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Better Way to Teach Hangeul / Alphabet: Match Hangeul to Sound, not Romanization

I just started the Korean course; I have never formally studied any Korean but I did live in a Korean-American neighborhood for a year and have some tangential exposure to Korean culture and language.

I am finding the lessons on Hangeul and the Alphabet to be pretty...strange and I don't get the sense that I'm learning as effectively as I could be.

Why is it that I'm being tested on matching Hangeul up to romanizations, instead of just being tested on matching the Hangeul directly with sounds? Wouldn't this be more useful?

The issue is, the romanizations are unintuitive to me...they don't really help me pronounce most of the tougher vowels anyway...and then I find I have to memorize which one goes with which character but I'm memorizing these associations to pass the lessons, NOT necessarily memorizing the proper sounds.

It also seems to make even less sense given that several characters are pronounced the same way, yet have different romanizations.

Is this something that others have thought about? Could this perhaps be addressed through a redesign or rethinking of how these lessons are taught?

October 13, 2017



With the current way that Duolingo is structured, it is not possible to simply match to a sound. There has to be a matching piece of language written out in each language, one in Korean and one in English. The closest option to matching the written Korean to sound would be to use IPA, but most people would then have a hard time typing/recognizing what those sounds are as well.


"Not possible" is not a thing when it comes to web programming, unless you're talking about something technically impossible to implement, and what I've suggested here is far from it.

"Not currently implemented" would be a more accurate way of saying it. I'm tired of the naysaying when I suggest simple features that would be very easy for a programmer with even a modicum of skill to implement.

If the DuoLingo team is going to bumble around as if their whole framework for language learning were set in stone, they're going to languish in mediocrity and they're never going to develop a course in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or any language that sufficiently deviates from the Western box their first courses were created within, that is anywhere near as effective as their core courses and other Western languages they've added.

I'd hate to see this happen. I bring up basic improvements because I think it makes sense to implement them.

If their staff isn't capable enough to implement really basic things like this, they would do well to hire people who can do it. It's not like there's a shortage of web programmers who would be able to do this.

I want us to envision the best way of teaching and learning languages and I want us to press DuoLingo to implement that.


I don't disagree. That's why I said "with the current way Duolingo is structured." It is not possible for the volunteers who build the courses to do what your suggested. It would be awesome if Duolingo eventually had this feature, but for now we're stuck with current capabilities.


I agree. The Hangul instruction is very cumbersome. I and others have posted the suggestion to learn Hangul elsewhere before starting the course. Memrise has sound recognition, so it seems that DL could adopt something similar. I thought it particularly strange that many of the combinations presented in the hangul section do not even exist in the language. The pronunciation was also strange in several instances, apparently not that of a native speaker.


i heartily recommend the first 15 levels of this memrise course https://www.memrise.com/course/124459/hangeul-hangeul-korean-alphabet-audio/
they match hangeul to sound pronounced by native speakers (levels 16 to 20 were added later and sadly match to romanization).
it's memrise, so you can go through the levels in whichever order you please & focus on what's difficult for you.

once you're a bit more comfortable with hangeul, you can try this dictation course, that i find very relaxing for some reason: https://www.memrise.com/course/360786/dictation-audio/



This is a good idea. I like DuoLingo much better than Memrise when it comes to learning the higher-level aspects of language, because of its focus on whole-sentence-level translation. But I have found for other languages Memrise is much better for learning alphabets. I used it for Hiragana and Katakana in Japanese and for Cyrillic in Russian.


While I agree, to present a counterpoint, I find it very useful to know the romanisation.


Do you find that the romanization is in use? Where I've lived around Korean people, I've mostly just seen Hangeul everywhere and I didn't get the impression that the romanization was used outside of a few teaching settings and labeling items on restaurant menus or a few labels on product packaging for us non-Korean speakers.

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