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1. Hangul (Korean Alphabet)

1. Hangul (Korean Alphabet)

In this lesson, You will learn how to read Korean with Korean alphabet system : Hangul (한글). This is the first lesson for Core Grammar. Check the core grammar course and learn Korean faster!

I Must Warn You

Hangul (한글) is a very scientific alphabet system but it doesn’t mean it’s super easy. Yes, It’s easier than Japanese or Chinese. But I’ll tell you honestly, you need to spend more than 30 mins. Don’t get tricked by so many title baits on internet.

 

If you see that the article says you can learn Hangul (한글) in 5 mins, then I’m pretty sure it won’t teach you everything about Hangul (한글) or it could be some very wrong lessons.

What is Hangul? : 한글

Korean alphabet Hangul has a very unique origin. One day one guy of Joseon Dynasty thought like ‘Chinese letters aren’t good enough for Korean so I think I should make one too’ and he really made a new alphabet system alone and spread it to all citizens. King Sejong was that guy.

 

Some people think Hangul is Korean language but actually that’s incorrect. It’s an alphabet system. Koreans had their own language already but no system to write our own, so only few who were highly educated could write and read with Chinese letters.

 

Nobles who could read and write Chinese weren’t happy about Hangul (한글) because they thought peasants didn’t deserve to write and read. King Sejong knew it very well so he hid his work so no one knows about it until he finished to create Hangul (한글) and then he probably said ‘just shut up and use it’ to all jerks. True story.

 

Basic Reading Order

Reading Hangul (한글 : Korean alphabet) is very different than alphabet. However, the most basic reading order is same.

 

1. Read left to right (too obvious?)
2. Each letter is written as a syllable (in Korean sense). Each vowel and consonant must be combined into a word block.

 

사랑 : 사(sa), 랑(rang) : Love
지구 : 지(ji), 구(gu) : Earth

 

Basic Consonant for Hangul

Let’s start with the basic Korean consonants for your first Hangul (한글).

 

Hangul (한글) has 11 basic consonants including ㅇ(fake consonant). The pronunciation for each letter isn’t 100% same to English but similar.

 

Hangul doesn’t have a sound for English F and Z at all. So, ‘F’ becomes ‘P’ and ‘Z’ becomes ‘J’ when you read a foreign word in Korean.

 

Korean R / L Sound : ㄹ

Translators or a lot of Hangul lessons often teach you ㄹ has ‘R’ or ‘L’ sound because ㄹ sounds similar to both. Technically, It’s not 100% correct. Both letters aren’t same to ㄹ at all. It doesn’t affect much to a syllable just like ‘R’ in alphabet. But it sounds more similar to ‘L’. (Spanish soft R is really similar)

 

1. Touch the ceiling of your mouth with your tongue (not the back of your upfront teeth)
2. Move it down while you make a sound
3. Success

Fake Consonant : ㅇ

Hangul (한글) has a consonant for no consonant sound. That doesn’t make sense at all in other languages maybe but it does in Korean lol.

 

English or other languages can start a words with a vowel right? Like ‘A’pple. Well… You can’t do that with Hangul (한글) because Korean vowels are a structure to support a consonant. So, You have to add a fake consonant before a vowel : ㅇ. It looks like ‘O’ in English and it has a no consonant sound.

 

So, If you want to say ‘baaaa’ in Korean, then it should be ‘바아아아’, not ‘바ㅏㅏㅏ’

 

I named it fake consonant to help you understand ㅇ easily but of course, it’s not a ‘fake’ consonant at all to native Koreans.

 

Consonants With More Lines

When the consonant has more lines based on basic consonants, each sound becomes stronger.

 

Your breath doesn’t come out with consonants on the left side column. Breath comes out with consonants on the right side except ㅈ ( j ).

 

 

Every Koreans love King Sejong. Never ever say bad things about him to Koreans unless you want to fight. you want to give a good impression to Korean? Tell them you love King Sejong because he invented Hangul

Basic Vowels for Hangul

Hangul vowels look very similar to each other so it can be a little bit confusing but I’ll tell you how to memorize them so easily in this lesson. I’ll show you Hangul (Korean letter) on the left side and how to pronounce them on the right side with red color.

 

Root Vowel :ㅣ

Now let’s see the most basic vowel which is the root for other all vowels.

