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Learn A Language Through Stories
How To Write In Korean In 4 Simple Steps
When you're learning Korean learning how to write in Korean is the key to mastering it. If you’re studying French, Spanish, or Italian, this is not too much different from learning English since they all use the Roman alphabet with only a few minor changes here and there.
For many Asian languages, however, you will have to learn a separate script. Fortunately, Korean is pretty easy especially if you’ve already learned how to read Hangul.
In fact, many language experts consider the Korean alphabet to be among the most logical and easy-to-learn writing systems out there. With just 24 letters, it’s even easier to learn than English.
Are you ready to master the fundamentals of writing in Korean? Here’s everything you need to know.
By the way, if you want to learn Korean fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is Korean Uncovered which teaches you through my fun, unique and effective StoryLearning® method.
If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
1. Korean Alphabet: A Quick Refresher
I’ve covered this before, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Korean has 24 letters broken into consonants and vowels:
14 consonant letters (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ) 10 vowel letters (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ)
Below are the approximate English equivalents for each of the letters:
- ㅇ= null/placeholder consonant, but sounds like “ng” as in “sign” when on bottom, also paired with individual vowels
- ㅈ = J like jeans
- ㅊ = CH like cheese
- ㅑ = ya (yah)
- ㅓ = eo (sounds like uh)
- ㅕ = yeo (sounds like yuh)
- ㅜ = oo (as in woo)
- ㅠ = yoo (as in you)
- ㅡ = eu (as in “gul” like Hangul)
- ㅣ= e (as in we)
Don’t forget that Korean also has a few special letters that are formed from either double consonants are mixed vowels:
- ㄲ = strong g like “gate” or “go”
- ㄸ = strong d like “dog” or “day”
- ㅃ= strong b like “bank”
- ㅆ= strong s like “snake”
- ㅉ= strong j like j “John”
- With ㅐ, you combine ㅏ(a) plus ㅣ(e) to make ㅐ(ae).
- With ㅐ, you combine ㅑ(ya) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
- With ㅔ, you combine ㅓ(eo) plus ㅣ(e) to make ae.
- With ㅖ, you combine ㅕ (yeo) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
- With ㅚ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅣ to make we
- With ㅙ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅐ(ae) to make way
- With ㅟ, you combine ㅜ (oo) plus ㅣ(e) to make we
- With ㅞ, you combine ㅜ (oo) plus ㅔ (ae) to make way
- With ㅟ, ou combine ㅡ (eu) plus ㅣ (e) to make oo we
- With ㅝ, you combine ㅜ (oo) plus ㅓ(eo) to make wuh
2. Write In Korean: How To Put Letters Together
Do you remember the game Tetris? Of course, you do! Unlike in English where you write letters side-by-side, Korean has slightly different rules. In many cases, you’ll stack letters together into separate one-syllable blocks.
Think about the word “Kimchi,” which is made of two syllables “kim” and “chi.” In Korean, it’s written like this: 김치
Notice how the ㄱ, ㅣ, and ㅁ are stacked on each other to make 김 (Kim) and likewise, how 치 (Ji) is put together.
Below, you have the four different rules on how to arrange letters to form syllables.
This diagram shows the four different ways you can arrange letters to make one syllable in Korean. “C” equals Consonant and “V” equals vowel.
1. You can have a consonant on top of a vowel. 2. You can have two consonants with a vowel in between them like a sandwich. 3. You can have a consonant and a vowel side-by-side. 4. You can have a consonant and a vowel together with a consonant underneath both of them.
Remember, you can never have a consonant by itself. It must have a vowel pair.
Here a few sample words, can you figure out what rules they are using?
- 바나나 (Ba Na Na)
**These words use rules 3, 1, 1, 4, 2, 3******
To be honest, you don’t need to memorize these rules. They are helpful when you’re first learning Korean, but you’ll intuitively get the hang of them over time as you see and write more Korean words. Focus more of your energy on reading and writing instead and writing in Korean will come naturally before you know it.
3. Korean Stroke Order
Since Korean is an alphabet, perfect stroke order isn’t absolutely necessary. Of course, it will help you to write more smoothly and quickly over time.
But if you can't remember the exact sequence for all 24 letters right away, then don’t sweat it! Many Koreans will be the first to tell you, stroke order doens’t really matter.
With that said, in general, strokes are written from left to right, top to bottom, and outside in.
Here’s a basic breakdown of stroke order for Korean letters.
Image Courtesy of the University of Texas
There are plenty of great examples videos online of people demonstrating proper stroke order that you can check out.
But again similar to the rules for syllables above, it’s much easier if you just practice writing the letters out yourself until they become more natural and not place too much emphasis on memorizing the correct stroke order.
4. How To Type In Korean
On the other hand, you should really spend some time learning how to type in Korean. When was the last time you ever wrote anything out by hand anyway? We live in the future and everything we do is based on typing and texting!
Typing in Korean has so many benefits. It will help you better learn the alphabet and master the order of consonants and vowels in Korean.
In addition, since most smartphones have built-in Korean keyboards with auto suggest, you can get the hang of spelling better by typing as well.
The most difficult part of typing in Korean is the different keyboard layout. Unfortunately, Korean keyboards aren’t a direct translation to an English keyboard. For example, even though ㅅ = S, it’s actually found where the “T” Key is:
To help you practice hitting the right keys, you can buy keyboard stickers or covers or you can enable an onscreen keyboard.
Here are a few additional tips to help you get started:
Make sure you use a 2-set Korean keyboard. Most Koreans use this instead of the 3-set which can be found in some places. Notice, for the most part, that all the consonants are on the left side of the keyboard and all the vowels are on the right.
Pay attention to vowel pairings. See how ㅛ is right above ㅗ, ㅕ is above ㅓ and so on.
Typing Korean On Your Smartphone
Using your smartphone is fairly similar to typing on the computer. However, you may come across a different layout depending on how you hold your phone or the keyboard you install:
This keyboard layout was more common during the flip phone days, but it still shows up from time to time.
While there’s nothing wrong with using this once you’ve gotten the hang of typing in Korean, stick to the full keyboard layout for now. It’s both easier to use and will better help you translate your skills over to the computer.
You can disable this layout in your keyboard settings or just by holding your phone horizontally.
Write In Korean: Your Next Steps
As you’ve seen, writing in Korean really isn’t so difficult, especially once you’ve gotten the hang of reading it!
Nowadays, there are so many helpful resources for you to get started. Many of the same apps you used for reading , also have writing exercises built-in. You can also directly practice by installing a Korean keyboard onto your smartphone or computer.
The most important thing is that you have patience and a little fun with it. Learning to write in Korean may be a little tricky at first, but over time you’ll actually come to enjoy how smooth and logical the language is. Before you know it, you’ll want to do all your writing in Korean!
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Korean (한국어 / 조선말)
Korean is spoken by about 81.8 million people mainly in South Korea and North Korea. The relationship between Korean and other languages is not known for sure, though some linguists believe it to be a member of the Altaic family of languages. Grammatically Korean is very similar to Japanese and about 70% of its vocabulary comes from Chinese.
There are only a few professional human translation services companies that can guarantee accurate language use and cultural understanding for English Korean translations.
There are about 50.2 million Korean speakers in South Korea, and about 25.7 million in North Korea. Other countries with significant numbers of Korean speakers include China (2.7 milion), the USA (1.1 million), Japan (998,000), Uzbekistan (250,000), Saudi Arabia (173,000), Canada (153,000) and Australia (109,000) [ source ].
Korean at a glance
- Native name : 한국어 [韓國語] (hanguk-eo) - South Korea 조선말 [朝鮮말] (chosŏn-mal) - North Korea
- Language family : Koreanic
- Number of speakers : c. 81.8 million
- Spoken in : South Korea, North Korea, China, USA, Japan, Uzbekistan, and other countries
- First written : 7th century AD
- Writing systems : Idu [吏讀] and Hyangchal [鄕札] (from 10th century), Gugyeol [口訣] (from 11th century) Hangeul [한글] / Hanja [漢字] (from 15th century)
- Status : official language in South Korea, North Korea and Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in northeast China. Recognised minority language in Primorsky Krai in Russian
- An introduction to Korean
Origins of writing in Korea
Hangeul alphabet (한글).
