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July 18, 2009 / owbEe

Triple-faced Consonants

While learning Hangeul or the Korean writing system (or generally any language), it’s a given that you must also learn how to pronounce each character or letter correctly and not only rely on romanizations. I remember learning Hangeul and associating each character with its romanized form and get totally lost. There are times that people have different ways of romanizing Korean and if you are used to only one particular system, you won’t understand books or dictionaries made purely with romanized Korean. Well, I won’t buy one if that’s the case. LOL.

I do have a hard time identifying each sound to one distinct character. Although I’ve already learned Hangeul by heart I still have difficulty sounding those characters having almost the same sounds. Let me show you an example.

The sound [pul] can be spelled in the following way depending on how you pronounce it:

불 뿔 풀

In the book Elementary Korean, those three words were explained to have ‘Lax’, ‘Tense unaspirated’ and ‘Lax aspirated’ pronunciations respectively. If you’re not a linguist, you basically won’t understand how to pronounce and identify the difference. Anyway, if you’re curious to the sound and the meaning of each word, click here.

Everytime I see 쌍비읍 or the double ㅂ (ㅃ), I tell my self that it’s a little bit higher than 비읍 (ㅂ). And when I see 피읖 (ㅍ), I mentally say to myself that it has an h sound added onto it making it sound like a ‘ph’ but not exceeding to the point of sounding like an ‘f’.

The next character which I have the same problem with is the character that produces a k sound. Here’s an example:

개 깨 캐

Notice that the only difference they have is the initial character. The only thing I know here is the word 개 which means dog, so if I hear this from a Korean without knowing the correct pronunciation I would think that he/she is talking about a dog when in fact he/she is talking about sesame (깨) or something about digging (캐다).

Another one is the character having the t sound.

달 딸 탈

Again you will have some misunderstanding with this one if you don’t get the correct way to pronounce them. If you’re curious, 달 means moon, 딸 means daughter and 탈 means mask.

And lastly, the character with a ch sound.

자요 짜요 차요

The following words mean sleeps, is salty and is cold respectively.

Note: I intentionally did not place the links after each characters because the sample audio  for each one doesn’t match the words I have given. If you want to hear the difference between ㄱ, ㄲ and ㅋ click here. To distinguish ㄷ, ㄸ and ㅌ click here, and for the last set listen here.



Leave a Comment
  1. Rob / Jul 19 2009 11:23 am

    Hey owbEe,

    I’m just writing to let you know that I haven’t forgot
    about you. I’m actually having a bit of trouble with
    the software I use to upload vids to the net, but I’ll
    hopefully have it sorted soo, and have your question

    Hope your well,


    • owbEe / Jul 19 2009 11:30 am

      Thanks. I’ll be waiting. ^^

  2. Galinaros / Jul 20 2009 5:01 pm


    ****, those look discouraging. hahaha

    • owbEe / Jul 20 2009 10:14 pm

      LOL. Yeah, I think so too.

  3. Galinaros / Aug 6 2009 5:35 am

    Hey owbEe,

    I revisited this page and realized that it’s the only thing I’m having problems with in Hangul. Ugh… I know the difference in sound of each when I look at it specifically, but if I hear it used in a word or try to say it myself, I have the same problems as you.

    I guess I’ll push on forward and begin with some grammar anyway. I’m probably going to follow Click Korean for now, but if you have any other suggestions as to where to start for forming sentences and such, please yell for me. 🙂

    Hope you’re doin’ well,

    • owbEe / Aug 6 2009 7:16 pm

      Yeah. It gets frustrating at times but we’ll surely get the hang of it if we practice as much.

      Oh, I still haven’t posted something about my favorite site. Have you heard of It’s a really fun and lively community with free podcasts on Korean. You can sign-up at their site for a free 7-day trial. Just visit their site to learn more.

    • Galinaros / Aug 7 2009 8:15 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, but I’ve already signed up and used my free trial for that site. 😀 It seemed well laid-out, but knowing that I wouldn’t be able to use it in a week discouraged me from getting used to it.
      I read every e-mail they send to me, but I guess I fail to make complete use of the podcasts. I should fix that, hehe.
      I haven’t looked into the community, but I guess I’ll give it a try.

      Oh, and I agree with you. Practice >.< haha


  4. 케씔 / Jun 17 2012 4:14 am

    Waaah! I really like this post. I’m honestly having a hard time with those. >___< When I read them slowly, I can quite make it, but when it's in the normal speed, I get quite confused. ~__~ Anyway, I guess I just need to practice more and get used to it. Btw, the links you posted are cool. I really feel like a child first learning to speak^^

    • owbEe / Jun 19 2012 10:36 pm

      Me too. I liked those sites. I actually don’t remember how I found those. Sadly, I can’t find the main site that holds it.

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