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Our story so far

Lang-Wich began as a question – “are there any graded readers in Korean?” When the co-founders couldn’t find any, they decided to write their own. The co-founders of Lang-Wich are Lee-Anne Davis from the UK & Sung-Ju Kim from South Korea. They met while teaching in the same middle school in Busan, South Korea in 2017. Lee-Anne taught English and

Sung-Ju taught Chinese.⁠ ⁠

Lee-Anne was learning Korean and maintaining Chinese. She had lived in China before and did not want to lose Chinese completely while Sung-Ju wanted to keep practising her English. With that, Sung-Ju and Lee-Anne began to study together in the popular study cafe (스터디카페).⁠ ⁠

In 2018, Sung-Ju and Lee-Anne were using graded readers in Chinese and English as part of their studies.⁠

‘Are there any graded readers in Korean?’⁠

Sung-Ju immediately went on a hunt to find some. Most books were based on Korean folklore that used complex Korean grammar structures and advanced vocabulary but nothing for beginners or pre-intermediate.
There were lots of children’s stories that were not easy to read or understand as it needed much more context.

As teachers, language learners, and creatives, the co-founders thought about this problem for a moment.

‘Why don’t we write them?’⁠ Not knowing much about starting a business, writing graded readers, or how book publishing and printing worked, the have spent the last 5 years working together across countries and timezones to perfect the books they have today. This is only the beginning.

Up until this point, co-founders, Lee-Anne and Sungju have been working on making Lang-Wich a language-resource business for low-level language learners as many times graded readers are forgotten about. 

We want everyone to know what our vision, mission and values are so that you know what the people behind Lang-Wich stands for. We also want to tell you what problem we are solving through our project.

There are many existing Korean-language resources that provide good materials for learning Korean but very few resources to expand and practise reading for leisure where you can combine all your independent studies.

Our vision is to create fun, easy-to-read stories for Korean-language learners. This is important to us because we know that it has been difficult to find good reading resources for low-level learners that offer a challenge to your language journey. 

There is almost an assumption in the Korean language community that learners will somehow get to intermediate stages of their studies and know how to read without much practise at the beginner stages.

 

This is where we come in.

We make sure that each stage of reading is covered for you to notice your own progression in reading in Korean. We ensure that the stories we write are:

Fun: No one wants to read a boring story so we create stories that have some tension, some drama, some friends issues, some romance (that’s what we’ve covered so far) which also have different genres to expand your vocabulary and introduce you to different scenarios. That’s where the fun is  – going on a journey and learning more about Korean culture, grammar and vocabulary without being so obvious.

Short: This is important. Each story is a novella that captures a snippet into the character’s life. It’s just enough to whet your whistle in Korean and move you onto the next book. The aim of making stories short means you can feel accomplished. Feeling accomplished means you are feeling more confident. Confidence improves your journey – you get the gist here. Short and sweet makes a happy reader in the early stages of reading.

Modern: As a beginner/pre-intermediate learner, you first need to build up vocabulary of what relates to you, your interests and your needs before you can take a deep dive into the history/folklore literature or whatever else tickles your fancy. Making the stories modern helps you adjust to the Korean culture and know what certain culturally important words are in Korean.

Easy-to-read: This is the one key features we wanted to focus on. After reading very hard texts and putting them down frustrated (usually never to return to them) we wanted to make sure that the text was easy and still had a story that was understood.

We wanted to make sure that if you only have enough time to read on your commute then you can read a chapter and get on with your day. No pressure because you would not be need to have a dictionary by your side.

Some other features of our book is that there are large spaces in between the words to make notes around, short chapters, simple grammar stuctures from the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) and various textbooks, well-designed illustrations and footnotes in English to help you read.

There is not any English translation on the other page – you are encouraged to use all your Korean knowledge as you
read to help you think and imagine the story in Korean.

Our mission is to help Korean-language learners expand their imagination in Korean through stories in Korean.

In our native language, we can listen to someone speak or read a story and imagine what we have read or listened to. Why would that be any different in Korean? We are aware that there are many folklore books in Korean with the intention to help Korean-language learners. While these are good, it is way too hard to understand for low-level learners. For learners to understand the story, learners would need to build up an imagination in Korean – as skill that is not taught, it comes with knowing more of the language and is necessary for comprehension entirely in Korean.