- Samples of written and spoken Korean
- Korean links
- Korean phrases
- Korean numbers
- Korean colours
- Korean time
- Korean dates
- Korean family words
- Korean tongue twisters
- Tower of Babel in Korean
- Korean-related articles
- Korean learning materials
Chinese writing has been known in Korea for over 2,000 years. It was used widely during the Chinese occupation of northern Korea from 108 BC to 313 AD. By the 5th century AD, the Koreans were starting to write in Classical Chinese - the earliest known example of this dates from 414 AD. In the 10th and 11th centuries AD they devised three different systems for writing Korean with Chinese characters: Hyangchal (鄕札 / 향찰), Gukyeol (口訣 / 구결) and Idu (吏讀 / 이두). The Gukyeol system first appears in the 11th century, however there is evidence to suggest that it was used from the 7th century AD, or possibly earlier. These systems were similar to those developed in Japan and were probably used as models by the Korean.
The Idu system used a combination of hanja together with special symbols to indicate Korean verb endings and other grammatical markers, and was used to in official and private documents for many centuries. The Hyangchal system used hanja to represent all the sounds of Korean and was used mainly to write poetry. The Gukyeol system used hanja characters to represent the sounds of Korean.
The Koreans borrowed a huge number of Chinese words, gave Korean readings and/or meanings to some of the Chinese characters and also invented about 150 new characters, most of which are rare or used mainly for personal or place names.
The Korean alphabet was invented in 1444 and promulgated it in 1446 during the reign of King Sejong (r.1418-1450), the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty. The alphabet was originally called Hunmin jeongeum , or "The correct sounds for the instruction of the people", but has also been known as Eonmeun (vulgar script) and Gukmeun (national writing). The modern name for the alphabet, Hangeul , was coined by a Korean linguist called Ju Si-gyeong (1876-1914). In North Korea the alphabet is known as 조선글 (josoen guel).
The shapes of the consonants are based on the shape the mouth made when the corresponding sound is made, and the traditional direction of writing (vertically from right to left) most likely came from Chinese, as did the practice of writing syllables in blocks.
Even after the invention of the Korean alphabet, most Koreans who could write continued to write either in Classical Chinese or in Korean using the Gukyeol or Idu systems. The Korean alphabet was associated with people of low status, i.e. women, children and the uneducated. During the 19th and 20th centuries a mixed writing system combining Chinese characters ( Hanja ) and Hangeul became increasingly popular. Since 1945 however, the importance of Chinese characters in Korean writing has diminished significantly.
Since 1949 hanja have not been used at all in any North Korean publications, with the exception of a few textbooks and specialized books. In the late 1960s the teaching of hanja was reintroduced in North Korean schools however and school children are expected to learn 2,000 characters by the end of high school.
In South Korea school children are expected to learn 1,800 hanja by the end of high school. The proportion of hanja used in Korean texts varies greatly from writer to writer and there is considerable public debate about the role of hanja in Korean writing.
Most modern Korean literature and informal writing is written entirely in hangeul , however academic papers and official documents tend to be written in a mixture of hangeul and hanja .
Notable features of Hangeul
- Type of writing system : alphabet
- Writing direction : Until the 1980s Korean was usually written from right to left in vertical columns. Since then writing from left to right in horizontal lines has become popular, and today the majority of texts are written horizontally.
- Number of letter: 24 ( jamo ): 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The letters are combined together into syllable blocks. For example, Hangeul is written: 한 (han) = ᄒ (h) + ᅡ (a) + ᄂ (n) and 글 (geul) = ᄀ (g) + ᅳ (eu) + ᄅ (l)
- The shapes of the the consontants g/k, n, s, m and ng are graphical representations of the speech organs used to pronounce them. Other consonsants were created by adding extra lines to the basic shapes.
- The shapes of the the vowels are based on three elements: man (a vertical line), earth (a horizontal line) and heaven (a dot). In modern Hangeul the heavenly dot has mutated into a short line.
- Spaces are placed between words, which can be made up of one or more syllables.
- The sounds of some consonants change depending on whether they appear at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a syllable.
- A number of Korean scholars have proposed an alternative method of writing Hangeul involving writing each letter in a line like in English, rather than grouping them into syllable blocks, but their efforts have been met with little interest or enthusiasm.
- In South Korea hanja are used to some extent in some Korean texts.
- Used to write: Korean, and Cia-Cia (Bahasa Ciacia / 바하사 찌아찌아) , a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken on Buton Island in Indonesia.
A recording of the Korean consonants by Jessica Kwon
The double consonants marked with * are pronounced fortis. There is no symbol in IPA to indiciate this.
A recording of the Korean vowels by Jessica Kwon
Note on the transliteration of Korean
There are a number different ways to write Korean in the Latin alphabet. The methods shown above are:
- (first row) the official South Korean transliteration system, which was introduced in July 2000. You can find further details at www.mct.go.kr .
- (second row) the McCune-Reischauer system, which was devised in 1937 by two American graduate students, George McCune and Edwin Reischauer, and is widely used in Western publications. For more details of this system see: http://mccune-reischauer.org
See the Korean alphabet pronounced:
Download a Korean alphabet chart in Excel , Word or PDF format.
Sample text (hangeul only)
Sample text (hangeul and hanja), transliteration.
Modeun Ingan-eun Tae-eonal ttaebuteo Jayuroumyeo Geu Jon-eomgwa Gwonrie Iss-eo Dongdeunghada. Ingan-eun Cheonbujeog-euro Iseong-gwa Yangsim-eul Bu-yeobad-ass-eumyeo Seoro Hyungje-ae-ui Jeongsin-euro Haengdongha-yeo-yahanda.
A recording of this text by Jessica Kwon
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Sample videos in Korean
Information about Korean | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Time | Dates | Family words | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Learning materials | Links
Information about the Korean language http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_language https://www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/korean/ https://www.90daykorean.com/learn-korean/ https://www.britannica.com/topic/Korean-language/Linguistic-characteristics
More Korean links
Languages written with the Hangeul alphabet
Cia-Cia , Jeju , Korean
A-chik Tokbirim , Adinkra , ADLaM , Armenian , Avestan , Avoiuli , Bassa (Vah) , Beitha Kukju , Beria (Zaghawa) , Borama / Gadabuursi , Carian , Carpathian Basin Rovas , Chinuk pipa , Chisoi , Coorgi-Cox , Coptic , Cyrillic , Dalecarlian runes , Elbasan , Etruscan , Faliscan , Fox , Galik , Georgian (Asomtavruli) , Georgian (Nuskhuri) , Georgian (Mkhedruli) , Glagolitic , Global Alphabet , Gothic , Greek , Irish (Uncial) , Kaddare , Kayah Li , Khatt-i-Badí’ , Khazarian Rovas , Koch , Korean , Latin , Lepontic , Luo Lakeside Script , Lycian , Lydian , Manchu , Mandaic , Mandombe , Marsiliana , Medefaidrin , Messapic , Mongolian , Mro , Mundari Bani , Naasioi Otomaung , N'Ko , North Picene , Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong , Odùduwà , Ogham , Old Church Slavonic , Oirat Clear Script , Ol Chiki (Ol Cemet' / Santali) , Old Italic , Old Nubian , Old Permic , Ol Onal , Orkhon , Osage , Oscan , Osmanya (Somali) , Pau Cin Hau , Phrygian , Pollard script , Runic , Székely-Hungarian Rovás (Hungarian Runes) , South Picene , Sutton SignWriting , Sunuwar , Tai Viet , Tangsa , Todhri , Toto , Umbrian , (Old) Uyghur , Wancho , Yezidi , Zoulai
Other writing systems
Page last modified: 07.08.23
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Korean Alphabet – Learn the Hangul Letters and Character Sounds
Oct 2019 | Last modified: Nov 24, 2023 | 32 min read | By Joseph Gerocs
In this lesson, you’re going to learn the Korean alphabet in only 30 minutes using visual associations, mnemonics, and stories.
