Korean is an Altic language, part of the same language group as Ainu, Japanese and Mongolian. Most of the Korean language, also called Hangul, has Chinese roots. Like Chinese, there can be very subtle differences between two sounds. Learning the Korean alphabet takes time and a careful ear. Transliteration does not help here, only careful practice.
Finding Your Resources
Find resources such as GenkiKorean.net, LearnKorean.com and KBS World Radio. They provide easy ways to learn the alphabet. Not only are they free, but these sites also have audio files for correct letter pronunciation.
Look for offline resources such as books. Two choices include \"Integrated Korean: Beginning Level 1 Textbook\" by Hyo Sang Lee, Carol Schulz, Ho-Min Sohn and Sung-Ock Sohn, which comes with a set of seven CDs. There is also \"Beginning Korean\" by Jeyseon Lee and Kangjin Lee, which comes with two CDs.
Look for classes. Places where these might be readily available are local university foreign-language departments, Asian community centers and even English-speaking churches with a large number of Korean-speaking members.
Learning the Alphabet
Look at the alphabet carefully. Note that it contains 10 vowels and 14 consonants, several of which sound very similar. For instance, the vowels ? and ? have a similar ending sound. Also note the way that the letters, or jamo, are pronounced. They tend to have a very short sound, like the \"o\" in the English word cot, rather than a drawn-out sound heard in the long \"o\" in the word soap.
Go through the website audio files or learning CDs to start to master proper pronunciation. Imitate the sounds as you look at the letters. Do this as often as you need to start to feel comfortable with your pronunciation.
Write the letters as you say the sounds to yourself. Do this several times. Always return to the CDs or audio files to check your pronunciation.
Use games. One is on the GenkiEnglish website, designed by Richard Graham and Jihyun Kim. The game involves clicking your mouse on a card to reveal a letter and sound. Going through each card and matching the letter to its identical twin later in the set is designed to help with language retention. Additionally, making up songs to learn the alphabet may be beneficial.
Understanding How Korean Works
Learn how to form words in Korean. Korean words consist of two to three jamo written one on top of the other. The words are then written in sentences from left to right, like in English. Note the word \"hanguk\" on the KBS website to see how this is done.
Understand how the letters are stacked together to form syllables, which in turn form words. There are certain rules that apply. One is that a syllable always start with a consonant. So if a vertical vowel is used, as in ?, the syllable starts with the consonant on the left. If a horizontal vowel is used, like ?, then the consonant is on top of the vowel. This is true even when writing a word that starts with a vowel such as the Korean word for afternoon, written here using Romanization as o-hu. In this instance, as mentioned by Professor J. David Eisenberg, a consonant placeholder, which looks like an \"o,\" is used to avoid breaking the grammar rule. Another basic rule states that a syllable that has a consonant, vowel and consonant places the last consonant at the bottom of the syllable. Note the following word, which means \"contact,\" and how the first syllable illustrates this bottom consonant rule: ???.
Study other aspects of the Korean language, such as numbers. Korean has two numbering systems. One is native to the country, and another comes from China. Both are spoken frequently and may even be used together, as when telling time. As stated by the author of learnkorean.com, \"When you tell time, you use the native numbers for the hour, while using the [Chinese] Sino-Korean numbers for the minutes and seconds: e.g., tu-shi iship-pun samship-ch`o (two-o'clock twenty-minute thirty-second: 2:20:30, where 'tu' is native Korean and 'i' is Sino-Korean for 'two'.)\"
Understand how grammar works. Unlike English, which is a subject-verb-object (SVO) language, Korean is a subject-object-verb (SOV) language. This means that Korean sentences start with the subject, then the object and finally the verb. A common sentence construction in Korean may appear as: subject/topic with particle, object with particle and adjective/verb with conjugation, as stated by the authors of learnkorean.com. The addition of conjugation and particles is important, so speakers are less likely to misunderstand each other. (According to learnkorean.com, particles are \"endings attached to words to specify what significance the word has in the sentence.\")
Learn useful terms such as how to say your name, conversational phrases, how to get directions and other items that are necessary for new learners, especially those who one day would like to visit Korea.