Main Body

1 Preliminaries I | 들어가기 I

들어가기 1. 인사 (Greetings)

When Meeting a New Friend

When Meeting a New Teacher

When Leaving a Classroom

New Vocabulary

안녕하세요?

annyeonghaseyo

Hello. 안녕히 가세요.

annyeonghi gaseyo

Goodbye (to a person
who is leaving)
(만나서) 반갑습니다.

(mannaseo) bangapseumnida

Nice to meet you. 안녕히 계세요.

annyeonghi gyeseyo

Goodbye (to a person
who is staying)
잘 부탁 드립니다

jal butakdeurimnida

I’ll be obliged to you.

ssi

Mr./Ms.
…입니다

…imnida

am/is/are 선생님

seonsaengnim

teacher

단어 메모지 Vocabulary Notes

1. Greetings in Korean

Formality and social hierarchy matter greatly in Korean culture, and the language is a barometer of the practice. In the first few lessons of this book, you will be learning polite ways of addressing people and introducing yourself.

안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo is a light-hearted greeting, hello, that can be used all day.

반갑습니다 bangapseumnida (literally, I am pleased) is a phrase used to express that you are happy to meet someone. If it is the first time you are meeting the person, the full phrase is more appropriate: 만나서 반갑습니다 manaseo bangapseumnida (Pleased to meet you).

잘 부탁드립니다 jal butakdeurimnida is a humble expression that lets the other person know that you are recognizing them as someone with more experience or know-how, who can potentially help you be looked after in the community. In a sense, you are saying, “I’m entrusting myself to you.”

2. Name–입니다 imnida.

In Korean, the subject can be dropped, as long as the speaker and the listener know who is being talked about. So, you can just say “Name 입니다 imnida” to introduce yourself. It means “(I) am Name.”

3. 씨 ssi.

“씨 ssi” is used after a first name or a full name as a formal way to address people politely:

Examples

  1. 은비 씨 Eunbi ssi
  2. 박은비 씨 Park Eunbi ssi

It is roughly equivalent to Mr. or Ms. in English, but there are two important differences between the Korean 씨 ssi and English Mr. or Ms. First, the expression “name 씨 ssi” can only be used when you are talking to or about your equals, such as colleagues and friends. And do not refer to yourself using the word 씨 ssi! Secondly, you should not address someone using his or her last name + 씨 ssi. For example, 김 씨 Kim ssi is NOT a polite way to address Mr. Kim or Ms. Kim in Korea! You will learn other ways to address people respectfully in later lessons.

In written form, there is always a space before 씨 ssi.

연습 1. Greeting

two girls greeting each other

Greet your friend using expressions you have just learned. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to them.

연습 2. What Would You Say?

What would you say in the following situations? Practice with your partner.

1) What would you say if you met a teacher in the street (say hello to them)?

2) What would you say if you were leaving the classroom and wanted to say goodbye to your friend?

3) What would you say if your friend were leaving your home and you wanted to say goodbye to them?

4) What would you say if you met a new friend at a party and wanted to ask their name?

5) What would you say if you also wanted to introduce yourself to that friend?

들어가기 2. Deference in Korean Culture

Politeness and Respect

With older people (as well as teachers), Koreans speak and act with deference and respect. Family history, ancestors, and parents play a central role in Korean culture. Along with schooling, connections are very important in advancing one’s career and social standing. Therefore, one’s parents must be respected, and you should respect other older people too, lest they judge your family according to your behavior. Whatever the origins or basis for the system, Koreans show respect for their elders and superiors in many ways. Here are a few ways you can show proper respect:

Two Hands:

Always give and receive using both hands and full attention.

Bowing:

Greet elders with a bow. The first time you see them, it should be a full 45° bow, from the waist and with your arms at your sides. Afterward, you should still bow, but less and less deeply, gradually becoming a nod. Do not make eye contact, as this will appear defiant.

Additionally, there is traditional bowing (세배 sebae) at the new year, wherein youngsters make a full ceremonial bow, on their knees, to the floor — and then receive a blessing and a monetary allowance (세뱃돈 sebaetdon) from their elders.

