[BOOK REVIEW] Learn Korean Through Songs / 노래로 배우는 한국어

Happy New Year to all! Thank you for spending the year 2013 with me and I hope we will still study Korean together this 2014!

This will be my first post for the New Year and my first review of the year! I know that this post is already long overdue so I extend my apologies to those who are waiting for the review. In return, I made sure that this post is a detailed one to help those language learners out there in choosing the right book for them.

I won this book via twoChois’ Free Korean language book raffle last year. I was instructed to make a review of this book after using it. Now, I think I have already used it enough for me come up with a review. I really enjoyed using the book especially reading the culture notes in each lesson.

노래로 배우는 한국어 - Learn Korean Through Songs Textbook

노래로 배우는 한국어 – Learn Korean Through Songs Textbook – Front Cover

Again, twoChois’ team, thank you for the book! (Make sure to check out their site for awesome raffle contests and of course, for awesome goodies.)

So here we go!

Title of the Book: 노래로 배우는 한국어

Number of Pages: 272

Authors: Lee Sunmi, Jang Sunghee, Jung Hyejin, Han Eunsuk

ISBN: 978-89-7699-873-6

Contents: Book (1pc), Audio CD (1pc)

Back cover

Back cover

Side View

Side View

Audio CD Containing the Songs

Audio CD Containing the Songs

The book has five parts: Preface, Detailed List of Lessons and Songs, Organization of Lessons, Songs/Lesson Proper and the Appendix.

There are 30 songs or 30 lessons inside this book. As what I have noticed and read, those 30 lessons were divided into two parts. In lessons 1-15, you can learn different Korean grammar patterns while in lessons 16-30, you can learn more about the Korean culture. Each lesson has a featured song and like what the title of the book suggests, you will learn Korean grammar, vocabulary words, phrases and sentences through the lyrics and the content of the song.

Sample Page – Song/Lesson List

All of the songs used in the book are popular Korean folk, trot, ballad and pop songs. Some of the examples are: 열 꼬마 인디언(Ten Little Indians – L1), 죽어도 못 보내(Can’t let you go even if I die by 2AM – L9), Gee by SNSD (L16), 샤방샤방 (Shabang Shabang by Park Hyunbin – L27) and 겨울 아이 (Winter Child by Suzy – L29).

Every lesson has the lyrics of the song and the piano sheet.

Every lesson has the lyrics of the song and the piano sheet.

As what I have mentioned, each lesson is related to the song. For example, Lesson 1’s song is 열 꼬마 인디언(Ten Little Indians). Lesson 1 is then, all about numbers and counters like 명(counter for people) and 권(counter for book). Another example is Lesson 9 with the song죽어도 못 보내(Can’t let you go even if I die by 2AM) hence, the grammar pattern for Lesson 9 is 아/어도.

Sample Page - Grammar Lesson

Sample Page – Grammar Lesson

Since lessons 16 to 30 discusses more about Korean culture, songs 16 to 30 is connected to some culture components. Lesson 16’s Gee discussed the hype made by the song in Korea. One of the activities in L16 is to make fan signs of SNSD and to learn the choreography of Gee! I was really surprised to see those kinds of exercises haha! Then Lesson 29 is about 겨울 아이 (Winter Child), which discusses the birthday culture in Korea such as the 돌잔치(1st birthday), 환갑잔치(60th birthday) and the 미역국 or the birthday soup.

Sample Page - Culture Notes abput 신조어 (1)

Sample Page – Culture Notes about 신조어 (1)

Sample Page - Culture Notes abput 신조어 (2)

Sample Page – Culture Notes ab0ut 신조어 (2)

The sample pages above feature one of my favorite lessons. These were the words invented/shortened when the year 2000 started and when internet became more accessible to people. In Korean, they call it 신조어. Some of the famous example of 신조어 were 초딩(shortened form of 초등학생/elementary student) and 셀카(shortened form of 셀프 카메라/self-camera/selca). I really appreciated this lesson because I was able to understand some of the contracted words that I always see on Twitter. This lesson on 신조어 made me understand the  new trends in Korean language especially Korean on the internet.

After every lesson, there are games and interesting exercises. Some of the exercises will ask you to supply the missing word in the lyrics of the featured song, some games require you to play with your friends and some exercises were just there for you to check your understanding of the grammar and vocabulary lessons.

Sample Page - Games

Sample Page – Games

Sample Page - Exercise

Sample Page – Exercises

There you go with the pictures and explanations of the contents of the book. Now, I will be sharing the good and bad points of the book:

Pros:

  • The quality of the book is really good. I liked the texture of the cover and also the pages of the book. The pages were glossy but not too glossy that it’s too smooth that you will not be able to write some notes or answers to the exercises. I know that most language learners use pens especially pencils when answering exercises in their Korean books. Well, I have a good news for pencil lovers because the pages of this book is “pencil-friendly”! Books like Yonsei’s books are not really pencil-friendly, meaning you cannot really write well on the pages using a pencil. I was really happy that my notes written with a pencil were clear and readable.
  • The book is not too heavy. I always bring my book in school especially if I have lots of free time. It’s light, well, lighter than my TOPIK 150 and Yonsei Books.
  • Most of the exercises were really interesting. If you are a language teacher, those exercises and games will be very helpful in teaching.
  • The price of the book can be considered cheap. For only 17,000 won (roughly 16-17 dollars), you will get a textbook/songbook with a free audio CD. All songs inside the CD can be copied to your computer if you want to have a copy of the songs in your phones and other mobile devices. I really suggest for you to copy the contents of the CD to your iTunes or your favorite media player. Of course, never upload them online because its unlawful ㅋㅋ.
  • There is also a complete list of the songs’ lyrics at the appendix. All the lyrics were translated to English, Japanese and Chinese.
  • Another good point of this book is that it has a mini-vocabulary list which are included in the appendix. The list was also translated into English, Japanese and Chinese.
  • If you can play the piano or any musical instrument, then the music sheets may be useful and helpful to you.
  • In my opinion, this book will be helpful to those who are in the intermediate to lower advanced level in learning Korean. There are a lot of vocabulary words that I am not familiar with so I find it very useful in my vocabulary and writing practice.
  • Most of the illustrations and pictures were okay. They are not really as nice as Yonsei’s but they can help you in getting a grasp of the lessons.
  • They used a wide variety of Korean songs and not only from one genre. I am now more knowledgeable of older Korean songs because of this book 🙂

