• Learn the Korean Alphabet

  • Learn to Write in Hangul

  • Start Learning Korean


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Introduction to Hangul


Hangul is the official alphabet of the Korean language and it’s used in both South and North Korea.  The alphabet was created in the year 1443 in the Joseon Dynasty.

The Korean alphabet is made up of 19 consonant letters and 21 vowel characters for a total of 40 main letters.  There are some obsolete characters and combination characters as well but the main alphabet is 40 letters. Unlike English however the letters are combined into blocks of usually 2 to 3 characters for each syllable.  “Han” for example isn’t written as “ㅎㅏㄴ” it’s written as “한”

The name of the Korean alphabet, Hangul (한글) means great script in Korean.  Han (한) means great and Geul (글) means script.

The most interesting feature of the Korean Alphabet is the design of the letters.  The shape of each letter is designed after the features of the sounds they represent.  Consonants are based on the shape your mouth makes when you pronounce them while vowels are made from easy to identify horizontal or vertical lines. The character ㄱ for example is the shape your toungue takes when you make a “g” sound.

Each consonant has its own name.  ㄱ for example is called giyeok (기역). The vowels are just named after the sounds they make like “ah” for the vowelㅏ.

 


 

Haneul

About me

My name is Haneul.  I was born into a Korean family but grew up in Canada.  I never really learned Korean until I was in my 20s when I decided to teach myself so I could communicate better with my extended family.

Today I’m fluent in Korean and I live in Seoul South Korea.  I built this website to help other people learn Korean like I did.

My hobbies include reading, watching Korean dramas, listening to K-Pop and cooking all kinds of different food.

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Learn the Korean Alphabet


We’ll start by learning all the consonant characters in the Korean alphabet.  Every Hangul letter has a name and it’s own sound.  Some characters even have multiple sounds depending on whether or not they’re at the beginning of a word, beginning of a syllable or the end of a word.

Here are the Hangul consonants, their names and the sounds they make.

giyokGiyok (기역):

Start of word: k like in kite

Start of a syllable: g like in go

End of a word: k like in talk

nieunNieun (니은):

Start of a word: n like in no

Start of a syllable: n like in no

End of a word: n like in no

digeutDigeut (디귿):

Start of a word: t like in talk

Start of a syllable: d like in find

End of a word: t like in not

rieulRieul (리을 ):

Start of a word: r like in run

Start of a syllable: r like in run

End of a word: l like in feel

mieumMieum (미음):

Start of a word: m like in mom

Start of a syllable: m like in mom

End of a word: m like in hum

bieupBieup (비읍):

Start of a word: p like in pool

Start of a syllable: b like in back

End of a word: p like in lap

siotSiot (시옷):

Start of a word: s like in show

Start of a syllable: s like in show

End of a word: t like in not

ieungIeung (이응):

Start of a word: no sound

Start of a syllable:no sound

End of a word: ng like in king

jieutJieut (지읒):

Start of a word: ch like in chop

Start of a syllable: j like in jar

End of a word: t like in not

chieutChieut (치읓):

Start of a word: ch like in itch

Start of a syllable: ch like in itch

End of a word: t like in not

kieukKieuk (키읔):

Start of a word: kh like in khaki

Start of a syllable: kh like in khaki

End of a word: kh like in khaki

tieutTieut (티읕):

Start of a word: t like in tip

Start of a syllable: t like in tip

End of a word: t like in not

pieupPieup (피읖):

Start of word: p like in pit

Start of a syllable: p like in pit

End of a word: p like in nap

hieutHieut (히읕):

Start of word: h like in hot

Start of a syllable: h like in hot

End of a word: no sound

 

There are also a couple of double Hangul consonants in the Korean alphabet.  They are as follows:

ssang-giyokSsang Giyok (쌍기역):

Start of word: g like in gone

Start of a syllable: g like in gone

End of a word: g like in gone

ssang-digeutSsang Digeut (쌍디귿):

Start of word: d like in dog

Start of a syllable: d like in dog

End of a word: d like in dog

ssang-bieupSsang Bieup (쌍비읍):