That means you will be able to read the Korean alphabet letters A to Z and start sounding out Korean words anytime you see them. You may be surprised how often you see Korean characters!
We also have a free PDF version of this Hangul alphabet lesson that you can download below. You can print it out and write your answers in the PDF.
Let’s get to it!
- 1.1 “Hangul” in Korean
- 1.2 Hangul Meaning
- 2 Korean Alphabet System
- 3 Korean Alphabet Pronunciation
- 4.1 Korean Consonants Chart
- 4.2 Korean Vowels Chart
- 5 Korean Alphabet A to Z
- 6 Korean Alphabet in Order
- 7 How many letters are in the Korean alphabet?
- 8.1 The Korean Consonants
- 8.2 The Korean Aspirated Consonants
- 8.3 The Korean Vowels
- 8.4 Reading Korean Words
- 8.5 Korean Double Consonants
- 8.6.1 Pronunciation of the Korean letters ㅅ and ㅆ
- 8.7.1 How to differentiate the Korean letters ㅐand ㅔ
- 8.8 Korean Alphabet Reading PDF Lesson
- 9 Names of the Korean Letters
- 10.1 How to Write Korean Letters
- 10.2 How to Write Korean Syllables
- 11 English to Korean alphabet
- 12.1 Hangul Writing System
- 12.2 Korean symbols
- 12.3 Korean Speakers Worldwide
- 13.1 Chinese Characters and Hangeul
- 14 Romanization of Korean Letters
Hangul – The Korean Alphabet
The official writing system for South Korea is Hangul (한글), which is the name for the Korean Alphabet system . That means you can say Hangul and Korean alphabet interchangeably since they mean the same thing.
Korean is the official language of South Korea, and it uses Hangul as its alphabet and writing system. The same writing system is used in North Korea, which is called Joseongeul (조선글). Both South Korea and North Korea use the writing system created by King Sejong the Great.
“Hangul” in Korean
“Hangul” in Korean is 한글 (hangeul). Hangul is also written in English as “Hangeul.” There are two different ways of spelling the same word. “Hangul” is the most common way, and “Hangeul” is the newer way of writing it.
The word Hangul comes from the Chinese character 韓㐎. “Han” means “Korean,” and “gul” means “letter.” Put them together, and you’ve got the term “Korean letter” or “Korean Alphabet.”
Korean Alphabet System
This alphabet system is mainly made up of Hangul characters. This is the system that’s widely and officially used in both North and South Korea.
However, there’s another system Koreans use for writing called Hanja. This system is made up of Chinese letters that are read with Korean pronunciation.
Korean Alphabet Pronunciation
The Korean alphabet pronunciation shares a lot of similarities with the English alphabet. That makes it easy to learn because you can use the pronunciation of English letters to learn the Korean alphabet pronunciation.
The Hangul alphabet consists of consonants and vowels that form syllable blocks. These syllables can be sounded out just like words in English.
Korean Alphabet Chart (Hangul)
Below is a basic Korean Alphabet chart for basic vowels and consonants. The Korean Alphabet chart is also known as the Hangul chart.
Korean Consonants Chart
The first Hangul chart is the Korean consonants chart . Next to each of the consonants is the Romanized spelling for that particular consonant. The spelling changes depending on whether the consonants are positioned at the start or the end of the syllable.
The romanization is only used for the spelling of the Korean word in English letters. If you’re learning Korean or want to know the correct pronunciation, then you should use the associations later in this lesson and learn the correct pronunciation of the Korean consonants.
Korean Vowels Chart
The second Korean alphabet chart is the Korean vowels chart . Next to each of the vowels is the romanized spelling of each vowel. The spelling of the vowels is consistent and doesn’t change. However, keep in mind that some people may spell words in Korean in English letters using their own system.
To have a good pronunciation of the Hangul consonants and vowels, it’s best to use the associations below as a guide and learn how each letter is correctly pronounced.
Korean Alphabet A to Z
The Korean alphabet a to z, also known as Hangul, is a very scientific alphabet. It’s one of the best writing systems for beginners to learn who don’t know any Korean. It’s also quite easy to write in Hangul since the letters follow a basic order.
Did you know that there are fewer letters in the Korean alphabet than there are letters in the English alphabet?
Hangeul has 14 consonants and 10 vowels .
Unlike Japanese or Chinese, which have thousands of characters, and each can have 10, 15, or more strokes, the most complex Korean character in the alphabet can be written using only five strokes . That makes learning both Hangul and Korean quite easy.
On top of this, the Korean language has a grammar structure that can be mastered by understanding some basic rules. This makes Korean a great language for learning quickly and easily .
It all starts with knowing the Hangul – the basic building blocks of the language.
Hangul is a very scientific writing system. It was developed with precision in mind about 500 years ago by King Sejong the Great. The Korean writing system before it was created used classical Chinese characters. Only those who are educated are able to read and write using the old Korean writing system. As a result, King Sejong wanted to give Koreans a practical way of reading and writing to promote literacy.
Throughout this page, we’ll use the terms Korean letter and Korean character interchangeably. People tend to use them both when they learn Hangul, so you can use either one.
Korean Alphabet in Order
The Korean alphabet order is called 가나다 순 (ganada sun). The alphabetical order of the letters separates the consonants and vowels. The consonant letters come first, then the vowel letters.
In South Korea, double consonant letters follow their single counterparts.
Below is a table for the Korean alphabet in order.
How many letters are in the Korean alphabet?
The Korean alphabet (Hangul) is made up of 24 basic letters . It has 14 consonants and 10 vowels.
However, there are 40 letters in total in the Korean alphabet, including double consonants and vowel combinations.
How to Learn the Korean Alphabet
This Korean alphabet lesson makes use of psychological techniques to help make learning Hangul fun and easy. Namely, it uses associations and stories to help everything stick in your brain so you can’t forget it.
This lesson covers the Korean alphabet, A to Z, broken down and simplified so you can begin speaking right away . There is audio to help your pronunciation with Hangul . The audio looks like this: ㄱ
The Korean Consonants
Hangul (the Korean Alphabet) has both consonants and vowels just like English.
Let’s learn the consonants in the Korean alphabet to start.
First, let’s take a look at the English alphabet. Instead of looking at the actual letters, let’s just look at the sounds they make.
In doing so, we can find the closest equivalents in the Korean alphabet so that we can start to make associations to learn the Hangul letters.
In Korean, there are no F , R , V , or Z sounds, so let’s take them out.
The rest of the consonant sounds exist in the Korean language. However, the Q , W , X, and Y sounds must follow one of these two rules:
a) They only can be made by combining two or more sounds (ie., X = K+ S)
For example: The X sound can be made by combining the K and S sounds ( X = K + S ). Try it now!
b) They cannot be made without adding a vowel sound after (ie., “ya” or “yo”)
For example : In Korean, we can create the sounds ya or yo but not the standalone Y sound.
So let’s take these letters out, too.
Finally, let’s remove the English vowels since we are first focusing on consonant sounds.
How many are remaining in red?
But we can group C and K together since they make the same sound in English.
This leaves a total of 12 .
Let’s take a look at those 12 letters of the alphabet first. Since we’re learning a new language and have never seen these shapes before, it will be very difficult for us just to memorize them. Therefore, we need to “link” the characters to something already in our minds in order to create an association.
Let’s do this using a visual learning technique to associate the new letters with pictures and sounds we already know.
The first letter of the English word in the picture has the same sound as the corresponding letter.
This will help to start to create associations with Hangul characters.
