Assimil Korean - Just finished, my thoughts

Hello everyone, I have just finished the Assimil Korean book - Le coréen sans peine and thought I would share my thoughts on it. I have used and completed the French with ease, Using French, Spanish, Catalan, Danish, German, Hindi, and Russian versions of the books. With all of those, I feel I overall achieved a higher level than I did with the Korean one.

Reminder: This was my first time through the book, normally I will end up going through an Assimil several times in a year before putting it away. I also don’t bother to do the exercises. I did type all the lessons and put them in LingQ so that I could use LingQ to help me learn the words better.

I spent an hour a day on each lesson, where I typically followed this method:
Listen/Read the translation 5 times
Typed the lesson into LingQ
Read over and saved words until I moved the words into the known category
Listened for the rest of the time to get to an hour of listening

Also once a week I went back and reread the lessons once or twice

Quality audio (as always with their newer books)
Short dialogues (around 30 seconds, and 1 minute at most* (*2 minute final lesson))
Only Korean language audio

Boring dialogues (I originally picked up the book, and put it back away after a few days, but as my motivation grew, I continued reading it)
Grammar explanations could have been better, but I also didn’t rely on them as a valuable source
They continued to give romanization all the way through the 71 lessons
Only 71 lessons, whereas most have 100 or more
The Hangeul was really small, and hard to read at times making you have to use the romanization to some degree

Some interesting points:
I noticed that in this one (not sure about other Asian languages), but they put a proverb at the end of each lesson, which I found really cool.

Overall I believe this series is a pretty mediocre one for Korean, however, it will be used to strengthen my pronunciation and accent as I continue with Korean into the future. I feel as though even though I used it, I could probably only recall 35-45% of what was in the book.

Should you buy this book?
Well if you find it cheaper than $40-50 dollars with audio, then yes, I would buy it, but other than that no.

If you have any more questions or comments about this particular book, feel free to post below.


i think assimil is excellent for european languages but some people have not found them as good for non european ones the one for arabic is particulary not liked

I have done the same Assimil book as my first entry into Korean studies and I think your assessment is spot on.

I wasn’t on Lingq at the time so I didn’t do the typing in of the lessons, which is actually a great way to go with this book – I wrote all the lessons out by hand with my own phonetics, due to the same readability issue.

It’s not the best of the Assimil series, but it certainly works, and it allows you build a good foundation for the language and culture. (The cultural aspects are one of the most overlooked strengths of the Assimil series, IMHO.)

A particular criticism I have of this book is its over emphasizing of the honorific form of speech. It’s always good to learn proper polite speech first, I get that, and the form used through most of this book is good to master of course, but it ends up being too formal for everyday conversations. Other Korean books and courses emphasize starting in the middle level polite speech, and work your way up and down as needed, which seems to be the common use.

Have you tried the Living Language Korean course? It has some advantages and some weaknesses over the Assimil book – proper handling of politeness levels being one advantage. I took these two courses back to back and felt they amounted to one decent beginner course as a whole.


Thanks for your post, and yes, I do have the Living Language Korean course. I have only went through the first book (Essential Korean) of it, and at this point I am not entirely sure when I will go to the next book, but looking at it now it will be soon. Living Language to me, feels like it aims to simulate classroom learning, while adding in more dialogues and conversation material, and by this I mean it focuses more on vocabulary and grammar, and then gets into dialogues. I loved Living Language for Spanish, French and German, but I haven’t really went in depth with the Korean one yet.

With those two books though, Assimil Korean and Living Language Korean, I feel as for them to be best possibly used, it’s best to stagger them. First 20 or so lessons of Assimil, then the first book of Living Language. For the Korean books, I could see this working well.

I’ve also dabbled in Elementary Korean by Tuttle, Mastering Conversational Korean for Beginners by Tuttle, and the Colloquial Series. I do have also Glossika, which I forgot about because I bought it a year or so ago when it was on sale, and I plan to use it soon. I’ve also went through FLR Korean, but it doesn’t really suite my style.

