A discussion I had recently in the comments of this blog made me think I should write more about the Korean publisher Darakwon.
Darakwon publishes a lot of textbooks to learn foreign languages (including Korean as a foreign language), and Japanese is, with English and Chinese, one of the main languages studied in Korea. I think that you can use some of these books if you are learning Japanese and don’t speak Korean.
Why use Korean resources?
Naturally, all these books are written in Korean. However, I think that you can still find some of them useful, even if you don’t read Korean. Not only are these resources of good quality, but it can also be interesting to look at learning materials in other languages. You might find that Korean ones have a different approach than English ones. I am far from being an expert in language learning textbooks, but I am sure that it is a good way to diversify the resources you normally use.
Particularly, I think of two kinds of textbooks that can be used, even if you don’t read Korean.
- JLPT preparation books. Most Korean books are only a collection of questions. I have used several Korean textbooks to work for the JLPT myself, and they were all drills only. You can think of Korean books for the JLPT as a collection of tests. They are very different from the Japanese So-matome or the Shin Kanzen series that have real lessons. As a consequence, you can navigate the books even if you don’t read Korean and use the drills to add extra practice to your preparation. However, be aware that the explanations are likely to be only in Korean.
- Conversation books. If your Japanese level has reached a point where you can work on your own to understand a sentence without translation, you could use the many conversation/dialogues books published by Darakwon. You won’t be able to use the translation in Korean, but all you will need to do is to look up words by yourself. I think that these conversation books can be very useful because they come with an audio that you can use to study in different ways (listen to it on the go, make a listen and repeat exercise, etc.)
Apparently, you can buy some of them in the Google Play store as an e-book (searching for “darakwon” should be enough, or you can copy-paste the Korean title of a particular book). I couldn’t find the equivalent on the iBooks store, but I hope it will come in the future.
This being said, even if you don’t buy the e-book, you can listen to the audio tracks of all their textbooks for free directly on their website. This can give you an idea whether or not the book will be useful for you or even provide an additional listening practice in itself. This is particularly true for the conversation books and the JLPT listening books. Personally, I have spent a lot of time just listening to JLPT listening tracks, without answering the questions, just to practice listening before the test.
How to access the audio files?
To access the files on their website, you need to log in if you are using a computer. Creating an account requires (at least now) a Korean phone number. Once logged in, you will have to download and install security programs on your computer, and the whole thing will be in Korean so it might be confusing.
However, if you access their website via your phone you have the possibility to listen to the tracks directly on the website or to download them via the “Darakwon” app. I know it sounds complicated, but I think it is worth it if you are looking for more listening practice for the JLPT, for example.
If you don’t read Korean, follow these steps!
Step 1: (optional) Install the Darakwon app. This will allow you to download all the tracks you want to listen to and stock them here. It will be much more convenient to listen to the audio on the app than on the website. (name of the app: Darakwon, or in Korean 다락원 스마트 러닝, available on Google Play and the App store)
Step 2: Head to http://www.darakwon.co.kr on your phone and look for materials to learn Japanese. Go to the menu and select Japanese:
You will then be able to select the type of books you want to look at. As I said previously, I think that the JLPT and conversation textbooks are the most useful. I will take the JLPT listening textbook for N5/N4 as an example:
Once you select the category JLPT, you get the list of textbooks:
- 독해 : reading
- 한자 : kanji
- 어휘 : vocabulary
- 문법 : grammar
- 청해 : listening
Let’s take a look at the book for the listening section.
You can listen to the audio files online by selecting the purple button. For this particular book, you can also access the script and the answers (I don’t know if it covers all the files or just the final test).
Once you are here, you can either select “all tracks” or select a particular chapter of the book. In our case, the chapters correspond to the different types of questions that appear in the JLPT.
I recommend to use the app Darakwon and download the files via the app. Select “all tracks” if you want to download them all and click on the blue button. If the app is on your phone, it should open it directly.
If you don’t use the app, this is how the online player looks like:
Step 3: Use the app.
When you select the blue button, it should open the Darakwon app and the files will be ready for download:
To download all the files at the same time, select “edit” on the top right, “select all” and then “download”.
Your files will then be accessible via the second icon on the bottom:
You can now listen to the tracks via the application player which is neither excellent nor very bad.
That’s it! Sorry if it is a little confusing, I am not used to writing a “how to”! 😅
If you buy a Darakwon book on Google Play, they tell you to download the mp3 on their website, which can be daunting if you don’t read Korean. This is why I hope this was useful. I particularly think that the JLPT textbooks can provide you with a lot of practice material. If you are looking for new listening material, I also recommend that you take a look at the “conversation” books, I personally find several of them useful, especially the ones that use the same pattern in different contexts.
Korean publishers have a lot of great resources to learn Japanese, but I never really talked about them on my blog because I thought it would be difficult and pricey to order them outside Korea. However, now that I know that some of them are accessible as an e-book via mobile stores, I wonder if I cannot introduce some of them in the future!