Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (2022)

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (1)

Want the good news about learning Korean? Compared to other Asian languages, Korean is relatively easy to learn. That’s because you can master reading and writing in just a few short hours.

What’s also nice is that Korean is mostly regular. That means aside from some exceptions here and there; Korean pronunciation is fairly easy.

Korean has a phonetic alphabet of twenty-four basic characters. This includes fourteen consonants and ten vowels.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how you pronounce each letter. I'll also include a few tips on how to work through a few of the trickier letters you might stumble upon at first but can get the hang of in no time.

By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be well on your way native-sounding Korean pronunciation.

By the way, if you want to learn Korean fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation isKorean Uncoveredwhich teaches you through my fun, unique and effective StoryLearning® method.

If you’re ready to get started,click here for a 7-day FREE trial.

Korean Letters

Korean has 24 letters in total:

  • 14 consonant letters (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ)
  • 10 vowel letters (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ)

The most important thing to remember is that there is no direct translation between Korean and English letters. It’s better to consider them approximations of each other.

For example, rather than thinking of it directly as “ㄱ=g,” it’s better to think of it as “ㄱ sounds like “gah as in garden.” The same goes for the remainder of the Korean letters.

Be sure to use the letter guide below accordingly:

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (2)

Consonants:

  • ㄱ = G
  • ㄴ = N
  • ㄷ = D
  • ㄹ = L
  • ㅁ = M
  • ㅂ = B
  • ㅅ = S
  • ㅇ= null/placeholder consonant, but sounds like “ng” as in “sign” when on bottom, also paired with individual vowels
  • ㅈ = J like jeans
  • ㅊ = CH like cheese
  • ㅋ = K
  • ㅌ = T
  • ㅍ = P
  • ㅎ= H

Vowel:

  • ㅏ = a (ah
  • ㅑ = ya (yah)
  • ㅓ = eo (sounds like uh)
  • ㅕ = yeo (sounds like yuh)
  • ㅗ = o
  • ㅛ = yo
  • ㅜ = oo (as in woo)
  • ㅠ = yoo (as in you)
  • ㅡ = eu (as in “gul” like Hangul)
  • ㅣ= e (as in we)

*Remember you never write vowels by themselves. They must always be paired with the placeholder consonant ㅇ. So ㅏ should be written as 아, ㅑ as 야, and so on.

The best way to practice is by memorizing how all the consonants and vowels sound together.

(Video) Korean Short Stories for Beginners [Learn with Korean Audiobook]

For example:

  • 가, 갸, 거, 겨, 고,교, 구, 규,그 ,기 = ka, kya, keo, kyeo, ko, kyo, koo, kyoo, keu, kee
  • 나,냐,너, 녀,노, 뇨,누, 뉴, 느, 니 = na, nya, neo, nyeo, no, nyo, noo, nyoo, neu, nee

Now do the same for the remaining consonants on the list above.

Korean Letter Combinations

Korean may have 24 letters, but you'll often see several “letters” that aren't on the list above. That's because some letters are combined into one.

Here's the thing—if you read each one individually, you'll still be understood. But if you want to sound fluent, you'll need to recognize and master the pronunciations of these letter combinations.

They come in two forms: double consonants and mixed vowels. And they're actually pretty common. You'll see them daily when you start speaking and reading Korean a lot.

But the more familiar you are with the alphabet above, the more they'll make sense and flow more easily from you.

Double consonants: all double consonants make a strong consonant sound. Simply put extra emphasis on the original consonant. Think of it like “DDog” instead of “dog.” As your practice, you’ll hear the subtle difference between single and double consonants.

  • ㄲ = strong g like “gate” or “go”
  • ㄸ = strong d like “dog” or “day”
  • ㅃ= strong b like “bank”
  • ㅆ= strong s like “snake”
  • ㅉ= strong j like j “John”

A famous word you've likely seen already written in English is Jjajang myeon (pronounced JAH-jang myeon). You can find this popular Korean dish everywhere in Korea.

Mixed Vowels

Korean also has some mixed vowels and consonants. These form when you put certain sounds together. Say everything very slowly to yourself and you’ll hear how the sounds come together.