The letter ㅂ , which sounds similar to B in English, looks like a bed with a post at either end. Look for a yellow speaker icon followed by the word, and click on the yellow speaker. Here’s an example: ㄱ
Make this association in your mind. Write it down and commit it to memory.
Likewise, the Hangul letter ㄷ could seem like a doorframe or the panels on a door . Correspondingly, this letter makes the sound D .
The Korean consonant ㄱ has the appearance of a gun and sounds similar to an English G . This Hangul letter is especially easy to write since it’s only two lines.
The same goes for the Hangul letter ㅎ ( H ), which looks like a man with a hat . You can write this consonant as a circle with two lines above it.
And the consonant ㅈ ( J ) which could be seen as a jug with a spout at the top. You can write this Hangul letter a few different ways, so just become familiar with the overall shape of the letter.
Try creating the associations for these consonant letters now.
Next is the Hangul letter ㄹ , which is written using 5 basic strokes and could be compared to the rungs of a ladder . Its sound is most similar to an English L and can be made the same way by pressing down with your tongue. This is a fun letter to write!
Finally, there are the Hangul letters ㅁ , ㄴ , and ㅅ , which have the sounds M , N , and S, respectively.
The ㅁ is a square box like a message on a phone or a piece of mail . You can write this consonant like a rectangle.
The Hangul letter ㄴ points up and to the right like a compass pointing to the north (and the east at the same time). You can write this letter in two lines.
The consonant ㅅ is like a seashell or clam, having only two strokes that slightly overlap. There are two different ways to write this Hangul letter, so just get used to the overall shape. It’s basically just two lines.
The Korean Aspirated Consonants
Now, we’ll learn the aspirated consonants of the Korean alphabet. To do that, let’s take a look at four of the consonant sounds we just learned.
B , D , G , and J .
Make each of these sounds now. “B.” “D.” “G.” “J.”
What if we made these consonants stronger, aspirating as we spoke them? What sound would we then make?
For B , a more aspirated sound forcing out more air would make P sound.
How about D ? It would result in a T sound. “T.” Try it now.
And G ? A “K” sound, like a C or K . In English, these two sounds are very similar. Try saying, “I’ve got a cot,” five times.
The C is really just an aspirated G .
Finally, if you aspirated a J , it would result in a “ch” sound. Try saying “cheap Jeep” several times, and you’ll notice how similar the sounds are.
Let’s match up the non-aspirated English sounds with their aspirated sound pairings.
See how similar these sounds really are?
When we do the same in Korean, we’ll see some visual similarities in the letters, which can help greatly for the memorization of Hangul characters.
It’s almost as if all we did was add a small line to each of those consonants to create the aspirated equivalent.
The next four letters are called aspirated consonants and are similar in sound to their non-aspirated counterparts.
The ㅋ ( K ) could be compared to a key . You can write this Hangul letter using three lines.
And the Hangul letter ㅌ , which has a “ T ” sound, could be associated with teeth (like the ones in your mouth or the teeth of a fork). You can write this similar to the English letter “E.”
Remember math class? I hope so!
What’s that number? Pi! And the Korean letter with a similar sound to P looks very similar to the symbol for pi . That makes it easy to remember. If you know how to write pi, then you’re good to go with this letter of the Korean alphabet!
So there we have it. That’s how you learn Hangul!
But we said there were a total of 14 consonants in the Korean alphabet, so what are the last two Hangul letters?
One of the consonants is special because it doesn’t have a direct equivalent to an English letter. Instead, it represents a sound in English.
ㅊ , the character representing the “ch” sound in English (“ ch oose ”), looks like a church with a steeple at the top. We can associate this Hangul letter with a church. Alternatively, we can remember it as an aspirated J ( ㅈ ) and add an extra line.
Ok, so that’s 13 letters already! You’re more than halfway there.
The last consonant in Korean is really just a placeholder and makes no sound by itself when placed in front of another character. Nonetheless, it is considered a consonant.
Just like in math, where we use the number 0 as a placeholder , in Korean, the placeholder character ( ㅇ ) is a round shape that looks like a zero.
This is a very special character!
It acts as a placeholder and is silent most of the time. After you learn the Hangul vowels in the next part of this challenge and see them next to the placeholder character, you’ll know what sound to make based on the vowel.
However, if the placeholder character ends a particular syllable, it is pronounced “ng” like the “-i ng ” in English.
This is a very important rule to remember. Without it, we would be tempted just to skip over the consonant, assuming it had no sound.
This will be easier to understand later, so it’s best to just make a note of it for now.
The Korean Vowels
In Korean, there are ten basic Hangul vowels that you need to learn. They are the basic building blocks from which you can create all other sounds of the vowels.
But before we get into that, it will be helpful to do a basic review of English grammar.
In English, we have short and long vowel sounds.
All of these vowel sounds exist or can be made using Hangul letters except for the short I sound (this just doesn’t exist in Korean and so is very difficult for Koreans to pronounce).
The letters for the vowels are all pretty easy to learn. No complex shapes here, just good ol’ lines!
The first four Hangul vowels we’ll learn are horizontal or vertical lines with a perpendicular line in the middle facing in a particular direction. They look like this:
The only problem is that we need to remember which way the perpendicular line points and associate that character with the particular Hangul vowel sound.
Let’s use a little bit of psychology to learn this part of the Korean alphabet.
First, memorize the following acronym:
A little fun fact: did you know the first iPod came out in 2001?
That makes it o ld.
The iPad came out in 2010, making it comparatively n ew .
Now, listen carefully to the vowel sound in each word.
o ld. Long O sound. iP o d. Short O sound. n ew . Long U sound. iP a d. Short A sound.
Great! Let’s go back to the acronym. We’ve placed it on a timeline to represent when each gadget was released.
Now, all we need to do is line up the Hangul vowel letters with the corresponding sounds.
The letter with the line pointing up is “ o ld ” and has the long O sound.
The letter pointing to the left has a short O sound like the O in “ iP o d ,” while the letter pointing to the right has a short A sound like the A in “ iP a d .”
Finally, the letter pointing down has a long U sound like the e-w in “ n ew .”
Not too bad so far, right? Commit these vowels to memory, and let’s keep the momentum going!
Remember how we added an extra line to some of the consonants to change the sound and make it aspirated? Well, we can also add a line to the four vowels we just learned to create new sounds!
You may recall back to the beginning of this challenge when we explained how we couldn’t create a Y sound on its own. But we did say we could if we added a vowel sound after it!
Well, we can do just that when we add a line to each of the first four vowels. That way, we can simply learn four more of the vowels!
We can now create the following alphabet sounds by just adding a second line:
So, once you learn the first four vowels, the second four are really easy. All you need to do is double up the line and remember to add a Y sound in front.
Learn these characters and commit them to memory.
So, there are only ten Korean vowels, and we already know eight of them.
Luckily, we saved the easiest two for last. The last two Hangul vowels are just lines as well — one horizontal and the other vertical.
The hardest part is just remembering which of the Hangul letters makes which sound.
Luckily we’ve got some visual associations for that!
We love nature, and these two Hangul vowels do too.
The first one is the “ tree vowel.” It is so-called (at least by us) because it’s tall and straight!
Notice how the double e in “tree” creates the long E sound. The Korean character with the same sound ( ㅣ ) looks like a tree, making it easy to remember.
And the most picturesque landscapes are not complete without a brook . This next Hangul vowel is long and straight, just like a brook!
Also, notice the sound of the double o in “brook” makes. This is the same sound the final Korean vowel makes. This vowel ( ㅡ ) is just a horizontal line.
Reading Korean Words
Just like English, you read Korean left to right, top to bottom.
However, the Hangul letters stick together, existing within small invisible “boxes.” Each one of these boxes can have up to four letters.
Each little “box” is considered a Korean syllable. You can also think of them as syllable blocks.
Instead of reading Hangul straight across as we do in English, we read one Korean syllable (or syllable block) at a time. Within each syllable, we read using the rule left to right, top to bottom. Then, we move to the next syllable block. That’s all there is to it!
