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There's a system to how the characters are arranged.
When it comes to vowels (ㅏ a, ㅑ ya,ㅓ eo, ㅕ yeo, ㅗ o, ㅛ yo, ㅜu, ㅠ yu, ㅡ eu, ㅣ i, ㅐ ae, ㅔ e, ㅒyae, ㅖ ye, ㅘ wa, ㅙ wae, ㅚ wi, ㅝ weo, ㅞ we, ㅟ wi, ㅢ ui), they cannot stand alone. They have to be preceeded with the consonant ㅇ (ㅇ has no sound if placed at the beginning of a syllable; otherwise it's ng).
The vowels become:
ㅇ+ㅏ = 아 a
ㅇ+ㅑ = 야 ya
ㅇ+ㅓ = 어 eo ★ As in australia
ㅇ+ㅕ = 여 yeo ★
ㅇ+ㅗ = 오 o
ㅇ+ㅛ = 요 yo
ㅇ+ㅜ = 우 u
ㅇ+ㅠ = 유 yu
ㅇ+ㅡ = 으 eu ★ Idk any equivalent English pronunciation
ㅇ+ㅣ = 이 i
ㅇ+ㅐ = 애 ae ★
ㅇ+ㅔ = 에 e
ㅇ+ㅒ = 얘 yae ★
ㅇ+ㅖ = 예 ye
ㅇ+ㅘ = 와 wa ★ /oo-ah/
ㅇ+ㅙ = 왜 wae ★ /oo-eh/
ㅇ+ㅚ = 외 wi ★ /oo-ih/
ㅇ+ㅝ = 워 weo ★ /oo-oh/
ㅇ+ㅞ = 웨 we ★ /oo-eh/
ㅇ+ ㅟ= 위 wi ★ /oo-ih/
ㅇ+ㅢ = 의 ui ★ it's hard
★ Focus on the pronunciation instead of spelling it in English. Romanization is quite complicated in Korean (imo) and the official romanization sometimes cannot tell you how it's actually pronounced. This is how I pronounce them but I'm not an expert in "sounding" them using English letters. I also suggest that you read about or learn 한글 (hangeul) first before doing lessons on Duolingo because the characters can be confusing. I recommend www.90daykorean.com for learning 한글 because it took me about more or less, 1~2 hours to be familiar with all the characters.
As for the arrangement of the consonants (C) and vowels (V) in syllables:
I think there are no rules in placing characters, except that vowels should always be preceeded by a consonant, and sometimes you just have to know how a word is spelled to know how to arrange the characters ー maybe except when writing English names in Korean? (Help.)
Please correct me if I'm wrong. Corrections are very much appreciated.
Edit: I got the C & V arrangements from www.koreanfromzero.com.
The alphabet was created in 1443 by King Sejong the Great.
I was hoping the course would teach the use of hangul --writing and spelling Korean. Hopefully, DL will provide that at a later date. Anyone with a PC has easy access to hangul on their keyboard. I can alternate back and forth simply by hitting the "alt" key. The notes are excellent for the most part, and reading them before doing the exercises is very helpful. A needed correction (in my opinion) is relative to the vowel 으. I don't know how the author of the notes pronounces "ugh", but for me the sound of 으 is more like the "u" in put, or the "oo" in wood, or the "ou" in could, or the sound you let out when someone socks you in the stomach. So the pronunciation of 의 is not really like "we". That would be 위. English does not officially have a sound like 의, but we get close when for " Did you eat yet?" we say "yaeatchet?" the "a" in the shortened form of "you" approximates the 으 sound. The question about the pronunciation of 아이 is a good one. To my ear there is a slight stop between the two vowels. Though barely noticeable, there are two syllables, so it is not simply "Ay" or the sound of a "long I" Regarding the invention of the language, if you are into Korean drama, "Tree With Deep Roots" is a fascinating portrayal of the huge obstacles the king had to overcome to bring the language to the people. Added 10/30/17 DL has been improving the course dramatically since the initial release. We are learning hangul, and there aren't many multiple choice questions or tiles to move around or match up past the basic lessons. For those still complaining about a word needing definition in the middle of alphabet training, I expect most of us were surprised, by that. And I expect the team is enjoying their little joke, but their purpose is to teach, and I expect very few will forget the meaning of 아이, so we must admit their method was effective even if perceived as "unfair."
BUT, when they asked to write Samsung, Baskin-Robbins, Hyundai... Those letters are not used. First i wrote using those letters but it was incorrect. Maybe because they are English words, and we are not asked to write the romanizations. So even if it is romanized that way it is not pronounced the same right?
For those struggling this website, in another comment section someone put out a link and it helped me learn the Korean alphabet in less than a day. I can now translate kpop songs from characters to words, in Korean not English. http://www.ryanestrada.com/learntoreadkoreanin15minutes/