Using our easy-to-read novellas or graded readers helps to develop confidence in reading in Korean as the content is level-appropriate.

 

Our slogan, you may have seen around is, ‘Connecting you to your target language through stories.’ We are not teaching you how to read in Korean. We have seen some great resources to enhance your reading skills. We assume you have the foundational knowledge of Korean to comprehend our Level 1 books. Even if you have not been studying Korean for a long period of time, there is no harm reading the story multiple times until you begin to comprehend the story in Korean even if it is one sentence at a time.

 

Solving the problem

The main problem we have seen has been this: reading in Korean has been a challenging task for low-level learners as they have been forgotten about. Lang-Wich creates easy-to-read novellas for low-level language learners.

What we are doing is using stories to be a bridge to your grammar lessons, practically putting your vocabulary lists to work to build your comprehension skills entirely in Korean. We have not seen good graded readers in Korean. There have been many graded readers that are well written in other Asian and European languages – Lang-Wich is making sure
that Korean is a part of this list.

Since the initial idea back in 2018, Lee-Anne and Sung-Ju have been working on the structure of Lang-Wich so make sure it is easy to follow for our customers.

The co-founders started off researching the wordlists available in Korean. It was pretty hard to do since the Korean proficiency test, TOPIK, does not have distinct levels like other language proficiency tests have. The co-founders spent a large period of time researching proficiency tests in Japanese (JLPT), Mandarin (HSK), and Western European languages (CEFR) to learn what words were appropriate for the first and second levels of language learning (A1 and A2) and made word lists from there.

Once the wordlists were set, creating a roadmap was next. If learners started with Lang-Wich, how did they know where to start? How could Lang-Wich close the gap between each of their levels? These were big concerns since the co-founders know that having a as-smooth-as-possible transition is important in language learning. English graded readers do this really well so they analysed these books and began to create their own style suitable for Korean-language learners’ needs.

What was next was creating the content. What was appropriate for learners? The co-founders looked at what was already published in the language world and took inspiration from there. Mandarin Companion was a big influence as they retold stories from English-language classics and adapted them into Chinese settings and culture with engaging stories. At Lang-Wich, the co-founders gathered ideas and created their own style of stories.

Over the past five years, Lang-Wich has focused on making Korean more accessible for the low-level learners to progress in their journey with as much support as possible.

This project is to create easy-to-read Korean stories for low-level learners. 

The current series we are working on is called “The Korean Classic Reader” where we use English-language classic stories that are adapted into the Korean language and environment. The focus is to understand the story in Korean as the plot is familiar even if it’s set in modern-day South Korea.

The Korean Classic Reader is designed to provide a roadmap for learners to understand their journey in reading and see their own progression.

Korean Classic Reader series are written entirely in Korean with help only from the footnotes for anticipated new words. The co-founders spent hours designing word lists that provide appropriate vocabulary and grammar structures for readers and cross checked it with Korean-language teachers to ensure that their wordlists aligned with proficiency tests and textbooks. Stories are short, modern and fun with lots of repetition to practise new words and grammar points.

Currently we have three books ready to be printed:

1. Spring Again, and Summer Part One (봄은 다시, 여름으로 첫 번째 이야기)

2. The Deeper the Darkness, the Brighter the Stars Shine (어둠이 깊어질수록 별은 더욱 빛난다)

3. Spring Again, and Summer Part Two (봄은 다시, 여름으로 두 번째 이야기)

Each book has an audiobook and workbook. All three books are suitable for high beginner level with lots of repetition, footnotes, a glossary, useful vocabulary, and grammar structures.

We have just finished working on book four called Looking for Kim Jang-Mi (김장미를 찿아서) which is also for high beginner level.

Book 1: Spring Again, and Summer Part One is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey

Original Story: Northanger Abbey is about a young naive girl called Catherine Morland who moves into a wider social world at 17 years old and meets new people around her age. 