Honorifics:

Deference for one’s elders and superiors shows in the language, which has a system of marking politeness and social distance on its verbs, as well as an honorifics system (words and conjugations) that honors others and humbles oneself.

Teachers:

With a Korean teacher, always give and receive papers and objects with two hands, and always show deference to the 선생님 seonsaengnim. 선생님 seonsaengnim is a highly respected title in Korea that stays with the person even when they are no longer your current teacher. Students’ parents, past students, and even the teacher’s colleagues will always address a teacher as 선생님 seonsaengnim and show proper respect. In fact, the 님 nim in 선생님 seonsaengnim is an honorific suffix reserved for kings, gods, others’
parents, and high officials – and teachers.

들어가기 3. 한글 The Korean Alphabet

What do you know about Korean?

In groups, find the right answer for each question. Guessing is OK!

True or false?

  1. Korean is spoken as a native language in the Korean peninsula alone.
  2. Korean is the same language as Japanese or Chinese; it is called Korean because of where it is spoken.
  3. The Korean writing system is pictographic (or ideographic) like Chinese. You can in most cases guess the meaning if you stare at the “characters” for a while.
  4. The Korean writing system is truly phonetic. As long as you know the alphabet, you can write what you hear and get the correct spelling of the words.
  5. North Koreans speak a variety of Russian and South Koreans speak a variety of Chinese.

Pick the correct answer:

  1. What is “Hangeul”?
    1. Korean alphabet
    2. Korean language
    3. Korean people
    4. Korean food
  2. Who created “Hangeul”?
    1. Kim Dangun
    2. Shin Saimdang
    3. Yi Sun-sin
    4. King Sejong
  3. When was “Hangeul” invented?
    1. 2333 BCE
    2. 15th Century
    3. 18th Century
    4. 1945
  4. Korean is spoken as a native language by
    1. about 25 million
    2. about 50 million
    3. about 75 million
    4. about 100 million

About Hangeul

The Korean alphabet, Hangeul, was created in the 15th century by King Sejong. He and his scholars developed the vowel letters of Hangeul according to the three components of the universe: heaven (ㅇ), earth (ㅡ), and humankind (ㅣ). The consonant letters of Hangeul were designed based on linguistic considerations of how each sound is made in the mouth.

The Korean alphabet consists of 21 vowel letters and 19 consonant letters. For the most part, each letter is pronounced individually and in one way (unlike English, which has combinations, like “ch,” and different pronunciations of letters, like the ‘a’ in father vs. cake).

Vowels Simple ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ
Complex ㅐ ㅔ ㅒ ㅖ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅢ
Consonants Simple ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ
Double ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ

Letters Into Syllables

In Korean, each written “character” (called a geul-ja 글자) is one syllable made up of consonant and vowel letters. Some 글자 geul-ja have only a vowel (similar to the English a), some have a consonant followed by a vowel (similar to English to), and some have a vowel followed by a consonant (similar to the English an). Yet
other 글자 geul-ja have a consonant followed by a vowel and a consonant (similar to the English pan). Finally, Korean 글자 geul-ja can end in (a limited set of) two consonants (like the English cost or bulk), but they can NEVER begin with more than one consonant (that is, no syllables like the English stop and crush).

The Korean geul-ja is written in one of two patterns:

OR

A “vertical vowel” is one where the main stroke is vertical. And the final consonant may or may not be present in the 글자 geul-ja (it depends on the word you’re writing).

The beginning consonant is not optional, however. When there is no consonant sound at the beginning of the syllable, a placeholder letter, ㅇ, is used. In this case, the letter ㅇ (normally the [ng] sound) is not pronounced.

Writing Hangeul

Modern Korean is written left-to-right and top-to-bottom, just like English. For the most part, so is each letter and each syllable.

Basic Vowels 기본 모음

The following list includes the 14 basic Korean vowel letters— 10 simple, 4 complex). The name of each vowel letter is the same as its pronunciation. Two standard romanizations and pronunciation tips are given as well. For the simple vowels, the vowels are given in the order they would appear in most Korean dictionaries.