Start of word: b like in bird

Start of a syllable: b like in bird

End of a word: b like in bird

ssang-siotSsang Siot (쌍시옷):

Start of word: s like in some

Start of a syllable: s like in some

End of a word: t like in not

ssang-jieutSsang Jieut (쌍지읒):

Start of word: j like in Jim

Start of a syllable: j like in Jim

End of a word: t like in not

 

The vowels in Hangul, the Korean alphabet don’t have names like the consonants do, instead they just have one sort of simple sound.  A lot of the vowels have very similar sounds so do your best to try to figure out the difference. You’ll notice that adding another line to it essentially ads a y to the sound and adding a ㅗ or a ㅜ is like adding a w sound to the vowel.

aa

like in hah

eoeo

like in run

oo

like in dough

uu

like in moon

eueu

like in good

ii

like in meet

aeae

like in at

ee

like in get

yaya

like in yawn

yeoyeo

like in yum

yoyo

like in yoke

yuyu

like in view

yaeyae

like in yak

yeye

like in yes

wawa

like in wand

waewae

like in wax

wowo

like in wonder

wewe

like in wet

oeoe

like in wait

wiwi

like in week

uiui

like in quey

 

Now that you’ve had an introduction to the Korean alphabet you’re ready to start combining these characters into syllables and start writing words!

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Writing in Hangul


In the Korean alphabet the different Hangul letters aren’t written one after another like in English.  Instead they’re stacked into little blocks for each syllable.

For example, the word Hangul isn’t written like:

Hangeul One Character at a Time

It’s instead written as two syllable blocks like:

Hangeul Written Correctly

Consonants Plus Vowels

Combining the different Hangul letters together is easy.  The first common type of combination is simply one consonant and one vowel.

Here are some examples:

kaKa

The consonant here is “k” and the vowel is “a” which gives this syllable a “ka” sound.

saSa

The consonant here is “s” and the vowel is “a” which gives this syllable a “sa” sound.

moMo

The consonant here is “m” and the vowel is “o” which gives this syllable a “mo” sound.

riRi

The consonant here is “r” and the vowel is “i” which gives this syllable a “ri” sound.

 

Consonants Plus Vowels Plus Another Consonant

Next we have syllables made up of three Hangul letters.  These are simply consonant plus vowel plus consonant.

Here are some examples:

talTal

The first consonant here is “t” followed by the vowel “a” and ending with the consonant “l” for a “tal” sound.

neunNeun

The first consonant here is “n” followed by the vowel “eu” and ending with the consonant “n” for a “neun” sound.

ramRam

The first consonant here is “r” followed by the vowel “a” and ending with the consonant “m” for a “ram” sound.

motMot

The first consonant here is “m” followed by the vowel “o” and ending with the consonant “t” for a “mot” sound.

 

When writing these 3 character syllables you have to remember to pay attention to the sounds of the consonants.  Many Hangul consonants have a different sound if they’re at the start of a syllable and a different sound at the end of a syllable.

You’ll also notice that these characters are read from left to right and top to bottom.

Sometimes you write the characters in a vertical stack of three Hangul letters and some times you write two beside each other with the third one below them.

As you get more familiar with writing the Korean alphabet you’ll start to get a feel for how the letters fit together properly.

 

Hangul Syllables Starting with Vowels

The next type of syllable you’ll encounter in Korean is a syllable that begins with a vowel.  These can be either just one vowel or a vowel followed by a consonant.

However things are a little different for characters that start with vowels.

You can’t have a syllable block starting with a vowel for some reason so instead you have to put the silent character ieung (ㅇ) before the vowel.

Here are some examples:

a-syllablea

This is simply the silent ieung character plus the vowel “a” and the sound of this syllable is “a”

yo-syllableyo

This is simply the silent ieung character plus the vowel “yo” and the sound of this syllable is “yo”

eumeum

This has the silent ieung character, then the vowel “eu” and it ends with the consonant “m”. The sound of this syllable is “eum”

yeokyeok

This has the silent ieung character, then the vowel yeo and it ends with the consonant “k”. The sound of this syllable is “yeok”

 

Hangul Syllables with 4 Characters

In some cases you’ll even see syllable blocks written with 4 Hangul characters although these are not as common as the 2 or 3 character blocks.

