Korean Alphabet Basics – How to Read Hangul (Part 1)

how to read korean hangul modern seoul

Korean is maybe one of the most difficult languages for an English speaking foreigner to learn, the first hurdle is the Korean / Hangul alphabet which is completely different from English. However it may at first look like a load of strange alien lines and circles to begin with, but in reality it’s quiet (not very) simple to learn. Just like in the English Alphabet the Korean has both Vowels and Consonants, and every complete symbol equals a single syllable. Therefore it is in time easy to learn the how to read Korean / Hangul with practice. This guide will show you the most basic way to read each character.

Firstly you have the 10 basic vowels which appear in every full Korean symbol. The table below shows how to read each in English.

Secondly you have the 14 different primary consonants, again if you look at the chart below you can see the rough English translation.

Finally if you put the vowels and the consonants together you get this chart, which shows the complete Korean Alphabet.

Click Here for a Free PDF Korean Alphabet Chart

In part two we will look at the double vowels and then in part three we will look at the second consonants which will help you learn the rest of the Korean alphabet. After studying all 3 parts, hopefully you should be able to read Korean (at less basically).

For Part 2 – Please Click Here “Korean Alphabet Basics – Vowel Combinations (Part 2)“.

For Part 3 – Please Click Here “Korean Alphabet Basics – Tensed Consonants, Final Consonants, Double Consonants (Part 3)

For some FREE Learn Korean Resources, we would suggest that you check out: http://www.freshkorean.com/free-resources/

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24 comments

  1. [...] checked out the 1st part of this 3 part series on Korean Alphabet basics please click here “Part 1 – How to read Hangul“. In this second part of the series we will look at the 11 different vowel combinations which [...]

  2. [...] checked out the 1st part of this 3 part series on Korean Alphabet basics please click here “Part 1 – How to read Hangul“. In this second part of the series we will look at the 11 different vowel combinations which [...]

  3. Can I ask if I can read Korean to English directly ?

    1. Sadly not, Korean is very different to English. 1) The grammar order is very different 2) Maybe only 10% of commonly used words are the same in both Korean and English.

      However, it is possible to romanize i.e. change Korean letters into English, so reading Korean becomes easier. The next step is to understand what you are reading.

  4. [...] final part of our Korean Alphabet Basics series, if you haven’t already please also check out “Part 1” & “Part 2”, so that you are up-to-date and ready to move forward with this [...]

  5. Do you know where I can find some audio to go with these charts?
    The problem is that all of the Korean alphabet charts charts I have found are slightly different in how they Romanize the sounds. Because of that, I really have no idea if I’m pronouncing the letters correctly!

    1. Completely agree romanizing Korean to English perfectly is close to impossible as the phonics are very different. YouTube is maybe the best option if you’re looking for something quick and free. Here are a couple of videos which you might find useful:

      This first one is maybe the best and is by Professor Oh:

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdiR-6e1h0o%5D

      This second video shows the alphabet chart along with pronunciations, it is however a little slow and draw out at times:

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f41VJXJ-HE%5D

  6. lumini manage · · Reply

    thanx ..i was able to catch up very easily. But it took some time.Now i can read but i dont know the meaanings of it ,so can u be kind enough to help?

    1. It’s similar to the English Alphabet ABC, it doesn’t really mean anything. To learn more maybe try websites such as http://freshkorean.com or http://talktomeinkorean.com
      Sorry we can’t help more.

    2. Lumini,
      You can build your vocabulary using the BYKI software program (just google “BYKI Korean”). It’s free and quite good. Also, a lot of these Korean learning videos, which are also free, are pretty good. http://www.speakoutkorean.com/videos/

  7. lumini manage · · Reply

    cant thank enough.THANK U !

  8. I really want to learn Korean language, I always watch Korean dramas and movies. . .

  9. Can I ask how to speak Korean by its letter?
    which is example is I love you in Korean Saranghae.

    1. The most basic way is by using a translation site such as google translate for simple words and phrases.
      However to do it properly, you really need to learn all of the characters, combinations and liaisons. The sites listed above are a good start.
      Sadly there is no quick way to learn Korean :(

  10. Here are a bunch of videos demonstrating Korean pronunciation. “I love you” is number 27.

    http://www.speakoutkorean.com/videos/

  11. I just like the helpful info you provide on your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and take a look at once more here regularly.
    I’m fairly certain I will be informed lots of new stuff right
    here! Best of luck for the next!

  12. can you send me some korean language tu write in korean alphabet

    1. This link here a load of great and free Korean writing worksheets: http://freshkorean.com/free-resources

  13. How to weite z in hangul ?

    1. There really isn’t a Z sound in the Korean Alphabet, but the closest translations would be 제트 (British / Canadian Phonic) or 지 (American Phonic)
      For example Zipper is 지퍼 (Jee/Po).

  14. for me korean language is difficult than english

  15. radioactive · · Reply

    why in these words 3 = 셋 n 4 = 넷 , the ‘ㅅ’ pronounced as ‘t’ sound but not ‘s’ sound??

    1. They sound different because they are secondary consonants and so work differently than the primary consonants. It’s explained roughly in Parts 2 and 3 of this series.

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