Hello!

Dear visitor,

Welcome to the first lesson from the “Learn Korean” serie, where you will be able to study native Korean language used in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. After reading the material of each lesson, you will be able to complete the test, which will assess your knowledge.

The first lesson we will start by learning the Korean alphabet, which in our opinion is one of the coolest and easiest Asian alphabets.

On the first lesson you will learn:

  • How many letters consists Korean alphabet
  • How to pronounce the letters
  • How to write Korean letters

Korean Alphabet

The Korean alphabet has 40 letters – 21 vowels and 19 consonants.

Below we present a table with the Korean alphabet.

LETTER NAME TRANSCRIPTION LETTER NAME TRANSCRIPTION
kiuk k, g a a
niun n ya ya
tiut t, d o o
riul r (l) yo yo
mium m o o
piup p, b yo yo
siut s, t u u
iung ng yu yu
chiut j, ch, t u u
chiut ch, t i i
kiuk k ae ae
tiut t yae yae
piup p e e
hiuh h ye ye
toengiuk gg, k oe oe
toendiut dd wi wi
toenbiup bb ui ui
toensiut ss, t wa wa
toenjiut jj wo wo
wae wae
we we

Vowels

The Korean language has 21 vowels:

ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ, ㅣ, ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅔ, ㅖ, ᅬ, ᅱ, ᅴ, ᅪ, ᅯ, ᅫ, ᅰ

The vowels are divided into simple vowels and diphtongs.

Simple vowels are those for which the shape of oral cavity doesn’t change in pronunciation. There are 10 simple vowels:

ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ, ㅐ, ㅔ, ᅬ, ᅱ

The diphtongs are those vowels for which the shape of the oral cavity changes in pronunciation and two vowels become one. There are 11 diphtongs:

ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ, ㅒ, ㅖ, ᅴ, ᅪ, ᅯ, ᅫ, ᅰ


Exercise: Try to pronounce all the vowels:

ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ, ㅐ, ㅔ, ᅬ, ᅱ

ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ, ㅒ, ㅖ, ᅴ, ᅪ, ᅯ, ᅫ, ᅰ


Pronunciation of Korean Vowels

ㅏ is pronounced [ɑ] as in car and transcribed as <a>, for example: 아 [a] — ah


ㅓ is pronounced [ə] as in ago and transcribed as <o>, example: 어머니 [omoni] — mother


ㅗ is pronounced [ɔ] as in on and is transcribed as <o> example: 오 [o] — oh


ㅜ is pronounced [u] as in good and transcribed as <u> example: 우리 [uri] — we


ㅡ is almost a groaning sound in the chest and is pronounced between [u] in good and [i] in window and transcribed as <u>

example: 그 [ku] — he


ㅣ is pronounced [i] as in it and transcribed as <i> example: 아이 [ai] — child


ㅔ is pronounced [e] as in bed and transcribed as <e> example: 네 [ne] — you; your; yes


ᅬ is pronounced [oe] as in Goethe and transcribed as <oe> example: 쇠 [soe] — iron


ᅱ is pronounced [wi] as in window and transcribed as <wi> example: 위 [wi] — stomach


ㅑis pronounced [ja] as in yard and transcribed as <ya> example: 약 [yak] — medicine


ㅕis pronounced [jə] as in you and transcribed as <yo> example: 여기 [yogi] — here


ㅛ is pronounced [jɔ] as in york and transcribed as <yo> example: 교실 [kyosil] — clasroom


ㅠ is pronounced [ju] as in you and transcribed as <yu> example: 유리 [yuri] — glass


ㅒ is pronunced [je] as in yes and transcribed as <yae> example: 얘 [yae] — hullo (call to a child or between children)


ㅖ is pronounced [je] as in yellow and transcribed as <ye> example: 예 [ye] — yes (answer to an elder or a superior)


ᅴ is pronounced quickly but as a diphtong and transcribed as <ui> example: 의사 [uisa] — doctor


ᅪ is pronounced [wa] as in guaiacum and transcribed as <wa> example: 와 [wa] — and


ᅯ is pronounced [wə] as in word and transcribed as <wo> example: 원 [won] — circle; won (unit of Korean currency)


ᅫ is pronounced [wæ] as in wax and transcribed as <wae> example: 왜 [wae] — why


ᅰ is pronounced almost like [we] in wet and transcribed as <we> example: 웬 [wen] — what


INDIVIDUAL VOWELS ARE PRONOUNCED SEPARATELY. HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:

아세아 [aesa] — Asia

Writing Korean Vowels

The vowels are written as follows:

wovels

Consonants

The Korean language has 19 consonants:

ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅉ

Exercise: Look at the table of the Korean alphabet again, and try to pronounce all consonants.

Pronunciation of Korean Consonants

ㄱ is pronounced a little harder than [g]

  1. ㄱ is transcribed as [k] at the beginning of a word example: 그 [ku] — he
  2. ㄱ is transcribed as [k] at the end of a world example: 조국 [choguk] — fatherland
  3. ㄱ is transcribed as [k] before another consonant example: 극장 [kukjang] — theatre
  4. ㄱ is transcribed as [g] before a vowel example: 고기 [kogi] — meat

ㄲ is pronounced [k] as in the French conte.

