20 Best Books to Learn Korean for Beginners to Advanced Learners

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Thanks to K-pop and K-dramas, the Korean language is fast becoming one of the most popular Asian languages for non-native speakers to learn. Most learners who have dipped their toes into the interesting world of Korean culture and language are probably familiar with phrases like 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo), 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida), and 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo).

But if you’re a serious learner who wants to move past the common Korean words and phrases, you will need some books to learn Korean.

Whether you want to learn to speak Korean, or you’re aiming to become a Hangul master, these Korean textbooks, grammar and vocabulary books, workbooks, and audiobooks will make Korean self-study an enjoyable learning experience.

Editor’s note: To reach fluency faster, combine these books with the famous Pimsleur audio course and the Drops flashcard app. And perhaps hire an affordable online tutor on italki? All these and more in this epic list of 40+ Korean learning resources, including FREE ones.

Why learn Korean with books?

Book to learn Korean

There are so many ways to learn Korean these days. You can opt for the most convenient – mobile apps. Or take online Korean courses or sign up for classes with a tutor. Others like learning via podcasts or videos.

So why take the old-fashioned way of learning a language through books?

  • Books explain the rules.

    Unlike mobile apps, most Korean language books go into great detail about the rules of grammar and style. Because textbooks are often a result of years of research and modification, it can explain the underlying principles behind rules and even provide a cultural context for the Korean language.
  • Books provide structure.

    Korean language learning books, especially textbooks, provide structure and a syllabus for you to learn Korean. It gives a systematic and orderly way of learning and thus, helps motivate you because you see where you’re headed.
  • They provide a variety of learning tools.

    Most of the books listed below are not just plain reading materials. They are accompanied by workbooks, phrasebooks, audio recordings, and other comprehensive resources that help give a diverse learning experience.

So without further ado, here’s our list of 20 best books to learn Korean for both beginners and advanced learners.

Best Korean books for beginners

1. Korean Made Simple: A beginner’s guide to learning the Korean language

Korean Made Simple is one of the most popular books to learn Korean. And for good reason.

The book packs lessons on the Korean language, as well as Korean culture and history. You can learn over 1,000 vocabulary words and phrases through 20 in-depth and fun lessons.

All the lessons are explained in a concise but engaging way, making sure to leave no room for confusion. Practice sections with answer keys are also provided.

This book also contains higher level notes for advanced Korean learners looking for a review of basic grammar and concepts, which should come in handy as you progress in studying Korean. Audio files may also be downloaded for free on gobillykorean.com.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners who have just started to learn Korean
  • Learners who need assistance in structuring their study
  • Newbies who want to quickly learn Korean grammar and vocabulary

2. Korean Picture Dictionary

Teaching yourself Korean can be a daunting task, especially for beginners, but it need not be boring. The Korean Picture Dictionary covers the 1,500 most useful Korean words and phrases, accompanied by hundreds of color photographs.

Each word or phrase is written in both Hangul characters and Romanized version, along with the English meaning. There are over 40 various topics covering basics like self-introduction, social media, using public transportation, and Korean food.

Downloadable audio recordings are also available on tuttlepublishing.com.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners looking for a fun way to learn Korean
  • Visual learners
  • Building your Korean vocabulary

3. Korean Made Easy

Designed for self-study, Korean Made Easy is one of the best books to learn Korean if you’re a beginner. Even with no background in Korean, you can learn through its easy yet comprehensive explanations of essential Korean words and grammar for daily use.

There are 20 self-study lessons with visual representations. Listening and reading exercises based on the Korean Language Proficiency Test (KLPT) are included, making it a great companion Korean textbook for anyone preparing for the exam.

This book is best for:

  • Learning Korean words and phrases used in everyday conversations
  • Absolute beginners who have no background in the Korean language
  • Fuss-free, structured self-study

4. Talk to Me in Korean

Few Korean textbooks focus on speaking Korean as much as Talk to Me in Korean does.