Elementary Korean just seemed too boring for me to really take seriously, while the Mastering Conversational Korean has a lot more curb appeal and relevant things such as typing in Korean, Korean culture, etc. The colloquial series I did the first half of the book and would say it’s another good one to start with along with Assimil and Living Language.

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Staggering Assimil with Living Language would probably be a great way to go. For me, my Korean sequence has been:

  1. Assimil
  2. Living Language
  3. Berkeley Intermediate Korean – this is a free course online that you can import into Lingq
  4. Talk To Me in Korean Iyagi series

I think this gives a good progression, and fairly good content. The Berkeley course is really good, even though the recording performances are not the best, but it has good cultural content about Korean regions and history, almost like the advance level Assimil books in other languages.

I find it very valuable when talking to people in a new language to be able to get cultural references, or better, be able reference cultural aspects yourself. Some courses, such as Living Language, seem to completely ignore this. For Korean, Berkeley does a good job. Talk To Me In Korean is also good for this as you get a strong sense of everyday life in Korea by going through their Iyagi series.

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I bought Korean Assimil and found it very poor. I am not a great fan of Assimil since I don’t like parallel texts, and lots of unwanted explanations and exercises. However, at least the Russian Assimil has great content. The Korean lessons are very boring, the Hangul is ridiculously small, and the Korean romanization is hopeless in any case, so having it in the lessons is just clutter. I bought the Romanian Assimil but have only leafed through it. i prefer to study our lessons on LingQ and to use the fabulous Romanian grammar with lots of examples, that I was able to download free.


I agree totally, which is why I try to type the lessons here, in order to further study them. The european languages are tons better, and would say the French one is the best by far.

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by the way, you may want to check out my you tube videos on my 90 day Korean challenge. In my latest one I referred to some of the material that I have been using. If anyone wants more information I can provide it.

Out of interest, Steve, were you using the older (late 70s/early 80s vintage) of Assimil or the newer one?

(A lot of aficionados of Assimil, such as Alexander Arguelles, swear by the older one - but it’s kind of hard to get the audio these days.)


+Steve, could you please provide a link to that Romanian grammar, or at least a title so I can google it?
Thank you in advance

Aquí lo tienes amigo

Muchísimas gracias )

Can’t say I agree with Living language. I thought the japanese LL was basically useless. Every chapter was essentially a list of words followed by exercises. Chapter 1, every member of the family, uncles, aunt, grandma, grandpa… now fill in the blank. I would rather grass grow.

Hmm. Usually from LL, well the ones I have used which include Arabic, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Korean, I can’t agree. Yes, they use word lists to give you the “essential vocabulary” as they state, which provides a basis for the lesson. However, I only used the exercises in the French book, which was my first foreign language, and after that I stopped. To best use LL I feel you need to use the vocabulary list, just go through it a few times, and then go through the grammar points once. After that go through the “bring it all together” section multiple times. Then mainly use the conversations as your main focus. Exercises are secondary to self learning in my opinion.

I agree with you about the exercises. You just have to take a different approach to it, which is where learning to type in the language comes in handy. You can type the lessons into LingQ, which helps you learn the new keyboard, and also make the lessons private to avoid the legal hasards.

As a more advanced language learner, you learn to learn what you like and don’t like. If you don’t like exercises, don’t do them, because more than likely, you won’t learn from doing something hate.

Thanks for the response.

I followed you for several years now, and even through the last Korean 90 day challenge you did which is what ultimately inspired me to learn Korean. I wanted a so-called “harder” language to study, rather than study romance languages which I already know several.

I watched your recent videos, but you mainly stated Korean resouces which came from Japanese. I was wondering if you have come upon any which were in English, which for a popular language such as Korean, you would figure would be more evident.

Thanks again Steve, and I look forward to your videos as always.

Also, next week I plan to begin studying Colloquial Korean, which has 20 lessons, and I will make a review on it when I am finished after 20 days. Thanks.

