August 7, 2008
So, you want to learn to speak and read Korean? Well so do we! After living in Korea for just over two months, weâ€™ve quickly developed the urge to understand the signs (and the menus) around us. Weâ€™re not experts yet, but here are some helpful hints we found for learning to read and speak Korean, also known as, Han-gu-go. The first thing we did was buy a really good phrasebook before we left Canada. Itâ€™s not one of those books that only has random phrases in it; itâ€™s colour co-ordinated so we can flip to different sections easily. As well, it has a highly useful culinary reader. What really sold me on the lonely planet phrasebook (check out their website here, or just buy the book from Amazon directly) was that they explained the two different ways of saying â€œgoodbyeâ€ in Korean, while other Korean phrasebooks we perused did not make or explain the distinctions.
Another thing that we found really useful is this chart right here. Simonâ€™s co-teacher gave it to him and explained it as well, or else it would not have made any sense at all to us. Going up and down the left sides are the korean consonants; going across the top are Korean vowels. Itâ€™s like a multiplication table. Essentially, Korean children memorize this table, and learn the Korean alpabet that way. Itâ€™s actually quite practical when you look at it. For example, the first row is â€œga na da la ma ba sa, a ja cha ka ta pa haâ€; another row would be â€œgu nu du lu mu bu so, u ju chu ku tu pu hu,â€ so on and so forth. Now, this is sung in the â€œtwinkle twinkle little starâ€ theme the same way our â€œabdefgâ€ is sung, so itâ€™s easy to memorize. Whatâ€™s really cool about it is that the first half of the song is regular consonants, while the second half is aspirated consonants. If that doesnâ€™t make sense to you, sing it out with your hand in front of your mouth. Youâ€™ll feel next to nothing when you sing â€œga na da la ma ba sa,â€ but youâ€™ll feel a lot more air against your hands when you sing â€œa ja cha ka ta pa ha.â€ Cool, eh? As well, the korean alphabet has letters that kinda make sense when you read them. For example, the g-sound and the k-sound are similar, only the k has you breathe out more air. So, in the Korean alphabet, the k is written out just like a g, only with an extra small mark. In the alphabet we see relationships between letters. You donâ€™t see that in the English alphabet.