 

Draw a vertical line just like I in alphabet and pronounce i (ee) as a vowel. that’s Korean ‘’. Not difficult at all right? can’t understand how it sound? It’s same to ‘ee‘ in tree.

 

 

Each Hangul letter means something. ‘ㅣ’ represents a human.

Add A Line On ㅣ : ㅏ And ㅓ

Korean Alphabet Hangul(한글) makes new vowels and consonants by adding more lines or shapes on the root letter. They look very similar to each other. So, yes, it can be very confusing at first. However, it wouldn’t be not so hard if you know how this system really works.

 

Let’s add a branch on that skinny tree.
A branch on the right side is a’ (a in father)
A branch on the left side is ‘eo’ (u in up)

 

Vowels With More Lines

When you add more lines on consonants, it makes a stronger sound. 2 lines on a basic vowel always means ‘y + original sound‘.

 

2 branches on the right side are ‘ya’ (ya in see ya)
2 branches on the left side are ‘yeo’ (yu in yup)

 

 

You may think like King Sejong ordered a genius linguist to make it because he’s a king but nope, he was the genius. Almost scholars opposed to make it. I think it’s pretty cool. ‘I am the king, do what I want you to do!’ ‘Nope’

Fake Vowel : ㅡ

Let’s lay down the skinny tree. Then, it makes a consonant sound with no vowel. That’s right. Korean has a fake vowel just like it has a fake consonant. But it’s also so simple. It’s a no vowel sound. The pronunciation is same tot-in tree. ors-in station (No vowel sound)

 

Many students have trouble to pronounce it properly. Follow next steps.

 

  1. Prepare a candy and a well functioning mouth
  2. Make same shape of mouth with I
  3. Start making a noise
  4. Pull back your tongue
  5. SUCCESS
    – If you failed, go back to 2 and repeat it until you success it.
  6. I want to give some reward but I can’t so, get yourself some candy as your reward.

 

Some Hangul lessons teach you it’s same with oo sound in goose. Yeah… That’s also wrong.

 

Add Branches : ㅗ, ㅛ

Add a branch on the top of the skinny laying tree. It is ‘o’ (o in open).

 

And remember what 2 branches do? Yes, it’s ‘Y’. Two branches on the top make ‘y’ sound based on the original sound (oh in this  case) (yo in yogurt)

 

Add Roots : ㅜ, ㅠ

Add roots that try to reach Mother Earth on a laying tree : oo in Root

 

Now you know what I’m going to say. Two lines with vowels always make y sound : you in youth

 

Basic Reading Order 2

ㅡ base consonants have a different reading order.

 

1. Read a syllable block from the top to the bottom
2. Remember, any Hangul letter must be written as a syllable block always.

 

A Big Big Big Difference

I already taught you Hangul (한글) needs a fake consonant ㅇ for no consonant sound but I’m going to explain it once more.

 

Any Hangul consonant or vowel can’t be written or pronounced alone. You must combine a consonant and a vowel into a syllable block.  It’s not a real term but why not? Almost Korean grammar things in English don’t have a correct term lol.

 

Reading Order With Batchim 1

When the syllable ends with a consonant, Hangul (한글) becomes a bit tricky, it gets a consonant below other letters. This consonant is called batchim (받침).

 

1. Read left-top to right first like the basic reading order
2. Then read the letter at the bottom (now it’s not too obvious)
3. A block means one syllable

 

 

A few kings of Joseon died young because of too much overwork for citizens and study. The King of Joseon was not a good title I guess… : I

What Is Batchim Exactly?

Batchim (받침) is a consonant placed at the bottom and pronounced at the end of the syllable block that it belongs to. It means ‘support’ in English because it supports other letters. It’s translated as ‘final consonant’ normally which is really not correct because every syllables can have a batchim.

 

Red colored letters are a batchim (받침). You can see the batchim is a consonant under a ‘consonant + vowel’ with this sentence. To understand batchim perfectly, you must understand how the syllable block works first.

 

Reading Order With Batchim 2

Batchim (받침) with ㅡ base vowels is a bit easy to read.

 

1. Reading starts always from the top, to the bottom
2. Batchim (받침) is pronounced at the end

 

 

I know Chinese, Japanese and Korean look same to many people who aren’t East Asian. But actually those 3 languages have no common for letters. Especially with Hangul. Words are very similar though.