  • ㅐ sounds like ae as in “day”
    • With ㅐ, you combine ㅏ(a) plus ㅣ(e) to make ㅐ(ae).
  • ㅒ sounds yae as in “yay”
    • With ㅐ, you combine ㅑ(ya) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
  • ㅔ sounds like ae in “day”
    • With ㅔ, you combine ㅓ(eo) plus ㅣ(e) to make ae.
  • ㅖsounds like yae as in “yay”
    • With ㅖ, you combine ㅕ (yeo) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
  • ㅚ sounds like “we”
    • With ㅚ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅣ to make we
  • ㅙ sounds like “way”
    • With ㅙ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅐ(ae) to make way
  • ㅟ sounds like “we”
    • With ㅟ, you combine ㅜ (oo) plus ㅣ(e) to make we
  • ㅞ sounds like “way”

Korean Pronunciation: 7 Difficult Korean Sounds & Pronunciations

On the whole, Korean pronunciation is super easy. It’s actually easier than English because you don’t have tricky letters like “C” that could either sound like “cat” or “cereal.

However, there are a handful of tricky aspects of Korean pronunciation that can trip up new learners a little. Here are a couple of thing you should pay extra attention to.

1. Each Korean Syllable Is Pronounced With Equal Stress

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (4)
(Video) English Pronunciation Guide (Common Mistakes by Koreans)

Say the word “camera” to yourself. Notice how you emphasize the first part of the word to say it like CAM-er-a.

For Korean, syllables are pronounced with equal stress for the same length of time. Instead of saying “CAM-er-a” with most emphasis on the front of the word and little on the end, you say “Ca-Me-Ra.”

By the way, the word for camera is the same in Korean!

Check it out:

  • 카(ka) 메(me) 라(Ra)

The way you say it is “Kah-Meh-Rah.”

2. The Vowel “으 = eu” As In Hangul”

There is no direct sound in English like 으 or eu in Korean. So this can be tricky for new Korean speakers to get right.

It’s worth checking out some videos and watching the shape of people’s mouths when they make the sound.

When you pronounce 으, stretch your mouth wide and flat (picture a rectangle in your brain) and combine the sound “ew” and “uh.” And that’s it.

This is a good word to practice it with: 음악 or eumak, which means “music”. Another useful one to know is 음식 eumsik, which means “food”.

3. The Vowel 어 In English

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (6)

The vowel 어 is written as “eo” in English. It’s easy to think it’s pronounced as “e-o” like “video.” But this is not actually how it sounds. This vowel is one of the top reasons why you should learn Korean as quickly as possible and stop relying on transliterations.

Instead, 어 sounds more like the “o” in the word “goal.” The best way to remember it is the word “Seoul.” You don’t say “SEEohul” but “Sole” The same goes with every other place you see 어.

(Video) Learn Korean While Sleeping 8 Hours - Learn ALL Basic Phrases

Practice this words:

  • 먹어 = meogeo like mohgoh which is “eat”
  • 헐 = heol like hole which roughly translates to “OMG”
  • 이거 = igeo like igoh which is “this”

4. The Consonant ㄹ As In Ramen

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (7)

The consonant ㄹ is another sound we don’t really have in English. It’s somewhere between the letters “R” and “L.”

Koreans don’t say a hard “R” for ramen. Instead it’s softer and a little closer to “l” to sound more like “lah-men.” The key is curling your tongue when you pronounce it.

When ㄹ is at the end of a syllable it sounds, it sounds like the L in “curly.”

For example, if you say “I eat rice” or 밥을 먹어, it sounds like bab-eul meo-geo.

It’s a little tricky at first. For now just remember there is no strong L or R sound and you’ll start to pick it up over time.

5. All The “Ay” Sounds

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (8)

From the chart above, you probably noticed that “ay” and “ay” both sound like “ay” and “ay.” Likewise both ㅒand ㅖ sounds like “yay” and “yay.”

There is actually a slight difference between the pronunciations of these letters.

  • 애 is like ae that you pronounce by opening your mouth while your tongue is low. Think more drawn out.
  • 에 is like eh that you pronounce with your mouth less opened and with your tongue more to the front of your mouth. Think shorter.

It’s a subtle difference that doesn’t matter too much at first. But it does change the way a word sounds.

For example, there are two words that have a similar pronunciation with different spellings:

  • kay (dog)
  • keh (crab)

Fortunately, context will be able to help you 99% of the time since people will assume you go on a walk with your dog and not your crab.

(Video) 🇰🇷 good reading textbook? // korean stories review

6. Korean Double Consonants

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (9)

I briefly went into detail about the double consonants above. Here’s a little more on pronouncing them correctly.

Of the 14 main consonants, these five only: ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅈ can form double consonants.

As mentioned, it’s best to think of them as just strong pronunciations. But it’s also important to write them together as one letter.

