Korean Alphabet Guide for Beginner Learners (Pronunciation Included)

Want to learn the Korean alphabet a.k.a hangul?

Well, here’s the guide that will help you nail down all the Hangul characters.

First, read through to get an understanding of how the letters and pronunciation work. Then, I’ll give you a printable PDF Hangul worksheet to practice with. Cool? Cool.

Want to practice writing the Korean Hangul? Download your free Korean Alphabet worksheet here.

PART 1: All About the Korean Alphabet: Hangul (Hangeul)

Hangul (Hangeul) is the Korean alphabet or writing system made by King Sejeong the great in 1443. Before the creation of Hangeul, the majority of people such as farmers, fishers, hunters, and others could not read or write. Only those of the highest class were literate. So, King Sejeong decided to make simple letters that anyone can learn to help  people regardless of their status in life.

Enter the Korean alphabet…

The Korean alphabet consists of 24 basic letters: 14 consonants and 10 vowels.

There are also 27 complex letters, also called “double consonants” and “double vowels”, formed by combining the basic letters.

So, today you’ll learn all about the Korean alphabet from a to z.

First, let’s learn the consonants.

korean alphabet

PART 2: Korean Consonants

So, Hangul consists of 14 basic consonants (single consonants) and 5 double consonants.

The single consonants are as follows:

g/k
n
d
r/l
m
b
s
ng
j
ch
k
t
p
h

These letters are sometimes a bit tricky to pronounce and it takes a lot of practice to be able to pronounce them properly, especially because Korean pronunciation is significantly different from how English letters are pronounced.

  • Important: There are three classifications on how to pronounce these letters: plain, aspirated, and tensed.

(Note: , , and were not included in any of these classifications, as they are just pronounced normally as their respective sounds. While and have special cases also which will be discussed as this lesson progresses.)

A) Basic/Plain Consonants

Hangul letter

Pronunciation when used as the first consonant

Pronunciation when used as the final consonant

‘g’

Note:

You might still hear this as ‘k’ but actually, it’s ‘g’, because in a native Korean accent, it’s somehow like in between of ‘g’ and ‘k’.

(e.g. = ‘gan’ which means liver)

‘k’

(e.g. = ‘baek’ which means a hundred)

‘d’

(e.g. 다리 = ‘da-ri’ which means leg)

‘t’

(e.g. = ‘mat’ which means oldest)

‘b’

Note: Same as ‘’, this letter sounds like in between of ‘b’ or a ‘p’.

(e.g. 바나나 = ‘ba-na-na’ which means banana)

‘p’ as in pop

(e.g. = ‘bap’ which means rice or meal)

‘s’ in a soft manner, but careful not to be ‘sh’. But when used with the vowel ‘’, it is pronounced as ‘sh’.

(e.g. 사랑 = ‘sa-rang’ which means love; 시간 = ‘shi-gan’ which means time)

‘t’

(e.g. = ‘ot’ which means cloth)

‘j’ but more of like ‘dz’

(e.g. = ‘jib/dzib’ which means house)

‘t’

(e.g. = ‘bit’ which means debt)

B) Aspirated Consonants

Aspirated consonants are pronounced with an extra puff of air from your mouth. You can check this if you try to pronounce these words with a hand in front of your mouth. You should feel the air touches your hand.

Note: The small ‘h’ beside the corresponding sounds represents the aspirated sound of each letter. This is not to confuse with ‘th’ or ‘ph’ which might be mistaken as ‘th’ (thing) or ‘ph’ (phone).

Hangul letter

Pronunciation when used as the first consonant

Pronunciation when used as the final consonant

‘kh‘ as kite

(e.g. 커피 = ‘keo-pi’ which means coffee)

‘k’

(e.g. 부엌 = ‘bu-eok’ which means kitchen)

‘th’ as top

(e.g. 타다 = ‘ta-da’ which means to ride)

‘t’

(e.g. = ‘kkeut’ which means end)

‘ph’ as pasta

Note:

Some borrowed English words that use the letter ‘f’ or its sound use this letter too in conversion to a Korean word, such as (phone). But it is not totally read as ‘f’ in Korean.

(e.g. 피부 = ‘pi-bu’ which means skin)

‘p’

(e.g. = ‘ap’ which means front)

‘tch’ as channel

(e.g. 천사 = ‘cheon-sa’ which means angel)

‘t’

(e.g. = ‘bit’ which means light)

C) Tensed Consonants

Tensed consonants are the double consonants that are formed by combining the basic vowels. These are:

kk

tt

pp

ss

jj

There is more emphasis on pronouncing these letters. While the basic vowels sound more relaxed and soft, these letters sound sharper.

Hangul letter

Pronunciation when used as the first consonant

Pronunciation when used as the final consonant

‘k’ as hiccup

(e.g. = ‘kkul’ which means honey)

‘k’

(e.g. = ‘bakk’ which means outside)

‘t’ as stop

(e.g. = ‘ttal’ which means daughter)

There are no such Korean words ending in ‘’ and ‘’ consonants.