This is the Korean word for “ hello .” It has 5 syllable blocks, and each syllable block has 2 or 3 letters.
In the first two-syllable blocks, there are two Hangul letters on the top and one on the bottom. Following our rule of left to right, top to bottom, we would read in the order 1, 2, 3, as shown above.
The same goes for the second syllable. But remember, the placeholder character here is ending the syllable, so it would have to be pronounced “ng.”
The third, fourth, and fifth syllable blocks are more straightforward and are just read simply from left to right.
So, going syllable block by syllable block, could you determine which order we would read the characters in? Give it a try!
It would look like this if we wrote the numbers in . Now, if we use the associations we learned earlier, we can pronounce the word!
The word sounds like “an-nyeong-ha-se-yo” when you read it correctly.
If you’ve gotten the associations with the Hangul consonants and vowels down pat in the previous sections, you can start to read some Korean words on your own.
Let’s try it out. Give each one a try first, then check your answers below. Use the associations we made to help you out!
How would you pronounce the words written below? Try reading them aloud. We’ll write the pronunciations below using Romanization so you can check them afterward!
For the first two, we would just read left to right.
1. k for key + a as in iP a d = ka . This is the Korean word meaning “car.”
2. n for northeast + eo as in iP o d = neo . This means “you.”
Now, for the third one, we just read left to right for the first syllable, then top to bottom for the second syllable.
That would make it:
3. b for bed + a as in iP a d plus b for bed + o as in o ld = babo . This is the Korean word for “fool.” If you can read these words already, you are definitely not a 바보!
Syllables (or “boxes”) must always start with a consonant , and then have a vowel following it.
Let’s do a quick recap of the Hangul consonants and vowels:
Hangul base consonants: ㅂㅈㄷㄱㅅㅁㄴㅇㄹㅎㅋㅌㅊㅍ
Hangul base vowels: ㅗㅓㅜㅏㅛㅕㅠㅑㅡㅣ
The ㅇ is a consonant, so that means it can start a syllable. But remember that is silent when it does!
Let’s try reading some more difficult words, and we can practice this rule. If you get stuck, remember to ignore the placeholder if it exists before a vowel and just read top to bottom and left to right as you normally do!
Ready? Let’s go for Round 2! Look at the words written below. How would you pronounce the following?
How did it go? Did you remember all of the Hangul letters from the associations we made before?
4. Did you remember to ignore the placeholder? Good. For the first syllable, o as in o ld. Then n for northeast + eu as in br oo k + l for ladder . Romanized, it is written as oneul . 오늘 means “today.”
5. m for mail + i as in tr ee plus g for gun + u as in n ew + g for gun again. This word is written in romanized English as miguk , and is the Korean word for “U.S.A..”
6. k for key + eo as in iP o d plus p for pi + i as in tr ee = keopi , the Korean word for “ coffee .”
Congratulations! If you got these, then you are now able to read 6 Korean vocabulary words in Korean (and many more!).
Korean Double Consonants
In the alphabet, strong double consonants also exist. They are called the Korean double consonants .
But the good news is that there is no need to learn any new characters to incorporate them into our skillset!
When you see a double consonant, all you need to do is slightly change the way you pronounce it by making it stronger.
We’ve already associated an English consonant sound with each of the characters we’ve already learned, so with these, we just need to double that up.
There are only five of these tense double consonants, and here they are:
The ㄸ is the double ㄷ, so we’ll keep the door association. The D sound will be pronounced stronger, like DD.
The ㅉ will use the same J sound as the ㅈ, but it will be pronounced as a stronger JJ.
We’ll use the strong GG sound for ㄲ, as well as the gun association.
If you put two ㅂs next to each other, you’ll get ㅃ. We will use the bed association. It will be pronounced using the strong BB sound.
The ㅆ is like two seashells next to each other. The sound is pronounced similarly to a strong SS.
Korean Double Consonants Pronunciation
To pronounce double consonants correctly, all you need to do is tense up your tongue and pronounce the sound with a little more force. Just double it up!
For example, let’s take the double consonant ㅃ. For a moment, imagine a bus was coming quickly, and your friend was standing in the middle of the street.
You might yell “BUS” really loudly to give your friend a warning!
That b sound when you yell the word would be more similar to the bb sound of the character ㅃ.
The same goes for the other tense double consonants. For example:
- 떡볶 이 (tteokbokki) – rice cakes in sauce (a type of Korean street food )
- 빨 간색 (ppalgansaek) – the color “red”
The tough part is making the pronunciation distinction. The twin consonant is basically the same as the single consonant, except it’s said with emphasis. Here is a list of the single consonant sounds, their twin counterparts, and their pronunciation:
Pronunciation of the Korean letters ㅅ and ㅆ
Above, we have gone over the Korean consonants and their double consonant counterpart, but it might be tricky to tell their difference at first.
If you were going to say the word “상” in Korean, then it would sound like “sang.”
If you were going to say the word “쌍” in Korean, then it would sound like “ssang.”
The difference is in the emphasis and the strength of the “s” sound. The twin consonants sound almost aggressive because they are so sharp.
Korean Vowel Combinations
If you followed the lesson above to learn Hangul, then you have learned the majority of the alphabet characters in Korean. You know the base consonants and vowels, which are the most important.
In addition to these Hangul letters, there are also 11 additional combinations. These are combinations of the base Hangul vowels you see above.
The Hangeul vowel combinations are:
The first Hangeul vowel is written as a combination ofㅓ(iP o d) + ㅣ (tr ee ) = ㅔ ( e gg). If you say the “o” sound from “iPod” and the “ee” sound from “tree” together very quickly, it becomes the “ e ” from e gg.
The combined ㅓ+ㅣ doesn’t exactly sound like e , but they are similar. Alternatively, you can skip the sound blending and try to remember this one as “ e gg”. Whatever works best for you!
The second Hangeul vowel combination is written the same as the first, except that we’re starting with ㅏ instead of ㅓ. Blend together “iP a d” and “tr ee, ” and you get e gg, the same sound as with ㅔ above.
Even though the pronunciation is the same, the romanization spelling is different. It is done that way, so if you see the spelling in English, you know which “ e gg” is used to spell the word in Korean.
How to differentiate the Korean letters ㅐand ㅔ
Before we head on to the rest of the Korean vowel combinations, you can watch the video below first for a more detailed explanation of the difference betweenㅐand ㅔ.
This next Hangeul vowel looks very similar to the ㅔ, except the first of the vowels is written as ㅕ. That means we’ll add the”y” sound to the beginning. This vowel combination sounds like the beginning of the word ye s.
The first part of this Hangeul vowel combination can be seen as the character ㅑ (“ ya ” sound) with the characterㅣ (“ ee ” sound in tr ee ) written after it. It also sounds like the beginning of ye s.
The Hangeul vowel ㅢ has roots in the ㅡ + ㅣ, so it’s quite fun to say. It’s a unique sound, and you need to pronounce it quickly to get it right.
Blend together the sound ㅡ (br oo k) + ㅣ (tr ee ), and you’ll get ㅢ (g ooey ). Imagine saying “chop s uey ” really fast.
For this Hangul vowel combination, the sound is “wa.” It is similar to the beginning of the word “ wa ffle.” It is written as a combination of the two Korean alphabet letters ㅗ and ㅏ.
This Hangeul vowel combination makes the sound that sounds like the beginning of the word “ we dding.” It is written by combining the two Korean alphabet letters ㅗ and ㅐ.
This Hangul vowel combination is pronounced the same as ㅙ, from above. It sounds like “ we dding”. It is written by putting together the Korean alphabet letters ㅗ and ㅣ.
If you combine the two Korean alphabet letters ㅜ and ㅣ, then you get ㅟ. This Hangul vowel combination sounds like the beginning of the word “ wee k”.
This combination of Hangul vowels makes a sound like the beginning of the word “ wo n.” It is written by combining the Korean alphabet letters ㅜ and ㅓ.
