We will teach you the Korean alphabet "Hangul"!

by Helen Bosch
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K-Pop Blog > Overview > Hangul

"A smart person can become familiar with it before the morning is over; even a stupid person can learn it within ten days." So according to the well-known saying, it doesn't take much to learn the Korean alphabet "Hangul". For those who would like to start now and still need a jump start, we have put together some basic information here. Among other things, we introduce you to the alphabet in detail!

Learn more about the history of Hangul here!

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As we just mentioned, the term "Hangul" refers to the Korean alphabet. It is used in both South Korea and North Korea; however, North Koreans call it "Joseon'geul".

Hangul combines elements of alphabetic scripts and syllabic scripts. In alphabetic scripts (such as our Romance script), one character/letter represents one speech sound. In syllabic scripts - such as the Japanese script "Katakana" - each character stands for a whole syllable or combination of letters instead of just one speech sound.

In Hangul, most characters stand for a speech sound, but there are also complex characters that stand for letter combinations; in addition, the characters are assembled into syllable blocks. This sounds more complicated than it is!

Let's look at the Hangul alphabet together:

Basically, there are 14 consonants and 10 vowels. In addition, there are 5 tense consonants and 11 complex vowels. The tense consonants are simply double consonants, which is why they are called "twin letters" in Korean. The complex vowels are formed by combinations of simple vowels.

Consonants

Hangul Konsonanten (Grafik von mondly)

The tense consonants are blue.

Whether consonants are pronounced soft or hard - for example, as "b" or "p" - depends on whether they are at the beginning or end of a syllable.

Vowels

Hangul Vokale (Grafik von mondly)

The complex vowels are blue.

Once you've learned the signs, you're halfway there!

The next step: How are the characters assembled into syllable blocks?

This is also easier than it looks. To explain, let's take a familiar example:

방탄소년단 = Bangtan Sonyeondan

As you may know, "Bangtan Sonyeondan" is the Korean name of BTS and literally means "Bulletproof Boy Scouts".

First, the word is divided into syllables: Bang - tan - So - nyeon - dan

And now each syllable is translated separately. For the syllable "Bang" we need "b" (), "a" () and "ng" (). If you haven't memorized the characters yet, you can simply use the tables as a guide.

Together, the three characters then form a syllable block:

But how do you know how to arrange the characters within the syllable block? There are a few simple rules and tricks for that!

  • Hangul is read from left to right. Within syllables, it is also from left to right and then from top to bottom.
  • A syllable in written form ALWAYS starts with a consonant followed by a vowel. Thus, each syllable consists of at least two and at most three characters. (Two characters = consonant, vowel. Three characters = consonant, vowel, consonant.)
  • Of course, there are also syllables that, when spoken, begin with a vowel, such as the syllable "i" in the word "ireum" (Korean for "name"). In that case, is always placed before the vowel as a silent consonant:
    (other examples of a silent : 있, 어, 요, 야)
  • All vowels consisting of a vertical line (ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅣ) are placed to the right of the consonant:
  • All vowels consisting of a horizontal line (ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ) are placed below the consonant:
  • If the syllable consists of three characters, the third (always a consonant) is placed below the other two characters: 방, 탄, 년, 단

Spaces are used as separation between words.

저는 내년에 한국에 갈 거예요.= I will go to Korea next year.
(jeoneun naenyeon-e hangug-e gal geoyeyo)

Once you understand the system, Hangul is very simple. The alphabet is also considered to be very logical, easy to remember and easy to learn compared to others in the world. This is one of the reasons why there are hardly any people in Korea who cannot read or write.
For example, as you may have noticed, Hangul is not case sensitive. Therefore, we don't have to learn two spellings for each character as we do in our Roman alphabet.

If you've mastered Hangul, you've already overcome one hurdle!

Of course, if you really want to read Korean, you still need to learn the language now. But maybe what you know now is enough for you. We ourselves like to use our knowledge of Hangul to decipher names of idols in the credits of K-Pop albums or elsewhere! After all, to read names, you don't need any language skills besides "Hangul"!

By the way, our name "Nolae" (Korean for "song") is spelled like this: 노래

If you feel like writing a few words in Korean to your friends, you can try it on your cell phone. Many of them have a Korean keyboard. As you write, the syllable blocks put themselves together, so it might even be a learning aid.

Bonus:

The Korean alphabet has its own national commemoration day in Korea: October 9 is a public holiday in South Korea.

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