by Whitney | 4:20 am



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.

Korean Alphabet:


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 ssangdigeutssangsiot

ssangjieutssangbieup ㄹ rieul


(ㅏa ) (ㅐae ) (eo) (ㅒyae ) ( ㅗ o ) ( ㅔ e ) ( u ) (ㅖ ye)

(ㅡ eu ) (ㅙ wae ) (ㅣ i ) ( oe ) ( ya ) (ㅞ we ) ( yeo )

(ㅛ yo ) (ㅠ yu ) (ㅘ wa ) (ㅝ wo ) ( ui ) ( ㅟ wi )

Korean Consonant Sounds:

Nasal sounds are pronounced through the nose. These are M, N, and NG type sounds.

nieun, mieum, ieung

Common sounds, do not have special features added to them. Think of the T sound in ‘stand’, or the P sound in ‘span’.

giyeok, digeut, bieup, siot, 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’.

kieuk, tieut, pieup, chieut, 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.

giyeok, kieuk, digeut, tieut, bieup, pieup

Double sounds, are pronounced with a stiffer voice. More pressure is built up, and it’s released much more quickly than ‘plain’ sounds.

, ssangbieup, ssangsiot,

One of the most unique sounds in Korean, is the .

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:

a like the a in father-ah

eo like the u in cup-a

o like the o in so- o

u like the oo in coop-oo

eu like the i in bid, but pronounced further back in the throat

i like the ee in feet

ya like the ya in yachi

yeo like the you in young

yo like the yo in yo-yo

yu like the you in youth

wa like wa in water

wo like the wha in what

ui similar to we

*ㅐ ae like e in set

yae like yet without the t

e like the a in lake

ye like yay

*ㅙ wae like the we in wet

oe like the oy in boy

we like we in weigh

wi like the whea in wheat

Combining Letters to Make Syllables:

How to combine letters (Vowels and Consonants) to make syllables.

1. ㅇ++ㄴ =안 (-+a+n=an)

2. ㄴ++ㅇ =녕 (n+yeo+ng=nyeong)

3. ㅎ+ =하 (h+a=ha)

4. ㅅ+ =세 (s+e=se)

5. ㅇ+ =요 (- +yo=yo)

6. ㄱ+ =고 (g+o=go)

7. ㅁ++ㅂ=맙 (m+a+p=map)

8. ㅅ++ㅂ=습 (s+eu+p=seup)

9. ㄴ+=니 (n+i=ni)

10. ㄷ+= 다 (d+a=da)

Let’s put the syllables together:

1. 안 +녕 +하 + + =안녕하

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() = (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.


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