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.