Word Wednesday #12: A Peek At Hangul Pt. 3, Phonetic Romanization

Welcome back, hangul students!

It’s been two weeks since we went over variable consonants (refer back here to brush up if you want). You should be a little more familiar with the alphabet itself too, but here’s the chart below to help you out (and here’s the link back to the first hangul lesson catch up).

If you’ll remember, here are the variable consonants:

1. ㄱ = g/k

2. ㄷ = d/t

3. ㄹ= r/l

4. ㅂ = b/p

5. ㅇ = –/-ng

I also inundated you with more information about differences between Korean/English substitution sounds. This isn’t for pronunciation yet, but we’ll be looking at how it affects the spelling of certain words. I’ll only put the most important/common ones.

1. F –> P

2. V –> B/P

Alright so now that we’ve got the differences between syllables down, let’s look at a chart of all the varieties of Romanizations possible to get your brain in Korean mode.

Don’t be overwhelmed; if you know the Korean alphabet, most of these are intuitive anyway and this chart is best used for cross-referencing/checking answers and spelling rather than memorization. In fact, I wholly recommend against trying to memorize it since it’s wasted space in your brain to do so. All you need to know is the Korean alphabet and you’ll have all of this naturally at your fingertips.

Vowels on the left, Consonants on top.

So now that we have the Korean alphabet and the Romanization chart, let’s try reading/writing some hangul.

Let’s start with something simple like:


Start with breaking down the syllables:

캐 = kae

나 = na

다 = da.

Together:  kaenada.

Sound it out and guess what that means. You know it, even if you think you don’t.

Here’s the answer written trickily in white font so you’ll need to highlight beside the arrows to check:

—>–>-> Canada

See? So what we’re going to do in this lesson is avoid Korean words for the time being and just use the hangul alphabet to write English vocabulary which has been introduced into the Korean language. There’s a surprising amount. And not only is it satisfying and fun to be squinting at hangul and suddenly realize you’ve been reading “Konglish” all along…

…but it’s a fantastic way to practice the Korean alphabet in association with its phonetics.

So next let’s do: 커피

Take a guess and highlight next to the arrows to see the answer. (Hint: Keep in mind the substitution sounds of f/p and v/b!)

—>–>-> coffee

And again: 소파

—>–>-> sofa

Go go go: 티비

—>–>-> T.V.

And another: 티라미수

—>–>-> tiramisu

And this one: 버스 터미날

—>–>-> bus terminal

Okay so on that last one, you notice something different: “bus”, though one syllable, is written in two syllables when hangulized. There are two main instances when/why you see this:

1. First, it’s unnatural in Korean to end off on a consonant. About 80% of the time I’d say Korean words end off with vowels, so if they try to make a Korean word out of an English one which ends on something like an “s” especially, it feels more comfortable to them to add an extra vowel. Take these examples:

–> 나이스 (naiseu, or “nice”)

–> 하이 파이브 (hai paibeu, or “high five”)

In both of these you’ll see these one and two syllable English expressions have been lengthened into three and five syllables in Korean. Both of them end on the “ㅡ” as well, which is almost without exception used as the sound linking awkward English consonant endings into more palatable words.

2. The second place you’ll see it come us is within words, specifically in consonant clusters such as “st”, or “br” or “cl”, etc. This is for the same reason as above, although making the additional mental note that it’s not only Korean words that very often end on vowel sounds, but many syllables as well.

Sounds like “ㄹ”/”l”, “ㅁ”/”m”, “ㄴ”/”n” are usually exceptions to this rule, but most other consonants are swallowed at the end, or entirely silent.

But this all sounds a lot more complicated than it is. In practice, it comes a lot more naturally than the theory behind it implies. So let’s practice with hangulized Konglish words adding extra syllables.

Let’s begin: 치스

—>–>-> cheese

Once more: 키스

—>–>-> kiss

And another: 크리스마스

—>–>-> Christmas

Again: 쁠루배리

—>–>-> blueberry

More: 그린 티

—>–>-> green tea

Alright let’s end off there. You may also wonder, as I once did, why there are so many English words used when there have to be Korean words for them, like blueberry, or green tea, or kiss.

The answer for this is that there definitely are Korean words for them, but it seems in vogue to use English words. What’s happening in Korean is what the French are terrified of happening to their language (hence language police in Quebec): English is being appropriated as slang.

So that’s that! If you have any questions, as always, post them in the comments and I’ll be happy to give it a shot answering.

I’ll leave you awesome hangul-learners off with one last hangul riddle, which I will give the answer to next week!

To be deciphered: 스트러배리 아이스크리므

Good luck! And don’t worry if you had a hard time today, it’s something that needs practice. I hope you had fun, even if you had to reference the alphabet chart a ton! Happy Koreaning ^ ^

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