Book review: Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean

Title: Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean
Authors: Choi Eun Kyu, Kim Min Ae, Kim Sang Hee, Min Jung Won, Oh Mi Nam
Pages: 184 (appendix begins on page 174, index of all characters from page 181)
Answer key for all exercises: in the appendix.

ISBN: 978-89-5995-764-4
Publishing house: Darakwon
Associated university: Language Education Institute Seoul National University
Year: first printed 2007, 2nd ed in 2010

Weight: 410 g
Price: 12,000 won
Bought from
To purchase the book from twoChois: click here to get directed straight to this book.

For pictures, please refer to the pictures on twoChois.

Structure of book:
Overall there is a beginner part and an intermediate part. The two parts are clearly marked in the book as the beginner section has a green border on the top of the page/fact boxes are lined with green while the intermediate part is marked with a blue border along the top of the pages and blue fact boxes.

The beginner part:
The beginner part introduces stroke order, how to search for Chinese characters in a dictionary, as well as of some 10-15 characters per lesson.
The lessons are structured according to topic so that for instance chapter 2 introduces dates and week days while chapter 6 introduces characters associated with the human body.
The topics are structured around the words and topics that beginners should know to have a good foundation for making conversation such as where you want to go, when, with whom, what you do, and the ability to say if you’re hurting somewhere.

The intermediate part introduces compound words, more advanced characters, and readings consisting of both hanja and 한글.
The last two chapters are dedicated to how learners can learn to infer the meaning of a newly introduced character based on “the main radical” such as 灬 or 木
Recognising the main radical is an important skill as it makes it considerably easier to look up characters in a dictionary and just by knowing meaning the main radical, you have an idea of what the new character is related to even before learning the exact meaning.

Suitability for self-learners:
The book is very pedagogically structured by first introducing a topic (which in a class setting you can discuss in more depth of course), then characters associated with that topic, then a little challenge to read something in 한글 but interspersed with the characters you’ve just learned, then a fill-in-the-blanks challenge and lastly writing practice. The chapters build up nicely.
While it would of course add to the experience to have a teacher to speak to and to explain any doubts that might occur while studying, I think that just by having such a clear structure, the book will pre-empt many questions.

“Workload” per lesson:
When working in some books such as the Sogang series, I cannot make it through a full chapter in one go. In this book I am quite confident that I will be able to go through a whole chapter in one sitting.

Dealing with doubts of self-learners:
To me, learning hanja has always looked like a daunting task, but for each character it is made completely clear which stroke comes before another. The stroke order is drawn both when the character is introduced for the first time and in small font on the writing practice sheet so you have a little guide to refer to when writing the characters yourself.
The book does not introduce new grammar, it’s pure vocabulary and the associated hanja. I think this will prevent many questions from arising since you don’t have to worry about the particular nuance of a grammatical tense or something like that.

I should have bought along this book: A Korean notebook
My hanja-writing skills leave a lot to be desired and in hindsight I would have liked to have a notebook that is “suited” for practicing Chinese characters to practice more. Regular note books with lines make the characters seem a little crammed for some of the more intricate characters – at least when written by me.
I will buy some of these for my upcoming hanja-adventure: notebooks from twoChois
These are regular notebooks that Korean elementary students use for 한글 practice rather than ones used for Hanja practice practice specifically (where the first square usually has an upper division for the character and two lower ones for writing the meaning and the pronunciation) but I think they will serve their purpose anyway.


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