The Opening Chapter of “Korean Grammar in Use – Beginning”

I’m reading Korean Grammar In Use – Beginning, a grammar reference book published by Darakwon.

Korean Grammar in Use - Beginning

Korean Grammar in Use – Beginning, English Version, with MP3 CD, published by Darakwon

I read the first 10 pages yesterday, of the opening chapter: Introduction to the Korean Language.

Introduction to the Korean Language

Introduction to the Korean Language

My first impression:
You can’t really start learning Korean with this book. You have to be able to read hangul well first, and you must have at least a little knowledge about basic grammar, otherwise you won’t be able to understand what is being explained in this opening chapter. Just take a look at this page, for example.

Some Pages

Because I learn Korean from Japanese language, I know that 가십니다 is equivalent to 行かれます・いらっしゃいます, 가실 거예요 is 行かれるでしょう・いらっしゃるでしょう, etc. But if I learned from zero and I knew only English, I wouldn’t be able to understand that part.

I think the entire opening chapter will be too confusing for complete beginners. But then again, this is a reference book, it should be useful to recap what you have learned from somewhere else or using other textbooks for basic level. Useful and interesting information is included, for example, it’s impolite to use 갑시다 (let’s go) to someone older than you, even though 갑시다 is formal. Because I learned that piece of information from a textbook for intermediate level, not basic.

The chapter divides Korean sentences into 2 types only, maybe for the sake of simplicity, which are: formal polite style and informal polite style. And then I remember how I got confused when I was reviewing a Korean textbook written by Billy Go, because if I’m not mistaken, he also uses the term ‘informal’ for 해요 and ‘formal’ for 합니다. So now I finally got my explanation.

Let me explain. Textbooks in Japanese don’t divide 합니다 form and 해요 form to ‘formal’ and ‘informal’, they simply translate both of them into Japanese -masu (ーます) form, and in Japanese, -masu form is formal. So in Korean textbooks written in Japanese, both forms are formal and used in formal situation, but it’s just that 합니다 is more formal/stiff than 해요, and 해요 form sounds friendlier/softer than 합니다.

I think it is true that both 합니다 form and 해요 form are used in formal situation. If you pay attention, you’ll know Koreans mix these two forms even when they speak in formal occasions and formal situations. (I only notice this from Korean music awards and Korean drama on TV. 😁 I’ve never been to Korea).

So my best guess is… what Korean Grammar In Use book means by ‘informal’, it’s NOT the opposite of ‘formal’, it just means ‘less formal’.

Quoted from the book:
Informal Polite Style
공책에 쓰세요. Please write in your notebook.
책을 읽으세요. Please read the book.

Informal Korean

Informal Polite Style

See? Isn’t 쓰세요 used in formal situations? Yes, it is. I know it is.

I wondered, then what about 반말 form (casual form you use with your friends)? How does this book call it? And I got my answer from page 21: ‘informal plain style’. What the…? 😵 Oh my God, it’s so hard to learn Korean with English.

I’ll blog what I think about chapter 1 tomorrow. Maybe. If I feel like it. 😁

Oh, and this one sentence is new to me:
할아버지께 이 책을 드리세요. Please give this book to Grandpa.

And one misprint on page 22:
할아버지께서 동생에게 선물을 주십니다. Grandpa gives a present to a brather [sic].

It think the correct translation is: Grandpa gives a present to my younger brother. Or Grandpa gives a present to his younger brother? Could be both. I don’t know. 😁

By the way, Korean Grammar In Use is a popular series that everyone recommends. I reviewed the advanced level one (Korean Grammar In Use – Advanced – Japanese version) in the past and I really liked it. Haven’t finished it yet, though. ###

3 thoughts on “The Opening Chapter of “Korean Grammar in Use – Beginning”

  1. I just went through this book for a refresher about a year ago and I agree with you that it would be incredibly difficult to start learning Korean with only this book. In addition to the points you mentioned above, I would say the book assumes a knowledge of about 300~500 vocabulary words upon starting. It’s definitely an excellent reference and practice book, but had I gotten this when I first started out I think I would have been quite frustrated!

    By the way, the way that I learned the difference between conjugations is somewhat similar to this book. From what I can remember, my teacher explained them as:

    해요: informal polite
    하세요: informal honorific
    합니다: formal polite
    하십니다: formal honorific
    해: informal casual
    하다: formal casual

    I think the confusion comes from the fact that “formal” and “polite”, “informal” and “casual” can be considered synonymous words. So our teacher explained it as “formal” is for things like written language, or official reports like news or speeches. Conversely, “informal” does not mean that you cannot use the language at a formal event, just that is more for spoken language or conversation. As for casual style, it really wasn’t that difficult to learn for us as our teacher explained most people call it “plain” but she liked to call it “friendly” haha


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