  1. ㄲ is transcribed as [gg] at the beginning of a word example: 꽃다발 [ggotdabal] — bouquet
  2. ㄲ is transcribed as [gg] before a vowel example: 도끼 [toggi] — axe
  3. ㄲ is transcribed as [k] at the end of a word example: 밖 [pak] — outside
  4. ㄲ is transcribed as [k] before another consonant example: 묶다 [mukda] — bind

ㅋ is pronounced [k] as in cold. It is a sharply aspirated and powerfully pronounced ㄱ [k]

example: 코 [ko] — nose


ㅂ is pronounced a little harder than [b]

  1. ㅂ is transcribed as [p] at the beginning of a word example: 비 [pi] — rain
  2. ㅂ is transcribed as [p] at the end of a word example: 밥 [pap] — boiled rice
  3. ㅂ is transcribed as [p] before another consonant example: 곱다 [kopda] — beautiful
  4. ㅂ is transcribed as [b] before a vowel example: 집으로 [chiburo] — to home

ㅃ is pronounced [p] as in the French pincette.

ㅃ is transcribed as <bb> example: 빵 [bbang] — bread


ㅍ is pronounced [p] as in park. It’s a sharply aspirated and powerfully pronounced ㅂ [b]

ㅍ is transcribed as [p]

  • 펜 [pen] — pen
  • 우표 [upyo] — postage stamp
  • 잎 [ip] — leaf
  • 높다 [nopda] — high

ㄷ is pronounced a little harder than [d].

  1. ㄷ is transcribed as [t] at the beginning of a word example: 다리 [tari] — leg; bridge
  2. ㄷ is transcribed as [t] at the end of a word example: 디욷 [tiut] — the consonant ㄷ
  3. ㄷ is transcribed as [t] before another consoonant example: 묻다 [mutda] — ask
  4. ㄷ is transcribed as [d] before a vowel example: 도마도 [tomado] — tomato

ㄸ is pronounced [t] as in the Spanish tobacco.

ㄸ is transcribed as <dd> example: 땅 [ddang] — earth


ㅌ is pronounced [t] as in tank. It is a sharply aspirated and powerfully pronounced ㄷ [t].

ㅌ is transcribed as <t>. examples:

  1. 트렁크 [turongku] — trunk
  2. 봉투 [boongtu] — envelope
  3. 밭 [bat] — field
  4. 같다 [katda] — equal

ㅈ is pronounced [z] as in zero

  1. ㅈ is transcribed as [ch] at the beginning of a word example: 조선 [choson] — Korea
  2. ㅈ is transcribed as [j] before a vowel example: 아버지 [aboji] — father
  3. ㅈ is transcribed as [t] at the end of a word. example: 낮 [nat] — day
  4. ㅈ is transcribed as [t] before another consonant example: 낮다 [nutda] — late

ㅉ is pronounced [ts] as in tzar and transcribed as <jj> example: 동쪽 [tongjjok] — east


ㅊ is pronounced [tʃ] as in child. It’s a sharply aspirated and powerfully pronounced ㅈ [ch]

  1. ㅊ is transcribed as [ch] at the beginning of a word example: 춤 [chum] — dance
  2. ㅊ is transcribed as [ch] before a vowel example: 자동차 [chadongcha] — car
  3. ㅊ is transcribed as [t] at the end of a word example: 꽃 [ggot] — flower
  4. ㅊis transcribed as [t] before another consonant example: 꽃방 [ggotbang] — florist’s shop

ㅅ is pronounced [s] as in song

  1. ㅅ is transcribed as [s] at the beginning of a word example: 수도 [sudo] — capital
  2. ㅅ is transcribed as [s] before a vowel example: 도시 [tosi] — city
  3. ㅅ is transcribed as [t] at the end of a word example: 옷 [ot] — clothes
  4. ㅅ is transcribed as [t] before another consonant example: 웃다 [utda] — laugh

ㅆ is pronounced [s] as in the French sans

  1. ㅆ is transcribed as [ss] before a vowel example: 날씨 [nalssi] — weather
  2. ㅆ is transcribed as [ss] at the beginning of a word example: 쌀 [ssal] — rice
  3. ㅆ is transcribed as [t] at the end of a word example: 겠 [ket] – the ending of the future tense
  4. ㅆ is transcribed as [t] before another consonant for example 있다 [itda] — there is

ㄴ is pronounced [n] as in pen

ㄴ is transcribed as [n] examples:

  • 나 [na] — I
  • 조선 [choson] — Korea

ㅁ is pronounced [m] as in man

ㅁ is transcribed as [m] examples:

  • 어머니 [omoni]
  • 사람 [saram]

<r> and <l> are denoted in Korean by the same letter – ㄹ.

The following rules are applied to this bouble pronunciation:

  1. ㄹ is transcribed as [r] at the beginning of a word example: 라지오 [rajio] — radio
  2. ㄹ is transcribed as [r] before a vowel example: 우리 [uri] — we
  3. ㄹ is transcribed as [l] at the end of a word example: 물 [mul] — water
  4. ㄹ is transcribed as [l] before another consonant example: 팔다 [palda] — sell
  5. When ㄴ and ㄹ come together, then ㄴ ㄹ is always transcribes as double [l] example: 천리 [cholli] — thousand ri (ri is a Korean unit of distance)

ㅎ is pronounced [h] as in hat and transcribed as <h>

Example: 하나 [hana] — one


ㅇ is pronounced [ŋ] as in song. But at the beginning of a syllabe ㅇ is not pronounced. ㅇ is transcribed as <ng>. example: 강 [kang] — river


Writing Korean Consonants

The consonants are written as follows:

cosonants


Let’s check your knowledge!

Welcome to the first lesson’s quiz from the “Learn Korean” serie, where you will be able to study native Korean language used in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.