[Book review]- Korean Grammar in Use (Advanced)

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The “Korean Grammar in Use” series is one of the resources I recommend the most when people ask me which resources they should (or shouldn’t) use to study Korean. That is not to say that it’s flawless, but it’s solid for sure. If you want to start diving into advanced grammar or are looking for something to supplement your other advanced grammar resources, here are a few good and bad things about “Korean Grammar in Use (Advanced).”

NOTE: A lot of what I say here, especially in regards to the formatting of the book, will be applicable to “Korean Grammar in Use (Intermediate)” as well since the books follow the same format. I imagine that this also holds true for the beginner edition as well, but I can’t say for sure since I’ve never actually read a copy.

Review:

Accessibility

One of the good things about the KGIU series is that it is available not only in English but also in other languages like Mandarin and Japanese. If you’re a native speaker of one of those languages and would like a more comfortable read, or if you’re learning one of those languages and would like to tackle learning Korean through one of your second languages, this could be really beneficial! A lot of Korean grammar resources are printed in just one language, so having editions in multiple languages is a plus.

Content

As for the content, I find that KGIU’s explanations are fairly clearly written and easy to understand in both Korean and English. The initial description of the main function(s) of each grammar point is succinctly introduced and is usually accompanied by a table showing you how to conjugate the grammar point properly. Any specific limitations, extra usages of the grammar, or just other important things to know or remember then appear in the “더 알아볼까요?” section. After all is read and done (har har har), you’ll have quite a bit of information to work with! Compared to other sources I have used, I would say that “Korean Grammar in Use (Advanced)” is usually the most detailed when describing the usage of each grammar point, but the way in which that information is introduced and formatted doesn’t leave the reader feeling like they’re being barraged with too much at the same time.

Grammar comparisons

Within the “더 알아볼까요?” section is another sub-section that I think is worthy of its own special mention. In the “비교해 볼까요?” sub-section, KGIU shows and breaks down grammar points that either look similar to the target grammar or have similar meanings (or both) and explains how each is similar and different with the target grammar. While other sources that I’ve used will usually mention things like “This grammar form can be switched with X form” as necessary, they don’t tend to have comparisons like KGIU does. Another excellent feature and a reason why I recommend this series~

Practice questions

Wrapping up the positives for this book is the amount of practice questions. Each grammar form has at least two pages of practice questions accompanying it, which is more than other books I have used. The exercises are fairly simple but effective, usually involving choosing the appropriate word for a sentence from a word bank and using it with the target grammar to complete the sentence, or changing or combining sentences using the target grammar. At the end of each section—the book is divided into sections of grammar with similar meanings and/or usages—there are also some extra multiple choice questions to check if you have properly understood the differences between the forms.

Finally, on to some things that are specific to “KGIU (Advanced)” and not the series as a whole!

Bilingual explanations

(Okay, this isn’t really specific to the advanced edition, but this is almost certainly a non-issue for intermediate and beginner learners, so…) A lot of advanced grammar resources are written purely in Korean, whereas “KGIU (Advanced)” uses first Korean and then English for its grammar explanations and example sentences. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. If you are working on removing English totally from your studies, and think having the English translations right there might be too distracting, this might not be the book for you. However, if you aren’t quite yet comfortable reading grammar explanations in Korean but want to give it a shot and be able to check yourself, this is excellent. Depends on what you’re looking for!

Is the grammar even useful??

Another thing to be aware of—and this really applies to all advanced Korean grammar study materials—is that you will often find yourself questioning the usefulness of grammar you encounter. Once you get up to that level, the remaining grammar left to learn is largely grammar that crops up in mostly literature or more formal settings like news and business presentations, etc. More than once I have asked a friend or coworker to help clarify a grammar point only to be met by “Why are you learning that?? I don’t think I’ve ever personally used that in my life!” Of course, they still know what it means, so while you might not find yourself using some of these grammar forms much, you still might encounter them and need to know what they mean. This isn’t really a good thing or a bad thing; just how it is!

Verdict:

Overall, I’m a big fan of the KGIU series, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for a strong source for learning Korean grammar 🙂

Happy studying, everyone~!