Korean Alphabet

How to Learn the Korean Alphabet: A Quick Guide

All About the Korean Alphabet -- Known as Hangul

Many people think that the Korean alphabet is hard to learn.

In actuality, it's not. In fact, King Sejong the Great made this writing system easy to learn and understand.

And, like his subjects in the early days, you can master the Hangul -- the Korean alphabet -- with the help of this quick guide.

All About the Korean Alphabet -- Known as Hangul

Several centuries ago, then-unified North Korea and South Korea relied on Chinese characters. However, they can be quite tricky to learn, so only the nobles could understand it.

Seeing that his poor subjects are unable to comprehend complicated writing, Sejong devised the Hangul. According to Korean texts, this set of consonants and vowels is derived from the words han (Korean) and gul (letter).

Unlike the Chinese alphabet’s complicated nature, the Hangul or Korean alphabet is only composed of 24 vowels and consonants. They're written pretty smartly, too, since South Korean letters represent how they sound.

Because of this nature, learning Korean is easier for locals and foreigners alike.

How-to Guide on Reading and Writing Korean Consonants

To read and write Korean words, you need to master all consonants.

Here is a list of how they are pronounced as an initial letter:

  • ㄱ = g
  • ㄴ = n
  • ㄷ = d
  • ㄹ = r
  • ㅁ = m
  • ㅂ = b
  • ㅅ = s
  • ㅈ = j
  • ㅊ = ch
  • ㅋ = k
  •  ㅌ = t
  • ㅍ = p
  • ㅎ = h

As final consonants, some letters are pronounced differently. ㄷ, ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, and ㅎ are pronounced as 'T' at the end. On the other hand,ㄱ is "K", ㄹ is "L", and ㅂ is "P". or J is pronounced as CH at the end.

The Hangul serves as a placeholder. It is a silent initial consonant, yet it is pronounced as -ng as a final consonant.

Double consonants, as the name suggests, are written doubly. They are also pronounced with more emphasis.

Such alphabet examples include:

  • ㄲ = kk
  • ㄸ = tt
  • ㅃ = pp
  • ㅆ = ss
  • ㅉ = jj

Fun Hacks to Learn Korean Word Consonants

A great thing about the Korean letter is that you can associate the sound with pictures:

  • ㅂ, which is pronounced as B, is reminiscent of a Bed
  • ㄷ, which is pronounced as D, looks like the panels of a Door
  • ㄱ, which is pronounced as G, is drawn like a Gun
  • ㅎ, which is pronounced like H, looks like a man's Hat
  • ㅈ, which is pronounced as J, is drawn like a Jug
  • ㄹ, which is pronounced as L, appears to be a Ladder
  • ㅁ, which is pronounced as M, looks like Mail
  • ㄴ, which is pronounced as N, is drawn as the Northeastern direction
  • ㅅ, which is pronounced as S, looks like a Seashell
  • ㅋ, which is pronounced as K, appears as a Key
  • ㅌ, which is pronounced as T, looks like Teeth!
  • ㅍ, which is pronounced as P, is drawn like the mathematical figure Pi
  • ㅊ, which is pronounced as CH, appears as a drawing of a CHurch

How to Learn to Read and Write Hangul Vowels

These Hangul Korean characters are usually drawn with a horizontal line or vertical line and a dot.

To illustrate, the basic vowels are written as:

  • ㅏ= a
  • ㅔ = e
  • ㅣ = i
  • ㅗ = o
  • ㅜ = u

The doubling of lines and dots are apparent in these combinations of Korean vowels:

  • ㅐ = ae
  • ㅑ = ya
  • ㅒ = yae
  • ㅓ = eo
  • ㅕ = yeo
  • ㅖ = ye
  • ㅘ = wa
  • ㅙ = wae
  • ㅚ = oe
  •  ㅛ = yo
  •  ㅝ = wo
  • ㅞ = we
  • ㅟ = wi
  • ㅠ = yu
  • ㅡ = eu
  • ㅢ = ui
  • ㅣ = i

Fun Hacks in Korean: Writing a Vowel Letter

You can master the Korean alphabet by taking note of the appearance of the lines.

ㅣis a line like a tree, which is coincidentally its pronunciation (long E sound). ㅡ, which comes with a long O sound, looks like a calm brook.

How to Learn the Korean Alphabet with Syllable Blocks

The basic Korean syllable consists of at least one consonant and one vowel, although more of the former (up to three) can be added, too.

Vertically-written Hangul letters are placed at the right of the consonant. A horizontally drawn vowel, on the other hand, is written below the letter.

As a general rule, every syllable should start with a consonant.

Korean writing systems are written in a set stroke order. It is read per syllable in a left to right, top to bottom fashion.

Take the case of the word banana.

  • 바= ba
  • 나 = na
  • 바나나 = banana

Although syllables are written together, each Korean word is separated by a space in between.

You can learn Korean -- specifically the Hangul alphabet -- in just a few months. As long as you practice daily by writing and speaking the Korean language whenever you can, you'll be able to talk like a local soon!

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