English Textbooks in Korea are Hilarious

I spend a lot of my lesson-planning time laughing at the English textbook that I’m required to teach from. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to explain to my students that the textbook is wrong, so please ignore every single picture and video that teaches you this very incorrect English.

I’m not sharing this to make fun of Korean people’s attempts at speaking English (God knows I could never make a Korean textbook). English is an incredibly hard language and even trying to learn it is admirable.


Publishing an English textbook without having a native English speaker give it a quick read-through is doing a huge disservice to Korean students. There are so many mistakes that could have been avoided by paying literally any native speaker, educated or not, to quickly read and approve each chapter. It’s clear that the publishers didn’t take the time to do this, and as a result there are tons of mistakes, awkward phrasing, and just plain weird choices in topics (ie things that English speakers rarely ever have to say). As cool as it is to hire native English teachers like me, improving the textbooks would probably help students a lot more.

(Not all of these pictures are examples of irresponsibly bad English. Some of them are just funny)

Okay, without further ado, let’s take a look at Chapter 1 of the 6th grade textbook. This chapter is called “What Grade are you in?”

textbook 1Ignoring, for the moment, the fact that nobody would say “the” here, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS KID’S HEAD?

Okay forget that. Let’s go to the library with Jason. The librarian says “Can I help you?” and Jason says:

textbook 2

That’s not the right verb, but okay.

textbook 3

Hi, Jason.

textbook 4

… How do you spell “Jason”? Really?

But Jason gets his library card (he makes a peace sign in the photo that the librarian takes for his ID, which is definitely something white people do) and moves on with his life. But, because this book likes to keep you on your toes, in the next chapter, Jason goes to the nurse with a headache.

textbook 9

She takes his temperature with this ray gun, which she taps against his eye for 0.5 seconds, before announcing that he has a fever.

textbook 10Then she offers him a single, mysterious pill in her bare hand.

textbook 11


But fear not, Jason recovers and tries to woo Sora, his lady-friend, by picking up a frog in the park and showing it to her:

textbook 21

Sora takes the frog while their creepy friends watch from the bottom left corner.

textbook 22

Then the frog jumps out of Sora’s hand and they make this facial expression:

textbook 23

Sora then laments:

textbook 24

…You did what?

(More importantly, how did this mistake make it into a published book?)

Jason should probably be worried, because Sora has an internet friend from America:

textbook 30

I actually had to look this word up. Apparently, it’s a gathering of scouts. Upon realizing this, I remembered going to jamborees when I was a girl scout. Except, there aren’t coed scouting groups in America as far as I know. So… how did Sora meet a boy at a girl scout event?


We’ll revisit Jason and Sora later. For now, let’s take a look at the 5th grade book:

textbook 5

As an American, I can testify that this drawing is an accurate representation of how American people dress. We also greet each other with “Hello, friends!” so A+ English here.

In the same chapter, the authors take a stab at teaching Korean kids about nicknames in English:

textbook 6

I think they missed the mark a little.

textbook 7This is still not how nicknames work.

textbook 8

Also not how nicknames work, but I’m starting to see a pattern here.

A few chapters later, these two kids show up next to a river, apparently with no plans.

textbook 12

But this is a girl who knows what she wants in life:

textbook 14

…This is an odd thing for a child to say.

textbook 13

Does anyone actually want to do this? These writers are awfully idealistic.

The other vocabulary for this chapter includes:

textbook 15

I cannot think of a time in my life when someone has asked me if I wanted to feed the pigs. I am beginning to suspect that this book is meant for kids living in rural Korea because this vocabulary is not particularly helpful for kids in Seoul.

But it’s okay! In later chapters, the kids learn more relevant things, like furniture and rooms:

textbook 16

*clenching my teeth and ignoring the awkward use of “it is” instead of “it’s”*

textbook 17

… There’s really nothing I can say about this one.

Let’s move onto some rapid-fire slides that I like to call “This is not how this phrase works in English.” Exhibit A:

textbook 18

Who even says “What a surprise!” anymore, and if they do, this certainly isn’t the way to use it.

Exhibit B:

textbook 19

“Not at all” comes after someone says “Thank you,” not “I’m sorry.” No points for research here.

Exhibit C:

textbook 20

The book, for some reason, randomly and aggressively asserts that you have to say “COME home” and not “GO home,” even when talking to people who don’t live in your house. This is especially confusing to me considering that “go” and “come” verbs work the same in Korean as they do in English.

