[KS] KSR 2004-10: _Elementary Korean_, by Ross King and Jae-Hoon Yeon

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Mon Jun 21 06:42:28 EDT 2004

_Elementary Korean_, by Ross King and Jae-Hoon Yeon, 2000. Boston; 
Rutland, Vermont; Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing. xxii + 409 pp. (ISBN: 
0-8048-2079-1). US $42.95 (hard cover); includes a 74-minute audio 

reviewed by S. M. Hong-Schunka
Munich University
Hong-Schunka at ostasien.fak12.uni-muenchen.de

	Elementary Korean is a textbook for beginning and 
intermediate learners of Korean that includes an audio CD-ROM. It is 
written by two distinguished linguists who have substantial teaching 
experience in English-speaking universities in Europe and North 
America, and is based on Samuel Martin and Young-Sook C. Lee's 
Beginning Korean (1969). The main objective of the book is described 
as developing "communicative competence in contemporary spoken Korean 
through a systematic and streamlined introduction to the fundamental 
patterns of the language" (p. xv).  The authors recommend it as "an 
out-of-class reference tool to ready the students for whatever 
activities their teacher has prepared for them in class", and not as 
a classroom course book.  The text provides an ample vocabulary 
(approximately 1,000 words), example sentences, extensive grammar 
notes and pattern practice, some of which are recorded on the 
accompanying CD-ROM. Throughout the book, examples are given in the 
Korean script hankwul; both polite informal and formal styles of 
speech (-hayyo and -hapnita) are employed. The book, purchased easily 
through major bookshops and internet providers such as Amazon, is 
very readable.

	The book consists of 15 lessons and a reference section. The 
two initial lessons introduce useful basic Korean expressions such as 
how to say "yes", "no", "thank you", etc. with the help of the 
international phonetic alphabet. Hankwul is introduced in lessons 3 
and 4, which explain in great detail how to read and write the Korean 
consonants and vowels, and how to combine them into syllables. 
Furthermore, the major pronunciation rules about the assimilation of 
consonants in consecutive syllables are discussed with examples. The 
grammar lessons proper (5-9 and 11-14) consist of four sections: 
Korean dialogues (in most cases two to four pieces), vocabulary, 
lesson notes with grammatical explanations and exercises. At the 
beginning of each lesson the authors specify the planned 
communicative goal. Some lessons (6, 11, 12, 13) contain extra 
reading passages. The two review lessons (10, 15) consist exclusively 
of grammar reviews and exercises. The final reference section 
includes six subsections: 1. Korean to English vocabulary; 2. English 
to Korean vocabulary; 3. Korean to English pattern glossary; 4. 
English to Korean pattern glossary; 5. English equivalents to the 
Korean dialogues; 6. answer key to written exercises.

	The main dialogues concern daily tasks such as introducing 
people, buying things, asking locations and making telephone 
reservations, etc. In general, such dialogues are more effective than 
descriptive texts when one's goal in learning a language is 
communicative competence, as is the case with Elementary Korean. For 
students outside of Korea who have few opportunities to meet native 
Korean speakers, the dialogues provided that concern common daily 
situations and are easily learned will prove particularly helpful. 
The meanings of some expressions in the dialogues are provided 
immediately below in the notes section. It is not clear to me, 
however, why the authors postpone the English translation of the 
dialogues until the final reference section. In most cases students 
starting to learn Korean find it difficult to read the hankwul text 
and comprehend its semantic content at the same time. Here English 
translations can be helpful. Students might also profit more if the 
book contained additional simple texts for reading in every lesson.

	The vocabulary section explains the English meaning of the 
words used in the dialogues and provides additional words that 
students may employ to achieve the specified communicative tasks. The 
English meaning of the entire Korean vocabulary in the book can also 
be found in the reference section. Students will likely find the list 
of English words and their Korean equivalents in the reference 
section handy as a dictionary substitute, although I wonder if it 
might not have been better to provide the page number on which each 
word initially appears, instead of the lesson number. Most of my 
beginning students have difficulties browsing through a hankwul text 
and identifying a word within it immediately. Also, it is somewhat 
confusing to determine which lexical items occur in the vocabulary 
lists and which in the pattern glossaries. Some critical students may 
note the lack of historical or cultural vocabulary in the book 
because of the setting of the dialogues in a contemporary South 
Korean urban environment.

