Korean Alphabet - Introduction to Hangeul


In this article we will make an introduction to the Korean language. There are more than 70 million Korean speakers worldwide, both from South Korea and North Korea. Not to mention the thousands of people who learn the language through passion in Korean culture.

The Korean language is known as hangul, is composed of 14 consonants and 10 vowels, and the writing consists of syllabic characters with Japanese. In this article we will make a brief introduction to the Language and see a little of its origin.

The origin of the Korean language

Hangul is an alphabet invented in the King Sejong dynasty around the 15th century (15), which ordered the alphabet from university students, because until then in Korea only hanja (Chinese characters) was used, as well as the Japan uses Kanji.

All of this happened, because the king thought of the frustrations of his subjects who could not read and write. Most were unable to take their complaints to the authorities through letters or written statements. This problem disturbed the king, famous for being considerate and always thinking about the population.

Introduction to Korean Language - Hangeul Alphabet

So, King Sejong organized the creation of an alphabet that was called Hangeul [한글] in order to be easy to learn and use. In 1446, an announcement was made that the project had been completed and was ready to be applied in society.

In the preface to his edict, King Sejong declared the following words

“Because they are of foreign origin, Chinese characters do not faithfully reproduce meanings other than Korean. Thus, many ordinary people cannot express their thoughts and feelings. Out of solidarity in his difficulties, I created a set of 28 letters. The lyrics are very easy to learn, and I sincerely hope that they improve the quality of life for all people. ”

Characteristics of the Korean alphabet Hangeul

The Korean alphabet consists of a syllabary like the Japanese. Despite being a syllabary, its structure is entirely of Japanese hiragana and katakana. In Korean we have 24 pure letters, 10 vowels and 14 consonants that together form a syllable.

When we see the Korean characters, we end up thinking that all of that is a letter, but in fact it is a syllable through the joining of letters. This is called Jamo, which are blocks in which letters are joined to form syllables.

Introduction to Korean Language - Hangeul Alphabet

A single syllable, or Jamo, can be composed of up to 4 letters. The characters can also be changed by raising a total of 40 characters in the Korean alphabet. Syllables form words that are separated by spaces, unlike Japanese that has no space in sentences.

In short, the Korean language is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese, where syllables are used to speak, but the ideograms are made up of only 24 shapes and having only 4 in each, while in Chinese and Japanese we have thousands of radicals to form ideograms.

Did you think how cool it would be if Japanese ideograms were simplified just like Hangul? Japanese pronunciation is very easy, but the mixture of archaic Chinese ideograms still slows down the learning process.

Introduction to Korean Language - Hangeul Alphabet

A scholar who helped create the Korean alphabet said the following about hangul: “The wise man can learn it in one morning, and even the fool can learn it in 10 days.”

The Hangul alphabet allowed illiteracy to be virtually eradicated from Korea.

Korean alphabet characters and letters

First, you don't have to be scared by the 10 vowels. This is nothing more than a variation of our AEIOU equal to the accents we use in the Portuguese language.

The table below is not with detailed Korean, but you can already know the main vowels and consonants:

The 14 Consonants of the Korean alphabet

ㄱ (g, k)
ㄴ (n)
ㄷ (d, t)
ㄹ (r, l)
ㅁ (m)
ㅂ (b, p)
ㅅ (s)
ㅇng Deaf consonant
ㅈ (ch, j)
ㅊ (ch’)
ㅋ (k’)
ㅌ (t’)
ㅍ (P')
ㅎ (H)

The 10 vowels of the Korean alphabet

ㅏ (The)
ㅑ (ya)
ㅓ (O)
ㅕ (yo)
ㅗ (O)
ㅛ (yo)
ㅜ (u)
ㅠ (iu)
ㅡ (I)
ㅣ (i)

Korean language trivia

Did you know that some consonants in the Korean language have their shape based on the way the sound is generated? For example: ㄱ (k) refers to the back side of the tongue covering the epiglottis. ㄴ (n) refers to the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Not to mention that ㅅ (s) is shaped like a tooth, ㅁ (m) is shaped like a mouth and ㅇ (ng) is shaped like a throat.

The basic formats of the vowels are based on the elements of nature according to Neo-Confucianism where the vertical line represents man, the horizontal line represents the earth and the point represents the sky.

Introduction to Korean Language - Hangeul Alphabet

The hangul can be written either in vertical columns, from top to bottom, or in the direction from right to left or vice versa, from left to right. One only has to read block by block to understand the word.

Hanja (漢字) refers to the use of Chinese characters to write in Korean. It is not used today, but some still learn to be able to read old documents and texts. Hanja was used until around the 90s.

Like Japanese, when Korean is written with Latin characters, it is also called Rōmaji (로마자) which literally means "Roman characters".

Introduction to Korean Language - Hangeul Alphabet

I hope this short article will serve as an introduction to the Korean language. If you liked the article don't forget to share it with friends and leave your comments.

Korean LANGUAGE Online Books and Books

We have a little basic Korean course called Korean Naum taught by Korean Sandra Jang. For more information just click here.

We have other Korean courses, but which open classes on specific dates. When enrollment for these other courses takes place, we will notify you. We also recommend seeing some books and dictionaries about the Korean language below:

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