KKB #1: Hangul

Kicking Korean's Butt begins now! This is a possible series of posts I would like to complete, only as I see fit. I've gotten a few questions about learning Hangul, or rather, trying to find ways to make it stick. So, I have complied a few methods that I used to train my mind to read in Korean and recognize the letters (as well as it could, anyway!)

Hangul is the first non-Latin alphabet that I learned. I think I was first exposed to it in the form of a little graphic entitled 'Learn how to read Korean in 20 minutes or less!' I distinctly remember it showing how to spell Mario and Batman in Korean, but I can't say I retained much information from it. For the record, that was fairly misleading. It takes time to go from 'This may look like Korean...' to 'Oh, I can read that!'

So, one of the first things I did was jump on Youtube and find this playlist, which went through the basic vowels and consonants of Hangul. I believe the speaker in the clips teaches some basic words as you practice writing.

Afterwards, I honestly cannot remember how I learned the double (stressed) consonants and diphthongs (complex vowels), haha... But, there's a great video from TTMIK on double consonants (and their pronunciation differences), and this video covers the diphthongs. Watching the last one again, I swear I looked at this channel for the double consonants as well.

Okay. Now we have the general feel of the alphabet, but it's still a bit tough to keep them straight. The best way to commit Hangul to my memory was, unsurprisingly, writing it down!

picture of my writing in Hangul from 2016

My handwriting is pretty shoddy, admittedly. This was in December 2016, after I had spent a good year and a half listening to Korean on a daily basis, and repeating some basic words and phrases that I had picked up. It was something of a shock to SEE what I had been saying for so many months. My hand was scared of the task, and my writing was pretty wobbly, but it was easier to track the syllables of the words I spoke when I knew the letters representing the sounds.

  • It's really good to practice Korean on grid paper. Because of the need to have syllable blocks, not single letters, grids are an amazing help for learning the spacing of Korean words. I believe there are printouts online for tracing Korean fonts as well (to get used to creating the letters).

Finally, I added a Korean keyboard to both my laptop and my phone. My first few attempts at typing 안녕하세요 were downright horrible, because I could not seem to remember the boundaries for syllables. But, auto-correct seemed to understand what I was trying to say, and that was very helpful for ensuring I would recognize the letters within the syllables. Sometimes, what I thought was an 오 was actually an 우. Eyes can play tricks!

Hangul isn't exactly difficult, it just happens to take a bit of time, like most parts of learning a language do. The important thing is to USE the script, not simply to stare at a picture of it. As your hands learn the 'paths' of each letter, you'll be able to remember them better. I hope this was at least a little bit helpful!

March 23, 2018


I've been reading The Korean Language (by Iksop Lee & Robert Ramsey) and it was a bit of a surprise to read the part on Korean phonetics/orthography. There are so many exceptions and rules beyond what is mentioned in any of the videos I've seen on Youtube. The most important being that each morpheme pretty much stays the same in writing even though it might be pronounced differently in different phonetical environments.

March 26, 2018

Yes! I’ve actually been studying a little of Korean phonology in my class, and it’s interesting to see how much doesn’t translate into orthography. It’s tempting to create a pronunciation post, but I fear it might be too technical to lay out in writing. A lot of my pronunciation has come from watching shows or movies, so it was ‘naturally gathered’. It’s a very interesting topic for me, though.

March 26, 2018

Korean isn’t perfectly morphophonological, although much of it has been made to be so. A lot of the irregular verbs and compound words could be better reformed to be spelled morphophonologically. They are responsible for many of the cases where roots are spelled differently than what would normally be expected. It’s one of the little things that irks me.

Then there is the intrusive ㄴㄴ sound inserted into compound words that is unwritten…

And there are exceptions like 네 being pronounced 니 or 의 being pronounced 에…

March 28, 2018

Thank you so much!!!

March 24, 2018

You're welcome!

March 25, 2018

Here is a partial guide to the korean course:

July 26, 2018

If I may ask, where did you get your vocabulary from? Thanks a lot for this wonderfully written post, btw!

March 25, 2018

I can no longer remember, but all of them can actually be found in the Korean course. You're welcome!

March 25, 2018
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