Review: Wild Korean (야생 한국어) by Sanghyun Ahn

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For those of you that don’t know, I run a Korean-English language exchange group – Say Kimchi. I joined it almost two years ago because I was missing Korea, wanted to keep learning Korean and wanted to make some new friends (I’m not actually from Toronto, I just moved here for grad school and stayed for work). About 9 months ago, I became one of the assistant organizers of the group; then about 6 months ago, the acting organizer; and at the beginning of November 2011, I became the organizer officially. 

I had already been looking for a good low intermediate level Korean textbook and workbook for myself as I have a five-year goal – to become fluent in Korean by the end of 2016. That means I need to study more often and more logically than I had been doing. And when I became the acting organizer, I realized one of the challenges of running our language exchange group was the members’ Korean levels varied immensely. We have true beginners, high-beginners, low-intermediate, high-intermediate and even a few advanced learners. On the Korean side, the levels were more compact – from high intermediate to almost fluent. So planning the English lessons for our language exchanges was easy, especially since I have 3 years of ESL teaching experience. But I came to realize that it was impossible to only plan one Korean lesson, or even two.

Enter Wild Korean. I read a review of this Korean textbook on one of the blogs I regularly read – Chris in South Korea – and became intrigued. A little further research, including visiting the book’s accompanying website made me realize that this book would be perfect for me and quite possibly good for the Say Kimchi members at the high-beginner to intermediate level. I contacted the author who generously shipped me a copy of the book to review and I began to study from it. I quickly realized that it was a fantastic book that explained Korean extremely well and was enjoyable to study from. I then brought it to one of our language exchange meetups to find out what the other Korean learners thought of it. The consensus was that it’s a great book for conversational Korean once someone had the basics. You definitely need to be able to read hangeul first and have some basic understanding of Korean or you won’t be able to read it. Everyone, including myself, loved how it was both a textbook and a workbook in one, and we thought having the relevant grammar points together in an appendix at the end of the book was handy. Some Korean textbooks have an accompanying grammar book, in addition to the workbook – so the student has three books. Wild Korean is perfect for those who are studying in a more casual setting or manner – I think it’s fabulous for many of my Say Kimchi group members and will be one of the books I am recommending to them.

Positive Points

  • Realistic, conversational Korean lessons and topics for the most part
  • Lots of vocabulary
  • Grammar is explained well, and in English
  • Illustrations make studying a little more fun
  • Grammar points in the appendix is very handy
  • Has an accompanying website and audio files which is great if you are studying on your own
  • Interesting little tidbits of culture throughout the book
  • Perfect for foreigners, like say English teachers, living in Korea once they have the basics
  • It’s affordable – 15,000 won (about $14.00)

Slightly Negative Points (well, they aren’t really that bad)

  • Unfortunately, like many of the good Korean textbooks, it’s only available in Korean bookstores or online at the moment. However, you can contact the Wild Korean website for international orders.
  • It’s the only book currently so you need to first learn the basics of Korean before the buying/using it so it makes sense and after you finish it, you need to find something else.

Rating: 4.5/5 Love it so far and I would (and will) recommend it to Korean learners from high-beginner to intermediate level. It’s suitable for self-study (with the audio-files), with a language exchange partner and/or in an informal class setting. I’ll be using it myself for the next month or two 🙂 It lost 0.5 because there isn’t another book to follow

Full disclosure: like I mentioned earlier, I received a free copy to review.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

6 thoughts on “Review: Wild Korean (야생 한국어) by Sanghyun Ahn

  • November 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Cindy.

    This sounds very interesting but I don’t think I’m advanced enough for the reading portion yet. I can only remember enough Hangul to spell my Korean name. I am very interested in attending the language classes you recommended to me. I had a look at the schedule and it was running through November to December and my schedule doesn’t allow it right now. I’ll have to look for what’s offered in Q1/Q2 of next year. I’ll have to figure out what level I’m at because I can understand a fair bit of the verbal part but I’m quite illiterate. Anyway, once I feel comfortable with Hangul I’ll need regular practice and I think this group would be ideal for that.

    Thanks for all the info – Tony

  • November 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Thanks for reviewing our book! I’m glad you enjoyed it! We’ll link this review on our Wild Korean blog soon!

    • November 16, 2011 at 7:23 am

      It’s a great book, I’m enjoying studying from it and know it’s helping me with my Korean!

  • February 20, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Hi Cindy,
    My name is Kendra and I’m really interested in learning Korean. I don’t know where to begin. I read another of your post about different mediums to learn Korean but I’m still stuck. I’m currently living in Toronto and I’m a high school student. I was wondering if you could help me figure out good beginners Korean books to learn from, private tutoring or even websites. I would love to know the most effective way to learn Korean. Thank you! 🙂

    • February 20, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      Hi Kendra, the Korean consulate provides some good beginner classes for free which might be a good place to start. The book in this review is also good but better for if you’re a beginner but not an absolute beginner. The website Talk to Me in Korean ( is great for all levels. I would recommend taking a class at the consulate if you can or using TTMIK to learn the basics first, then use Wild Korean book. Alternately, the Toronto Library has several Korean books that can give you a start. If you are serious about learning, private tutoring is a good option but more costly. I hope that helps you in your Korean language journey! Good luck!!

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