A Review for Real-Life Korean Conversations: Beginner

This is one of my favourite books from Talk to Me in Korean.

It’s a compilation of natural dialogues, completed with audio clips, transcripts as well as exercises and explanations on grammar points. It’s beautifully illustrated, and carefully organised in a way to ensure the information is presented clearly and concisely.

Link to the store: https://talktomeinkorean.com/product/rl-p/

What to Expect

  • 40 dialogues designed around everyday scenarios
  • Audio recordings and transcripts for each dialogue
  • Explanations on grammar points and exercises
  • Tips and exercises for pronunciation
  • Interesting cultural tips that help provide contexts for the dialogue

Who Is It For?

While the title of the book says it’s for beginners, it utilises a surprisingly wide range of grammar points. You’ll find grammar points from Level 1-3 of Talk to Me In Korean’s Essential Korean Courses, and a couple from Level 4 and 5. For this reason, I think it’s designed with upper beginners in mind, although you might have to be a lower intermediate learner to make the most out of this book.

How to Use It?

The explanations on the grammar points are pretty much just simplified versions of the grammar lessons from the Essential Korean Courses, and are probably insufficient on their own if you’re looking to master the grammar points in the dialogues. I think it’s meant to be used as a companion book to their Essential Korean Courses, so I would recommend just using the dialogues as a base. Study them first, try doing the exercises that follow, and then look up the corresponding grammar lessons to reinforce what you’ve learned.

Note that this is not a grammar workbook. While it does come with some simple grammar exercises, what it really strives to offer is organic, natural dialogue revolving around everyday scenarios. Its main purpose is to help acquaint the learner with these scenarios, so that they know how to handle them in real life, as well as improve their listening skills. This can be accomplished by listening to the audio repeatedly, using the transcript as a guide.

But I think the best thing about it, though, is that it helps you get used to and, in the long run, develop a natural feel for how Koreans tend to word their sentences. There’s really no way to do this except through constant exposure to native content – a luxury most self-studying beginners cannot afford, since it’s so hard to find comprehensible native content early on in their studies. This alone, I think, makes it great investment.

How I’m Using It in Class

Since I’m no longer a beginner, I got the book mostly for my students, all of whom are beginners. I find the dialogues to be great materials for listening practice. I usually start with having them listen to the audio recording twice without the transcript, and then explain to me what they thought was being said. This is so that I can get an idea of where their listening skills are currently at, while training them to listen for gist – an important skill that allows you to function in situations where you don’t necessarily know every word or grammar point that is being said, which is often the case when one interacts with native speakers.

After that, I give them the transcript, and have them translate the transcript line by line. This is when they get to look up all the words and grammar points they don’t know and really figure out what was actually said. And then, when they’re done, I have them listen to the audio recordings again, this time with the transcript. They are to listen closely and repeat after the voice actors, mimicking their pronunciation and intonation.

And then finally, when they’re ready, I practice the dialogue with them. They are allowed to use the transcript as a guide, but if they’re feeling confident, I would propose going script-less, just to see how much of the dialogue they remember. I might even add in a line or two that wasn’t in there, just to give them a chance to improvise.

That’s pretty much it! It’s our way of making the most out of an audio recording and a transcript, and so far it’s been working really well. I’ve noticed an improvement in their listening skills, and their intonation seems to have become more natural as well. I hope this gives you an idea on how you might be able to make the most out of this book yourself.

Happy learning!