Adaptation Context: Spring Again and Summer focuses on Catherine Morland’s journey into new social settings. We focus on how the protagonist, Jo Seo-ha interacts having never left Daegu, South Korea. Jo Seo-ha is about the same age as Catherine but she is going to live in Seoul for university. Seo-ha’s abilities socialise and learn to be independent is hindered by her confidence when she moves to another city.

What is our book about? This book follows a third-year high schooler, Jo Seo-ha and her friends from Daegu, South Korea. Jo Seo-ha had never left her hometown before. Excited to move away for university, Seo-ha learns to adjust. Seo-ha meets new people and situations but how does she adapt to the changes in her life?

Book 2: The Deeper the Darkness, the Brighter the Stars Shine is an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

Original Story: Jane Eyre is an orphan who grows up to become a governess at Thornfield Hall, falls in love with her employer and later marries him. 

Adaptation Context: Our story focuses on the character of Jane Eyre and her experience growing up and attempting to succeed in life even though she is either not older enough, doesn’t have enough money or authority to make changes to her life but does everything she can to try.

What is our book about? Kim Ji-Su wants to win like everyone else but her age, or wealth or power blocks from being successful. Cut off from making friends by her older cousin, Ji-Su spends lots of time alone. Not willing to give up, how does Ji-Su meet new people to who help her grow and succeed? This story is a loose adaptation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Book 3: Spring Again, and Summer Part Two

Adaptation Context: Since this book is a second instalment, there is no need to explain the original story again. However, this adaptation focuses on the interactions between Catherine and Isabella. Isabella manipulates Catherine as she is very naive. This story takes a turn at looking at that kind of interaction and what Seo-ha does with this kind of relationship.

Why a second book? The first book wasn’t quite finished. It was our first book but there was a story we wanted to try out: Fantasy & time travel. We haven’t seen anything like this as a graded reader before and so we wanted to see how this story would be if given more context.

What is our book about? In part 2 of Spring Again, and Summer, Seo-ha makes a wish that changes her understanding of herself and her friend, Kang Min-ae. Surprised to have time travelled, how does Seo-ha use these second chances? We take a closer look at Catherine and Isabella’s friendship from the original story.

Book 4: Looking for Kim Jang-Mi is an adaptation of the Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

We currently don’t have any artwork yet for this book. 

Original Story: Nick Carraway tells the story of when he moves to Long Island. He becomes entangled in the lavish sphere of his mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby hosts extravagant parties to search for her and win her love.

Adaptation Context: This story is pretty similar to the original story. It’s set in a different time but the focus is very similar – longing for something that has long gone and will never return but hope that there is a chance for change.

What is our book about? Won Ye-Jin wants to reconnect with his first love after meeting his old friend, Lee Seo-Jin who moved into his neighbourhood. Longing for the good times from their university days, Seo-Jun is caught up in understanding a friend who has it all but cannot let go for and his own views of Yeo-Jin that could lead him into destruction.

– Our books are for language learners who are learning Korean and are in the early stages of Korean studies. This could be beginners to pre-intermediate learners. 

– Someone who is A1 level and knows the basics, about 200 words, and basic grammar structures. 

– Someone who has been studying Korean for a while, doesn’t really have a direction but would like some. 

– Someone who enjoys reading and does well picking up language through the language itself. This person can figure it out from context and clues, guesswork and some hints of native language. 

– Someone who has given up on Korean because they did not see their progression and wants to give reading a shot. 

– Someone who is busy but knows a short amount of time still improves their language proficiency and gets them to their goal.

– Someone who enjoys learning languages.

We’re running this Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds for the printing of the books, shipping, fulfilment, project management, production, plus mandatory Kickstarter admin fees. We are a small indie press, we need help from you to print our graded readers which will allow us to continue to make more stories for Korean-language learners. 

If you have been following us on social media, you maybe aware of the issues we had printing our books. 

We decided to change printing houses to ensure that our books are the the best quality, consistent in printing and allow for you to see our hard work on your shelves. Your Korean language learning is important to us and as book collectors ourselves, we know how it feels to have a well designed, nicely printed book in our personal libraries.

Support us by visiting our campaign’s page and making a pledge.

This campaign has now finished. 

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