Korean - You Sound Different

Updated: Jan 22

여러분 안녕하세요!

We’ve finally finished learning about the 한글 alphabet! Today, I’m going to teach you about how to arrange those letters into syllables, and what it means when some letters are placed at different places in the syllable. What I mean is when letters like ㅈ and ㄹ are placed at the bottom of the syllable. It’s going to be a tricky ride, so bear with it for a bit, we’ll get there.

Anyway, the first thing we need to do is remember how their syllables are made up. We already know how the 2-letter syllables are made. You have a horizontal one and a vertical one, but you can get syllables that have more than 2 letters. In fact, you can get up to 4 letters in a syllable, and their composition and how they’re read can be a little confusing. So, let’s take a closer look at them.

Let’s Build Blocks

Alright, so let’s recap, a 2-letter syllable can either be horizontal or vertical, with a consonant and a vowel. Most of the time the consonant is written first, then the vowel. As you can see…

Ok, so keep this in mind, as we go on with the composition of the more complex syllables. Now, let’s look at the 3-letter syllables. I picture them in terms of furniture, because they do look like furniture. The first one is the horizontal syllable, like the 2-letter syllable. I picture this one like a wardrobe, with a bottom drawer.

As you can see, the placement of the consonants and the vowel are pretty much set, like in the first one, except with the last consonant on the bottom. The second one we’ll look at is the vertical syllable. This one I like to think about as a set of drawers.

Just like the first one, all you need to do is add an extra consonant on the bottom. If a set of drawers is a big ask, so think of it like a sandwich, with the vowel as the filling. You see, it’s not that hard! Now, don’t forget this is not a word, it’s a syllable that makes a word. Of course, some syllables are words, like in English.

The Final Square

Ok, so the last syllable to make is a 4-letter syllable. Again, there are two versions, horizontal and vertical. The horizontal one is like a cupboard, but instead of an equal share of consonants and vowels, it’s three consonants, and one vowel. The vertical syllable has the same distribution.

I told you, a cupboard! Two letters at the top, and two at the bottom. Now, the vertical one…have a think. You’ve seen the last two formations. One on top of the other, then the set of drawers. What do you think?

Like I said, build on it. You have the sandwich, but that doesn’t mean it’ll remain a sandwich. You need to add the consonant, next to the bottom one. So, they sit together, below the horizontal vowel. So, it looks like a nightstand, with two drawers, and a cupboard beneath it.

Strange Sounds

Alright, let’s take a look at the way these syllables sound. You already know that it depends where in the syllable, or the word, how a letter would sound. For example, ㅇ sounds like “ng” at the end of a syllable or word, but is silent at the beginning of the word. Remember that, because the principle is similar.

With syllables, the sound change comes with the 3-letter and 4-letter syllables. The most change is when the consonants ㅊ ㅈ ㅅandㅆ. Of course, there are a few others, but we’ll look at these ones first. Now, remember how these letters sound, the first one sounds like “ch”, the second “j”…and so on. At the beginning of the syllable it’s easy to sound them out, but it’s at the end, it’s pretty difficult. For example…

If we’re being literal, it sounds like “gaj” but, if you listen closely, it sounds more like “gaj-eh”. However, you can’t actually say the “eh” because there’s no vowel at the end of the word. So, instead of the true sound, you need to change the way it sounds, so that it makes sense, and retains the integrity of the syllable. That’s why these letters have to change sound. For these letters, their sound changes to “t”, so 갖 becomes “gat”, and that is it. The other sound change is when ㄹ andㅂ or ㄹ and ㄱ are at the bottom of a syllable. So, let’s look at another syllable.

If we look at the way it sounds, if we take it literally, it sounds like “balk” but in Korean, there’s no such sound, so the ㄹ in the word needs to be silenced. That way, the word sounds like “bak”.

Tune In Next Time

That’s it for today! I think that should be enough, since we just learned two different things. So, for now, why don’t you try constructing your own syllables and learning how to say them.

For now, I’ll leave you to it! Don’t forget to like, subscribe, follow and share, for more updates and new posts here on Feather’s Charm.

With love,

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