Vowel Romanization Pronunciation Tips Example  

a a as in father 아이

kid

one girl and one boy

ya y + ah as in yacht 아야!

ouch!

ouch!

eo somewhat like the uh sound in but 이어요

link-polite

chain links

yeo y + uh as in young 여우

fox

fox that is sitting

o like the Spanish o in como, but not
as long and gliding as the English low
오이

cucumber

cucumber

yo y + o as in yo-yo 요요

yo-yo

red yo-yo

u oo as in mood – stick out your lips! 아우

younger sibling

two girls with pigtails

yu y + oo as in you 우유

milk

blue milk carton with cow image

eu like the oo in hook but without
rounding your lips
으아!

wow!

wow!

i ee as in teeth

teeth

tooth with a smile

e e as in bed

child

one girl and one boy

ae e as in bed or a as in bake

in, on, at

location marker

ye y + eh as in yes

hey, you!

Black boy yelling with hands around mouth

yae y + eh as in yes or Yates

yes

yes with green check mark
  • Some people from the older generations (over 60 or 70 years old) might have a vowel LENGTH distinction, where the word 말: with a long ㅏ means something different from the word 말 with a short ㅏ, for example. This length is not shown in the spelling, however.
  • It might be helpful to remember that the addition of a short stroke adds the pronunciation y as in 애 vs. 얘.

Have you noticed that some vowels are written to the right and others underneath the placeholder ㅇ?  Do you remember what the principle behind this difference is?  (The answer is… vowels written with a long vertical stroke like “ㅣ” and “ㅔ” come to the right of the first consonant [or the placeholder] in the 글자 geul-ja, and vowels written with a long horizontal stroke like “ㅡ” and “ㅜ” are written underneath the consonant.)

Here are some key points about pronouncing these vowels:

Korean vowels are never glided like they are in English (e.g., baby [bay-bee]). Korean vowels are pure vowels; your jaw shouldn’t move while pronouncing a vowel. They are much like Spanish or French vowels. For example, compare bay to the French bébé. Or, consider a bad English pronunciation of the Spanish word bueno (boo-AY-no-u) vs. the Spanish pronunciation (bweh-no). Also, Korean vowels should not be cut short like Japanese vowels often are.

Among the Korean vowels, vs.   and vs. are the most difficult to distinguish. You can best learn to differentiate them by repeated listening and speaking practice! Listen to your teacher or native speaker friends say the following words over and over!

Examples

  1. 리 (duck) vs. 리 (we)
  2. 기 (meat) vs.  기 (there)
  3. 기 (here) vs. 기 (right here)
  4. 니 (no) vs. 니 (big sister)
  5. (all) vs. (more) vs. (also)

연습 1. Greeting

Practice reading these words with your partner. Then circle the word that your partner says.

1)     오     어

2)     으     이

3)     아     어     오     우

4)     야     요     여     유

5)     아이     오이

6)     여우     우유

7)     애     예

연습 2.

Practice reading these words with your partner. Then circle the word that your partner says.

cucumber blue milk carton with cow image fox that is sitting red yo-yo one girl and one boy
오이 우유 여우 요요 아이
wow! ouch! chain links yes with green check mark red capital letter a
으아! 아야! 이어요 에이

Basic Consonants: 기본 자음

Here are the 14 Korean consonant letters. The name of each consonant is given next to the letter, along with pronunciation guidelines. The consonants are given in the order they would appear in most Korean dictionaries.

Letter With ㅏ Name of the Letter Pronunciation Example  

기역 gi-yeok soft k or g as in again

baby

baby with a pacifier in a swaddle

니은 ni-eun n as in nose

age

tree stump with arrow pointing to rings

디귿 di-geut soft t or d as in day

ocean

waves with sun and two birds flying overhead

리을 ri-eul like a Spanish r (tap) between vowels or l at the end of words

country

Korean flag, American flag, French flag, and Japanese flag

미음 mi-eum m as in mouse

forehead

face with arrow pointing to forehead

비읍 bi-eup soft p or b as in baby 나나

banana

two bananas

시옷 shi-ot s as in sigh (sh beforeㅣor ㅟ)

