Korean - The Foundational Vowels

Updated: Feb 23

여러분 안녕하세요!

Or in English, hello everyone! Today’s lesson will be about vowels! Yes, in Korean, just like in any other language, there are vowels, and actually, they’re very similar to the vowels we have in English, and then some.

It’s not all that hard, so we’ll be able to move quickly onwards, since it’s actually one of the easiest languages to learn, compared to Japanese and Chinese. I’m also pretty sure you’ve learned quite a bit as well, considering it’s been a while since I posted up my last Korean lesson.

Speaking of which, did you manage to pick out those consonants in your favourite Kpop song? I’ll be checking homework later!

The Simple Lines

Alright, if you’ve noticed that there syllables with simple lines like 아 or 어, then you’re noticing the vowels. So, say for example I gave you this word 도깨비 you wouldn’t have immediately seen it, but there are three vowels in there, and there are three consonants (well four if you’re counting the double ㄱ - don’t worry, I’ll get to the double consonants later).

Since some of you will be confused, let me map out what their vowels are, like I did for their consonants.








Ok, so I know my examples of pronunciation are different from other books, apps and videos, but I think it’s more telling if I did it this way. You see, if you sounded each word out loud, you’ll notice slight differences in the way you say them.

Take “air” and “epic”, for example, they have similar pronunciations, but if you pay close attention, there’s a slight difference in the way they sound. “Air” is longer, and leans towards the “A”, “epic” is a fully “E” sounding word. Do you see what I mean?

That’s why my examples are pretty different. It’s because I’m trying to get you guys as close as I can, to the way they actually sound. Of course, no one can get it perfect, except if they spend a lot of time around native Korean speakers or watch a K-Drama obsessively (Like how Namjoon from BTS learned English through Friends).

But Wait, There's More

While the regular vowels are the basics of all you need to know about them, there are, what I’d like to call “compound vowels”. Here, let me show you. Below are some vowels, both the ones I showed you above, and the “compound” ones.

Now, as you can see, some of the ones on the right look like syllables already. If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that syllables are written in blocks. I’ve also added the silent ㅇ at the beginning of each vowel, that way you can see how it fully looks in words and syllables.

The reason I call the vowels in the middle and right columns, is because they require more than two characters to make up the vowel, thus they look like syllables. For example, you can break down some of them, like 의. It’s literally just the letter “eu” (으) with “i” (이) attached at the end.

Practice Makes Perfect

Ok, so I’ll leave that there for now, because that is a lot of information. I could have broken it down a little more, but that would have been an overkill, and I don’t really need more than one post to explain all this.

So, that’s it from me today. I want you guys to revise your consonants and vowels, because they’re going to come in handy later. Speaking of which, maybe now you can decipher your K-pop songs, since you’ve got the basics! Why don’t you translate those syllables into English letters and see how you get on? Don’t worry, we’ll get to properly translate them later.

Well, I’ll see you guys next time! 잘가!

With love,

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