Sound Change of Batchim

Some consonants can be pronounced differently as a batchim (받침). When the word block ends with a consonant and the next block starts with a consonant (consonant + consonant), it changes the sound. Funny thing is, Korean pronounces some of them wrong often. For example, many Koreans think ㅎ has ng sound as a  batchim (받침) but actually it sounds d.

 

Batchim (받침) has a bit difficult rules to pronounce. But don’t worry! I’ll help you to understand them easily. [Master all Korean batchim (받침) now]

 

Twin Consonants : Make It Double

Let’s make a twin brother for some Hangul letters so they won’t be lonely too much.

 

They are called twin consonant (or could be double consonant?). However, Not every consonants can become  a twin consonant. Only ㄲ (k), ㄸ (t), ㅃ (p), ㅆ(s), ㅉ(j).

 

These pronunciations are really hard to explain. Because Hangul has some pronunciations that other language doesn’t have. Their sounds become stronger but no breath comes out. If  you are familiar with Spanish or Italian accent, then think about those 2 accents. Because Korean double consonants sound like Spanish or Italian especially with c(ㄲ), t(ㄸ), p(ㅃ). (Of course, It’s not 100% same to Spanish sounds.)

 

You must be very confused by now because you don’t have any clue how to pronounce the letters shown below. Well… Maybe you have seen few foreigners who speak English with weird accent or pronunciation like a lot of Asians who can’t distinguish R from L or P from F. Here is the Asian version of R and L for you lol. SUFFER!!!

 

 

Some foreigners teach that there is no big difference with ‘ㅋ and ㄲ’ or ‘ㅌ and ㄸ’ or with other twin consonants. That can’t be more wrong. That only proves that foreigners can’t distinguish them well and aren’t good at Korean actually. There is big big big big differences and every Korean can distinguish them so easily for sure. It’s like R/L or F /P to English speakers but Koreans don’t get it at all.

Vowel Combinations : Combine Them

You’ve seen two consonants can be combined like twin consonants. Korean vowels also can be combined although it’s a bit trickier.

 

  1. They look like 2 skinny trees but with only one branch : ㅔ, ㅐ. both sounds e in edit.
  2. 2 branches make y sound as always : ㅖ, ㅒ. Both sounds ye in yes.
  3. is also pronounced ‘e’ with a consonant rarely.

 

Some Hangul lessons insist each letters are pronounced differently but they sound like exactly same for almost Koreans. Even encyclopedia says not many Koreans can distinguish or pronounce it by now. I think the pronunciations got forgotten since a really long time ago like 20-30 years or more? I remember I asked a same question when I started to read Korean and no adults or teachers could answer.

Reading Order With W-Vowels

The reading order of Korean w-vowels can be tricky. However, It’s a combination of what you’ve learned so far, not a new letter.

 

1. Start with the consonant
2. Pronounce letters fast from the top to the bottom
3. Then to the right
4. Batchim (받침) is pronounced at the end as always

 

귀: ㄱ(g) + ㅜ(u) + ㅣ(i) : gwi
봐 : ㅂ(b) + ㅗ(o) + ㅏ(a) : bwa
원 : ㅇ(-) + ㅜ(u) + ㅓ (eo) + ㄴ(n) : won

 

W-Vowel Combination : Pronounce Fast

These 4 vowels are a combination of 2 vowels that you’ve learned so far. So, you don’t need a lot of efforts for them if you know the reading order for w-vowels. Use 2 different basic vowels in a syllable block and pronounce each vowel so fast like 오아(o-a), 우어(u-eo), 우이(u-i). No need to make an extra effort to memorize pronunciations. Just read 2 vowels from the left to the right so fast.

 

Combination x Combination

You can also combine e-vowels with w-vowels.

 

Buuut… Actually they are mostly pronounced same. Almost no Korean can distinguish them or pronounce them correctly as like ‘ㅐ and ㅔ’ or ‘ㅒ and ㅖ’. The pronunciation is we same to ‘wa‘ in wait

 

Remember This

Not every Koreans are perfect for pronunciations. For example, 맑다 has to be pronounced as ‘막따’ but almost Koreans pronounce it as ‘말따’. So, no need to try to be too perfect. Every Koreans live their life so fine without perfect Korean pronunciation. So, you will be so fine without it too. Don’t stress yourself out much to be perfect.

