Textbook Review: Sogang Korean Writing 2 서강 한국어 쓰기 2 (학문 목적 과정)

Sogang Writing Books 2 & 3
Sogang Writing Books 2 & 3

In an earlier post I mentioned that I like the Sogang writing book we are using, so I thought I would talk a little more about that.

Sogang is generally well known for their heavy focus on speaking, but this book appears to be from their Korean for Academic Purposes course rather than their Korean for General Purposes course. I have never attended Sogang for Korean language, or anything else, and I can’t find exactly which textbooks they use for each, aside from their standard textbook. In any case, keep in mind that this is a review of the book, and not of how well Sogang actually teaches writing.

So, there are 4 books in the Writing series, and I have books two and three. We are using book two now in level 5 at KNU, but I would say that it would be useful and usable around level four (maybe three?). I bought book three by accident, but we’ll be using it next semester anyway.

Book 2 Chapter 3
Book 2 Chapter 3

Book Two is divided into 8 chapters with 4 extra appendices at the back. Each chapter talks about a different topic such as “Major and Future Plans” or “Studying a Foreign Language.” Each chapter also focuses on a specific goal of writing and the related grammatical expressions, such as “Comparison,” “Explanation,” and “Explaining Survey Results.”

20141112_185824 20141112_185833

On the one hand, the writing instruction is sometimes very basic. If you have learned how to write in your native language (or like me, have taught people to write in your native language) some things may seem like common sense (topic sentence, etc), and not worth learning again. Or it may not. Different languages do have different writing styles.

But, the grammar introduced, while not difficult, is useful to review because there are some things that you probably don’t use often in everyday conversation, and they are applicable to a variety of academic situations, including the dreaded TOPIK, and even academic presentations.

Each chapter includes several short essay samples demonstrating the style being introduced, explanations of the grammar/vocabulary points, practice writing sentences using the grammar, and a topic for writing an essay of your own. Self-study of writing is always hard because you don’t have anyone to check your mistakes, but the book does include an answer key for everything but the essays, so you can at least check your answers against their examples. It also includes notes about frequently made mistakes, so you can check yourself against those as well. BUT the explanations are all in Korean, so you should be comfortable enough with Korean that that is not a problem. There is, however, a vocab list for each chapter at the back, which does give definitions in English and Chinese.

I think no matter what book you try to use, if you are self-studying there will be limitations to how useful it is. When possible it is always best to have a native speaker who can check your work. But all things considered, I think this is one of the better books I’ve seen for academic writing in Korean, and of use even to self-studiers.

I would especially recommend it to people looking to improve their TOPIK writing score. It will give you a lot of practice and useful expressions for the essay questions in the TOPIK exam.

And then there are the appendices! These are about writing various parts of the application for applying to a Korean university. The first is general information about preparing documents for your application, the second is about writing your self-introduction, the third is about filling out the application forms, and the fourth is a sample set of application forms. If you are considering applying to a Korean university, or would like to write your KGSP application in Korean, then this will be very useful to look at.

Sogang may not be the first place you think of when you think of writing skills, but I do think they have done a good job on this one.

서강한국어 학문목적과정 쓰기 2

1과 진로와 전공
2과 대학 생활
3과 유행
4과 온라인 의사소통
5과 우리 생활의 변화
6과 여가 활용
7과 외국어 공부
8과 외모 지상주의

Nearing the end of term one

So we just started chapter nine… of ten…

It’s been a long eight weeks, and it also seems to have gone by in a flash.

I would say that my Korean has definitely improved… in some areas, but not so much in others.

One thing I think my language institute (Kangwon National University) does really well (at the higher levels) is writing. We use the Ewha University textbooks (level 5) plus Sogang University’s writing book (number 2), and we have afternoon TOPIK classes with one class each week devoted to TOPIK writing.

Sometimes I (we all) think “Oh my gosh, not more writing!” but in the end it is actually really useful, and really the only way to improve in writing is to do a lot of it, and get feedback.

I’m not a huge fan of the writing section of the Ewha textbooks though. I’ve used a fair selection of the major Korean language institutes’ textbooks: Yonsei’s at the summer school and for self study, Sogang for a conversation class I took in Japan, plus the writing book now, and Ewha’s for my current class. At some point, I will do a review of Yonsei and Sogang’s books as well, but for now here are some opinions on Ewha’s textbooks. (I have only seen levels 4 and 5, so my review will be based on those.)

Each chapter in Ewha’s books is divided into several sections:

  1. Preparation: Introduces three grammar points (in level 4 all three are introduced at the beginning, but in level 5 there is one at the beginning and two later on)
  2. Listening: Listen to a short conversation or speech
  3. Speaking: Introduces a situation and expressions that can be used in such a situation
  4. Reading: The readings vary from opinion to fiction to poetry
  5. Writing: In level 5 there is an additional reading demonstrating a particular form of writing, and a topic for practice writing. In level 4 the reading section is the example, and the writing section just has the topic for practice.
  6. Debate/Discussion: Some short reading introducing various viewpoints, and a topic for class discussion
  7. Idiomatic Expressions (level 4): Introduces three idiomatic expressions
  8. Vocabulary Expansion (level 5): Introduces a verb with mutiple meanings and 6 of the ways it can be used
  9. Proverbs (level 5): Introduces three proverbs (similar in form to the idiomatic expressions section in level 4)
  10. Culture and Life (level 4): A short reading on some aspect of Korean culture
  11. Literature (level 4): Introduces poems or short pieces of fiction

One thing I like about the Ewha books is that they are fairly balanced in their content. Whereas the main Yonsei books are very grammar focused and the main Sogang books are very conversation focused, the Ewha books have everything in one place, in a single B5 sized book (with an additional workbook available). I also like the extras at the end of each chapter (numbers 7-11 above). Proverbs and idioms are interesting and also useful, and some exposure to literature is a good change from the normally non-fiction contents of language textbooks.

The one thing I don’t like is the writing section. In level 4 you are still practicing the basics, so I feel like the writing topics are still fairly related to real life tasks that you might encounter. In level 5, however, it becomes more like a creative writing class, and less like a language class. How you feel about this depends on what your goal is in learning Korean, and what kind of writing practice you’ve had so far. For me, my experience writing was way behind my other skills, so I was looking for more basic advice about writing. I am also looking for a more expository approach to writing. If you’ve gone through Ewha’s books from level 1, then the level 5 writing assignments may seem less “out of the blue,” and if you enjoy creative writing then you will have fun with the Ewha topics. But again for me, I’m not really looking for creative writing skills in Korean.

The writing topics in book 5 include: a comparison of dialects in your native language, a speech about your personal technique for good health, a PR statement for an exhibition of historical artifacts, a newspaper article from 50 years in the future, a rewriting of a fable to represent current societal changes, an editorial about differences between Korean food culture and your own country, an essay about something you’ve felt or discovered about the environment, a movie review, a product user review, and a poem.

One of my big objections to the Ewha writing portion of the program here at KNU is more to do with how it is taught, and less to do with the assignments themselves. The primary focus here is in class work, with very little assigned homework. Some people would find that good, but with these writing topics I feel like they require more thinking time than just a 50-minute class period. I feel like time would be better spent discussing what we already wrote for homework and talking about how to improve it, rather than doing the actual writing in class.

I also am just not that interested in writing poetry in Korean… But practice is practice I suppose.