Cons: 

  •  This book is not designed for beginners especially those who can’t read Korean yet. I didn’t mention in the previous paragraphs that the book has NO ENGLISH TRANSLATION except for the song lyrics and the vocabulary list in the appendix. Well, this book can be really challenging for beginners but if you are in the upper beginner shifting to intermediate, the book can help you to somewhat gauge your understanding of Korean.
  • One of the bad points of this book is that the grammar patterns in Lesson 1-15 are not explained. They only wrote sample sentences for each grammar patterns and nothing else. If you are looking for a book with a thorough grammar pattern explanation, then this will not be good for you. In the first place, I think that this book is not really a textbook which will help you understand grammar patterns well. This book is more of a practice book than a book with lots of grammar lessons. The grammar patterns were also limited so don’t expect a lot of grammar patterns.
  • If you are expecting to get an audio CD with songs sang by the original singers, then I’m sorry because all of the songs were sang by someone else. I don’t know who sang the versions but I am 100% sure that they were not the original singers.ㅋㅋ

There you go with the pros and cons! Overall, this book is really nice. It really helps me a lot in studying new vocabulary words and phrases. Also, there are some short paragraphs that I have read that helped me a lot in my writing practice. I think I am already in the upper Intermediate level in Korean so I find it easy to use and to understand. It would have been better if this book has a version for beginners. Like what I have mentioned above and in my previous blog posts, learning Korean through music is really effective, especially when studying vocabulary words!

I guess one of the possible questions that you may ask is this: “Can you recommend this book to those who are self-studying Korean?”

My answer is both Yes and No. Yes, if you already have a grasp of a lot of Korean vocabulary words and grammar and No, if you are still struggling with the Korean alphabet, basic grammar and vocabulary words. It really depends on your level. If you are in the beginner level and self-studying, and plans to use this book for practice, it’s okay but I am afraid that you will ask a lot of questions that the book may not be able to answer in any part of it. Also, it will take you a long time just to translate most of the parts of the book because it has no English translation. It will be good for practice but I recommend that you should have a stand-by dictionary when using it. For those who are in the Intermediate level and self-studying, it is okay to use it for practice. But be sure to have a stand-by dictionary too! Some of the words I encountered were really alien to me so our dearest friend, dictionary씨 will be very useful. I also recommend it for those who are preparing for Intermediate TOPIK!!!

Rating: 4/5

I hope this review will be helpful for those who are looking for new Korean language books. If you already have any experience in using this book, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about the book, the comment box is there for you to use. Or, if you have any questions, please do leave a comment. I will try my best to answer them 🙂 If you are interested in purchasing this book, please visit twoChois here on wordpress.

새해 복 많이 받으세요 여러분! 2014년에도 나와 함께 달려봅시다! 화이팅!

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8 thoughts on “[BOOK REVIEW] Learn Korean Through Songs / 노래로 배우는 한국어

  1. Happy new year 🙂 and thanks for the review I was wondering if it would be a good buy because I wasn’t finding a lot of information about the book online T_T

    Didn’t know if the setup was purely centered around just learning words from all those songs (which would be boring) but I see there is more content like culture lessons and how the Korean language is used in internet situations hehe ❤ just like on Twitter which I can never find on a Naver dictionary!!! Although I wonder why they couldn't use the original tracks?! is the person/people that sang the audio on the CD at least good? 🙂 if they suck I won't be able to study.

    Thanks for the review. I now have to decide on whether I should get it ❤ but now I can make an informed decision..

    • Hey Kay! I think they didn’t use the original tracks because of copyright issues? Maybe it will be more expensive to get the copyright if they will use the original ones. Don’t worry! The singers on the audio CD were okay. =))

  2. Wow, thanks for the detailed review. 🙂 However we actually did not know that the songs were not recorded by original singers. Maybe the IPR issue… Anyways it’s good to see that you seemed to enjoyed it a lot though. 새해 복 많이 받으세요. 🙂

    • Thank you too twochois team for the book! I am really enjoying the book! Haha! I wish I can join in another contest next time 🙂

      Yes, maybe the IPR issue or maybe the copyrights for the original tracks will really be expensive.

      Happy New Year too! And 새해 복 많이 받으세요!!

  3. In my Korean advanced class, the KOrean teacher make copies of some pages from that book. I love those lessons very much. You can learn many vocabularies and expressions through songs. We can even learn about the Korean culture. I’m totally in love with the Gee lesson. Hihi.I always wish to have the full book.

    However, the songs are not recorded by the original singers, so my Korean teacher often let us watch the video on the TV. ^^

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