Learning a language can be a difficult task and many of us just look the other way and say, “I do not have an ear for languages” but what you are really saying is; “I don’t want to try and learn a language.” Let’s face it I have enough trouble with the English language. How can I possibly learn another language? The joke is on you and me. The English language is a composite of all languages. That is one of the reasons English is so difficult to learn.
Why Would I Be Interested?
Honestly, I was just curious to find my mental limits. I had avoided taking a language until college and then I took Latin because I was going into the medical field. I suppose it might sound funny that I AM now interested in learning an oriental language as opposed to Spanish or perhaps French. French would probably be a better choice because thirty-seven of the word derivatives are English. French however, does not interest me at all and I have a Spanish language course sitting covered with dust.
What Happens Now?
Now I look at learning the Korean language from a teacher’s point of view. Where would a teacher start to learn a language? I suppose the Alphabet would be a good place to start.
ㄴ nieun ㅁ mieumㅇ ieung ㄱ giyeok ㄷ digeut
ㅂ bieup ㅅ siot ㅈ jieut ㅋ kieuk
ㅌ tieut ㅍ pieup ㅊ chieut ㅎhieut
ㄲ ssanggiyeok ㄸ ssangdigeut ㅆ ssangsiot
ㅉ ssangjieut ㅃ ssangbieup ㄹ rieul
(ㅏa ) (ㅐae ) (ㅓeo) (ㅒyae ) ( ㅗ o ) ( ㅔ e ) ( ㅜ u ) (ㅖ ye)
(ㅡ eu ) (ㅙ wae ) (ㅣ i ) ( ㅚ oe ) (ㅑ ya ) (ㅞ we ) (ㅕ yeo )
(ㅛ yo ) (ㅠ yu ) (ㅘ wa ) (ㅝ wo ) ( ㅢ ui ) ( ㅟ wi )
Korean Consonant Sounds:
Nasal sounds are pronounced through the nose. These are M, N, and NG type sounds.
ㄴ nieun, ㅁ mieum, ㅇ ieung
Common sounds, do not have special features added to them. Think of the T sound in ‘stand’, or the P sound in ‘span’.
ㄱ giyeok, ㄷ digeut,ㅂ bieup, ㅅ siot, ㅈ jieut
Aspirated sounds have an added turbulent sound. They sound are like the English T sounds in ‘tuck’ or ‘take’, or the P in ‘puck’.
ㅋ kieuk, ㅌ tieut, ㅍ pieup, ㅊ chieut, ㅎ hieut
Some aspirated sounds are pronounced with a big burst of air, unlike ‘plain’ sounds which do not have this quality. Compare the two categories of sounds.
ㄱ giyeok,ㅋ kieuk,ㄷ digeut,ㅌ tieut,ㅂ bieup,ㅍ pieup
Double sounds, are pronounced with a stiffer voice. More pressure is built up, and it’s released much more quickly than ‘plain’ sounds.
ㄲ ssanggiyeok, ㄸ
ssangdigeut, ㅃ ssangbieup, ㅆ ssangsiot, ㅉ
One of the most unique sounds in Korean, is the ㄹ.
This sound is often romanized as an R or an L, but there isn’t an equivalent sound in English. 라마 (ra-ma)
This sound is actually somewhere between an ‘L’ and an ‘R’ sound. When pronouncing this sound, your tongue should strike the gumridge behind your upper teeth in a quick, rapid motion.
Korean Vowels and pronunciation:
ㅏa like the a in father-ah
ㅓeo like the u in cup-a
ㅗ o like the o in so- o
ㅜ u like the oo in coop-oo
ㅡ eu like the i in bid, but pronounced further back in the throat
ㅣ i like the ee in feet
ㅑ ya like the ya in yachi
ㅕ yeo like the you in young
ㅛ yo like the yo in yo-yo
ㅠ yu like the you in youth
ㅘ wa like wa in water
ㅝ wo like the wha in what
ㅢ ui similar to we
*ㅐ ae like e in set
ㅒyae like yet without the t
ㅔ e like the a in lake
ㅖ ye like yay
*ㅙ wae like the we in wet
ㅚ oe like the oy in boy
ㅞ we like we in weigh
ㅟ wi like the whea in wheat
Combining Letters to Make Syllables:
How to combine letters (Vowels and Consonants) to make syllables.
1. ㅇ+ㅏ+ㄴ =안 (-+a+n=an)
2. ㄴ+ㅕ+ㅇ =녕 (n+yeo+ng=nyeong)
3. ㅎ+ㅏ =하 (h+a=ha)
4. ㅅ+ㅔ =세 (s+e=se)
5. ㅇ+ㅛ =요 (- +yo=yo)
6. ㄱ+ㅗ =고 (g+o=go)
7. ㅁ+ㅏ+ㅂ=맙 (m+a+p=map)
8. ㅅ+ㅡ+ㅂ=습 (s+eu+p=seup)
9. ㄴ+ㅣ=니 (n+i=ni)
10. ㄷ+ㅏ= 다 (d+a=da)
Let’s put the syllables together:
1. 안 +녕 +하 +세 +요 =안녕하세요
Phonetic pronunciation: An+nyeong+ha+se+yo = Annyeonghaseyo? How are you?
2. 감 +사 +함 + 니+다 = Gam+sa+ham+ni+da = Gamsahamnida : Thank you
Months of the year are simply the Sino-Korean numbers 1-12 plus the word for month(읠) = (dal).
January 1. 일 : ilwol : pronounced (eel) 읠: month (dal)
February 2. 이 : iwol : pronounced (ee) 읠 : month(dal)
March 3. 삼 : samwol : pronounced (sahm) 읠 :month(dal)
April 4. 사 : sawol : pronounced (sah) 읠 : month(dal)
May 5. 오 : owol : pronounced (oh) 읠 : month(dal)
June 6. 유 : yuwol : pronounced (yook) 읠 : month(dal)
July 7. 칠 : chilwol : pronounced (chil) 읠 : month(dal)
August 8. 팔 : palwol : pronounced (pahl) 읠 : month(dal)
September 9. 구 : guwol : pronounced (goo) 읠 : month(dal)
October 10. 시 : siwol : pronounced (sib) 읠 : month(dal)
November 11. 십일 : sibilwol : pronounced (sib-eel) 읠 : month(dal)
December 12. 십이 : sibwol : pronounced (sib-ee) 읠 : month(dal)
*Numbers are expressed using the root words and expressions. Take note of the Months of NOVEMBER and DECEMBER.
NOVEMBER 십일읠 sibiwol-dal is correct. The number is derived 10+ 1=11 which is sib = 10 + iwol=1 =sibiwol= 11
DECEMBER 십이읠 sibwol-dal is correct. The number is derived 10 +
2=12 which is sib=10+wol=2= sibwol=12.
When Will I Be Able to Speak Korean?
Take a good look and ask yourself if this is going to be easy? I think with practice I might be able to manage after possibly six weeks. I can say the phonetically spelled words right now. Learning counting and the months of the year should be fun. I haven’t even looked at the days of the week yet but I suppose that will be my next adventure.
There are several Korean Churches in the area so I will probably go to practice speaking at the local Korean churches. Seriously I think it may be easier than I first thought it would be to learn the Korean Language. Perhaps you might want to give it a try? Remember it is easy once you can memorize the Alphabet of any language.
Author: Whitney Joh is a retired Science teacher.