‘p’ as hop

(e.g. = ‘ppang’ which means bread)

‘s’ just as ‘s’. The same rule applies when paired with the vowel ‘’, it will sound as ‘sh’.

(e.g. 쓰다 = ‘sseu-da’ which means to write; = ‘shi’ which means seed)

‘t’ when followed by another consonant; ‘s’ when followed by a vowel

(e.g. 있다 = ‘it-da’ which means ‘there is’; 있어 = ‘is-so’ which means ‘there is’)

‘ch’ as gotcha

(e.g. 가짜 = ‘ga-jja’ which means fake)

There is no such Korean word ending in ‘’ consonant

Special cases of consonant usage

It is pronounced sort of like a half ‘r’ and half ‘l’ sound.

Pronounced as ‘l’ but a bit different from the usual English pronunciation when your tongue touches the teeth. This ‘l’ sound is a bit shorter and your tongue should only touch behind your teeth. (Example: 라면 = ‘la-myeon’ which means ramen)

When there are two consecutive ‘’ in a word such as 몰라, it is also read as ‘l’ (mol-la).

When ‘’ is in between two vowels, it is pronounced as ‘r’ such as 사람 (sa-ram). Take note that this ‘r’ sound is different from the usual English pronunciation because this ‘r’ doesn’t have the rolling ‘r’ sound.

When used as the first consonant, it is actually forming a vowel. Every vowel requires a ‘’ at the beginning of each word, so basically there is no corresponding sound to it but the vowel itself.

When used as the final consonant, it is pronounced as ‘ng’. (Example: = ‘bang’ which means room)

PART 3: Korean Vowels

In Hangul, there are 10 basic vowels and 11 double vowels. Vowels always include the character in front of each letter. The basic vowels consist of the following:

a
ya
eo
yeo
o
yo
u (oo)
yu
eu
i (ee)

As you notice with the vowels , , , and , when added with another line, it adds a ‘y’ on its corresponding sound and you just need to remember that to memorize it easier.

‘a’ as Aha!

(e.g. 바나나 = ‘ba-na-na’ which means banana)

‘ya’ as siamese

(e.g. 야식 = ‘ya-shik’ which means midnight snack)

‘eo’ as saw or Uh?

(e.g. 커피 = ‘keo-pi’ which means coffee)

‘yeo’ as yawn

(e.g. 여자 = ‘yeo-ja’ which means girl)

‘o’ as hotel

(e.g. 고기 = ‘go-gi’ which means meat)

‘yo’ as yogurt but not ‘yow-ghurt’

(e.g. 요리 = ‘yo-ri’ which means cooking)

‘u’ (oo) as in good

(e.g. 우산 = ‘u-san’ which means umbrella)

‘yu’ as unity

(e.g. 유자 = ‘yu-ja’ which means citron)

‘I’ (ee) as sit

(e.g. 기대 = ‘gi-dae’ which means expectation

‘eu’ pronounced as ‘oo’ with your mouth forming an ‘ee’. This might be confusing for beginners but try biting your teeth together like smiling, then say ‘oo’.

(e.g. 그림 = ‘geu-rim’ which means painting

Now let’s look at the double vowels or vowels which are formed by combining the basic vowels.

ae

yae

e

ye

wa

wae

oe (we)

wo

we

wi

ui

Let’s see how they are pronounced.

and

‘ae’ as get

(e.g. = ‘gae’ which means dog; = ‘ge’ which means crab)

and

‘yae’ as Yeah

(e.g. 얘기 = ‘yae-gi’ which means story; 예술 = ‘ye-sul’ which means art)

‘wa’ as was

(e.g. 와플 = ‘wa-peul’ which means waffle)

, , and  

These 3 vowels are all read as ‘we’.

(e.g. = ‘wae’ which means why; 외국 = ‘we-guk’ which means foreign country; and 웨딩 = ‘we-ding’ which means wedding)

‘wo’ as wolf

(e.g. 샤워 = ‘sha-wo’ which means shower)

‘wi’ as sweet

(e.g. 위험 = ‘wi-heom’ which means danger)

‘ui’ often confused as ‘uy’. This vowel is pronounced by mixing the previously learned vowel + . Try saying the (eu) and slide it with (ee) and you will get the ‘eui’ sound.

(e.g. 의자 = ‘eui-ja’ which means chair

PART 4: The Hangul Chart

To wrap it all up, here’s a hangul chart for you to save and review.

On Learning the Korean Alphabet/Hangul

Now, you should be fairly acquainted with the Korean alphabet and the pronunciation.

If you want to start practicing, check out my guide here:

If you want a Korean Hangul PDF worksheet, then check out this Worksheet from KoreanClass101:

Want to practice writing the Korean Hangul? Download your free Korean Alphabet worksheet here.

Final tip: Do not rely on the English romanizations when you’re learning Hangul, but just learn the language as it is and focus more on listening to the pronunciation sounds. There are lots of resources that you can find online. Have fun and enjoy learning the Korean language!

– The Main Junkie

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