So you double them up and write ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, and ㅉ to sound like [-gg], [-tt], [-pp], [-ss], and [-jj] respectively. They sound strong and a little higher-pitched. So keep your ear tuned closely while having conversations:

A few double consonant words:

  • 떡볶이 tteokbokki (rice cakes in sauce (popular Korean street food))
  • 빨간색 ppalgan seek (the color “red”)
  • 쌍용 ssangyong (Korean car manufacturer)

7. Korean Mixed Vowels

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (10)

Likewise, let’s go into a little more detail about those mixed vowels. Similar to the double consonants, you combine the vowels together into one letter.

Here’s the list again for you:

  • ㅐ sounds like ae as in “day”
    • With ㅐ, you combine ㅏ(a) plus ㅣ(e) to make ㅐ(ae).
  • ㅒ sounds yae as in “yay”
    • With ㅐ, you combine ㅑ(ya) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
  • ㅔ sounds like ae in “day”
    • With ㅔ, you combine ㅓ(eo) plus ㅣ(e) to make ae.
  • ㅖsounds like yae as in “yay”
    • With ㅖ, you combine ㅕ (yeo) plus ㅣ(e) to make yae.
  • ㅚ sounds like “we”
    • With ㅚ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅣ to make we
  • ㅙ sounds like “way”
    • With ㅙ, you combine ㅗ (o) plus plus ㅐ(ae) to make way
  • ㅟ sounds like “we”
    • With ㅟ, you combine ㅜ (oo) plus ㅣ(e) to make we
  • ㅞ sounds like “way”

Let’s just take the top one. ㅐ sounds like ae as in “day.” With ㅐ, you combine ㅏ(a) plus ㅣ(e) to make ㅐ(ae). Say ㅐ(ae) slowly to yourself and you’ll hear it. “A” and “e” sounds like “ah e” then put together it’s “ay”. Or say the two letters ㅏ(a) plus ㅣ(e) quickly and you also should be able to hear it.

Do the same with all the other vowels on the list and you’ll be pronouncing them like a native speaker in no time.

Korean Pronunciation Like A Native Speaker

Korean Pronunciation Guide – StoryLearning (11)

Practice makes perfect when it comes to Korean pronunciation. But have fun with it. Aside from language learning apps, you can watch videos, listen to music, or binge-watch your favorite K-drama.

The real secret is recording your voice while practicing. This is the best way to hear if you’re getting close to the right pronunciation or not. As uncomfortable as this might be, do this from time to time. This will help you hear where you’re nailing it and where you might need a little extra effort.

And don’t forget to keep reading and writing Hangul. The more you do so, the more everything will start coming together, and the closer you’ll be to getting that native-level Korean pronunciation all language learners want.

(Video) [KSTORY] Don't cry 울지 마 (Eng) Short Korean Story Korean children bookㅣKstyles

FAQs

How do you pronounce Korean words correctly? ›

The bottom letter is the n sound just like the top letter combining these with the vowel in the

How do I fix my Korean pronunciation? ›

I would memorize songs. And then practice them a bunch for you know days and days and then by the

What is Korean ABCD? ›

The Korean alphabet or Hangul consists of 24 basic letters: 14 consonants (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ) and 10 vowels (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ).

Why do Koreans have a hard time pronouncing L? ›

A common struggle that Koreans have with pronunciation is with the L and R sounds. This is because they use ㄹ, which is somewhere between L and R. When writing down English words using Korean characters, this letter is used for both L and R, making Koreans accustomed to using this sound to replace both letters.

What is cute in Korean slang? ›

The informal way to say “cute” in Korean is 귀여워 (gwiyeowo).

How do you write BTS in Korean? ›

BTS (Korean: 방탄소년단; RR: Bangtan Sonyeondan), also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a South Korean boy band formed in 2010 and debuting in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment.

Videos

1. [Dave] How I learned Korean 제가 한국말 어떻게 배웠는지 이야기!
(Dave's Sesang 데이브의세상)
2. Learn Korean: 100 Korean Phrases for Beginners
(Polyglot Pablo)
3. Korean: Listening Practice (Level 1, Dialogues 1 - 12)
(KOREAN FULL COURSE)
4. Slow & Basic Korean Conversation Practice
(Kendra's Language School)
5. The Korean Language: The Shocking Story From Kings to K-Pop
(Olly Richards)
6. speak like a native korean with one word.
(Teuida)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Catherine Tremblay

Last Updated: 11/24/2022

Views: 6439

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Catherine Tremblay

Birthday: 1999-09-23

Address: Suite 461 73643 Sherril Loaf, Dickinsonland, AZ 47941-2379

Phone: +2678139151039

Job: International Administration Supervisor

Hobby: Dowsing, Snowboarding, Rowing, Beekeeping, Calligraphy, Shooting, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Catherine Tremblay, I am a precious, perfect, tasty, enthusiastic, inexpensive, vast, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.