Looking to Learn Korean in 2021? Kyoungrok Ko Makes it Easy

January 18, 2021 by Rebecca Mangra

Korean is one of the hardest languages to learn for those whose first language is English, yet its explosion in North America continues to blaze. With the rise in popularity of K-pop (Korean pop) and Korean television dramas, many people, including University of Toronto students, are eager to learn the language. Associate Professor Kyoungrok Ko, coordinator of the Korean Language Program at EAS, looks to make the learning experience seamless, easy, and fun.

Professor Ko published New Generation Korean: Beginner Level, alongside Mihyon Jeon, Daehee Kim, Ahrong Lee and fellow EAS faculty member, Yujeong Choi, in the fall of 2020. The textbook is aimed at beginners at the secondary and post-secondary education levels, as well as learners studying Korean independently. The textbook offers full-colour images, engaging activities, audio files and a vocabulary app, making it a well-rounded addition to your bookshelf.

"New Generation Korean: Beginner Level" book cover.
Photo Credit: University of Toronto Press

The EAS Department asked Professor Ko some questions for insight into his new textbook.

What are some of the challenges of writing a textbook vs. a novel or something more creative? What was the writing process like?

Normally, writing textbooks involves collaboration among multiple authors. Consensus among co-authors from planning to publication is important and not easy to reach. For the last two years, the authors of the textbook worked individually during weekdays and got together every weekend for discussion and feedback sessions on each individual's work. We have just published the beginner-level textbook and workbook. The intermediate-level textbook and workbook will be available next summer. We plan to keep working on the series to publish up to the advanced level.

The textbook is heavily illustrated and comes with audio files as well as a vocabulary app. Why do you think engaging visuals and interactive features are important for language acquisition?

One of the most desirable ways to learn a foreign language is to use it for communication. But at the foundation levels, it is not easy to solely use the target language because a learner's language ability is limited. The textbook’s contextual app supports can compensate for the language limitation and help the cognitive processes of learners in the target language. Thus, we tried to utilize illustrations, audio files, and other interactive features as much as possible in the beginner-level textbook and workbook. The contextual support will be gradually reduced in the upper levels where learners can rely on their language proficiency.

What prompted you and your co-authors to create this textbook? Aside from learning Korean, what else will students gain from it?

Most post-secondary institutions in Canada have been using textbooks written for learners in the United States. As contextual support is important for learning a foreign language, our students can benefit from using textbooks contextually situated in Canada. The authors purposefully included Canadian real-life contexts such as the name of cities, the Bata Shoe Museum and Korea Town (located in Toronto), as well as the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). Students will be more intrigued and be able to apply what they learned in the class to their lives in Canada more easily.

How is this textbook different from the other Korean language textbooks on the market?

Along with the contextual support, the authors employed recent technology in the field of book publication. Our textbook is available in three types: paper-based textbook, eBook, and online-based interactive textbook. Students can choose the type of textbook according to their preference. Even for the paper-based textbook, students can listen to the audio files immediately using their smartphones by scanning the QR codes. The eBook is available in PDF or EPUB format. Students can choose the online interactive textbook by logging into the textbook’s homepage to use the fully interactive features including audio, animation, interactive exercises, and automated feedback. Though students still preferred to use the paper-based textbook this year, many international students benefited from the presence of our eBook and online textbook. They could use the textbook in their own countries despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Generation Korean: Beginner Level is available for purchase online and anywhere books are sold.