When you combine the two Korean alphabet letters ㅜ + ㅔ, you get 웨. This Hangul vowel combination has a sound that is the same as the beginning of “ we dding.”
The pronunciation of some of the Korean vowel combinations is exactly the same. These vowel combinations can be tricky because they don’t follow as structured of patterns as the rest of the consonants and vowels.
We recommend coming up with associations that resonate well with you. You may also want to try our Hangeul Made Easy course, which is included in 90 Day Korean membership . Inside the members’ area, we have a full step-by-step course on Hangul, as well as a structured online Korean course that will teach you how to have a 3-minute conversation in the first 90 days.
Korean Alphabet Reading PDF Lesson
It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? You’re already well on your way toward learning the Korean Alphabet!
We wanted to make things super easy for you to print out and study, so we’ve created a downloadable Korean Alphabet Reading PDF lesson for you to continue the 90 Minute Challenge toward learning how to read in Korean. It also contains some written activities so you can practice what you’ve learned.
Get the free Hangul lesson here , and you’ll be reading Hangul everywhere you go!
Names of the Korean Letters
Each one of the Korean Alphabet consonants and vowels has a name. We’ll cover the names of the Korean letters here in this chart of the alphabet letters so you can learn them easily.
Below is a list of the letter names of the Korean consonants.
The vowel names are the sounds they make. Below is the alphabet letter chart for vowels.
How to Write in Korean
Now that you know how to read Korean, let’s talk about how to write in Korean . You can put to use what you already learned with the Hangul writing system .
First, we’ll talk about how to write Korean letters individually.
Then, once you have some practice with the letters by themselves, we’ll go more into learning to write Korean words and sentences .
How to Write Korean Letters
Just like the English alphabet, the Hangul writing system also has a letter order (stroke order) . While you can get by without it, taking the time to practice will help speed up your Korean writing abilities. It’s also helpful to learn to write the Korean Alphabet letters if you’re going to travel to or live in Korea.
For example, here is how to learn the stroke order for ㄱ:
Try putting your skills to the test by writing Korean words that you hear in Hangeul. You can even practice writing your name in Hangeul by sounding it out!
How to Write Korean Syllables
If you want to get good at Korean writing, then you’ll need to know the syllable structure.
Each Korean syllable is made up of at least one consonant and one vowel. It’s possible to have multiple consonants as well. There will only be a single vowel, but that vowel may be one of the vowel combinations.
Korean syllable blocks can contain 2, 3, or 4 Korean letters. Here are the combinations:
Note that 3 and 4-letter syllable blocks have a final consonant or final consonants.
The vowel in the syllable block may be written to the right of, below, or to the right and below the initial consonant, depending on the vowels.
English to Korean alphabet
Below is a table that will show you the English letters with their Korean approximations. This means they’re not the exact equivalent so there can be many other letters that work too. It depends on the situation.
The Korean alphabet is unique on its own, having its own unique sounds. These are just approximations that can help you as you begin learning Korean.
We are giving you the 80/20. If you really want to spell a word properly in Korean, you should use a Korean dictionary to find the right word.
The Korean Language
Here are a few pieces of useful info about the Korean Alphabet and language . Often, in the process of learning the language, you’ll learn about the culture and vice versa, in this case, the Korean culture.
For example, many people may hear about Korean dramas or movies and watch a few they like. Then, they decide they want to understand the phrases, expressions, and dialogues better without subtitles.
Another advantage as you learn Hangul is that you also learn the correct Korean pronunciation. You’ll be able to pronounce Korean words like a native Korean speaker.
Hangul Writing System
Hangul (Korean alphabet) is the official writing system used in both North Korea and South Korea. Hangul is called 조선글 (joseongeul) in North Korea.
They also both use Korean as the official language, but the variations are a bit different. The northern version of the language tends to use more Chinese loan words, whereas the southern version has more English loan words.
Sometimes, the Hangul letters may be referred to as symbols. However, it’s easier to think of them as characters or letters.
One common Korean symbol is the ₩ for the Korean won , which is the currency in South Korea.
Korean Speakers Worldwide
There are about 77 million Korean speakers worldwide. According to the National Institute of Korean Language, Korean is the 13th most widely used language.
There are many Korean speakers worldwide. Here is the breakdown country by country.
If you want to find native speakers to talk to in Korean, then here are the top countries with overseas Koreans:
If you know any Japanese or Chinese , then you might recognize some similarities in the languages. Japanese and Korean share some grammar structures, while some Korean words have Chinese roots.
한자 (hanja) is the Korean name for Chinese characters. Hanja is also used to refer to Chinese characters that have been borrowed and used in the formation of the Korean language and pronunciation.
Chinese Characters and Hangeul
When reading sentences and signs written with Hangeul (Korean alphabet), you may notice these mixed in with the words. This is common in newspapers and some signs in stores. You don’t need to learn Chinese characters to know Korean, but it can be helpful.
Some Korean learners have said that knowing characters in Chinese has made it easier to learn the language. That is because many words in Korean have roots in Chinese. You may want to supplement your Korean learning with some basic Chinese characters, but it’s not necessary.
Romanization of Korean Letters
Writing Korean in English letters is called “ romanization .” Each letter in the Korean Alphabet has a corresponding letter or set of letters.
It’s not hard to learn , and it has some common practical uses. For example, you may need to write down an address or building name in Korea for someone who doesn’t know Hangul. In that case, you could write it in Romanized Hangul, which would be a good approximation.
There are some great tools that you can use for the Romanization of Hangul words.
In Korean language learning, we recommend learning Hangul as fast as possible. The Korean Alphabet will be far more precise compared to Romanization. It will greatly help your pronunciation and Korean language learning speed . You’ll be glad you did!
How long did it take you to learn to read the 6 Korean words? Let us know in the comments below!
Also, if you’d like to know how long it takes to learn Korean, we have it covered here .
1,238 thoughts on “Korean Alphabet – Learn the Hangul Letters and Character Sounds”
Good afternoon, it looks like your 가나다 순 is slightly out of order. There are multiple Korean websites that show that ㄴ should be put before ㄷ, and your ㅑ and ㅐ should be swapped.
Hi Theresa, Thank you for the comment! You are right. This is a modified version to fit the purpose of learning Hangeul with the English sound, so not in 가나다 순. ^^
Thanks so much! This is really helping with my learning for Korean. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) to be semi fluent by the time BTS return from military in 2025… at least that’s my goal🤭
Glad to hear that, Heidi! You can check out our Online Guide for Conversational Fluency to help you further.
Its a really helpful website. Not only it teaches us the basic consonants and vowels just like other websites do but it also gives us information about how they were created and various exceptional cases for those letters and the thing I liked the most in my first lesson was that they provided us information about the culture of korea and you know overall the history of korean language and each and every detail is added to help us learn, you will be grateful of yourself having done this course if you want to learn a new language or its ur dream to study in koreaa ..
Thanks for your kind words! ^^ We are glad you find our website helpful.
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Home » Articles » How to Learn the Korean Alphabet and Write in Korean [Step-by-Step Guide]
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written by Shannon Kennedy
Reading time: 7 minutes
Published: Jun 21, 2019
Updated: Apr 3, 2023
How to Learn the Korean Alphabet and Write in Korean [Step-by-Step Guide]
Are you learning Korean but still find yourself struggling with the Korean writing system? Well, here’s some good news: mastering the Korean alphabet may be easier than you think.
The Korean alphabet is often said to be one of the most logical and easy-to-learn writing systems. I agree with that assessment. I’d like to show you just how easy it can be to learn the Korean alphabet and master Korean writing.
This is Why the Korean Alphabet is So Easy to Learn (A Very Short History)
Before the present-day Korean alphabet, known as Hangul , the Korean language used Chinese characters. This changed in the 15th century when King Sejong the Great is said to have invented Hangul .
The Hangul system was created to be easy to learn, and easy to understand. That’s because it aimed to boost literacy among Korean speakers. All that’s good news for you as someone learning Korean.
