Learn How to Read ANYTHING in Korea by Learning Hangul

Periodic Table of Hangul
Image Source: http://www.aboutletters.com/

If you’re coming to Korea for the first time, the most important thing to do FIRST is learn the alphabet.

Even if you study absolutely no grammar or vocabulary, learning the alphabet is essential to your happiness and success in Korea. It’s also the easiest part of Korean to learn. You can learn the entire alphabet in a single afternoon (or in a single blog post!).

Overview

Letters

  1. Hangul has a total of 24 basic letters (less than the English alphabet).
  2. The 24 basic letters can combine to form 40 total letters (less than Japanese).
  3. Hangul consists of consonants and vowels (like English).
  4. Because it is an alphabet, Hangul has an alphabetical order (shown below – it’s useful to learn for using dictionaries).

Syllables

  1. The consonants and vowels are arranged into syllable blocks (with up to 3-4 letters per block).
  2. Syllable blocks of letters arranged together form words and spaces (띄어쓰기) separate words.
  3. Every syllable block begins with a consonant.
  4. The empty consonant ㅇ is used for words that begin with vowel sounds.

Pronunciation

  1. The final consonant in a syllable block is called the “padt-chim” (받침).
  2. The 받침’s sound carries over into the next syllable IF the next syllable starts with a vowel sound (empty consonant ㅇ).

Writing

  1. Hangul is written from LEFT → RIGHT and from TOP → BOTTOM.
  2. Vertical vowels go to the right of the consonant; horizontal vowels go under the consonant.
Vertical Vowels아 야 어 여 이 애 얘 에 예
Horizontal Vowels오 요 우 유 으

History

  1. Hangul was developed by King Sejong and a group of scholars beginning in 1443.
  2. It was introduced to the people in 1446 to replace Chinese writing and improve literacy in Korea.
  3. It is widely acclaimed by linguists around the world as an ingenious invention.

The Alphabet

  • Basic consonants (14): ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ
  • Basic vowels (10): ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ
  • Double consonants (5): ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ
  • Double vowels (11): ㅐ ㅔ ㅒ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅝ ㅞ ㅚ ㅟ ㅢ
  • TOTAL (40): Basic letters (24) + Double letters (16)

Basic consonants:

LetterEnglishStarting ConsonantFinal Consonant
g/kgo (고), kimchi (김치)luck/lug (럭)
nno (노)noon (눈)
ddot (닷)good (굳)
l (r)lemon (레몬)bowl (볼)
mman (맨)mom (맘)
b/p (v)big (빅), Visa (비자)bob/bop (밥)
ssun (선)dot (닷)
-/ng---young (영)
j (z)jam (잼), zero (재로)dot (닷)
chchair (체어)dot (닷)
kkKorea (코리아)luck (렄)
ttire (타이어)dot (닷)
p (f)pan, fan (팬)pop (팦)
hhaha (하하)*

*ㅎ: When in the final consonant position of one syllable, the sound carries over to the following syllable and aspirates it. For example:

  • ㄱ (g) → ㅋ (kk)
  • ㄷ (d) → ㅌ (t)
  • ㅂ (b) → ㅍ (p)
  • ㅈ (j) → ㅊ (ch)

Basic vowels:

LetterEnglishExample
ahhaha (하하)
yaYahoo (야후)
uhupset (업셋)
yeoyoung (영)
ohgo (고)
yoyo-yo (요요)
ooonoon (눈)
youyou (유)
...e-uh...put (픗)
eesee (시)

Double consonants:

LetterEnglishStarting ConsonantFinal Consonant
strong ggo! (꼬)rug (럮)
strong ddie! (따이)---
strong bball! (빨)---
strong s/shshe! (씨)dot (닸)
strong j/zpizza! (피짜)---

*There are additionally a few other double consonants like 읽 and 없 but you can learn those as you come to them.

Double vowels:

LetterEnglishExample
eh*men (맨)
yeh+yeah (얘)
eh*men (멘)
yeh+yeah (예)
wahHawaii (하와이)
way~way (왜)
wuhwar (워)
way~way (웨)
way~way (외)
wewe (위)
...e-uh..ee...**
  • *ㅐ and ㅔ are nearly indistinguishable
  • + ㅒ and ㅖ also sound the same
  • ~ ㅙ, ㅞ, and ㅚ are also hard to tell apart
  • ** There is no English equivalent for ㅢ. It is pronounced by combining those two vowels together “…e-uh…ee.” (Although in some cases and dialects it is pronounced as ㅔ or ㅖ as in 나의 = “na-yay” or 그들의 = “ke-dul-ay”.)

9 comments

    1. Thanks, but it’s not one I designed. I merely linked to a great resource that someone else designed. Please check out their page at: http://www.aboutletters.com/ You can also order this periodic table as a PRINT ($14.99) if you want to have a copy at home! (Shipping only in the US)

  1. Hi Aaron. I’m Choi who are promoting Korea to foreigners who live in Korea.
    Can I refer to your explanation of Korean language to teach them Hangul?
    Can I use your document on this page including images?
    Your explanation is really great and you are not Korea. That’s why your document will be helpful for people who want to learn Hangul.

    Thank you

Track/Pingbacks

  1. Grammar Points Covered In Beginner Classes | Key to Korean
  2. Consonants | Khmer Online
  3. vowels | Khmer Online
  4. Hangul Periodic Table – Korea 101

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