 

And remember, the pronunciations of each letter in Korean are really different to your languages. Even it’s a simple vowel or consonant like ‘a’ or ‘t’. I romanized them to help you understand but it’s not same at all whatever you expect. You must keep it in your mind and keep failing to have a perfect Korean accent.

You made it! Good job!

Now you know almost about how to read Hangul (한글). Great job.

Maybe it’s just a beginning. Maybe it’s not speaking Korean fluently but you made one huge step and I’m pretty sure you will speak Korean so well someday soon. I’m really proud of you. keep going on just like you did today.

Now you are ready to master Batchim rules

And the core Korean grammar

Reference

The National Institute of the Korean Language

I really love this institute. They answer everything with so much details and they never make mistakes! Sadly, Korean language is only available on that website and explanations are extremely hard to understand even for native Koreans.

 

Last Update

Oct/09/2018

Quick review

Basic consonants

: g sound in gun
: b sound in bear
: n sound in need
: s sound in sad
: d sound in door
: j sound in joy
: l or r
: p sound in park
: m sound in moon
: h sound in hear
They can’t be pronounced alone! They must be made into a word block with a vowel.

 

Fake Consonant

ㅇ (이응)
A fake consonant for vowels with no consonant.
Baaaa : 바아아아

 

Fake Vowel
ㅡ (eu)
A fake vowel for consonants without vowel.
Station : 스테이션

 

ㅣ, ㅏ, ㅓ
Standing up skinny tree : ㅣis romanized i, they look same, sound same. (ee in tree)
Adding a right branch : ㅏ is a (a in far), adding a left branch : ㅓ is eo (u in up)

 

ㅗ, ㅜ
A branch goes up : ㅗ is o (o in open)
A root goes down : ㅜ is u (oo in root)

 

Add more branches on letters
Consonants : stronger sounds
ㄱg  →  ㅋc
ㄷd  →  ㅌt
ㅈj  →  ㅊch
ㅂb  →  ㅍp
ㅇ → ㅎh

 

Vowels : y + original sound
ㅏa  →  ㅑya
ㅓeo  →  ㅕyeo
ㅗo  →  ㅛyo
ㅜu  → ㅠ yu

 

Reading order
For vertical vowels: from left top side to right, then bottom.
For horizontal vowels: from up till bottom.
Always read 받침 at the end

 

Consonants change their sound as a 받침
ㄱ, ㅋ – k
국회 : gu-kwe
ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ – t / d
쫒다 : jjot-da / 횟수 : hwet-su
ㅇ – ng (ng in king)
사랑 sa-lang
ㄴn, ㄹl, ㅁm, ㅂb, ㅍp keep their sound.

 

Vowel combinations
ㅔ, ㅐ : e (e in edit)
ㅖ, ㅒ : ye (ye in yes)

 

W-Vowel
ㅢ : ui
ㅝ : wo (wa in water)
ㅘ : wa (wa in watch)
ㅟ : wi (wi in wish)
ㅚ ,ㅙ ㅞ : (wa in wait)

 

Same pronunciations in Korean
F (ㅍ) = P (ㅍ)
R (ㄹ) = L (ㄹ)
V (ㅂ) = B (ㅂ)
Z (ㅈ) = J (ㅈ)

Test Time

Group consonants and vowels
ㄱ ㅣ ㄸ ㅇ ㅏ ㅊ ㅌ ㅕ ㅈ ㅞ ㄷ ㅁ ㅜ

 

What is ‘ㅎ’ in English?

 

Connect them correctly
기계                uyu
우유                gongbu
공부                gigye

 

Write ‘san’ in Korean

 

Write ‘se-gye’ in Korean

 

How is ‘ㅈ’ pronounced as a 받침?

 

What is ‘ㅇ’ in Korean?

 

Romanize ‘겨울’

 

How is ‘ㅅ’ pronounced as a 받침?

 

Which consonants can be written as a twin consonant? Answer them all

 

기계 : Machine 우유 : Milk 공부 : Study San : Mountain Segye : World
겨울 : Winter 점심 : Lunch