 

Examples of Words Written in the Korean Alphabet

Here are some examples of Korean words written in Hangul.  You should be able to read or sound them out easily now.

Hangeul Written Correctly

sarang

eat

hello

good-night

If you were able to read these words then congratulations, you’re well on your way to becoming fluent in Korean!

Printable Flashcards


To help you memorize the Korean alphabet I’ve created these simple to use Hangul flash cards. Simply download the pdf files, print them on card stock or some kind of other thicker paper, cut them out and start memorizing!

There are two pages of flash cards and four files, page 1 front and back and page 2 front and back. They’re designed to print on both sides of the paper.  You might have to play around with your printer and test print a couple of times until you get the cards lined up correctly on your specific printer.

 

Page 1 Front

Contains all the Hangul consonants plus 1 vowel

Page 1 Back

The English answers for the Hangul consonants and 1 vowel.

Page 2 Front

This page contains the rest of the Hangul vowels

Page 2 Back

Contains the English answers for the rest of the Hangul vowels

Learn Korean


Despite being born into a Korean family because I lived in Canada my whole life I never really learned Korean.  I was able to pick up a few odd words and phrases from my parents sure but I was never able to really communicate with my older relatives who didn’t speak any English.

When I was 22 I visited South Korea for the first time and when I returned I was determined to finally teach myself Korean.  I tried many different books, courses and websites, some were definitely better than others.

The three tools that ultimately helped me become fluent in Korean were the online course Rocket Korean, Pimsleur Korean audio lessons and Rosetta Stone’s Korean course.  There are many other options out there but take it from someone who’s tried them all, these 3 are the best and out of these 3 you probably only really need Rocket Korean.

Rocket Korean was definitely the best tool I found for learning Korean and I was able to effectively communicate with my older relatives after about 6 months of serious study!  With a little additional help from Pimsleur Korean and then ultimately Rosetta Stone I was able to reach a level where I’m confident calling myself fluent.  I’ve since moved to Seoul and I’m very confident interacting with the people who live here.

Below is a little bit more information about my favourite 3 Korean language learning tools.

 

Rocket Korean

Rocket Korean - The Best Option for Overall Korean Language Learning

Rocket Korean emphasizes learning Korean as quickly as possible while also having fun in the process. The main features of Rocket Korean include:

  • 32 25 minute audio lessons with fun native Korean hosts
  • 28 Language and culture lessons
  • Writing lessons
  • Download all the lessons and listen to them anywhere on any device
  • Track your progress through their website
  • An online forum where you can get help from Korean teachers, native speakers and other students just like you
  • An article database featuring advanced learning techniques and tips and tricks
  • And much more!

Rocket Korean is best for those looking for an online community with lots of options for help and support so you don’t have to go about learning Korean by yourself.  It’ll teach you everything you need to know to have meaningful conversations with people in Korean.

Plus with a Completely FREE 6-day trial you have nothing to lose by trying it out!

Start Learning Korean with Rocket Korean!

 

Rosetta Stone Korean

Rosetta Stone Korean - Perfect for Long Term Fluency and Mastery

Rosetta Stone uses a method they call Strong Immersion to create a language-learning experience you won’t forget. Rather than allowing you to rely on repetition and parroting the Rosetta Stone method encourages you to arrive at the right answers intuitively so soon you’ll be thinking in a new language instead of just speaking it.

The features of Rosetta Stone Korean include:

  • 40 to 50 hours of engaging content per level
  • Improve pronunciation with smart speech recognition tools
  • Live conversation with coaches who are native speakers
  • Cutting-edge technology
  • Social learning activities
  • Access your courses from anywhere
  • And much more!

