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Annyeong!: The basics of studying Hangeul

Annyeong!: The basics of studying Hangeul


Any K-drama or K-pop fan has at least once thought about understanding whatever they are watching without the need for subtitles. Though it is just a fleeting thought for some, it became a recurring thought for others. But where do you start when studying the Hangeul a.k.a. Korean language? We’ve listed the basic things you need to know before studying Hangeul!

Learning a new language can be difficult and confusing. But it is worth it! Not only is it another plus point to add in your resume, it’s also very useful when you are travelling!

Though, Hangeul isn’t the most spoken language in the world, it is still good to learn to speak another language aside from English. And before you start practicing Korean phrases…

Here are the basic things you should know when studying Hangeul:

1. The culture

What does culture have to do anything with the language? A LOT! Aside from learning how South Korea formed their alphabet and their grammar rules, it is important to learn their culture.

The Korean culture is big on respect. It’s similar to the Filipino culture on po and opo except they have 3 levels of politeness.

Use —imnida / —imnikka at the end of sentences, when talking to elders you aren’t close to, strangers, at your workplace, school, and etc. But for older people you are close with, or anyone you know, people as old as you, you have to add —yo at the end of your sentences. This is the mid-line for politeness.

For people younger than you, very very close to you, and etc., you can just drop both —imnida and —yo e.g. ‘no’ (level 1 = annimnida, level 2 = aniyo, and level 3 = ani).

Understanding the culture allows you to think in that language. It helps you give the right meaning to words you speak and spoken to you. According to racismnoway.com, “Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture… It is the means by which culture and its traditions and shared values may be conveyed and preserved.”

When you understand the culture, you also understand the slang they speak. For example, BTS’ Ddaeng is difficult to translate because of the several slangs in the lyrics. You can only translate it accurately if you understand their culture.

2. The Korean Alphabet

You may have no intention of going full-on studying the language but learning the Korean alphabet would kickstart your Hangeul learning journey. If you know the right pronunciation of each letter in their alphabet, you learn how to read the Korean script. And if you know how to read Korean words, you can do more studying even on your own! Remember how we are taught how to write first before we are taught how to read? Because if you can write it, you can—for sure, read it!

You have to remember though that the Hangeul pronunciation should be soft and smooth, except for double consonants like ㅆ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㄲ, and ㄸ. Take letter ‘S’(ㅅ) as an example, to make it sound soft and smooth, imagine that there is an ‘h’ after the consonant—s(h)a. But if it is a double consonant ‘ㅆ’, it is pronounced with sharper s sound—‘sa’. Take note that depending on its position, some consonants change in pronunciation i.e., ‘ㄱ’ which can be letter g or k.

3. Korean numbers

In South Korea, they have the Native Korean numbers and the Sino-Korean numbers. The Sino-Korean number system is developed from Chinese numbers. The term ’Sino-Korean’ is used for Korean words that originated from Chinese Language.

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When counting age, time, and etc., you use the Native Korean number system.

When it is for money, dates, phone numbers, and etc., use the Sino-Korean number system.

Counting time in Hangeul can be quite confusing when you’re just starting to study it. Because when telling time, you use the native Korean numbers for the hours, and Sino-Korean numbers for the minutes.

Of course there are many other things you still need to learn to be fluent in Hangeul—this includes their grammar, which is very technical. So before studying Korean grammar—which is quite different, try learning their writing format first, then go from there. QUICK CONTEXT: Their verbs are always at the end of the sentence. Hence, if in English you say ‘I love you’, in Korean, it would be something like ‘I you love’.

If you want to study the Korean language for free and at-home, but don’t want to just watch videos on Youtube, you can join free online Korean classes like Korean Class with Joshua Cho.

Learning Korean can be quite a challenge, but so is learning any other language! So, a few months of studying is definitely worth it if you can now finally watch your K-dramas without subtitles or understand the new song of your favorite K-pop group the first time you hear it.

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