About three weeks ago, I was super excited to finally get my new Korean textbooks! I’d heard a lot about the KLEAR Integrated Korean series from a number of Korean learners online so I was curious to give it a try. I know a lot of people have already reviewed this book but just thought I’d throw in my two cents. Tons of pictures ahead…
The series is broken up into 5 levels and 10 books: Beginning I & II, Intermediate I & II, Advanced Intermediate I & II, Advanced I & II, and High Advanced I & II. I wasn’t really sure what level I was at, but after doing some investigating, I decided to order Intermediate II and Advanced Intermediate I. Turns out that was a good decision! Intermediate II is quite easy for me in terms of grammar and there are a lot of familiar words but, of course, it’s always good to solidify the things you know. Now, more on the organization of the book (pictures from Intermediate II):
Each chapter opens with a set of mini conversations centering around the main theme of that particular chapter. This is actually really great because it’s a very natural way to integrate the different levels of speech. What’s even better is that you can download and listen to the conversation (and, in fact, the narration as well as the grammar points) from their awesome website. A lot of textbooks tend to have unnaturally formal conversations but not this one. The conversations are among people of different social statuses so we can see a lot of banmal along with jondaemal as well as honorific speech. Also, since this series was made primarily for university students, the topics tend to be things young people would frequently talk about. This could be a good thing or bad thing depending on whether you’re a university student or not. (Personally, I prefer reading conversations like these over “office”-type conversations I’ve seen in other texts).
Next, in the chapter is a short narration section followed by comprehension questions. A lot of textbooks have conversation-style chapter openings but I’ve seen very few that have narrations so this is a big plus point. In Korean and many other languages, the written language is quite different compared to the spoken language. The narration allows one to practice reading longer, more complex sentences in plain style.
Following the comprehension questions is a list of new words and expressions, organized by part of speech. There are also additional notes about the new words and expressions. This section (not shown) is really really useful because it explains certain idiomatic expressions as well as the context and literal translation of certain phrases. There are also plenty of examples on how to use the new expressions.
Next is a culture section which, personally, is my favorite part of the chapter! I’ve always thought you can’t truly learn a language without immersing yourself in its culture. The information the book provides is interesting, brief, and just good to know.
Now, onto the most important part: Grammar. I have to say, this book has one of the most organized grammar sections I’ve ever seen. It’s separated into smaller subsections, with each subsection designated by a boxed and labeled grammar point. Following the grammar point is a series of examples, some notes, and then exercises. Finally, at the end of the chapter, you can find the English translation of the conversations and the narration at the beginning of the chapter so you can double check your comprehension (not shown).
Additional Thoughts: There are some very minor issues that should be addressed. First of all, these books are meant to be used in a classroom setting so the pace might be quick and there may not be as many exercises as one likes but I think for a dedicated self-learner, there should be no problem. Another issue is that there are no answers to any of the exercises. But again, I think the internet provides plenty of opportunities for self-learners to practice Koreans with native speakers (through Lang-8, Twitter, etc.) so the fact that there isn’t an answer key in the book isn’t a big disadvantage.
Honestly, this is one of the best language books I’ve ever seen. It’s beautifully organized, the explanations are thorough, and there’s no dearth of examples. Also, it may be a minor thing, but the Hangeul font type in the text is also large and spaced out in way – making it much easier on eyes that aren’t used to reading in Korean. However, in my opinion, the absolute best thing about these books is that they are RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP. Yes. They sell for around 20 USD each which is kind of mind-blowing because most “really good” language texts are around the 30+ USD range. FINALLY, the answer to a poor, Korean-learning college student’s prayers!
If you’re looking for a textbook to study Korean from, I highly recommend this series!!