The site, which has been around since 2009, has produced a huge number of quality audio and video lessons. The textbook is based on those lessons.

Plus, you can learn to speak Korean with the downloadable audio recordings of vocabulary words, expressions, sample sentences and dialogues used in the book.

The lessons on basic greetings to counting numbers to having simple yet natural conversations are all beginner-friendly.

This book is best for:

  • Absolute beginners who want to learn Korean for practical use
  • Learning to speak Korean fast
  • Learners who thrive in self-studying

5. Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean

‘Entertaining’ is not the first word you’d associate with language study books but that’s exactly what this book is. One of the most fun books to learn Korean, this book is written with a sense of humor.

It’s not as structured as others in this list, but the lessons are designed for beginners who want to learn practical and natural Korean conversational language quickly.

This book is best for:

  • Learning practical phrases that will help you converse with confidence
  • Learners planning to visit Korea soon
  • Learning the logic behind Hangul and how to write it with ease

Best grammar books to learn Korean

6. Korean Grammar for International Learners

If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of how the language works, this Korean grammar book is highly recommended.

Although not the best for absolute beginners (you need to have a basic grasp of Korean or at least know how to read Hangul), it is one of the best books to learn Korean grammar.

It provides new and practical words, plenty of examples and good explanations, and is very structured and comprehensive.

Click to: Buy on Amazon

This book is best for:

  • Advanced learners looking to increase their Korean grammar knowledge
  • Learning a sense of when and how particular grammar rules apply
  • Learners with lots of attention span and don’t mind ‘just’ reading and not taking tests

7. Living Language Korean

If you’re looking for the best books to learn Korean, you can’t get more comprehensive than Living Language.

This unique multimedia course includes four books with 46 extensive lessons on vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing Hangul, and even culture notes.

It also includes audio CDs and has a free online learning hub for learners who prefer interactive lessons.

This book is best for:

  • Improving all aspects of Korean language learning (reading, writing, speaking, grammar)
  • Learners who thrive in a multimedia and comprehensive course
  • Developing a grasp on Korean grammar and confidently progressing from beginner to advanced levels

8. Let’s Speak Korean

If building your vocabulary while strengthening your grammar skills is your goal, this Korean book is a great choice. In a short period of time, you can learn over 1,400 Korean expressions and phrases with pronunciation and grammar guides, as well as translations.

The book comes with audio recordings that let you hear how each syllable is pronounced.

Although there’s more emphasis on teaching spoken Korean, the dedicated section on identifying the structures and grammar rules of Korean sentences helps learners get a more natural sense of grammar.

This book is best for:

  • Learning Korean in a more natural, practical way
  • Expanding your Korean vocabulary
  • Improving your Korean speaking skills

9. Korean From Zero!

Yet another multimedia resource, Korean From Zero! Is one of the best books to learn Korean if you’re a beginner who wants more than a regular textbook.

It contains a workbook with over 600 Korean words and expressions, lessons on how to read and write Hangul, extensive grammar lessons, audio recordings, online help, practice sheets, bilingual glossaries, and more. Its Kindle version also has flashcards.

The book teaches grammar through up-to-date, easy-to-grasp examples.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners looking for a fun and integrated approach to learning Korean
  • Advanced learners who want to brush up on their vocabulary and grammar
  • Building strong foundations on the Korean language

10. Korean Grammar in Use

Designed for learners who already have a decent foundation on Hangul and Korean vocabulary, this is one of the best books to learn Korean grammar.

With intensive but digestible grammar lessons, this systematically-arranged grammar book includes lots of sample sentences.

Grammar rules are demonstrated in a thorough but fun way.

This book is best for:

  • Advanced learners who already know how to read and write in Korean
  • Building strong foundations on Korean grammar
  • Understanding sentence structures and constructing your own

Best textbooks to learn Korean

11. Active Korean

Active Korean is a series of textbooks covering beginner to intermediate levels and is one of the best Korean textbooks for learners who are willing to study long-term.