Let’s take a break from raging about poor English research and visit our friend Ming, who is coming home from school:

textbook 25

Nice of you to ask, Ming.

textbook 26

… Stereotypes, much?

It’s worth noting that in a previous chapter, when Ming tells her dad she has a cold, he simply responds: “That’s too bad” and the scene ends.

But, even if the book has stereotypes, at least it has inspirational cartoons:

textbook 27

I never knew it was that easy!!!

But wait!

Let’s not forget about Sora. Without Jason’s knowledge, she’s met up with Eddie after class:

textbook 28

Do you mean like a school dance? Are you trying to ask Sora out?

Apparently he is, because he then tries to woo Sora by “showing her some moves”:

textbook 29

He apparently splits his butt in half while doing so.

Whatever, Sora seems to like it.

8 thoughts on “English Textbooks in Korea are Hilarious

  1. My question is HOW does Jason the English teacher simultaneously eat lunch and clean the classroom. HOW!? Lol also the dance at the end is pretty hilarious. It just reminds me of those birds that dance to find a mate.
    I really liked this post :). Oh, English words on clothing in Asia or just in random places in public can be funny, e.g. Back in Taiwan, I once saw that an elevator was labelled as cage. Since you are in Korea I wouldn’t mind seeing what you guys have over there!
    P.S.My husband and I will be visiting Seoul in May for our honeymoon! Any recommendations?


    1. HAHA I didn’t even notice that. I think the kids are supposed to look at the pictures and choose which sentences are true.
      Elevators are basically cages haha. I love seeing pictures like that, though I haven’t seen as many in Korea. I’ll definitely keep an eye out, though!
      Congrats on your marriage 🙂 My favorite thing to do in Seoul is to ride bikes (which you can rent) along the Han river. At night, there’s lots of food trucks there and lots of people set up little tents on the grass with their friends. Namsan Tower is also super fun because you can see all the city lights at night and there’s a bunch of smaller museums connected to it. Hongdae is my favorite place to walk around for shopping and eating. Those would be my top 3 recommendations for sure, but if you have a lot of time in Korea the palaces are worth seeing too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you :). We are actually staying Hongdae! Oh a bike ride sounds really nice! The other thing we were concerned about was the pollution, are there any anti-pollution face masks you recommend? And where to buy them from (7-11)>


    2. (replying to your reply here because I can’t use technology and don’t know how else to reply to a reply lol)
      You’ll have fun in Hongdae for sure! You can buy face masks in a lot of places. I’ve seen them in pharmacies, big stores like Emart, or dollar stores like Daiso. I look for anything that says KF94. I’ve found that the only real difference between brands is the size: if it looks like it’s packaged for kids, it’s probably a smaller size. I can wear those sizes but some people don’t like to. I’m using one by Finetech right now, but I also like the Kleenex brand.


      1. Oh bro, technology is moving way too fast for me to keep up too. Thank you so much for your recommendations. I’ve screenshotted it so that we can check while we are over there, because I know I will probably forget!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This cracked me up – thanks ^^
    I tend to skip a lot of the material in these videos since my kids are so low-level, but your summary of some of the book’s storylines has definitely put a smile on my face.
    I’ve just discovered a stack of the preview textbooks for next year in my school library and am seriously considering jumping ship from Cheonjae to YBM (I’ll definitely be pushing to be involved in the decision-making). It’s just a shame almost all of the resources in the online community are geared towards Cheonjae. I’m not quite sure why they seem to have such a monopoly in Korean schools…
    I’ll be sure to check out the rest of your blog 🙂


    1. Glad this was entertaining 🙂 Have you seen the updated Cheonjae books? I got new versions for 3rd and 4th grade this semester (all the pictures in this blog are from the old versions, which I still have to use for 5th and 6th grade) but I think the updated Cheonjae is MUCH better. I flipped to the credits page in the back with the contributor photos, and sure enough there’s a native English speaker this time around. I think it made a huge difference. I’m not sure if the updated books aren’t out for 5th and 6th grade yet or if my school just didn’t want to buy them, but if you’re still using the old Cheonjae I’d highly recommend pushing for the new ones.


  3. I would love to work at the company that made your textbook. I do. Seriously. I hope to move to South Korea to teach English, but my main goal is to correct their textbooks. I want to be an editor. Thank you for sharing this. They need help. They are hard working and deserve good material. lissie73fl@gmail.com hoping you can tell me where to apply.


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