For non-native speakers accustomed to the Latin alphabet, learning the Korean language is challenging. It is every bit as difficult to earn as Arabic or Chinese. Keep in mind that it takes an average of seven years to learn a new language such as this one, and that is with heavy usage and regular lessons. Learning to read and write in Korean is a valuable skill, so the efforts expended are a good investment.
Tips and Tricks to Learning a New Language
There are several tips and tricks that can help students learn to speak a foreign language:
- Start small, with common phrases that are easy to remember and pronounce. Use mental tricks. Foreign language instructors sometimes teach students to create odd mental images in order to better remember phrases. For example, if learning to say the words horse, table and restroom, imagine
- Be surrounded by native Korean speakers actively using their language as often as possible. The more the language is heard, the more it will be remembered and used.
- Try to think in Korean as much as possible. For instance, while grocery shopping, spot food items and recite their Korean names.
- Listen to K Pop and other Korean music that can help the ear better identify the intricate enunciations that differentiate a mediocre Korean speaker from a great Korean speaker.
- Watch Korean films. Try to view the movie with subtitles and without. Listen for words and common phrases and attempt to piece together the storyline without using English subtitles.
- Learn to read the Korean alphabet. This can be done in a formal classroom setting, in an online course or with a Korean friend. Learning the alphabet and working to identify letters within texts assists in the learning process.
- Ask Korean friends for help. Most of them are delighted to help friends learn more about their native language, customs, culture and even foods.
- Keep in mind that Korean is not a guttural language. Rather, nearly all sounds are airy and made in the mouth using the tongue actively. Pay close attention to the way a native speaker’s tongue moves when they are speaking their language. Work on building the muscles within the mouth and emulate their actions.
- Know that accent and pronunciation are every bit as important as memorizing new words or Korean phrases. No one can understand a foreign speaker with an extremely heavy accent. Work hard to try to properly pronounce words.
- When speaking Korean phases, it is very important not to open the mouth too wide. The language sounds firm yet airy when the mouth is kept relatively firm.
Vowel sounds in the Korean language are completely different than in English. The following guidelines are anything but comprehensive, but give a basic understanding of the most common vowel/consonant combinations. Keep in mind that these letters are transliterated into the Latin alphabet for ease of reading.
Eh – This common letter combination is pronounced the same way the e is pronounced in jelly.
Ee or Ei – These two combinations make a long e sounds, as in the word meet.
Eu – This makes the same sound as the u in bump.
R – There are two important rules to remember when dealing with the letter r. If a syllable begins an r, then it is pronounced as the same English letter r. However, when a syllable ends with the letter r, it is pronounced as the letter l.
Oo – Double o’s are pronounced the same way they are in English; with a long o sounds, as in the word look.
Uh – This vowel/consonant combination sounds like a soft u, as in thumb.
W – This letter makes a long o sound, as in noodle.
Common Korean Words and Phrases
Keep in mind that these words should use the vowel pronunciations given above. It helps to reread every word several times, reading aloud. Take a foreign language learning course to do independent learning of more commonly used Korean phrases. Try to watch Korean films without subtitles and listen for these words. This is an excellent memory exercise.
Very – Aju
The best – Je
The most – Gajang
Almost – Geo wee
To be beautiful – Areum dapda
Beautiful – Yeh peu dah
This weekend – Ibeon jumal
Yes – Neh
No – Ah nee oh
What did you say? Mo ra go greo shut ji yo
I don’t understand. Jal mo dara dut ge soum ni da
I understand perfectly. Choong boon hee I hae hah go I soum ni da
Do you speak English? Yong o rul hahl jool a se yo
I don’t speak English. Yong o rul hahl jool mo rum nida
With a friend – Chin gu rang
Mountain – San
Words and Phrases for Members of the Family
Family is especially important to the Korean people. Grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and even cousins are extremely close. The Koreans mention their families a often, so the following words will be easy to catch in conversations when surrounded by native speakers.
Grandmother – Ajumma
Grandfather – Ajosshi
Wife – Anae
Husband – Nam Pyeon
Dear – Yeobo
Darling – Chagiya
Mom – Eomma | Umma
Dad – Appa
Son – Ahdeu
Daughter – Dtal
Sister – Noona (for a brother addressing an older sister) or Uhnni (for a girl addressing an older sister) or Yuh dong sang (for a younger sister)
Brother – Ohbpa (for a girl addressing her older brother) or Hyung (for a boy addressing an older brother) Nam Dong Sang (to address a younger brother)
Aunt/Close, Much Older Female (mom’s side) – Ee mo
Uncle (mom’s side) – Ee mo boo
Uncle/Close, Much Older Male (both sides) – Sam chon
Aunt (dad’s side) – Gho mo
Uncle (dad’s side) – Gho mo bo
Family – Kajok
Friends – Chingu
Korean Etiquette Phrases
Manners are important, especially when traveling abroad. Offending others with bad manners is an embarrassment. Memorize these simple words and phrases that are an integral part of communicating while traveling in Korea. To learn more about important travel tips, advice and to learn about how to travel the world on a dime, take this travel hacking course.
Please – Jwe song ha ji mahn
Thank You – Gahm say hahm ni da
You’re welcome – Chon mahn eh yo.
Excuse me – Sil le hahm ni da.
Good morning – Ahn nyong ha se yo
Korean Phrases Used for Meeting and Greeting New People
When traveling in a foreign country, it pays to do research before leaving home. A quick travel hacking course is a great way to learn about foreign customs. Be sure to do independent research on hand gestures or words that could be offensive. Learn about the rules for touching others, how to greet them and how to part with them. Always make a good impression while traveling, as tourists who travel abroad are a clear representation of the people from their homeland.
Do you speak English? Yong-o-rul hahl-jool asim-ni-ka?
What is your name? Song-ha-mi o-teo-ke dwe-si-ji-yo?
My name is _____. Je-i-rum-eun_____ im-ni-da.
How are you? Ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo?
I’m fine, thank you. Gahm se hahm ni da
It is nice to meet you. Mahn na bwep ge dwe o seo bahn gahp soum ni da
Good bye – Ahn nyong ga se yo
Asking for the Necessities
While traveling in Korea, it is rather important to know how to ask for necessities, such as food, water and shelter and to ask for directions or a restroom.
I’m hungry – Bae go pa yo
I need water – Mul eul pil yolo
Where is the closest hotel? Yeogiseo gajang gakkaun hotel-ibnida
Cooked rice – Pap
Give me some food please – Bahp jom joo seh yo
Water – Mool
Survival Korean language courses online are a wonderful way to learn a new language, get the support and guidance necessary to succeed and become a part of an online learning community. With diligence and dedication, learning to speak or even just read and write Korean is more than a distant dream – it is a new reality.