In order to start studying Korean well, you’re going to need a good phrasebook. Here are 7 that are freely available online:
The following 3 phrasebooks and guides introduce the basic necessary phrases for most aspects of life in Korea. They are the best place to start.
1. The National Institute for the Korean Language Phrasebook
- FREE beginner phrasebook that’s available as a PDF online.
- Also freely available in Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Russian!
2. Life in Korea Phrasebook
- This online phrasebook is broken down in 19 different sections.
- It also includes 36 categories of nouns, and a list of Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs, and Conjunctions.
3. Wikitravel’s Phrasebook
- Includes a brief grammar guide, pronunciation guide, and all the basics of Hangul.
- Also includes 13 basic sections of phrases.
Slang & Street Korean
Some of the following 3 contain vulgar expressions. Use at your own peril.
There are indeed very many useful casual and slang expressions that can be used with your friends on a regular basis. But, the two books below also contain a chapter of two on the “dirty” stuff that you’d see in R-rated movies. But I figured, it’s useful for understanding Korean more regardless or whether or not you actually use the phrases.
4. TOPIK Guide Slang and Proverbs
- Currently including 426 slang expressions and phrases. [CLEAN]
5. Making Out in Korean Phrasebook
- Includes 14 chapters with various expressions
- Two chapters (Curses & Insults, Lover’s Language) contain [EXPLICIT] content.
- Purchase the book on Yes24.com
- Or, purchase the sequel (More Making out in Korean)
6. Dirty Korean Phrasebook
- Includes 9 chapters with various slang expressions (alternate link)
- Two chapters (Horny Korean, Angry Korean) contain [EXPLICIT] content.
- Purchase the book on Yes24.com
7. Smartphone Phrasebook by Cogent
This app is a free download, but doesn’t include all the content for free. A total of 6 sections are available in the “Lite version” and you can upgrade to the full 18 sections (including Tongue Twisters) in “Pro” for around 5,000 won.
- Omniglot (short) online phrasebook
- Berlitz phrasebook (on Yes24.com)
- Lonely Planet phrasebook (on Yes24.com)
I am currently using the Lonely Planet phrase book. Its great and has a 3500 word dictionary in it too. Has some nice introduction sections about the culture, language, grammar etc. And it is really portable – perfect pocket size. I have also used the Japanese version…
I used to think phrase books were for travelers who wanted a a quick reference to local phrases while in a country for a short time. While this probably is true, I now think of a phrase book as the first building blocks of learning a language. I think that learning phrases “by heart” is maybe the best starting place for learning a new language and getting to use the language with people ASAP. Then, as your language study gets a bit further and you start learning grammar and vocabulary “on their own”, you will already have full sentences in your mind that use that grammar of vocabulary.
What do you think? If you had 3 months to learn to SPEAK a language, how would you prioritize your learning? What would you learn first, second, third, … and last?
If I had three months to SPEAK a language, I would start with listening and the alphabet. I’d probably try to watch tons of TV in that language to get used to the flow and feel of the language and I’d do my best to learn the alphabet as well as possible in order to be able to read everything around me. Next, I’d work on phrases either from a phrasebook, textbook, or language exchange partner. But, likely the biggest help WOULD be a language exchange partner. If you could meet daily, it would be best. Then you’d be forced to use the language daily and you’d improve quite quickly.