[Book Review] – McGill Korean 1

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You guys, I am very excited to be reviewing this book! I first started learning Korean about seven years ago as a first-year student at McGill University. I loved my Korean classes and was so happy to go to class every day, largely thanks to my awesome professor at the time, 김명희 교수님. Well, we still keep in touch, and today I am reviewing a textbook that she wrote and recently got published! So here are my disclaimers for this review:

I received my copy of the book for free, as my professor asked the publisher to send me a copy, but I was in no way contacted by the publishing company to review this, and my professor did not ask me to review it either. Rather, I said that I would review the book and post about it here—before she even offered to send me a free copy; I was set to go out and buy it myself—because I like reviewing books and helping you guys find good study material! I will review this book as objectively as possible!

And now, let’s get into it!

General impression

Honestly, I love this book. I have a few little gripes about things here and there, but over all, I think this is a great beginner resource. The book is written for classroom usage, but it is structured and written in a way that is very friendly to self-studiers as well! It’s a thin book at just over 200 pages, but it packs in a large amount of information in that space. Also included are accompanying audio files for the book, which must be downloaded from the publisher’s website.

Learning Hangul

“McGill Korean 1″ starts with a short intro to Hangul that, blessedly, doesn’t use romanization—sort of. What it uses to represent the sounds of the characters is like a simplified version of IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), and either way, it is only seen on those few first pages and never again in the entire book. That is, you must rely on the audio files to develop an ear for the sounds and use that to guide you. The Hangul intro chapter ends with a listen-and-repeat exercise with a fairly large list of words to get you used to hearing and producing the sounds, and then you’re on your own!

Chapters and exercises

The structure of each chapter is generally: Dialogue, related grammar, dialogue 2, related grammar, exercises, and a vocab list. Some chapters even have three dialogue + related grammar sections. The dialogues read smoothly and have accompanying audio files, and the related grammar—there’s a lot of it—is explained clearly and concisely so that even self-studiers should be able to understand. As for the practice exercises, I was surprised by just how many there are! Especially toward the end of the book, as the grammar gets more complicated, you’ll find chapters with three or more pages of practice problems, ranging from listening exercises to fill-in-the-blank, sentence writing, and more. There is an answer key in the back of the book for when you’re done with the problems.

A bone to pick

If I were to gripe about anything about this book, it would be that the large majority of the example sentences that accompany the grammar explanations do not have translations. All of them use grammar and vocab that has already appeared in the book and are fairly simple to understand, but I’m sure some people would like having that translation available to make sure that they’re interpreting the sentence correctly. Of course, in a classroom setting this isn’t a problem as one could simply ask the teacher.

Verdict

Overall, this book is an excellent beginner resource! With a large amount of useful grammar, clear grammar explanations, and a lot of practice exercises all laid out in a visually appealing package of bright colors and cute illustrations, “McGill Korean 1″ will get you to a solid high beginner level, enough to have simple daily life conversations with people around you.