Rosetta Stone Korean is best for learners who want to learn using Rosetta Stone’s method that immerses you in another language.  It’s great for people who want a comprehensive language course and who don’t mind putting in in the time and effort to master Korean.

Start Learning Korean with Rosetta Stone!

 

Pimsleur Korean

Pimsleur Korean – Perfect for Learning Basic Everyday Conversational Korean

Pimsleur Korean is a different sort of course.  It features a number of half hour audio lessons designed to effectively teach conversational Korean.

Dr. Pimsleur’s method is based on the following key principles:

Graduated Interval Recall

If you are reminded of new words at gradually increasing intervals each time you hear the word you’ll remember it for a longer period.  Dr. Pimsleur documented the optimal spacing for information to move from short-term to long-term memory.  This theory is the base of Pimsleur Korean.

The Principle of Anticipation

Our brains are designed to process speech and anticipate the correct response.  Pimsleur Korean takes this into consideration and by anticipating the correct responses throughout the course you increase understanding and activate new neural pathways in your brain.

Core Vocabulary

This course deliberately limits the amount of new information learned at any time.  Once a foundation is built new words and phrases are added easily.

Organic Learning

Each lesson uses a normal conversation to help you integrate the correct intonation, rhythm and pronunciation.  You’ll learn the phrases and words that you’re most likely to need in actual conversations.

This course is best for people who want to learn the Korean that they’ll need for every day conversations as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

Start Learning Korean with Pimsleur Korean!

The History of Hangul


Hangul, the Korean alphabet was a project promoted by Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty.

During his reign he set up a group of specially selected scholars called the Hall of Worthies.  They were involved with publishing a lot of scholarly and scientific writings and because of their contribution to Korean culture this time period is widely regarded as the golden age of Korean history.

The most well-known accomplishment of the Hall of Worthies was the Hunmin Jeongeum.  Translated as “the correct/proper sounds for the instruction of the people”, this document described the brand new Korean alphabet that later became known as Hangul.

The Hunmin Jeongeum was published on October 9, 1446 and that day is celebrated as Hangul Day in South Korea.

Another document called the Hunmin Jeong-eum Haerye (translated as the Hunmin Jeong-eum Explanation and Examples) explains how the consonants were designed after the shapes the mouth makes when saying the letters while the vowels were designed after the principles of yin and yang.

King Sejong decided that the Korean people needed a new alphabet because the Korean language was fundamentally different from Chinese.

Until this point all Korean was written in Chinese characters known as Hanja which were very difficult for common people to read and write.  In fact, before the invention of Hangul the majority of Koreans were illiterate.

Hangul was designed so that even commoners would be able to read and right and as you might imagine this caused problems for the literary elite.  Many scholars and aristocrats believed that Hanja was the only legitimate writing system and saw Hangul as a threat to their status.

Because Hangul was so easy to learn and easy to use to spread information the tenth king Yeonsangun banned the study and use of Hangul and banned all documents written in Hangul.  Hangul later saw a revival in the last 16th century however.

In the 19th century there was increased Korean nationalism which led to an increase in the use of Hangul.

Western missionaries also promoted Hangul in schools and in 1894 Hangul was adopted for official documents.

In 1895 elementary schools started using Hangul in their textbooks and in 1896 the first newspaper was printed in both Hangul and English.

During the Colonial Rule in 1910 the official language of Korea became Japanese.  However, Hangul was still taught in Korean schools and once public schooling became mandatory for children the majority of Korea started learning Hangul.

The characters were somewhat standardized in 1912 with a few changes being made in 1930.

A man named Ju Sigyeong came up with the term Hangul which means “Great Script” in 1912.

In 1938 the Korean language was banned in schools as part of a policy of cultural assimilation.  Later, in 1941 all publications written in the Korean language were outlawed.

After Korea’s independence from colonial rule in 1946 Hangul was brought back and North Korea even tried to add a few new letters.

In 1949 North Korea made Hangul it’s official writing system and banned the use of Hanja completely.

In South Korea Hangul remains the official writing system however in some cases Hanja characters are still used.