Welcome to the third installment of the Learn Hangeul series! In this post, we will be taking a look at the Korean vowels. Notice the table below is a little different than it was when we learned consonants. That’s because the Korean vowels don’t have a specific name. Instead, they are called by their sound and we will go straight in to the romanization. With that little explanation out of the way, let’s begin!
|ㅏ||a||Sound like ah|
|ㅑ||ya||Sounds like yah|
|ㅓ||eo||Sounds like “o” in Soccer|
|ㅕ||yeo||Sounds like “yuh”|
|ㅗ||o||Sounds like “o” in Boat|
|ㅛ||yo||Sounds like “yo” in Yo-yo|
|ㅜ||oo, u||Sound “u” in Glue|
|ㅠ||yoo, yu||Sounds like You|
|ㅔ||e||Sounds like “e” in Net|
|ㅖ||ye||Sounds like “ye” in Yet|
|ㅐ||ae||Sounds like “a” in Lake|
|ㅒ||yae||Combine “y” with ㅐ|
|ㅡ||eu||Sounds like “oo” in Good|
|ㅣ||i||Sounds like “ee” in Tree|
** Pronunciation Tip **
Notice the pattern of the vowels. An easy way to remember the pronunciations is:
one line (ㅏ) = sound 1
two lines (ㅑ) = “y” + sound 1
That’s it! As long as you can remember two lines just adds a “y” sound to the beginning, you’ve got almost all of the vowels in the bag!
So, diphthongs. Diphthongs are an interesting beast, and to be honest, I didn’t even know what these were until I began learning Korean (even though we have them in English too). Diphthongs are simply two vowels placed together in a word. For example, “oa” in boat or “ea” in bear. Below are a list of diphthongs found in Korean words and their vowel combination, romanization and pronunciation.
** NOTE **
Simply put, just like adding the extra line in the original set of vowels gave us mostly a “y” pronunciation, diphthongs give us a “w” pronunciation (except ㅢ). So remember if you see two vowels next to each other, the syllable most likely has a “w” sound to it.
Also, once you read the table below, you’ll see that there are three that basically sound the same. The way to differentiate these will be through knowing the spelling and understanding the context of the conversation. It’s a bit confusing at first, but the more words you learn, the easier it will become!
|ㅘ||ㅗ+ㅏ||wa||Sound like “wah”|
|ㅝ||ㅜ+ㅓ||wo||Sounds like “woah”|
|ㅟ||ㅜ+ㅣ||wi||Sounds like the English word “we”|
|ㅢ||ㅡ+ㅣ||ui||Sounds like “uh-ee” said quickly. If used with a consonant, can sound more like “ee”|
|ㅙ||ㅗ+ㅐ||wae||Sounds like “weh”|
|ㅚ||ㅗ+ㅣ||oe||Sounds like “weh”|
|ㅞ||ㅜ+ㅔ||we||Sounds like “weh”|
Below is a great YouTube video by seemile Korean to explain Hangeul. The video consists of most of what is covered in this series, but to keep it relative to this post, it begins with the explanation of vowels. In the video, you will be able to hear the proper pronunciation of each vowel (and consonant if you watch all of it).
Hangeul TinyCards Deck: https://tiny.cards/decks/9gG9kcEh/hangeul