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Your Ultimate Korean Pronunciation Guide

Knowing how to correctly pronounce words when you learn to speak a new language is crucial for speaking it well. It is no different with Korean. At KoreanClass101, we put a lot of emphasis on teaching and demonstrating correct pronunciation, as it is our aim to help you to speak like a native after a while!

According to Dictionary.com, ‘pronunciation’ is: the act or result of producing the sounds of speech, including articulation, stress, and intonation, often with reference to some standard of correctness or acceptability.

Paying attention to your Korean pronunciation not your own essentially means you’re learning to ditch most of your foreign accent. This is very important if you want to be a successful communicator in any language. Getting Korean pronunciation right may seem like a daunting task at the onset, but it need not be!

Download Your FREE Guide to the Korean Alphabet!

If you want to master the Korean language and become fluent, you must learn the Korean alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Korean learning beginners!

FREE Korean eBook

Download your FREE Korean practice sheets PDF today and learn the Korean language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

1. Introduction to Korean Pronunciation


Comparatively speaking, Korean is a relatively easy language to learn. This is because once you master how to read and write in Korean, which is easier than in most other languages, the learning process gets much easier. Korean has some exceptions in its pronunciation rules, but in general, it is easy to learn to pronounce Korean fluently.

The Korean alphabet consists of twenty-four basic characters: fourteen consonants and ten vowels. These basic syllables can form more compound consonants and vowels, and we can divide them into independent syllables that we recognize as “letters” in Korean.

We’re not going to go over the pronunciation of all the consonants and vowels here, but if you’re interested, you can listen to our pronunciation series designed to help you master Korean pronunciation. Rather, now we’re going to discuss some of the more interesting aspects of pronunciation.

1. A Korean Syllable

In Korean, no consonant can stand alone to make a sound. Therefore, Korean people always add a vowel to complete the syllable so that they can pronounce it.

For example, the consonant that is equivalent to the sound of the English alphabet “-s” is ㅅ in Korean. While in English you can pronounce “-s” on its own as in “sky,” “ski,” or “school,” in Korean you have to add the vowel ㅡ (eu) to make it 스 (seu).

This explains one of the reasons that Korean people pronounce words that come from English using a different pronunciation.

2. Double Consonants

Out of the fourteen basic consonants, five of them, which are ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, and ㅈ, can form double consonants.

ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅅ, and ㅈ respectively have the sounds of [-g], [-d], [-b], [-s], and [-j/-z], and when you double them and write ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, and ㅉ, they have the sounds of [-kk], [-tt], [-pp], [-ss], and [-jj/-zz].

The easiest way to differentiate these double-consonant sounds from single-consonant sounds is to remember that the double-consonant sounds are a little more high pitched than the other sounds.

3. Aspirated Consonants

Along with the double consonants, there are aspirated consonants, which are very easy to pronounce because English has the same sounds.

They are ㅋ [-k], which is an aspirated version of ㄱ [-g], and ㅌ [-t], the aspirated version of ㄷ [-d], and ㅍ [-p], the aspirated version of ㅂ [-b], and ㅊ [-ch], the aspirated version of ㅈ [-j/-z].

4. The Consonant ㄹ

In Korean, the consonant ㄹ looks a bit like a curl and implies that it sounds like [-r] or [-l], for which we have to curl our tongue. But the English pronunciation of [-r] doesn’t exist in Korean, and the Korean ㄹ is more like the Spanish [-r] when it’s at the beginning of a syllable. And it sounds a little less strong and “curly” than the English [-l] when it’s at the end of a syllable.

2. Why is Correct Pronunciation in Korean Important?

Proper pronunciation is important, very important. Some say it’s even more important than getting the grammar perfectly correct! Why would this be?

1) Good Understanding

If communicating with native speakers matters to you when learning Korean, you need to be understood when you talk, and you need to be able to understand the native speakers. After all, without understanding, the purpose of language is null and void! In order to be understood, you need to be able to speak the language in a way that is familiar to native speakers, or at least recognizable by them.

When learning to speak a new language, you will learn that the more you progress the more intricate it becomes! For instance, almost every language has vocabulary that may look the same in writing, but because the words are pronounced differently, they have very different meanings. This means that you may say a word in Korean, and because of a slight change in pronunciation, the meaning of the word changes completely. Understandably, this can make for pretty embarrassing situations! At worst, your mispronounced Korean will sound garbled to a native speaker.

