[Korean Textbook Review] “Korean Made Simple” by Billy Go

Korean Made Simple by Billy Go

If you surf YouTube online for videos that teach Korean -like I often do- you must be already familiar with Billy Go Korean channel. I believe he’s famous, he has a strong online presence http://www.gobillykorean.com/ more than my little blog -which is merely an online diary about learning Korean on my own- so I felt honored when he offered me an e-book version of his new book: “Korean Made Simple” to review on my blog.

There’s even an article on Korea.net about him: “Koreaphile makes learning Korean easy” (http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/People/view?articleId=117692)

So! It’s a book written for beginner level and that’s why I don’t think I would buy this book myself. Not because I’m already fluent but my budget is strictly for advanced textbooks now.

When Billy Go 선생님 offered me a free complimentary copy, I had a mixed feeling. Happy because I could take a look, but worried that I would dislike it. Because I’m picky about my textbooks. The book doesn’t have any audio files and I always want audio for my beginner’s textbooks. He replied to my e-mail within seconds that he didn’t mind an honest review, and that he was trying to raise money to hire native narrators, and sent me the pdf version anyway.


See on the website: http://www.gobillykorean.com/p/learn-korean-with-korean-made-simple.html

Korean Made Simple - List of Content

Korean Made Simple - List of Content 2Now, that I have read the book. I still have a mixed feeling. I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, but I can’t say it’s that bad, either. So I will have to write “yes, overall it is a good book, but…” kind of review.


  1. The book is written in plain, speaking style English, that is fun to read.
  2. It’s really takes time to explain basic things you need to know to understand how the language works, lengthy explanation.
  3. If you have questions you can just ask Billy Go via his YouTube channel or blog.
  4. No romanization after the part about reading hangul (I actually prefer to have romanization for my “introduction to Korean language” textbook but other people say it’s a good thing not to have romanization).
  5. It explains about rules of pronounciation and pronounciation changes which is very important.Basic Pronunciation Rule
  6. It got conversation samples, list of basic words, lengthy explanation in English, and even exercises with answer keys.
  7. Nice colorful illustration but not too much that it distracts you.
  8. If you spend your money to buy it, just having it on your bookshelf/e-reader will make you happy and motivated to learn more Korean. (Maybe?).
  9. You want to support the author to make more online Korean lessons.
  10. It’s a good read. I particularly enjoyed the cultural section.


  1. I don’t understand the romanization system that the book uses to teach hangul. I wish it would just pick one system and stick to that one.
  2. I disagree about the way it categorizes ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ sentences. The book says 요 (‘haeyo’ form) is informal, and 니다 (‘hamnida’ form) is formal. I learned from my textbooks that both ‘haeyo’ form and ‘hamnida’ form are used in formal situations, but with ‘haeyo’ form with lower politeness/respect level. When I read ‘informal’ I think it’s about 반말 (‘banmal’ or casual speech).
  3. Each chapter starts with a conversation which is good, but I wonder why the translation of the conversation is not given right after the conversation in hangul. Korean Made Simple - ConversationYou can’t expect me to understand the meaning of these sentences in hangul if I were a beginner! (I could hardly read them, I think, if I were a novice). I was looking for the translation throughout the book, thinking maybe there’s an index of translation of conversation somewhere, but then I realized the translation is explained per sentence, one by one, buried between the grammar explanation. So there it is!
  4. Maybe it’s just me, but I think some of the sample sentences are just strange. The conversations are not really natural. Korean Made Simple - deol“I like Suzy less”. In the most formal tone. Why would you say this? She will be hurt. Actually, how many girlfriends do you have?
  5. Here are some more weirdness I found but maybe I’m just being fussy over details here.

엑제 (liquid medicine) is actually pronounced 액쩨 [aek-jje]. The sound of 제 [je] changes to 쩨 [jje].
맥주 (beer) is actually pronounced 맥쭈 [maek-jju] [meg-jju]. The sound of 주 [ju] changes to 쭈 [jju].
The book misses those? (See below).

Korean Made Simple


Isn’t it easier to understand if 싱 is romanized as [sing], 심 as [sim]? After all, 맥주 was romanized as [meg-ju] not [maek-joo].

Life Made SimpleKorean Made Simple - TTMIKI thought Korean teachers at Talk To Me In Korean said using ‘원합니다’ to say ‘I want’ was unnatural? To want to have something is 갖고 싶어요? Let me search for that particular video… Yes, I was right.

How not to Say it in Korean – Want:

Korean Made Simple - Boxes

I think it would be hard to understand the explanation about conjugation from this (see picture below about “delicious food”), but.. I don’t know. I’m used to textbooks which use a lot of boxes, arrows, and colors to explain conjugation, so when I saw this, I wasn’t excited.Korean Made Simple - Conjugation

And one tiny doubt in my mind: I think this sentence: 김 선생님이 아주 좋은 사람입니다 should use the particle 은 [eun] not 이 [i] because “Mr. Kim” has already appeared once (in the question as written below). It’s supposed to be 김 선생님은 아주 좋은 사람입니다. But I could be wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.Korean Made Simple - I'm not an expert, but...

That’s all from me. I don’t intend to be mean and please think of this post as merely a personal opinion. Of one person.

If you want a “readable” Korean textbook for beginner level, or as refreshment course, this book could be a good one for you.

Guess what, there are preview pages on Google Books so you can see them yourself!

Anyway, a book in English about learning Korean is always welcomed, right?

Share your review on Goodreads.

Thank you very much for the author, GO! Billy Korean, for the review copy.

Thank you for reading and happy studying! ###


6 thoughts on “[Korean Textbook Review] “Korean Made Simple” by Billy Go

  1. Billy is actually correct on the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ sentences. 요 is informal, and 니다 is formal. 반말 is intimate, which is why its misuse results in so many arguments and fights. The fact that your textbooks state differently is the result of Korean authors trying to label Korean grammar using English as their second language. The same holds true for trying to distinguish 은/는 이/가 as subject and topic markers (Billy is guilty of this as well), which makes little sense seeing as how ‘subject’ and ‘topic’ are synonymous in English.


    • Oh, and 덜 좋아해요 about people is extremely common. You don’t say it to their face, though. Kids often say it about their parents when they get in trouble. In his example, Suzy could be his classmate, his sister in-law, his sister who he just argued with, or even a co-worker.


  2. I don’t really like books that are always teaching with ㅂ니다 because it will be harder to get used to speak with your friends, since with 요 is just use it or not.


  3. Pingback: The Opening Chapter of “Korean Grammar in Use – Beginning” | Korean Vitamin

  4. You’re complaint about pronunciation with 신/싱 is completely wrong. Why would you romanize in a way which is impossible to say in the target language?

    Romanization is dumb. 한글 should be taught using audio examples. If you must romanize, do it properly. It can be learned complete in an hour (a few if you’re slow).


    • I don’t think romanization is dumb. As a foreigner who learn on my own, I found it helpful. Pronunciation changes do happen with hangul, even if some (most?) native Koreans are not even aware of them. And romanization is supposed to show beginners about those pronunciation changes.


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