romanization drops out pretty quickly (which is a good thing) so get practising!
Audio files are provided for each lesson, helping you to develop your listening skills.
One of the most significant benefits of this textbook is the ‘real-life’ examples it offers for the vocabulary you have just learned.
If you’re big into Korean culture, we think you’ll especially like this series.
Korean from Zero! really is aimed at the complete beginner. If you have some prior experience with the Korean language, take a look at the later books in the series.
We also noticed a few typos (ugh!), but you know what, we can forgive those.
Sometimes, the vocabulary order was a little random (first chapter body parts), but hey, they are important!
You know, we love this book for its extremely laid back teaching style. It’s just damn fun to read, especially when you watch along with George’s Youtube channel.
The book is very straightforward to follow, making it ideal for a self-learner.
If you’re literally starting from zero and don’t mind some Dad jokes here and there, this is for you.
Who is this for?
The ‘no frills’ language learner who prefers the traditional textbook methods of learning
So Elementary Korean is very different from most of the other books featured on our list.
Instead of looking pretty and dripping in personality, Elementary Korean is at heart, a textbook.
For some of you, you may wince at the sight of an old school style book. But many people enjoy learning this way, so it’s a worthy addition to our list of best Korean textbooks.
Everyone has their own style.
For beginners, the book starts off as you would expect, at a pretty basic level.
What Elementary Korean does, which differs from other books, is that it spends the first few chapters teaching basic expressions while throwing in transcription exercises.
Hangul isn’t introduced until chapter 3.
The theory is that it’s essential to learn how Korean ‘sounds’ before going any further.
The authors estimate each chapter takes around 6 – 10 hours to complete. With 15 chapters, you certainly get a lot of value for your money.
The book also comes with an audio CD, so you develop your listening skills as you progress.
So the good points.
This textbook is incredibly focused towards the self-learner, with each quiz section being accompanied by the associated answer key.
The tests at the end of the chapter are also pretty damn good, which we sometimes find missing in other textbooks.
Grammatical points are explained amazingly well and in English. The descriptions are lengthy, but in a good way, to help you understand.
Elementary Korean uses Hangul only, after the first few introductory chapters.
We were also really impressed that it explains complex topics, with ease. Topics such as recognizing the difference between male and female names.
This often takes students a long time to get their head around.
The biggest complaint we receive around this book is that it can be a little dry, devoid of a personality.
We did say it was old-school.
Although the end-of-chapter quizzes are good, the answer scheme is on different pages which is a real pain to flick back and forth between.
First world problems.
We always like to spend our time most efficiently.
We are still not sure why Elementary Korean teaches you the names of the individual Hangul – kinda useless for a beginner learner.
Who is this for?
Students who don’t want the FLUFF. Just tell me what I need to know.
Korean for Beginners is a relatively short book, around 150 pages long with an accompanying audio CD.
As the name suggests, this book is focused on mastering conversation in an efficient and time-saving manner.
The reason we love this book is because it is short.
Why is that a good thing? Because it cuts out the ‘nice to know’ stuff, leaving just the ‘must know’ behind.
Better still, its incredibly engaging and casual, and dare we say it, ‘fun’ to read.
You’ll get to the end of the 150 pages and wonder how you learned so much without realizing.
The book is easy to understand and digest, with cute illustrations that help bring the lessons to life.
It also provides excellent insight into Korean culture, instead of focusing entirely on learning the language.
The reason we don’t like this book is because it’s short.
But wait, you said that was a good thing?
It is, and it isn’t.
The reason this book is short, as we mentioned, is because it leaves out all the unnecessary details.
What that means is you don’t get the same level of understanding of the language as you would with other books on this list.
Good or bad, you decide.
Korean for beginners also doesn’t include any exercises, meaning you’ll have to practice with other resources.
We also found the audio CD a bit dry and engaging.
Who is this for?
The grammar enthusiast studying for TOPIK 1 or 2
Alright, listen up.
Before we get into the pros and cons of this book, let’s get one thing straight.
This is a grammar-focused textbook, as the name suggests.
Grammar is rarely seen as sexy or exciting, so Korean Grammar is already fighting an uphill struggle.
The book is organized neatly in specific themes, and unlike most grammar textbooks, comes with an accompanying audio CD.
As we mentioned above, the layout of this book is perfect.
It flows well from one lesson to the next.
Things are where you would expect them to be, so you can look things up quickly.
In other words, it’s easy to navigate.
Because it is focused on grammar, you can rely on this as your Korean grammar dictionary.
The exercises included are also extremely useful in drilling what you have learned.
Practice makes perfect.
Look we set out at the beginning this book is focused on grammar, so surprise surprise, the downside is that it doesn’t contain any vocabulary.
What did you expect?
If you’re a beginner, you’re going to need to use this book in conjunction with other materials.
After all, what’s the point in knowing all of the grammar rules without knowing any vocabulary.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Who is this for?
Students looking for a deeper understanding of grammar rules.
Korean Grammar for International Learners is published by Yonsei University press – one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, based on textbooks used in actual Korean schools.
You’re in safe hands.
The most significant selling point of this book is the enormous number of examples accompanying each grammar point.
This helps to give you real-life illustrations of how, and when, you would use specific sentences or phrases.
This book also goes into detailed and thorough explanations on topics that are not often covered in other books.
Well organized and easy to use, it’s a trustworthy resource for the nuances of Korean grammar.
Now we hesitated a little on whether to include this in our list of beginner books.
For one, you definitely need to know Hangul first. We did warn you at the beginning.
But you can pick that up quite quickly.
Another thing that irked us a little was the overly technical explanations. There are certainly other books in this list that deliver explanations in a better and more engaging way.
Who is this for?
The student who wants to learn from someone who has been in their shoes.
This book was written by Billy Go, a fellow Korean student inspired to write a book for other keen learners.
We love that the books are incredibly detailed, and each chapter starts with a Korean conversation, followed by a complete breakdown of the language rules.
At the end of each chapter, Billy provides translation exercises based on what you have just learned, and audio versions are available on Billy’s’s website, so you can follow along.
The benefits are that Billy has been exactly where you are sitting, and knows what is likely to trip up the foreigner as they navigate the Korean language.
Billy also runs a very successful and fun Youtube channel, where he explains many of the common language issues in more detail.
Now we’re going to list this next point as a pro and a con.
The book is incredibly detailed, meaning you get a thorough explanation of everything that is taught.
For some, this is fabulous!
Billy is also a very active member of the language community, and you can often find him replying to questions over on r/Korean, the Korean Reddit channel.
Now we did mention that the very detailed content could also be a negative point.
For the brand new Korean learner, we would argue that some of the detail is a bit over the top and unnecessary.
But that’s a very subjective point.
In our opinion, the book could be brightened up with more illustrations, or even just a few text formatting tricks to keep us engaged.
Summary and MUST READ Advice
Congratulations if you have made it this far! That was a long read – phew!
We’re certain that from our list above, you’ll be able to pick out the best Korean textbook that will help you boss the language!
But here is our best piece of advice for you.
Are you ready?
The secret to excelling at Korean, in fact, any language is this.
Once you pick a textbook, an app, or any other method of learning,
STICK WITH IT
We know it’s easy to think there’s something better out there, the grass is greener, but chopping and changing is harmful to your learning experience.
Pick a textbook, and get on with it.