Regardless of which level you are at, you might be overwhelmed when it comes to learning Korean vocabulary.
I get this same question from my students very often. My general answer is..
1. Find out WHY you are learning Korean
It really does depend on many different things; especially for what purpose you are learning Korean.
You could be learning Korean because you; – love K-POP. – watch Korean drama all the time and you want to know what they are saying without looking at subtitles. – admire Korean fashion and beauty products. – want to go to Korea to teach English. – have Korean boyfriend or girlfriend and want to learn Korean to communicate with them and their family members. – are into online games or Korean traditional Baduk game. and so on…
If I didn’t cover your reason here, leave a comment below, because I’d love to get to know you and how you got into Korean language 🙂
Obviously, you will have to focus on vocabulary which that you will most likely to use depending on the purpose.
2. Figure out what interests you in your language
Most likely, you will understand better in new language if you already have knowledge and understand concept about subjects in your language.
Find out today what you are genuinely interested in and associate the vocabulary from your language to Korean 🙂
3. Learn massive verbs
I think learning all the new words in new language can be daunting. For learning Korean, I highly suggest you to start with verbs. I believe that verbs are the most effective words you can deliver message with a limited number of vocabulary. A great thing about learning Korean verbs is that you can easily convert verbs into nouns, adjectives and adverbs.
Click HERE to download your FREE PDF of 245 regular verbs in all different tenses.
4. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
I started to learn English when I was at the elementary school in South Korea. I really enjoyed learning the language and was very dedicated to study it driven by my own motivation. Learning English on a day to day consistently helped me to improve the language. However, another big factor that helped me most was I was not afraid of making mistakes. I could make the most stupid mistakes and said jumbled words mixed with Korean words. But I also went up to English speakers to practice a couple of phrases I learned from schools or Hollywood movies. This was the time back in the early 90s, and it was VERY rare to see non-Koreans on streets in South Korea. These days, there are so many online websites and social medias where you can instantly be connected with people who are in the same interests. You should take advantage of that. Most importantly, don’t feel discouraged by someone who is way more proficient in Korean, because everyone at one point started from learning the Korean alphabet just like you did or you plan to do. Make progress bit by bit everyday.
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There are a total of 21 consonants and they are broken down into three categories;
10 basic vowels and 11 reformed vowels
The first row is Korean vowels and the second row is how each one represents in English, but they are not the same as pronunciation. The third line is the vowel position in each syllable. s – side b – bottom m – mix (side and bottom)
You don’t need to worry about the vowel position until you learn how to make syllables.
1. Basic Vowels (10)
2. Reformed Vowels (11)
What’s the advantage and disadvantage of having so many vowels since there are only 5 vowels in English?
In English, 5 vowels can be pronounced in different ways depending on which words they are used in. For example, ‘banana’ has three As in one word but each a sounds all different like [beo naei na]. However, in Korean, we have so many vowels that you can write and make sound for each vowel which is really cool because you will know how to pronounce words even if it’s the first time to see them! How many times have you had troubles to pronounce English words correctly as it’s the first time to see the word? many..! You won’t have this same problem with Korean. 🙂 The only downside is you need to take more time to memorize all vowels at the beginner’s level. but that’s okay.. 🙂
Do the Korean consonants sound like English consonants?
Yes they do.. but they will be pronounced a bit more strongly. For example, sometime you may hear ‘k’ letter but it’s written ㄱ (g) in Korean. Thus, often when you see Korean romanized words such as 김치(kimchi), they tended to be written for people to pronounce the words rather than the actual writing. However, if you start thinking k for Korean ㄱ (g), how can you write Korean ㅋ (k)? My romanization methods are made for writing purposes since I really want you to understand how to say based on looking at Korean characters rather than English romanization.
What does ㄹ (l / r) mean?
Korean consonant ㄹ can be more like l or r depending on where the consonant position is. When the consonant ㄹ is the first consonant in the syllable, it’s pronounced more like ‘l’. When ㄹ is the last consonant in the syllable, it’s pronounced more like ‘r’. I still want you to know that you never roll your tongue inside like English ‘r’. You need to relax your tongue to make a sound of Korean ‘r’.
What is exactly silent/ng for a consonant ‘ㅇ’?
When the consonant ‘ㅇ’ is the first consonant in the syllable, it’s silent and when it’s the last consonant, it’s pronounced as ‘ng’. The reason why it could be silent is you can’t break the rule of Korean syllable structure which is always starting with a consonant. (You will learn this structure in the next level,Foundation.) When a syllable starts with a vowel in speaking, you still need to fill a consonant to form a syllable in writing. In this case, ‘ㅇ’ (silent) comes in handy.
How do you pronounce double consonants? What’s the difference with regular consonants?
I would say the double consonants have more traction when you speak.The sound for ㄲ comes out from back of your throat. The sound for ㄸ has strong traction between your tongue and roof of your mouth. The sound for ㅃ also has strong traction between your lips and for ㅆ and ㅉ, it’s between teeth.
I am really lost with reformed consonants. How the heck do you pronounce them?
Yeah.. it’s even hard for me to pronounce them. Just you know.. they are only used as last consonants. Try to pronounce the consonants from left to right but sometimes, only one consonant can be pronounced in certain words. These consonants are not as common to be used so you can learn to say them as you go.
There are so many vowels to remember. Can you please help me how to memerize them more effectively?
Yes! I’ve thought about this and made my own methods to remember these vowels more easily. You will appreciate why I put vowels in the rows that way. In the first line of the reformed vowels, they are the same vowels from the basic vowels except that they are added with an extra vowel ‘ㅣ’. However, ㅛ and ㅠ don’t apply to this, and you would just have to remember the 4 vowels in the second line.. I still hope this method helps since it’s easy to extend 7 vowels from the basic ones. 🙂
Some vowels sound the same to me. How can I distinguish them?
Let’s first find out what vowels are similar to each other. The first group ㅐ and ㅔ. The second group ㅒ, ㅖ and the third group ㅚ, ㅙ, ㅞ. When you pronounce those vowels that are similar to each other, there may be a scientific explanation to distinguish them depending on your tongue position but I wouldn’t really want you to worry about it. Here is why.. For example, in English, if ‘apple’ is spelled as ‘epple’, what is the difference? A and e in those words are pronounced so similar that English speakers don’t care much to make difference when speaking. Anther good example is ‘marry’ and ‘merry’. For those Korean vowels groups, it’s the same thing. However, You can distinguish them more easily in writing when you romanize English words to Korean. ‘ㅐ’is more like ‘a’ in English vs ‘ㅔ’ as in ‘e’. For example, if you romanize ‘sara’, I would more likely to write 새라 rather than 세라. However, romanizaiton could your preference.
I’ve found that Korean people generally eat saltier food compared to other nations.
The culture seems to come from having a meal as rice with many other side dishes.
Generally side dishes are made salty (seasoned) enough so that it gives more flavour in your mouth when you bite rice.
This may lead to health concerns involving blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
It’s hard to change the old culture but since we are becoming more individualized due to western influence, it’s possible that we will be able to have our own separate bowls allowing us to add our own desired amount of salt instead of sharing with others at the dining table.
한국인의 하루 나트륨 섭취량은 4831㎎(2011년 기준)이다. 세계보건기구(WHO)가 제시한 권고량 2000㎎의 2배를 훨씬 넘는다.
Korean average day consumption of sodium is 4831mg (in 2011). This is 2 times far more than 2000 mg, recommended by WHO.