	The lesson notes provide explanations of grammatical 
morphemes and structures occurring in the dialogues supplemented by 
further examples. Because of the agglutinative nature of the Korean 
language, many of the notes focus on norminal particles and verbal 
endings. In general, the authors' explanations are concise and easy 
to understand. For obvious didactic purposes they sometimes tend to 
simplify to a considerable degree. For example, in the grammar note 
5.2 Sentence Subjects and Topics, the subject particles -i and -ka 
are claimed to be one and the same word with two pronunciations (p. 
61), although this is certainly controversial. Historically speaking, 
the use of -ka as subject particle is a relatively recent phenomenon 
and began to spread into Korean for the first time in the 17th 
century. Nevertheless, it was not until the mid-18th century that 
usage of -ka expanded to subject nouns ending in all vowel sounds, as 
in contemporary Korean. Before that time, -ka had selected only head 
nouns ending in the so-called "-I-Type" vowels such as 'ay' or 'ey', 
etc. Of course, one might argue that mention of such derivational or 
historical processes will burden students at the beginning stage.

	Most exercises are structural drills that require the 
students to practice grammar patterns by choosing the correct 
variation for particles or words, completing sentences, filling in 
blanks, building sentences with given words and phrases, engaging in 
sentence transformations, translating to Korean or English, repeating 
vocabulary, etc. Although some students may find such drills rather 
uninteresting, learning a foreign language is a long and at times 
tedious process that requires some rote learning and frequent 
repetition of grammatical patterns. If carried out in conjunction 
with the CD-ROM, some exercises can also be entertaining. My students 
found the pronunciation exercises in lesson 3 that introduce country 
names, English loan words and three-way contrasts of simple, 
aspirated and tense consonants quite amusing. Answers to the written 
exercises are provided at the end of the book so that students can 
check and improve the mistakes. It is not clear to me, however, why 
no answers are provided for some exercises (5.1, 7.6, 8.4, 10.4, 
10.7, 11.1, 11.5, 11.6), although this may be because some answers 
are obvious from the lesson notes. Particularly for two very 
interesting and challenging exercises (11.5: telling a story in 
Korean, and 11.6: an autobiographical sketch), a model text may have 
proved helpful to the students in constructing their own.

	Finally, the CD-ROM is recorded by several Korean native 
speakers and foreign students, who speak standard Seoul dialect in a 
correct and articulate manner. Since few Korean-language audio 
materials suitable for university-level courses exist, this CD-ROM is 
a very welcome production that can contribute to students' listening 
and speaking ability. Nonetheless, the organization of the CD-ROM is 
a little confusing because although there are 24 tracks in all, the 
book has only 15 lessons. Thus it is difficult to find the 
appropriate match between text and CD-ROM. The CD-ROM provides all 
dialogues and reading passages of the content lessons. In some 
lessons (4-7) selected examples in the lesson notes are reproduced, 
too. Exercises are recorded only in lessons 3 and 4 on Korean 
pronunciation. But the two review lessons (10, 15), which, in my 
opinion, are as important as the lessons that introduce new grammar 
material, are omitted. I also wonder why the grammar notes on Korean 
verbs (7.1-7.5) in the lesson 7 are excluded in the CD-ROM, while 
grammar notes on other linguistic elements (7.6-7.13) are recorded. 
This is all the more surprising because the authors jokingly call 
this particular lesson, which introduces all major verb types, the " 
'heartbreak hill' of the course--if the students don't survive it, 
they will not survive the course (or ever learn Korean, for that 
matter)." (p. xviii). In general, the earlier lessons (1-7, 
particularly 3-4) are better represented on the CD-ROM than the 
latter, more difficult lessons (8-14), although students may need 
more assistance with those that come later.

	To conclude, Elementary Korean is a solid textbook suitable 
for beginning to intermediate learners of Korean, which provides 
"comprehensive and detailed" grammar notes and "original" dialogues. 
The dialogues deal with daily situations and are thus useful and have 
the potential to motivate students to practise more often than other 
descriptive texts. The exercises that offer various structural and 
translation drills can enhance students' grammar skills. By studying 
with this book and the CD-ROM the students will be able to learn some 
fundamental patterns of the Korean language and achieve substantial 
communicative competence in Korean. For students who want to proceed 
to a more advanced level, the same authors have published Continuing 

Hong-Schunka, S.M. 2004
_Elementary Korean_, by Ross King and Jae-Hoon Yeon (2000)
_Korean Studies Review_ 2004, no. 10
Electronic file: http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr04-10.htm
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