Learn to read, write and pronounce Korean

A much-improved version of this course has now been published by Teach Yourself. It features a better letter order, many more exercises, more types of exercises, and complete audio of every single Korean word. Please use this course instead: "Korean Script Hacking" by Judith Meyer. You will also be supporting my work as a course creator. This web course will no longer be updated.

Lesson 3

Welcome back! This is the 3rd lesson of "Learn to read, write and pronounce Korean". In the previous two lessons, you already learned a total of 8 letters. In this lesson, you will learn 4 additional basic letters, many new Korean words and you will begin to use your knowledge actively in writing, rather than just reading.

The first new letter is the vowel O:

This is pronounced like the oa in boat. Listen here. Since this vowel is much wider than it is tall (unlike the vowels you have learned so far), it would be difficult to fit it next to a consonant in a little square box. That is why it has to go below the consonant, saving much space this way.

As an exercise, try to read the following Korean words that contain the letter O. As usual, move your cursor over the Korean word in order to see the solution appear.

오만 Arab country o-man     Oman
밀라노 city in Northern Italy mil-la-no     Milan
로마 capital of Italy lo-ma     Rome
모로니 capital of Comoros mo-lo-ni     Moroni
나이로비 capital of Kenya na-i-lo-bi     Nairobi
일리노이 state of the USA il-li-no-i     Illinois

Even when the vowel is already below the consonant, it is still possible to add another consonant below that vowel in order to have a syllable that ends in a consonant. Examples:

볼리비아 country in South America bol-li-bi-a     Bolivia
city in Western Germany bon     Bonn
바이올린 music instrument ba-i-ol-lin     violin
style of music lok     rock

It is also possible to have o at the end of a syllable. "Wait a minute! Didn't you say that this consonant is just a placeholder?" When it comes at the beginning of a syllable, it is just a placeholder enabling the syllable to start with a vowel. When it comes at the end of a syllable, it is pronounced like the ng in ring. Practise reading these words now:

가봉 country in Western Africa ga-bong     Gabon
앙골라 country in Southern Africa ang-gol-la     Angola
리옹 city in France li-ong     Lyon
몽골 country north of China mong-gol     Mongolia
볼링 hobby bol-ling     bowling

Time for a new consonant: meet Digeut.

This letter is pronounced like a t or d. Here's a recording of Digeut.

Practise reading:

빌딩 a house, hall, skyscraper or the like bil-ding     building
안도라 tiny country between France and Spain an-do-ra     Andorra
인도 big country in Asia, former British colony in-do     India
라디오 extremely popular before there was television la-di-o     radio
비디오 now being replaced by DVD bi-di-o     video

And here's Shiot:

Shiot is pronounced like an s. Listen to Shiot.

Here are words to practise with:

사나 capital of Yemen sa-na     Sana'a
시리아 country in the Middle East si-ri-a     Syria
미시간 state of the USA mi-si-gan     Michigan
소말리아 country in Eastern Africa so-mal-li-a     Somalia
사담 former Iraqi ruler sa-dam     Saddam

The last letter for this lesson is:

This vowel looks just like an ordinary horizontal line. It is much wider than tall, so it is also written below the preceding consonant rather than next to it. It's pronunciation is a bit strange, somewhat like the French u or the German ü. It's between the English oo and ee sounds. The u in the English word mure is probably one of the closest examples of the sound in English. It's hard to describe sounds like this, so why don't you just listen to it here. In words of foreign origin, it is often an in-between sound used to make consonant clusters more pronounceable for the Koreans. (i.e. It is used as a neutral vowel sound; it even sounds like schwa.) It is transcribed as eu.

Words for practise:

보스니아 Balkan country bo-seu-ni-a     Bosnia
아그라 city whose main attraction is the Taj Mahal a-geu-ra     Agra
그리스 European country geu-ri-seu     Greece
그린란드 very cold country geu-lin-lan-deu     Greenland
아이슬란드 also very cold country a-i-seul-lan-deu     Iceland
라오스 country in South-East Asia la-o-seu     Laos
아디스아바바 capital of Ethiopia a-di-seu-a-ba-ba     Addis Ababa
이슬라마바드 capital of Pakistan i-seul-la-ma-ba-deu     Islamabad
리스본 capital in Europe li-seu-bon     Lisbon
마드리드 another capital in Europe ma-deu-ri-deu     Madrid
오슬로 another European capital o-seul-lo     Oslo
시드니 city in Australia si-deu-ni     Sydney

Having been able to read all these words, do you think you could guess how to write "Asmara"(the capital of Eritrea) in Korean? Try to write it down. Hint: since syllables can't end in s, this name has four syllables in Korean: a-seu-ma-ra. Here's another one to try to write down: "Madras"(ma-deu-ra-seu).

Asmara a-seu-ma-ra   ->   아스마라
Madras ma-deu-ra-seu   ->   마드라스

Are you still with me? If you didn't have trouble with this lesson, you are ready to go on to lesson 4, where you will learn the rest of the simple letters and continue practising your writing skills.

More resources for learning Korean

Your first 100 words in Korean: demystifying the Korean script
Integrated Korean: Beginning level 1 textbook
Teach yourself Korean (complete course, romanisation only)
Rosetta Stone Korean
Langenscheidt's Pocket dictionary Korean-English
Lonely Planet Korean phrasebook
Reference grammar of Korean
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