Knowing the nuances of how a word or letter is pronounced will also help you to understand spoken Korean better.

No worries if this feels hard; you’re learning, and with our help at KoreanClass101, you will not have a problem with mispronunciation if you follow our advice and examples carefully.

2) Good Communication

Not pronouncing Korean or any other language correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of Korean grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly will only make for very frustrating communication all around.

3) A Good Impression

Even if you’re only a beginner, it is possible to speak any language correctly. This way, you are bound to make a good impression on native speakers, and when you’re more fluent, you will be likely to garner a lot more respect than a fumbling newbie speaker who doesn’t care much for correct pronunciation.

People often have a lot of patience for someone who learns to speak a new language, but native speakers are more likely to address you and engage with you in conversation if you work hard on your accent. This is simply because you’ll be able to understand one another! So, proficiency in pronunciation can mean the difference between having none or plenty of Korean speaking friends. It will also serve you well in the workplace, and make you popular with your Korean speaking managers and employers or employees.

Learning to speak Korean properly is also a sign of respect for not only the language, but also the native speakers and their customs.

3. Secrets to Learning the Correct Korean Pronunciation

1) Use voice recording tools to perfect your pronunciation

KoreanClass101 has plenty of resources to help you with your Korean pronunciation, so be sure to make thorough use of our recordings with native Korean speakers. These are available not only to demonstrate to you how you should pronounce Korean vocabulary, but also sentences and dialogues. Watch and listen to these over and over again to train your ear, and watch the teacher’s mouth as she speaks in the video lessons. Then, copy the speech as best you can. Later, you can record yourself to hear if you sound like a native speaker and compare yourself with native speakers. Great for self-motivation.

2) Practice in front of the mirror.

And see that you’re copying the correct lip and mouth movements.

3) Use our KoreanClass101 dictionary!

Use the Korean dictionary provided by KoreanClass101 to look up words and listen to the audio pronunciation. This will go a long way towards giving you an idea of how to pronounce a word or letter correctly.

4) Train your ear to the language!

Make an effort to often listen to Korean music and recorded books, and watch plenty of Korean movies and/or TV shows in Korean. This will train your ear to the language, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up the accent. Remember, this is the way we learned to speak when we were young - mostly by listening to the adults talking, and repeating what they say!

5) Practice, practice, practice…

Repetition of the same thing may be boring, but in learning a new language, you’re creating new pathways in your brain. For these to remain and become habitual, you will need to repeat the correct pronunciation often.

6) Make friends with a native Korean speaker.

Don’t be shy to address them in Korean! Ask them to correct you when you make a pronunciation mistake - this is a wonderful way to practice and learn the language first-hand, and also to make new friends.

7) Practice your pronunciation with your Korean teacher!

If you’re a serious student and don’t know where to meet native Korean speakers, consider investing in KoreanClass101’s Premium PLUS plan. This means you will have your own native Korean teacher available to practice your pronunciation with, and much more! Send recordings of yourself speaking Korean and get feedback from your Korean teacher.

4. How to Download Your Free Guide to the Korean Alphabet

Download Your FREE Guide to the Korean Alphabet!

If you want to master the Korean language and become fluent, you must learn the Korean alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Korean learning beginners!

FREE Korean eBook

Download your FREE Korean practice sheets PDF today and learn the Korean language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

Log in with Your Free Lifetime Account and we’ll give you an instructional Korean PDF that covers the letters of the alphabet, practice worksheets, and a quiz to test yourself with… — absolutely FREE!

3 Reasons to Learn Korean Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying Korean lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning Korean through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve downloaded the Korean lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning Korean using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All Korean Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out Korean lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Korean lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Korean using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Korean at KoreanClass101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

5. Related Lessons

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How to Introduce Yourself in Korean
Can you introduce yourself in Korean? Don’t worry! Check out the 10 Korean Lines You Need To Introduce Yourself with this free Review Sheet. From “My name is…“ and “I live in…” down to “My hobbies are…” Just review the 10 lines. It will only take you 2 minutes. Then, introduce yourself in the comment section below!
Korean Alphabet
Learn everything you need to know about the Korean alphabet. At KoreanClass101, we introduce you to Korean writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Korean alphabet completely from the start.
How to Say Thank You in Korean
Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Korean. It’s one of the most important Korean phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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