Korean Pronunciation Rules

In this lesson we are going to learn about the system used for pronunciation in this course. 

Most of the letters that I have chosen to represent sounds are the same as English.  There are one or two exceptions though which need to be pointed out:

The letters p/t/k/ch are softer than their English equivalents and should be pronounced with a smaller puff of air at the end.

They sound a lot closer to b/d/g/j and should be pronounced so in between two vowels. e.g. written: opochi > said: oboji

When they are at the very end of a word, with no word immediately after them like in ‘pap-ûl’ which is pronounced ‘pab-ûl’, then they are all almost silent.  ‘pap’ > “pah” / ‘mok’ > “moh” etc.

The vowels are quite simple to understand and say.

a > ah ㅏ

e > eh ㅔ / ㅐ

i > ih or ee ㅣ

o > oh ㅗ

ø > ow ㅓ

u > oo ㅜ

û > er (like in under) ㅡ

ui > wee ㅟ

oe > wey ㅚ

wa > wah ㅘ

wo > woh ㅝ

ya > yah ㅑ

yo > yoh ㅛ

yø > yow ㅕ

uy > ey ㅢ



The letter G is always pronounced as in ‘garden’ never as in ‘sponge’

The letter C is only ever found with h in the combination ch.  It is pronounced like j in ‘jazz’

If you ever see the combination ‘TH’ it is pronounced ‘t’ then ‘h’ as their seperate sounds, NEVER as ‘th’ in ‘think’ or ‘that’

The combination SH is just like our sh sound in words like ‘sheep’ or ‘shine’

The letter H is exactly the same as in English but is often dropped in casual speech.  e.g. Hada – ‘to do’ is often pronounced “ada”.

You should also know that the sound ‘h’ although mostly the same as it is in English, is not said at the end of a word at all.  In the word ‘like’ choah – you say it “choa”.

Aspirated sounds with H:

One other strange thing is that when the letters p/t/k/ch come before a word starting with ‘h’ these sounds become aspirated as p’/t’/k’/ch’ and rather than have no puff of air as described above, they have slightly more than their English version.  Kind of like when you are shouting in anger. e.g. putak – favour / putak’amnida (written: putak hamnida) = please do this for me.

Aspirated P/T/CH/K

These sounds exist sometimes alone. e.g. ch’aek = book.  They are particularly common in words loaned from English as Koreans can hear that we naturally pronounce these letters with a louder puff of air than they do.

e.g. t’ellebijon = TV / p’ûrint’o = printer / sop’a = sofa (there is no ‘f’ in Korean) / sûwet’o = sweater or jumper

I hope that clears things up!  See if you can work out the pronunciation of these following words:

1) moksori——————————————————————————————————– mohk soh-ree

2) shinmun—————————————————————————————————— shihn-moon

3) tari ———————————————————————————————————— tah-ree

4) chøngmal —————————————————————————————————- chowng-mahl

5) k’omp’yut’o ———————————————————————————————- k’owm-p’yoo-t’ow

6) uija ———————————————————————————————————— wee-jah

7) oeren ———————————————————————————————————- wey-ren

8 ) ke ————————————————————————————————————– keh

9) ch’a ———————————————————————————————————— ch’ah

10) aju ———————————————————————————————————— ah-joo

Hope that all of this makes sense?!  Leave a comment!


7 responses to “Korean Pronunciation Rules

  1. Many thanks for posting this. Quick query, if you wouldn’t mind. Where did you get your weblog template? I will be putting up a site and like yers.


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