moving

two houses side by side with arrow pointing from one house to another

이응 i-eung silent in the initial position; ng at the end, as in “sing

baby

baby with a pacifier in a swaddle

지읒 ji-eut soft or j

to sleep

zzz... with moon and stars

치읓 chi-eut aspirated ch (with a burst of air) as in cheese

to kick

foot wearing a red sneaker kicking a soccer ball

키읔 khi-euk aspirated k as in krazy! 카카

cacao

two cacao beans

티읕 thi-eut aspirated t as in attack

to ride

to burn

man riding a car and a flame

피읖 phi-eup aspirated p as in please

pie

slice of pumpkin pie with dollop of whipped cream

히읗 hi-eut h as in hello!

hippopotamus

hippopotamus
Pay attention to letters containing small strokes. Tiny strokes are sometimes hard to see, especially in print, and once you memorize the incorrect shape of a letter or 글자 geul-ja, it can come back to haunt you for a long time!

The letters ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, and ㅎ may look quite different in different fonts and handwriting. Also, the consonant letters ㅎ, ㅂ, ㄷ, ㄹ, and ㅁ and the vowel letters ㅏ and ㅓ can look very confusing when cursorily written by hand. Ask your teacher about the alternate ways of writing ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, and ㅎ. Also ask them to write the letters ㅎ, ㅂ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ,ㅏ, and ㅓ sloppily on the board!

Now, practice reading these words.

girl sitting criss-cross and hands at heart one bill with coins next to an apple waves with sun and two birds flying overhead circle and triangle with arrow symbolizing between lion
요가

yoga

사다

to buy

바다

sea

사이

between

사자

lion

two cacao beans tire slice of pumpkin pie with dollop of whipped cream front of red car haha!
카카오

cacao

타이어

tire

파이

pie

car

하하하

hahaha

number one turtle horse-drawn carriage baby with a pacifier in a swaddle
하나

one

자라

turtle

마차

carriage

아가

baby

Here is a little trick to help you memorize the dictionary order of the simple consonants:

Canada lamps are Jack Churchill, (and) Kathy Thompson’s parents’ hobby.

가 나 다 라 마 바 사 아 자 차 카 타 파 하

And here are some key points about pronouncing these consonants.

1. Stop sounds (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ)

Simple stop consonants (ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ) have two different sound values in Korean:

When they begin a word (especially after a pause or in slow speech), they sound like the English k, t, p, and ch. On the other hand, when they come word-medially (especially in fast speech), they sound like a weaker version of the English g, d, b, and j. So, the word 바보 (“fool”) in Korean may sound like pah-bo in English, although both syllables begin with ㅂ. Practice saying the following phrases and sentences. (Better yet, repeat after your instructor or a Korean friend.):

Examples

  1. 다 to go vs. 아 baby
  2. all vs. 바 sea
  3. 다 sea vs. 보 fool
  4. ruler vs. 가 let’s go

2. ㅅ

One note about the Korean s is that they are pronounced sh before the vowels ㅣ and ㅟ and before vowels with a y- pronunciation (야, 여, 요…). For the sh sound before ㅣ and y-, you shouldn’t round your lips (or stick them out) the way you would in English. You do stick them out before ㅟ, as if the ㅜ got stuck on top of the sh sound.

Examples

  1. 다 to buy vs. 자 lion
  2. poem vs.

3. ㄹ

Be aware that there are two kinds of ㄹ (i.e., two different pronunciations) in Korean. When ㄹ comes between vowels or at the beginning of a word, it sounds very much like the English t or d in words such as water, butter, or ladder. Ask your teacher or a native speaker friend to say the following words for you:

Examples

  1. 디오 radio vs. 가 go (command)
  2. 본 ribbon vs. 머 head
  3. 비 ruby vs. 하 one day

Have you noticed something interesting in this column? Most ㄹ- beginning words used in (South) Korea are those recently borrowed from
English and other Western languages.

연습 1.

Which of the following consonants (with the vowel ᅡ) are in the wrong order? Put them in the correct
dictionary order.

가 다 라 나 마 바 아 사 카 자 차 하 타 파

연습 2.