This textbook was developed by the Seoul National University Language Institute, making it a credible resource for Korean language learners.

Containing dialogues that are based on everyday life situations, Active Korean provides lessons on vocabulary, grammar points, conversation drills, tasks and activities, as well as vivid pictures to stimulate the learners’ interest.

Click to: Buy on Amazon

This book is best for:

  • Self-studying
  • Beginners looking for lessons with practical examples and easy-to-grasp grammar reference
  • Learners who have tutors or are using other methods to learn and want a complementary resource to their lessons

12. Integrated Korean: Beginning 1

This best-selling Korean textbook developed by leading teachers and linguists uses effective teaching techniques that include contextualization and integration of speaking, listening, writing, and culture lessons.

There is adequate explanation on grammar rules, plus abundant examples and exercises.

The textbook also comes with a workbook, and audio files may be downloaded on kleartextbook.com.

This book is best for:

  • Learners who prefer a more academic approach to language learning
  • Studying Korean grammar and cultural context
  • Long-term study, as the series has 10 volumes

13. Sogang Korean 1A

The Sogang Korean series includes some of the most popular and best books to learn Korean. There are 12 levels, all accompanied by workbooks and audio files, taking you from beginner to advanced level.

Although Sogang Korean include grammar and vocabulary lessons, it focuses more on speaking rather than writing. This makes it an ideal resource for students who have tutors or those who are already in a classroom setting.

The second edition of the book also features updated cultural content for a more thorough coverage of modern Korea.

This book is best for:

  • Students in a classroom setting, or those working with tutors
  • Motivated self-learners
  • Supplementing other methods of learning (i.e. mobile apps, Korean writing books, etc.)

14. Elementary Korean

Textbooks are probably not what you’d grab if you’re looking for a fun way to learn a language, but Elementary Korean is still one of the best books to learn Korean. The lessons are very structured and geared towards building a strong foundation of the Korean language.

It presents Korean vocabulary and grammar with dozens of illustrations, extensive explanations, sample conversations, and exercises that make Korean language learning accessible and easier to understand.

Lessons are designed for beginners and focuses on writing Hangul.

This book is best for:

  • Absolute newbies with no prior knowledge of the Korean language
  • Independent learners looking for comprehensive resource
  • Beginners who want more writing practice

15. Ewha Korean 1-1

If you see yourself studying Korean in the long haul, Ewha Korean is one of the best Korean textbooks to get yourself from beginner to advanced. The series has 26 volumes, covering 6 levels of fluency.

One of the most comprehensive books to learn Korean, it helps improve basic speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.

There is more focus on enhancing one’s speaking skills through the “Try it” section where students can create their own dialogue through the words and phrases they learned.

This book is best for:

  • Self-studying. The lessons can be enjoyed even without a tutor.
  • Learners who want a comprehensive and organize resource material
  • Learning practical vocabulary through real-world scenarios

Best audiobooks to learn Korean

16. Pimsleur Korean

Pimsleur is one of the oldest and most popular language-learning methods. Backed by science, the Pimsleur method uses graduated interval recall and learning in context to boost retention.

At only 30 minutes per day, the audio lessons are quick and easy. Voice recordings feature native speakers and introduce core vocabulary through conversations. You can also access bonus learning materials such as reading lessons, digital flashcards, and games.

Here’s an offer for you: Try Pimsleur Korean absolutely FREE today!

This audiobook is best for:

  • Auditory learners who can’t commit to long hours of study
  • Beginners who want to strengthen their Korean speaking skills
  • Practical vocabulary spoken by native Koreans

17. Spoken World: Korean

One of the most effective way to learn to speak Korean is through audiobooks. The Spoken World series is a great resource, teaching you everything you need to speak, understand, read, and write in Korean.

It includes a coursebook, six audio CDs, natural dialogues, clear grammar notes, and plenty of culture notes for contextual learning.

