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Getting Started with the Korean Alphabet 한글

Anyone who knows anything about writing systems will tell you that the Korean alphabet is one of the simplest and most effective ever created. Now, if you're just getting started with Hangul, the fact that you hear this in every resource you find can actually be discouraging for some people. Just because it is simplistic and effective does not mean you're going to be able to memorize it in seconds. The memorization process is different from person to person so our advice would be to take it at your own pace and get the sounds down as soon as you can. And remember, memorization and understanding are two very different things.

A WORD OF CAUTION: one cannot accurately write Korean words in English letters. There are just too many sounds that don't match up.That  means do everything you can to avoid using romanized spellings (서울 --> Seoul). This is like trying to make spaghetti with rice instead of pasta. Yes, you can throw the right sauce and spices in there, and even if you work really hard it might come out tasting pretty similar, but in the end, the basic structure is so different that it will cause you problems. It is probably best for you to use the romanized spellings as a sort of crutch. Lean on the 'eo' at first when you're learning ㅓbut once you actually hear an audio clip of the sound, put all your effort into getting off the crutch and making the sound yourself. Just like tying your shoes, it's tedious at first, but gets easier as you go. 

Good Hangul Resources to Get the Ball Rolling: 

The Korean Wiki Project - Somewhere out there, spread out around the globe, are a group of awesome Korean learners who want to help people just like you! The Korean Wiki Project, like Wikipedia, is a crowdsourced Korean learning resource full of material that's useful for self study Korean language learners of every level. They provide a brief history, explanation of sounds along with audio files and images to help you get your handwriting down. Check 'em out! 

 

Popping Korean - is a really fun, well put together app for you interactive self study learners out there. It come packed with everything from the history behind the letters and why they were created to little drag and drop characters that dance while they make that letter's sound. It could be described as cute, genius, fun, or awesome depending who you ask. If you feel so inclined, here are links to the app: iPhone? or Android?

Comic: Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes - This is a very well done little comic strip that explains how Korean works in a simple, easy to understand way. However, once you get the concept down, you're still gonna have to practice! A lot! 

Ready to Train with My Korean Ear? - After you've got a decent handle on 한글 and you're ready to start practicing, check out "My Korean Ear!" On our site, we made a nifty little tool that will help you tune your ear to the subtle differences between sounds. To a native English speaker's ear, there are some words that sound exactly the same. But when a native Korean speaker hears them, they are entirely different words. For example, the word for arm is 'pal' and the word for foot is 'pal.' See why using the English alphabet to spell these out isn't so helpful? When you're ready to give your Korean ear a tune up, check out our Korean listening training game here. 

Other Resources: 

Nifty video explaining the history of how Hangul was created! There are a few inaccuracies, but it gets the story across none the less. Check the comments for corrections if you're so inclined. 

For full-on wiki-style background of Hangul, click here.