Hangul (reading the alphabet)

A basic overview of the korean letters! I recommend slowing down kpop lyric videos and reading along, or using sources like “korean short stories for language learners” where you can listen and read along.

stroke order can be found here!

About Hangul

Koreans didn’t have a writing system until the 1440s when King Sejong invented it. It is called Hangul and, according to many, is the easiest alphabet to learn. Prior to this, scholars used Chinese characters known as Hanja (한자). This is why Korean has alot of Chinese based words, but they are written in Korean letters these days.

Hangul uses a consonant vowel consonant vowel (CVCV) pattern. This means you can’t have just a consonant or just a vowel by itself. You also can’t have a vowel before a consonant. So korean letters will always be seen in groups of 2, but may be written in groups of up to 5 as well!

The other hangul patterns are CVC and CVCC. These use what we call batchim (빋침). It literally means a “support or prop” as it is propping up the other characters. It just means “a consonant on the bottom” and may also be referred to as a “final consonant”

You can also have double vowels (dipthongs) which are CVV , CVVC and CVVCC

So there are 6 patterns and 9 different ways to stack them based on the vowel that is used.  I call the way they stack a “block”. Basically, each “block” is one syllable.

  1 syllable = 1 letter

For example, the word hangul is 한글. it contains 6 different characters, ㅎ ㅏ ㄴ ㄱ ㅡㄹ but they combine into 2 syllables 한 and 글, so the word Hangul is only considered to be 2 letters in Korean

The patterns look like this

As you can see, the characters stack differently based on which VOWEL is used.

Vowels ㅕㅑㅐㅔㅓㅏㅣ use patterns 1 3 and 5

Vowels ㅛㅗㅠㅜㅡ use patterns 2 4 and 6

Notice the vowels for 1 3 and 5 have longer vertical lines while 2 4 and 6 have longer horizontal lines. It may make it easier to remember. It also helps to type random things on the keyboard. If you try to type a consonant vowel combination that doesnt exist (like 오ㅓ) the key board wont be able to type it.

Basic romanization

I recommend using an app called “write it korean”. It will teach you stroke order and  pronunciation. There are several youtube videos as well. Romanization may help at first, but break away from it as soon as possible. Try not to rely on it too much cause it is inaccurate and will slow down your learning.

Some characters are associated with 2 sounds. This is because all Korean syllables start off really soft. I don’t remember where, but as a beginner I read that the first part of a syllable is voiceless. This means you form your mouth like you are going to say it, but instead of using your voice, you just blow air and dont make noise until the second part of the syllable. IN OTHER WORDS the first part of the syllable is more breathy than the second syllable, making the beginning sound much softer than the second. Consonants also have a much softer sound when used as a batchim because you can’t fully pronounce the consonant unless it is followed by a vowel (remember that a consonant can’t exist by itself. It must be followed by a vowel. So when used as a batchim, the sound kind of gets cut off.)

So in 가가각 the first and fourth ㄱ have a much softer sound than the second ㄱ and third ㄱ. So you may see it romanized as kagagak

This is why you wont learn with romanization. Type the words into a translator and listen.

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Typing words into a translator will also help you learn sound changing rules. An example of this is how the 의 in 의자 has more of an E sound, but when used as a posessive marker (or ‘s in English) it has more of an “eh” sound. I can’t teach you these because I learned Hangul by reading along, so I didn’t learn romanization or sound changing rules. So I recommend typing vocabulary you learn into the translator and listen to it.

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With that being said, here is the basic romanization.

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ㄹ as an R or an L

I HIGHLY recommend listening to “turn back time” by SF9. The majority of the lyrics contain ㄹ

I learned how to read Hangul by reading their lyrics and listening. That me be how I became a fantasy lol

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It is actually an in between sound. I form my mouth like I am going to say an L, but I try to say R instead.

For L, my tongue touches back of top teeth. For R, my tongue is back away from my teeth. For ㄹ my tongues touches back of my bottom teeth

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As a general “rule”, it sounds more like an R as a second syllable or as a batchim followed by ㅇ (meaning that the second syllable will have a vowel sound cause ㅇ is silent before a vowel like in 알아-> 아라) and more like an L as a batchim followed by a consonant, as a first syllable, or when there are 2 together. Good examples are the names Laura (로라) and Lola (롤라)

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This post is way too long but I hope it was helpful!

~ Shelbi

Published by Hannah & Shelbi

We are just 2 students who wish to share the love and joy of learning language through lesson posts and translations! We are doing this for fun, based on our experience and questions we ask native speakers. We are not fluent! Just passionate  ~ Hannah, Shelbi, and Jordan

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