No prior knowledge in the Korean language is needed, only perseverance.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners with no background in Korean
  • Learning through engaging, real-life dialogues
  • Learners looking for a comprehensive audiobook with extensive written content

18. Learn Korean for Beginners Easily & in Your Car!

Don’t be fooled by the unimaginative title; this is one of the best books to learn Korean on-the-go.

This audiobook contains over 1,500 common Korean words and phrases that are practical for daily use. Each word is pronounced slowly and multiple times for better recall and to make sure that you learn the correct pronunciation.

English translations are also provided.

This book is best for:

  • Beginners who want to learn how to speak Korean in a time-efficient way
  • Learners who don’t have no time to sit down and read textbooks or take courses
  • Learning Korean vocabulary used in everyday living

19. Learn Korean – Word Power 101

Want to learn to speak Korean the fast and free way? KoreanClass101 got you covered.

Lean Korean – Word Power 101 is one of the best ways to learn Korean is you want to start speaking Korean in minutes. The book lists down the top 101 most frequently used words in the Korean language.

Master the words through audio recordings of native Korean speakers, along with useful sample sentences and phrases.

Click to: Buy on Amazon

This book is best for:

  • Fuss-free and straightforward way of building one’s Korean vocabulary
  • Learners who thrive in fast-paced, non-structured courses
  • Beginners who want to start learning Korean speech in a fast and easy way

20. Korean Short Stories for Beginners: 20 Captivating Short Stories to Learn Korean & Grow Your Vocabulary the Fun Way!

Finally, what’s the most immersive and entertaining way of learning a language? Through stories!

Compiling 20 easy-to-read, compelling and fun stories, this audiobook lets you expand your Korean vocabulary in the most engaging way possible. One of the best books to learn Korean, this packs stories with funny, interesting, and/or thought-provoking real-life situations.

Each story is presented in Korean and English, allowing you to fully grasp what you’re listening to or reading. And yes, if you’re having trouble understanding the Korean version, you can always go back to the reading material to see the written Hangul version. Questions are also given at the end of each story to test you on what you learned.

This is best for:

  • Learning Korean in a fun and engaging way
  • Studying Korean in a cultural context
  • Learning practical vocabulary as well as slangs and sayings

Handy tips for learning Korean

Now that you’ve read this list of 20 best books to learn Korean, what’s next? Do you jump right in and buy yourself all these books? I advise against it. Here’s what you should do before and after choosing which book to buy:

  • Identify your reason for wanting to learn Korean.

    Why are you learning Korean in the first place? Do you want to learn Hangul? Choose a book that includes Hangul writing and reading lessons and lots of writing practice. Or do you just want to be able to talk in Korean? Go with vocabulary books or audiobooks. Knowing your reason and goal will help you trim down your options.
  • Determine your learning style.

    Do you prefer structured, academic lessons? Textbooks may seem old-fashioned but they’re the most organized resources out there. Are you the type who learns more from listening than reading? Go for audiobooks and books with audio guides.
  • That being said, learning how to read and write in Korean is still important and will help you learn the language faster. Books with Hangul lessons are your best bet.
  • Download mobile apps.

    Books are handy, yes, but apps are even more convenient. You don’t have to rely fully on applications; these can act as a supplement for your book of choice. Here’s a list of the top apps to learn Korean.
  • Invest in other resources or methods of learning.

    Paid tutors and online courses are paid for a reason – it gives value that you won’t get from other avenues. You can get the most out of your Korean textbook with the help of a coach, and you get corrections for your speaking practice. Need more resources? Here’s a list of the best Korean learning podcasts, websites, books, YouTube channels and even Netflix shows!
  • Stick to your book of choice.

    Most of the books listed above follow a roadmap and structure that is well-thought-out for maximum learning. Be patient, stick with it, and understand your learning habits as you go along. Your perseverance will not go to waste.

Now, you’re ready to get reading and learning! Taking the first step is always the hardest but you’ll soon reap the rewards. 즐겨라!

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