Practice reading these words with your partner. Circle the word your partner says.

1)     가     다     사

2)     나     라     마

3)     다     바     하

4)     카     타     파

5)     나라     사라     자라

6)     가다     타다     자다

연습 3.

Practice reading these words with your partner. Circle the word your partner says.

two bananas one bill with coins next to an apple haha! slice of pumpkin pie with dollop of whipped cream
바나나 사다 하하하 파이
two cacao beans circle and triangle with arrow symbolizing between girl sitting criss-cross and hands at heart foot wearing a red sneaker kicking a soccer ball
카카오 사이 요가 차다
waves with sun and two birds flying overhead Korean flag, American flag, French flag, and Japanese flag tire baby with a pacifier in a swaddle
바다 나라 타이어 아가
lion hippopotamus horse-drawn carriage turtle
사자 하마 마차 자라

Complex Vowels: 복모음

Korean has the following complex vowels. Not all of them have complex pronunciations, but all are written as combinations of the simple vowel letters. The first three use ㅗ for the [w] sound and the next three use ㅜ.

Vowel Romanization Components Sound in English Example  

wa ㅗ + ㅏ w + ah as in water

and

ampersand

we ㅗ + ㅐ w + eh as in weather

why

three question marks

we ㅗ + ㅣ w + eh as in weather

(*NOT wee)

워요

memorize (polite)

person reading a book with thought bubble overhead

weo ㅜ + ㅓ w + uh as in was

memorize (polite)

person reading a book with thought bubble overhead

we ㅜ +ㅔ w + eh as in weather 이터

waiter

waiter serving a drink

wi ㅜ + ㅣ w + ee as in Weaver

above, on

arrow pointing up

eui ㅡ + ㅣ short oo (as in hook) + ee

chair

chair with cushion
  • It might be helpful to remember that added [w] sound comes from either an ㅗ or an ㅜdepending on the second vowel.
The vowel combinations ㅗㅓ, ㅗㅔ, ㅜㅏ, and  ㅜㅐdo not occur in Korean. This has to do with vowel harmony, which you will have a chance to learn more about in later lessons. For the time being, keep in mind that, in Korean, the vowels ㅗ, ㅘ, ㅙ, ㅏ, ㅐ andㅒ are considered “bright” vowels, whereas the vowels ㅜ, ㅝ, ㅞ, ㅓ, ㅔ and ㅖ are “dark” vowels, which is why they cannot be mixed.

Here are some key points about pronouncing these vowels.

1. Simplicity is best!

The sounds w and y occurring in complex vowels are often weakened or dropped, especially in fast speech:

Examples

  1. [시게] watch, clock
  2. 번호 [저나버노] telephone number
  3. [안 대] not okay, won’t do (INFORMAL)
  4. 요 [머에요] what is [this]? (POLITE)
  5. 놓아요 [놔요, 나:요] let go (of)
  6. 합니다 [실레함니다] excuse me (POLITE)
  7. 처음 겠어요 [첨: 베께써요] How do you do. Literally, first time meeting you)

2. 

The syllable 의 is pronounced as [으+이] in one syllable when it is at the beginning of a word (e.g., 의자, 의사), but it is pronounced as 이 otherwise (e.g., 모의). And strangely, 희 is ALWAYS pronounced as [히], regardless of where it comes in the word!

Practice reading out loud the following words. Then write out in square brackets [  ] how they are pronounced.

Examples

  1. 사 [의사] doctor
  2. 자 [의자] chair
  3. 점 [펴니점] convenience store
  4. 관 [구니관] army surgeon
  5. [경히] female name
  6. 다 [히다] white

연습 1.

Practice reading these words with your partner. Then circle the word that your partner says.

1)     와     워

2)     외     위

3)     위     왜

4)     의     이

5)     웨     의     위

6)     예     왜     와

연습 2.

