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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Jae here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Korean questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Why does ㄱ[giyeok] sometimes sound like ㅋ[kieuk]?
Many Korean learners wonder why some Korean consonants don’t sound like their English equivalents. Have you ever wondered why ㄱ[giyeok] sometimes sounds like “k” and not “g” or why ㄷ[digeut] sometimes sounds like “t” instead of “d”? It’s because some consonants change their sounds depending on their location in the sentence.
For example, the consonants ㄱ[giyeok], ㄷ[digeut], ㅂ[bieup], and ㅈ[jieut] are pronounced more strongly when they’re at the beginning of a word. This is similar to their aspirated pairs ㅋ[kieuk], ㅌ[tieut], ㅍ[pieup], and ㅊ[chieut]. “Aspirated” describes that strong puff of breath that is used on some words. You can hear it on the p’s in the words “pat” and “pin” in English.
Let’s break it down with the word 가방[gabang], which means “bag.” Usually, the consonant ㄱ[giyeok] sounds like an English “g.” However, if it’s at the beginning of the word, it takes on the English “k” sound; 가방[gabang].
Let’s do another example with the word 바다[bada], which means “sea.” The ㅂ[bieup] in this word is different than the one in 가방[gabang], which we mentioned earlier. In this case, the ㅂ[bieup] is pronounced more like ㅍ[pieup]. Try saying the words 가방[gabang], and 바다[bada], out loud, and see how you sound!
Let’s do one more example with the word for “bike,” 자전거[jajeongeo]. This word has the letter ㅈ[jieut] twice, so you can really hear the difference! The first ㅈ[jieut] has that harder puff of breath, whereas the second ㅈ[jieut] is a little bit softer.
Sometimes the sounds can be a little difficult to distinguish, so it’s good to separate them into two categories: the hard ㄱ[giyeok], ㄷ[digeut], ㅂ[bieup] and ㅈ[jieut] sounds, and the soft ㄱ[giyeok], ㄷ[digeut], ㅂ[bieup] and ㅈ[jieut] sounds.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
See you next time. 다음 시간에 만나요. (Daeum-sigane mannayo.)