Traveling to Korea? 5 Articles to Check Out Before You Go 

From its rustic countrysides to its bustling cities, South Korea is becoming an increasingly popular place to visit, both for professionals and vacationers. But regardless of whether you’re traveling to Korea for business or pleasure, the best way to gain the most from your experience is to learn a little bit of the language. That way, you’ll be able to form meaningful connections with the locals, who will undoubtedly be impressed by your knowledge of their language and culture. And lucky for you, doing so is both easy and fun with our quick Korean language toolkit, which we’ve hand-selected to combine the best resources from a variety of media –guaranteed to put your Korean language skills on the fast-track to success.

curation_Korean1Image via Deiaemeth / Wikipedia

Course book: Basic Korean: a Grammar and Workbook, Andrew Byon

Especially for English speakers, Korean isn’t easy: it involves a completely new alphabet, unfamiliar grammar points, and very little shared vocabulary. Andrew Byon, the author of Basic Korean: a Grammar and Workbook understands this, and focuses on the aspects of Korean that are most challenging to English speakers. In doing so, he clearly explains difficult linguistic structures with plenty of examples and exercises. Basic Korean is a straightforward, no-frills textbook that will serve as an excellent guide as you begin to study Korean. Full review of Basic Korean: a Grammar and Workbook

Song: “Like Rain and Music”, Hyun-shik Kim

A soft, calming song about love and loss, “Like Rain and Music” will put your mind at ease if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the daunting task of learning Korean. Though not well known outside of Korea, the song is exceedingly popular and beloved by the locals, and is bound to be an excellent conversation-starter with your new Korean friends and colleagues. In addition, Hyun-shik Kim makes extensive use of honorifics (suffixes added to convey respect) when describing his ex-lover –a careful review of the lyrics will help you immensely in demystifying the unfamiliar concept of honorifics. Full review of “Like Rain and Music”

Novel: Years Like Flowers, Sun-ok Gong

A recently-published novel written by well-known author Sun-ok Gong, Times Like Flowers tells the story of a battle between a building company and a group of residents in a small village. The novel provides valuable insight on modern Korean history, in which there is often a conflict between new development and the preservation of tradition. In addition, the novel provides great written examples of onomatopoeic words, which are used very frequently in Korean. Consider buying the book on tape so you can hear how these sound when said by a native speaker! Full review of Years Like Flowers

curation_Korean2Image via J. Patrick Fischer / Wikipedia

Movie: Oldboy, Park Chan-wook

Warning: this is not a movie for the faint of heart! Oldboy is gripping, intense, and disturbing. Still, it’s arguably the most famous movie produced in South Korea, and everyone in Korea is sure to have seen it, thus making it a great way to make conversation. Perhaps surprisingly, Oldboy is particularly useful for those who are traveling for business, as Dae-Su, the protagonist, frequently employs official language that’s used in formal and professional settings. Full review of Oldboy

Poetry: Bamboo Flower, Doo-seok Choi

The poems contained within Bamboo Flower are somewhat of an anomaly in that they avoid the complex, metaphorical language that’s typical of poetry. In fact, the language used in Bamboo Flower is simple and straightforward, and is thus ideal for beginners who are just getting used to the alphabet and grammatical structures of Korean. The poems, which are short and easily digestible, will also give you valuable knowledge about the history of Korea –score some bonus points with the locals by showing off what you’ve learned. Full review of Bamboo Flower

Typical shopping street in Seoul, KoreaImage via Ivan Herman

Indeed, learning Korean is no easy task, especially for English speakers. But for that reason, the locals you meet in Korea will be even more impressed by your ability to speak their language and understand their culture. This toolkit is a great way to get started, and will prepare you to check out more songs, movies, and books in Korean. More serious scholars may also be interested in our numerous Korean course book reviews.

And for those who truly want to improve their Korean quickly and thoroughly, there’s no better way to learn than to take lessons from qualified, native-speaking teachers. Take a look at our Korean-language our course and package options here.