Updated: Sep 10
It’s time to start learning! Ok, I am so excited to start this journey with you guys! I hope you’ll forgive me if I mess up. Anyway, today we’ll be learning the Korean alphabet. It’s always a good start, because then you’ll get an idea of how to pronounce everything, before getting into the major sentences you’ll need to use.
Before that though, did you practice with a Korean song yet? Are you sure? I know if you’re lying! Ok so, I have a feeling some of you haven’t but that’s ok, because you’ll basically learn without the influence of a Romanised version of the Korean alphabet…well you will, but I’ll do my best to teach you how to pronounce them as closely as you can. So, let’s begin!
The Hangul Alphabet
Alright, just like in English, the Korean alphabet has both consonants and vowels, but remember don’t mix up theirs with ours. They might sound the same, but they will mean completely different things, when actually strung together.
Now, there are 14 consonants, and 10 vowels, and when combined together, they make syllables. String those syllables together, and you have a word. The difference is that while we make words linearly, Korean (and most Asian languages) uses syllable blocks. So, you read the block from left to right, then downwards. Here I’ll show you.
Or Like This
Well, that’s just the start. If you’ve noticed, in my greeting, there are some blocks with more than two symbols in them. We’ll get to them in time. Let’s just focus on these two blocks for now. They’re the simplest.
Let's Backtrack Here!
Ok, so I jumped ahead a little bit, since that’s where my explanation went. So, let’s go back to actually learning the alphabet. As I said before, there are 10 vowels and 14 consonants. Let’s take a look at the consonants today:
ㄱ = G/K
ㄷ = D/T
ㄴ = N
ㅁ = M/B
ㅂ = B/P
ㅅ = S
ㅈ = J/CH
ㅎ = H
ㄹ = R/L
ㅇ = SILENT/NG
Ok, so you’ll notice that many of these symbols have double pronunciations. That’s because they do. It depends on the word and the placement of the symbol how the word sounds. Here, let me give you an example.
In Korean the word 던립문 can be said a bunch of different ways. You could say “Don-rib-mun”, “Ton-lip-mun” or “Dong-nim-mun”, but if you were to use these varieties on a native Korean speaker, you wouldn’t make a lick of sense to them. They’d have to decipher the word, before correcting you. So, the best way to learn how to speak Korean is by listening to Koreans. They’ll explain to you how a letter or syllable sounds, and when it sounds like it.
The Weird "NG" and Silent ㅇ
You’re probably wondering what that consonant is. Well, I’m not really sure how to explain it, other than using another language as a comparison. Ok, so for those of you who’ve been studying with me, Spanish has their weird set of vowels and consonants. If you’re studying the language, you would’ve come across the letter “h”. You’ll notice that any word containing “h” would not usually give the letter a sound. So, the word “hacer” would be pronounced “ah-cer”.
That’s pretty much what this consonant does. In certain words and syllables, the ㅇ is silent, but unlike “h” in Spanish, it does have a sound too. When ㅇ is at the end of a word, it adds on the “ng” sound. So, 선생 sounds like “son-saeng” because the ㅇadds the “ng” sound to the end, but 언녕 sounds like “an-nyong” because the ㅇ at the beginning has no sound at all.
I’ll teach you all about vowels next time, so do some research now. Go back to the song you’ve learned and skip the Romanised version. Go straight to the Korean and pick out the consonants you find there. Count how many there are and let me know!
Like I said before, don’t worry if you don’t know what the lyrics mean. Just learn what is a consonant and what is a vowel first.
Well, I’ll leave it there, and remember, I’ll know if you’ve learned that song or not! See you guys next time!