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Do you think it’s more useful to tackle several beginner courses in the same language to hit the same topics from different angles and in different scenarios, or to move on to authentic material asap?

Did you do this with European languages, or are you just doing it with Korean since it’s quite a bit more “foreign”?

I ask because I’m only on my 3rd foreign language, and I haven’t done this before. Wondering how much more useful you find it in the long run, if you have the experience to compare.

Way back when, I can remember starting with Colloquial Chinese. I then went on to some intermediate level books, grammar and vocab books. Then TV, movies, and novels. Never did a second basic course. But then again, there’s very little grammar difficulty to worry about mastering in Chinese. It’s just a language of vocab, unlike Korean or European languages.

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Living Language has its drawbacks, and in most cases Assimil is hands down the better option. However, in the particular case of Korean, LL ends up being one of the better commercially available options for self study, IMHO. Not perfect, but pretty good.

I’ve been recommending for people either as a companion to the French based Assimil course, and / or as a primer and companion for the TTMIK lessons and other Uni, publications like My Korean 1 & 2, or Lingq “Who is She” etc.

Korean material is harder to find and you kinda have to string together these various courses to learn it well. (With a Euro language, you can just do Assimil 1 & 2 and be well on your way.)

Also, LL has a great iOS app that gives you access to almost the entire study material of the complete course for just $10. When I studied it, I used both the book and the iOS app – slugging through the “words” chapters is more fun with the iOS flashcards – also, the grammar lessons on the app will play back the audio of each grammar example, which can be very useful.

I think one good way of doing LL is actually to study each section backwards: start with the dialog portion and work your way back, going through the grammar and reviewing words at the end. The written exercises can be a pain, but I did them all in this case because it has forced me to write in Hangul which I think is good to practice by hand to aid in reading.


“Do you think it’s more useful to tackle several beginner courses in the same language to hit the same topics from different angles and in different scenarios, or to move on to authentic material asap?”

-From my experience, even after one course, I am nowhere near good enough to start tackling authentic material, UNLESS it’s a language which is related to one of my better ones. Romance languages I probably won’t even buy a book, since most of them I can already understand with little to no effort. The same went true with Dutch and Danish after knowing German and English, however I still used just 1 book on these.

-I do think it helps strengthen your foundation in the language by hitting the same material (using different beginner courses) to cover topics from different angles.

-I also don’t stop with these beginner courses until I am a solid intermediate (which to me means knowing majority of the major grammar rules, and being able to converse without much of a problem).

-And the beginner courses usually say they get you to a B1 level in the language, which is where I stop using courses and go to authentic material, however they may have the content to get you to that B1 level, but no way you will be able to remember all the vocabulary and grammar in them to do so, which is where the repetition of another beginner course is really useful, and more times than not, they also use different vocabulary in the same situation which, in my opinion, helps broaden your knowledge and create a link between words in a given context.

Did you do this with European languages, or are you just doing it with Korean since it’s quite a bit more “foreign”?"

-Yes, I do it with European languages as I started previously. I however, won’t do as many with a European language as I will with Korean. Since most European languages share some vocabulary, I don’t require multiple courses to remember the words or get down grammar structures.

Other than that, the only time I may use just 1 course would be when it’s a language which doesn’t have an abundance of resources to use. WIth that, I would usually work intensively in that one course, and after that I would try to really immerse myself to facilitate the learning process of a language.

On a side note also, Korean to me, has been the hardest language I’ve tried to learn, not only because there is little vocabulary that is similar with my other languages, but also because the grammar is quite complex.

-Yes, I use multiple beginner courses for all my languages, assuming there are enough resources to do so.
-I may only use one, and then move onto authentic material, if the language I am learning doesn’t have a lot of resources to choose from.
-I believe it really helps to strengthen the foundation in a language, and only once you reach a higher level in the language, such as intermediate, then you can stop using them and move to authentic material.

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