Practice reading the following words, paying attention to the vowel quality. Then circle the word that your partner says.

arrow pointing up ampersand two people bowing toward one another three question marks

up

and

예의

manner

why?

person reading a book with thought bubble overhead doctor with stethoscope and headlight waiter serving a drink chair with cushion
외워요

memorize

의사

doctor

웨이터

waiter

의자

chair

Double (Tense) Consonants

Korean has a series of tense consonant sounds that involve an extra build-up of air in the throat before releasing the consonant with NO aspiration — a louder “pop” and a high pitch. The tense ㄸ, for example, is similar to how a certain cartoon character created in the 1980s says “ddoh!” Similarly, the tense ㅆ is pronounced as a very loud or sharp-sounding [s]. The tense consonants are spelled as double but appear closer together, as one letter, and they are pronounced as one “tense” sound.

Letter With ㅏ Name of the Letter Example  

쌍기역

ssang gi-yeok

아까

a while ago

clock with arrow pointing counterclockwise

쌍디귿

ssang di-geut

이따가

later

clock with arrow pointing clockwise

쌍비읍

ssang bi-eup

아빠

dad

man wearing blue suit and red tie

쌍시옷

ssang si-ot

싸다

cheap

one dollar

쌍지읒

ssang ji-eut

짜다

salty

salt shaker

Now, practice saying these words.

     
clock with arrow pointing counterclockwise clock with arrow pointing clockwise one girl and one older boy with arrow pointing to boy explosion lies
아까

a while ago

이따가

a little later

오빠

older brother 

싸워요

fights (polite)

가짜

fake

Here are a few notes about pronouncing double consonants.

1. Tense, aspirated, or plain?

One of the most difficult pronunciations to master in Korean is the distinction between the three members of a series, such as ㅂ, ㅍ, and ㅃ. The simple or “plain” consonants ㄱ, ㄷ, and ㅂ are pronounced with a slight popping of air but a very low pitch. The tense consonants ㄲ, ㄸ, and ㅃ sound very much like b, d, and g to native English speakers, but they tend to be harsher-sounding with a higher pitch. Finally, ㅍ, ㅌ, and ㅋ are pronounced pretty much like the English p, t, and k, but with a greater puff of air (aspiration) coming out of the mouth. Korean is not a tone language like Chinese or Vietnamese, but it might help to think of the tense and aspirated consonants as having a higher pitch. Have your instructor or a Korean friend say the following triplets and test you!

red flag man next to bar symbolizing height chicken leg with peas and a drink

flag

height

meal (counter)

all man driving a red car man picking berries off of a bush

all

Ride!

Pick (it)!

rain cloud with drops of rain drop of blood beep!

rain

blood

beep

one bill with coins next to an apple one dollar
사다

to buy

싸다

inexpensive

zzz... with moon and stars foot wearing a red sneaker kicking a soccer ball salt shaker
자다

to sleep

차다

to kick

짜다

salty

2. ㅅ and ㅆ

There are two different Korean s’s — a plain ㅅ and a tense ㅆ. With this pair, the tense ㅆ sounds more like the English s than the plain one. The tense ㅆ in Korean is just a bit more tensed, with a harsher hissing sound than is normal in English, and it has the familiar raised pitch of tense consonants. Try saying 싸 with a good, tense ㅆ. (싸 means cheap or inexpensive.)

one bill with coins next to an apple one dollar paper with text and pen two sunflower seeds
사다

to buy

싸다

cheap

poem

seed

To pronounce a nice “plain” or soft ㅅ, you might imagine there is an h sound before the ㅅ. The pitch should be low, and the ㅅ should sound very soft. Try saying 사랑 in a breathy, romantic way, and your ㅅ will probably be about right. (사랑 means love.)

연습 1.

Practice reading these syllables with your partner. Then circle the word that your partner says.

연습 2.

Practice reading these words with your partner. Then circle the word that your partner says.

1)     아가 baby     아까 a while ago

2)     타다 to ride     따다 to pick

3)     자다 to sleep      차다 to kick     짜다 salty

4)     사다 to buy     싸다 to be cheap

5)     가자 let’s go     가짜 fake

6)     가다 to go     까다 to peel

7)     아파 to be sick     아빠 dad

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You Speak Korean! Book 1 by Soohee Kim, Emily Curtis, Haewon Cho, Angela Lee-Smith, and Mijeong Kim is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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