The Alphabet of Korean: A Beginner’s Guide
Learning an Asian language can seem an intimidating task, especially when it comes to mastering an alphabet full of unknown symbols. But, should you allow your fear to prevent you from enjoying your favourite K-Pop songs in their Korean version? Unlike Mandarin or Japanese, the Korean language is unique in that it has a relatively easy-to-learn alphabet that is fundamental to understanding and speaking the language.
In this article, we will explore the beautiful alphabet of Korean, its symbols, and we’ll answer your most burning question about Hangul, Korean’s fascinating writing system.
An Overview of the Korean Alphabet
Before we delve into the Korean alphabet from A-Z, here are a few interesting facts about Hangul:
How many letters are there in the Korean alphabet?
The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, consists of 24 basic letters, 14 consonants (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ) and 10 vowels (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ).
Each letter is unique and can be combined with other letters to form syllables. However, we have some good news for language learners: Unlike English, where letters are not always pronounced the same way they are spelled, Hangul letters have a one-to-one correspondence between their written symbols and their pronunciation.
Where does the name Hangul come from?
The name Hangul comes from the Korean words han (한), which means “Korean,” and gul (글), which means “script” or “writing.”
Therefore, Hangul literally means “Korean writing.”
What are Korean letters called?
The Korean characters are known as jamo (자모) and are arranged in two-dimensional syllabic blocks. Each block represents one syllable, so the word “honeybee” in Korean (kkulbeol) is written as 꿀벌 and not ㄲㅜㄹㅂㅓㄹ.
Hangul is a featural writing system
One of the unique features of Hangul is that it is a featural writing system. This means that the shape of the letters is based on the shape and placement of the mouth when making the sound. For example, the shape of the letter ㅅ (s) is based on the shape of the tongue when making the “s” sound. This makes it easier to learn and remember the letters and their sounds.
The alphabet of Korean is easier than you would expect
Compared to the Japanese and Mandarin alphabets, Hangul is considered easier to learn because it has a relatively small number of letters and a one-to-one correspondence between the written symbols and their pronunciation. In contrast, Japanese has three writing systems (hiragana, katakana, and kanji), and Mandarin uses complex characters that can have multiple meanings and pronunciations.
The Korean Alphabet from A to Z
If you’re interested in learning the Korean language, the first thing you’ll need to do is familiarize yourself with the Korean alphabet, also known as Hangul. Hangul was created in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great, and it is an alphabet system that is unique to the Korean language.
While Korean may seem a bit intimidating at first sight, the Korean alphabet is easy to learn and use, and it consists of 24 letters: 14 consonants and 10 vowels.
Here they are:
The alphabet of Korean: Vowels
|Vowel||Romanized spelling||English pronunciation||Example word|
|ㅏ||a||/ɑ/ or /æ/||아빠 (appa)
|ㅐ||ae||/eɪ/ or /ɛ/||배 (bae) –
(baekse) – 100 years old
|ㅓ||eo||/ʌ/ or /əʊ/||어머니
(eomeoni) – mother
|ㅔ||e||/e/ or /ɛ/||메뉴 (menyu)
(yeohaeng) – travel
|ㅖ||ye||/je/ or /jɛ/||예쁜
(yeppeun) – pretty
|ㅗ||o||/oʊ/ or /ɔ/||오리 (ori) –
The alphabet of Korean: Consonants
|Korean consonant||Name of the consonant||Romanized spelling||English pronunciation||Example word|
(goyangi) – cat
(kkotkkochi) – flower arranging
|ㄴ||니은||nieun||/n/||나이 (nai) –
|ㄷ||디귿||digeut||/t/ or /d/||더하기
(deohagi) – plus
|ㄸ||쌍디귿||ssangdigeut||/t͈/ or /d͈/||땅따먹기
(ttangttameokgi) – tag
|ㄹ||리을||rieul||/ɾ/ or /l/||라면
(ramyeon) – instant noodles
(masida) – to drink
|ㅂ||비읍||bieup||/p/ or /b/||밥 (bap) –
|ㅃ||쌍비읍||ssangbieup||/p͈/ or /b͈/||빨래
(ppallae) – laundry
The Korean Alphabet: FAQs
Now that we have been through the Korean alphabet from A-Z, it’s time to move on to other aspects of the Korean writing system?
Do you still have burning questions about Hangul, the beautiful alphabet of Korean?
Here are our answers to five frequent inquiries:
1. How do you say ABC in Korean?
The Korean equivalent of ABC is 알파벳 (alpabet). This word is a combination of the English word “alphabet” and the Korean pronunciation of the letters A, B, and C.
2. How many letters does the alphabet for Korean have?
The Korean alphabet, called Hangul, has 24 letters, including 14 consonants and 10 vowels. In addition to the 24 basic letters, Hangul also includes combinations of vowels and consonants that represent additional sounds.
3. Are there 2 Korean alphabets?
No, there is only one Korean alphabet, which is called Hangul. However, there are also Chinese characters, called Hanja, which were used in the past and are still occasionally used today in Korea.
4. Is it easy to learn the Korean alphabet?
Yes, many people find the alphabet of Korean relatively easy to learn because it was designed to be simple and logical. Unlike Chinese characters or Japanese kanji, the letters of Hangul represent sounds rather than meanings.
5. Are the alphabets of Korean and Japanese the same?
No, the alphabets of Korean and Japanese are not the same. Korean uses the Hangul alphabet, which was invented in the 15th century, while Japanese uses a combination of three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. However, there are some similarities between the two languages, such as the occasional use of Chinese characters in both writing systems.
In conclusion, the Korean alphabet is an exceptional writing system that is both efficient and easy to learn. Its unique blend of phonetic and ideographic symbols makes it a versatile tool for written communication in the Korean language, and it has played a crucial role in preserving Korean culture and identity throughout history.
Would you like to master the alphabet of Korean with the help of a Korean teacher?
At Language Trainers, we work with native instructors who can provide personalized Korean lessons to help you learn Hangul quickly and effectively. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, we’ll make sure you get a curriculum tailored to your needs and goals, and help you improve your pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar in a fun and engaging way.
So why not give it a try and discover the beauty of the Korean language yourself? Contact us today to schedule your first lesson and embark on your Korean learning journey!