November 9, 2012

It's All Greek to Me!: A Quick Guide to the Korean Alphabet and Romanizations

Here's a quick guide to the Korean alphabet (한굴) and romanization.
I absolutely hate romanization.  I think it's difficult to read and it makes you sound very foreign because you try to make the vowels sound English.  Also, those who spell in Korean either go with the literal sound of the words or literal translation of the symbols.  The former you can't re-write in Hangul accurately and the latter you can't read fluidly.

The Korean Alphabet (한굴)
I'm not a linguist so I'm just going to divide them up into consonants and vowels.

ㅂ - b/p    [a light "b" or "p" sound as in "pie" and "bye]
ㅈ - ch/j    [a light "j" or "ch" sound as in "jam" and "churn"]
ㄷ - d/t    [a light "d" or "t" sound as in "dirt" and "tabby"]
ㄱ - g/k    [a light "g" or "k" sound as in "go"]
ㅅ - s    ["s" sound as in "salt"]
ㅁ - m   ["m" sound as in "mom"]
ㄴ - n    ["n" sound as in "now"]
ㅇ - ng/[silent]   ["ng" sound as in "song."  However, if it becomes before a vowel it is silent.]
ㄹ - l/r    ["l" as in "love" or "r" as in a rolled Spanish "r"]
ㅎ - h    ["h" as in "happy"]
ㅋ - k'    [a hard "k" as in "Kevin"]
ㅌ - t'    [a hard "t" as in "tiara"]
ㅊ - ch'    ["ch" as in "chubby"]
ㅍ - p'    [a hard "p" as in "pop"]
ㅃ - bb/pp    [more pronounced than ㅂ but not as much as ㅍ]
ㅉ - jj/tch    [more pronounced than ㅈ but not as much as ㅊ]
ㄸ - dd/tt    [more pronounced than ㄷ but not as much as ㅌ]
ㄲ - kk/gg    [more pronounced than ㄱ but not as much as ㅋ]
ㅆ - ss/sh    [a longer "s" as in "ass."  If it is paired with the vowel ㅣ, it is pronounced "sh" as in "sugar"]

ㅐ - ae    [as in the "a" in "age"]
ㅔ - e    [as in the first "e" in "ever."  Occasionally pronounced like the "e" in "evil"]
ㅗ - o    [as in the "o" in "no"]
ㅓ - eo/ō    [not a vowel in the English language, it's somewhere between an "e" and an "o"]
ㅏ - a    [as in the "a" in "ma"]
ㅣ - i    [as in the "e" in "eat"]
ㅜ - u    [as in the "ou" in "you"]
ㅡ - eu/ū    [not a vowel in the English language, it's pronounced with the teeth together while say to "oo" in "moo"]

These other vowel are pretty self-explanatory.  Just tack a "y" sound in from of the corresponding vowel sounds.
ㅛ = y + ㅗ
ㅕ = y + ㅓ
ㅑ = y + ㅏ
ㅒ = y + ㅐ
ㅖ = y + ㅔ
ㅠ = y + ㅜ

Now have you ever wondered how to read Korean?
Let's take 사랑하다 (to love) and 끊다 (to sever, to break off).

사랑하다 -->  [ㅅ-ㅏ] [ㄹ-ㅏ-ㅇ] [ㅎ-ㅏ] [ㄷ-ㅏ]
끊다 --> [ㄲ-ㅡ-ㄴ-ㅎ] [ㄷ-ㅏ]

As a rule of thumb, it's usually left to right, top to bottom.

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