The Korean Alphabet: Pronunciation
Like English, Korean has vowels and consonants. There are 19 consonants and 21 vowels in the modern Korean alphabet.
In Korean, the shape of each of the letters is a clue to how it sounds. Each of the strokes that make up a letter are said to show the position of the tongue in the mouth when pronouncing that letter. That’s pretty cool!
Let’s take a look, starting with consonants:
Many Korean consonants are similar in pronunciation to their English counterparts. That said, their position is in a word (beginning, middle, or end) can change how they’re pronounced. Here’s an overview:
ㄱ: “g” as in g o (may also be pronounced as “k” when in the final position) ㄴ: “n” as in n et ㄷ: “d” as in d og (may also be pronounced as “t” when in the final position) ㄹ: is somewhere in between “r” and “l” ㅁ: “m” as in m ama ㅂ: often “b” as in b ed but sometimes also an aspirated “p” as in p edal ㅅ: “s” as in s oon or sh as in sh ingle depending on the following vowel (it may also be pronounced as “t” in the final position) ㅇ: silent or “-ng” as in bri ng ㅈ: “j” as in j okester ㅊ: “ch” as in ch arge ㅋ: “k” as in k araoke ㅌ: “t” as in t iger ㅍ: “p” as in p our ㅎ: “h” as in h arness
Korean Double Consonants
ㄲ: “gg” as an initial sound but “kk” as a middle sound ㄸ: “dd” as an initial sound but “tt” as a middle sound ㅃ: “bb” as an initial sound but “pp” as a middle sound ㅆ: “ss” ㅉ: “jj”
ㅣ: “i” as in b ee ㅏ: “a” as in f a ther ㅓ: “eo” as in s o n ㅡ: “eu” as in p u t, said smiling ㅜ: “u” or “oo” as in b oo t ㅗ: “o” as in g o
Korean Diphthongs and Other Vowels
ㅑ: “ya” as in ya hoo ㅕ: “yeo” similar to you ng ㅠ: “yu” as in you ㅛ: “yo” as in yo ghurt ㅐ: “ae” as in l a nd ㅒ: “yae” as in ya nk ㅔ: “e” as in n e t ㅖ: “ye” as in ye llow ㅘ: “wa” as in w a nder ㅙ: “wae” as in wa g ㅚ: “oi” as though saying “n o e ntry” quickly ㅝ: “wo” as in wo nder ㅞ: “we” as in we t ㅟ: “wi” as in wee k ㅢ: “ui” as as s ue y
Korean Syllable Blocks
Korean letters don’t appear on their own, instead, they appear as a part of syllable blocks. Korean letters can be grouped in a number of ways but the first letter will always be a consonant (even if it’s just ㅇ functioning as a silent letter. The letter in the second position will always be a vowel. If there is a letter in the final position (this would be a third or fourth letter in a syllable block), it will also always be a consonant.
In short, at a minimum, a Korean syllable will always include a consonant (initial) followed by a vowel. It may also include one or two final consonants.
How a syllable block is formed will depend on the shape of the vowel. If it is a vertical vowel like ㅣorㅏ, the initial consonant is written on the left and the vowel on the right as in 나 or 니. When it’s a horizontal verb like ㅗ, the consonant is written above the vowel as in 노.
Here are a few of the ways Korean syllable blocks may look (C = Consonant, V = Vowel, F = Final Consonant(s)):
In Korean, a word may be made up of just one of these blocks like 저 ( cheo , “I”) or several as in 음악가 ( eumagga , “musician”). Like in English, Korean has a space between each word. “I am a musician” in Korean would therefore be: 저는 음악가입니다. ( cheo-neun eumagga-ibnida ).
Practice Makes Perfect: How to Memorize the Korean Alphabet
I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn the Korean alphabet is with spaced-repetition , using an app such as Anki . Getting regular exposure to the new letters, and then practicing reading syllable pairs (also through spaced-repetition) is one of the best ways to master reading and writing in Korean.
I also recommend doing writing practice when possible–even if it’s just writing English words using Korean letters.
In fact, there are lots of English loan words in Korean, and they make great writing practice. These are words like 케냐 ( ke-nya , “Kenya”), 쇼핑 ( sho-ping , “shopping”), 휴스턴 ( hyu-seu-teon , “Houston”), 컴퓨터 ( keom-pyu-teo , “computer”), 오랜지주스 ( o-raen-ji-ju-seu , “orange juice”), and so much more. These can be great practice when you’re just getting started.
Tools to Help You Learn the Korean Alphabet
If you’re still feeling unsure about how to go about learning the Korean alphabet, there are several tools available to help you master writing in Korean. Here are just a few of the resources that I used to learn the Korean alphabet:
- 90 Day Korean is an incredible resource for Korean learners. Not only does it teach you the basics of Korean, but it also teaches you the alphabet, pronunciation, and several helpful mnemonic techniques to aid your memorization. Plus, you’ll pick up tons of helpful vocabulary and grammar.
- Eggbun : This app is both adorable and educational. It’s also how I learned to type in Korean. With this app, you “chat” with a character who looks like an eggbun (hence the name), learning Korean bit by bit as your conversation progresses. It’s a freemium app, so the features you have access to are limited without upgrading.
- Scripts : Long gone are the days where you need to waste paper to practice writing characters or letters. When I first started learning Korean, I used grid paper to practice writing each letter. Now you can use Scripts to learn to write in Korean, getting digital writing practice while learning to recognize each letter.
- Anki : If you prefer the flashcard method of memorizing, Anki is a great tool. It uses spaced-repetition to teach you new information so that you’re sure to hang on to whatever you’re learning.
How to Type in Korean
Depending on the device that you’re using, there are different things you need to do to set up a Korean keyboard. You’ll likely want to get a keyboard overlay like this one for your computer, but I simply turn on the keyboard viewer on my computer and click to type.
90 Day Korean has a useful article on how to set up the Korean keyboard on your computer whether you’re using a Mac or PC.
On mobile devices, it’s simpler. You can go into your settings, add the Korean keyboard and then toggle to it when you need it to type.
And the best way to get comfortable typing? You’ve got it — practice. It’s normal to type frustratingly slow at the beginning but stick with it. It’ll come with time and practice.
Over to You
A different writing system doesn’t have to keep you from learning a new language. Learning the Korean alphabet and how to form syllable blocks isn’t as scary as it might first seem and I know you’ve got this! The Korean alphabet is incredibly intuitive and you’ll quickly pick it up.
What about you? How are you learning the Korean alphabet? I’d love to hear about your techniques and resources for learning to read and write in Korean in the comments below.
Language Encourager, Fluent in Months
Shannon is Head Coach for the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge . She is currently based in Southern California where she performs as a professional musician. Her passions are cooking, reading, traveling and sharing her adventures in language learning.
Speaks: English, French, Mandarin, Russian, Croatian, Japanese
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How to Learn the Korean Writing System in Just a Few Hours
From an outside perspective, there's one thing about the major languages of east Asia that stands out sharply from the rest: their writing systems .
While much of the western world relies on the twenty-plus letters of the Latin alphabet, China, Japan, and Korea are different—China uses a collection of thousands of drawing-like glyphs, Japan uses those same glyphs and supplements them with two syllabaries, and Korea uses a different system entirely.
If you're set on learning Korean , you may be worried that the journey to learning the Korean writing system could be similar to what Chinese and Japanese learners have to face: years and years of memorizing the meanings and stroke order of Chinese characters just to reach the reading level of a small child.
If that's you, then I've got great news: learning Korean 한글 ( hangul ), shouldn't take you or anyone else years to accomplish.
In fact, it shouldn't even take you hours .
I'm not kidding. Even at the slowest possible pace, basic literacy in Korean is achievable in a few sittings, even less if you're motivated.
In this article, I'm going to lay out a roadmap that you can use to learn the Korean writing system today, even if you don't know a word of Korean . I'm not going to teach it to you outright, but rather I'll lead you through the tools and resources that will help you get the job done quicker than even you think is possible.
