The Start: Learning the Korean Alphabet Hangul (한글)

Surprisingly Korean classes are coming along nicely: there are challenges but the pace seems to be just nice, not so fast that I am not able to catch up nor too slow that it gets boring. There are quite a few options for lessons from private lessons to group lessons, and from once a week to twice a week. I opted for the once a week group lessons and I find the classes fun! The class consists of about 12 people and the teacher is really nice and patient (she actually remembered all our names by the third lesson).

Being in a class helps a-not-so disciplined person like me get motivated about learning and studying. The fact that there are other people in the class propels interaction as a necessity and interaction is always good when learning something new, especially with languages - a good way to get out of my comfort zone.

Hangul (글) was designed so that everyone could read and with that in mind, it really is not that difficult to learn the alphabets and read the words that the alphabets form, but what knowing what they mean would take some memorizing of vocabulary (good brain exercise!). Pronunciation is slightly challenging but manageable as there are no tones (like Mandarin or Chinese), it’s just a matter of practicing and getting used to it.

So the first 3 lessons consisted of learning the basics: the consonants, vowels and what words they formed when together (vocabulary).

There are 14 consonants (not inclusive of those double consonants), and they must be paired together with a vowel to form a word. In fact a word has to consist of at least one consonant and a vowel. The consonants are:
(g)  (kk)  (k)
(n)
(d)  ㄸ (tt) (t)
(l/r)
(m)
(b)  (pp) (p)
(s)  (ss)
(null/ng - silent when placed in front of a vowel but changes to ng when placed at the end/after a vowel)
(h)
(j)  (ch)  (jj)

Than, there are 10 vowels that need to be paired with at least one consonant in front () to form a word:
(a)     (ae - think “a”nt)
(ya)   (yae)
(eo)   (e - think “e”gg)
(yeo) (ye)
(o)     (wa) (wae)    (oe)
u (more like wu actually) (wo) (we)
(eu)   (ui)
(i - sounds more like yi)
(yo)
(yu - sounds more like you)

Apparently there is no standard form of romanization for hangul (한글), just like hanyu pinying for Chinese so there are a few variations. I think romanization can be a good guide, but it would be best not to focus too much on the romanization when it should be the hangul (한글) that takes center stage. I guess having learnt Chinese does help with the memorization of the hangul (한글), that and keeping an open mind to change. ^^
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