Let's get started.
Step 1: Learn the Basic Shapes
When learning the Korean writing system, the best place to begin is with the easiest of the easy: the vowels.
All Korean vowels are written as a combination of three possible components :
- 1 One or two vertical lines (ㅣ)
- 2 A dash (originally a dot) (-)
- 3 A horizontal line (ㅡ)
Seriously, that's it.
That short list of components makes up every vowel in the language.
ㅣ, ㅓ, ㅏ, ㅔ, ㅐ, ㅡ, ㅗ, ㅜ
Don't worry about what sounds these symbols make for now. You'll get to that later, in the videos. Just focus on how each symbol is made up of only the components listed above.
For those symbols which contain a dash, adding a second dash adds something called a glide (roughly a "y" sound, for English speakers) to the beginning of the original vowel.
ㅕ, ㅑ, ㅖ, ㅒ, ㅛ, ㅠ
You can even take the pure vowels from the first set and combine their symbols together, creating diphthongs, or a single sound that is a merging of two vowels:
So that's it. That's literally all the symbols for vowels and vowel-like sounds used in modern Korean. Twenty "letters" that are just recombinations of three types of lines.
Things get even easier when you associate each symbol with its correct sound. For example, if you know that "ㅏ" makes an "ah" sound like in "father", then you'll quickly learn that adding a second dash to the letter (ㅑ) makes a "yah" sound, like in "yard".
Here are two short videos that will walk you through the pronunciation of all of the vowel symbols described above:
- Korean Vowels - Basic
- Korean Diphthongs - Compound/Complex Vowels
Let me lead you through the symbols you will encounter for Korean consonants. Again, don't worry about the sounds for now. Just focus on the pieces, and how different elements can be added to a symbol to change the sound.
First off, there are 9 shapes that make up the basic consonants:
ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ
Like vowels, these consonant shapes can be combined in interesting ways to create variant consonants, all related to the sound of the initial consonant above.
For example, some of these consonants can be "doubled", creating a tense sound. These are often referred to as "double consonants".
ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ
Adding one (or more) lines to several of these symbols creates aspirated versions of these consonants, which are simply the same consonants accompanied by more air flow out of the mouth when pronounced.
ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, ㅊ
And there you have it. With those 19 shapes, you've learned all of the consonants used in the modern Korean language.
Here's a video that will lead you through pairing each symbol with its equivalent sound:
Step 2: Learn Simple Syllables
Building Syllable Blocks
Now that you've been introduced to all of the Korean consonant and vowel symbols, we can learn one of the most interesting aspects of the Korean writing system: how the symbols fit together.
You see, Korean hangul doesn't work like most alphabets or even character systems.
Most writing systems construct words by simply placing the letters or characters next to one another.
For example, to convey the word "cat" in English, we take the letters "C", "A", and "T". and simply place them one after another in sequence.
C + A + T = CAT
Korean is a little different, in that the "letters" are not written in sequence, but rather organized into syllable blocks.
Take the name of the writing system itself, hangul :
These are the symbols that comprise the word in Korean:
ㅎ, ㅏ, ㄴ, ㄱ, ㅡ, ㄹ
However, you can't write ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ all in a row and call it a day. That doesn't work at all.
Instead, Korean symbols within words are grouped into "syllable blocks". The symbols that make a syllable in Korean are grouped into a roughly square-like shape, and ordered from left to right, and top to bottom.
So, taken syllable by syllable, hangul goes from:
ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄴ = 한
ㄱ + ㅡ + ㄹ = 글
Then, once the proper syllable blocks have been constructed, you put them next to one another, just as you would English letters.
One important exception to syllable-block building that I have yet to mention: If a syllable in a word is meant to contain only a vowel sound , that written syllable needs to start with a "ㅇ" symbol, which is known in this case as a "null consonant".
So, a syllable containing literally only the "ah" vowel in "father" needs to be written "아", and not "ㅏ".
Practicing Simple Syllables
Once you know the individual symbols for vowels and consonants, in addition to how they are organized into syllable blocks, it's time to practice reading simple syllable blocks, consisting of only one consonant and one vowel.
Fortunately, this is how young Korean children begin to learn to read, so there are ample resources to help you learn these quickly.
I recommend starting with a chart similar to the alphabet chart that is used to teach English speaking children their ABCs.
The only difference here is that instead of your ABCs, you'll be learning your 가나다라마바사.
You start with a chart like the one below, and use it to memorize the sounds of all of the simple consonant-vowel combinations.
If you'd like, you can even learn the simple syllables through song, as in this video:
Practicing Complex Syllables
Unlike languages such as Japanese, Korean syllables aren't all limited to simple consonant + vowel (CV) pairs.
Korean syllables can also contain additional consonants after the vowel, resulting in a consonant + vowel + consonant (CVC) or consonant + vowel + consonant + consonant (CVCC) structure.
When written, these syllables look a bit more crowded than their CV counterparts, so you'll need to pay special attention to the left to right, top to bottom rules that are followed when making these syllable blocks.
For example, here is the word for horse (“mal”):
ㅁ + ㅏ + ㄹ = 말
And the word for life ("salm"):
ㅅ + ㅏ + ㄹ + ㅁ = 삶
Unfortunately, this is where pronunciation can get a little extra tricky, as well.
Consonants that follow vowels in a syllable block are known in Korean as 받침 ("batchim") or "final consonants". While the pronunciation of these consonants generally remains the same as you've learned, there are frequent exceptions where a syllable-final consonant will be pronounced differently than usual.
Here are a few videos that will lead you through the intricacies of 받침, or "final consonants":
- Final Consonants (받침)
- All about 받침(Batchim) - Part 1
- All about 받침(Batchim) - Part 2
Taking Your 한글 Skills to the Next Level
At this point, you've learned the following key aspects of 한글, the Korean writing system:
- Aspirated consonants
- Double consonants
- Final consonants (받침)
If you've spent (or will soon spend) a few hours learning and reviewing the information I've shared in the blog and linked videos, you can very seriously say that you've learned the Korean alphabet.
At minimum, you should be able to semi-reliably read (that is, sound out , not understand) any Korean word you come across.
However, your job as a Korean learner is not done yet. In reality, it is just the beginning.
Here are a couple of things you can work on for the future, as your Korean skills grow:
Though you can now recognize all of the letters in the Korean alphabet, you probably need a lot more practice pronouncing the Korean sounds that go with those letters.
Don't worry, this is quite normal. For English speakers (and speakers of most western languages), Korean pronunciation is usually the hardest part of the language learning process.
As always, hard does not mean impossible. You can master Korean sounds, just as I (and many other learners) have. It just takes time, dedication, and the right resources.
Here are a few to start with:
- YouTube - Motivate Korean - Improve Your Korean Pronunciation Playlist
- Korean Pronunciation Guide
Handwriting and Typing
Now that you can read and recognize the symbols of the Korean alphabet, you'll probably want to use them to communicate through writing.
In that case, you can learn to handwrite Korean, type it on a computer, or both.
For handwriting, I recommend Hangul Master by Talk to Me in Korean , which will show you everything you need to write Korean symbols, including stroke order and different print/script styles.
For typing, there isn't a single resource that meets every need, but I recommend starting by downloading Go Billy Korean's free Korean typing game, called Hangul Attack . . From there, you can practice increasing your typing speed using an online tool like 10FastFingers .
Have you learned to read and write Korean? Share your experience in the comments!
Written by Kevin Morehouse
Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.
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I enjoy your information, and good video full of benefits as usual love to watch . Thank you. Rose Barbaro.
Obrigado.Já fiz varios cursos mas tenho dificuldades comno hangul.Obrigado pelas dicas!
I know all the vowel sounds and all the consonant sounds but I am unsure of how to organize the words to make since in Hangul I think that I might need just a little bit more practice. I am sure that I will be able to write, read and speak Korean perfectly in no time.
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