I know plenty of korean alphabet charts and other learning resources for this already exist. But if you’re like I was and are already watching a heap of kdramas or other korean tv programs but can’t yet read Hangul but want to- here’s a different, though slightly unconventional way to learning it, all while doing something you already currently enjoy!
I learnt the 24 korean letters this way myself, in just under a week. Though one thing i did , was that i made myself this rule where i didn’t give myself any resources at all; no guides, no charts. And I only used google translate if i was in desperate need of a specific word. This is how slightly more complicated words i encountered like “끓” in 끓다(ggeulhda) and “찮” in 괜찮아(gwaenchanha) really threw me off. 괜찮아 especially because i could never really hear the h being pronounced when spoken, i got so frustrated and nearly gave up on Korean then.
All in all, it took me 3 months to read Korean comfortably, and at a reasonable pace too. 3 months probably doesn’t sound as appealing as “Learn to read Korean in 10 minutes”, but you might do wayyy better with this than i did. And also, unlike a chart that you have to constantly keep referring back to, in building links between the things you enjoy and something you want to learn, once you learn recognise it, the character will stay in your head for quite awhile. I genuinely suggest you try this out! It’s extremely fun and way less methodical. We all know the kdrama obsession lasts way longer than 3 months, so what is there to lose!
This method involves more brain work than copying what you see on a chart so if you get stuck on anything, just look it up straight away! Guaranteed, you will be spared from far less mental breakdowns than I…
Alright, so here are my 4 Steps To Learning Hangul Without A Chart
- Pick a show you enjoy watching
The main goal in learning hangul this way is that you won’t have to stop your marathons just to learn it, but can do it simultaneously(almost). Anything from kdramas to kpop will work really, so just pick one. Or a few. I did this with running man just because i really liked it in 2014, i also learned from kpop too!
2. Pick a set of words you want to recognise.
I know i’ve literally just said to pick a show to study from, but we aren’t quite ready to put a drama on and expect to have magically learnt the letters at the end of it without doing anything different to what you would have normally. We slog for a bit, but once you’ve found your 24 letters we’re good to go!
So first pick a set of words you want to recognise, a small set of Korean words you want to read. I highly recommend names because they’re generally only 3 characters long and, isn’t knowing your bias’s name in their language the dream?? Doing the names of members from big groups like gg, bts, twice and seventeen could be really fun because you can pick up pretty much all the letters from the names of just one group.
3. Make your own list
Now that you’ve picked your words, we’re going to analyse and break them down. (i’m going to assume you picked a name, or a 3 character word)
And here are your 5 steps to picking out characters!
- Write each korean character of the name out.
- Beneath each one write it’s corresponding romanised word (again, names are wayy easier)
- Look at one of the english words, does it share anything with the other 2? If not you picked a bad one, move on to the next name for now.
But before i confuse you further, heres what i mean:
eg: two words 오징어(oh-jing-eo) and 강아지(kang-ah-ji)
– both characters 징 and 강 end with ‘ng’. They both have the letterㅇ, so we can assume thatㅇin korean represents ‘ng’ in english.
– next, the two characters 징(from오징어) and the 지(from 강아지) both have the two letters ㅈand ㅣ in them. We’ve assumed that ㅇ represents ‘ng’, so removing ‘ng’ from 징(jing) in ohjingeo would leave us with 지(ji), which is the exact same as the 지 in kangahji.
And now it’s pretty much safe to say thatㅇin korean stands for ‘ng’ in english. (when used on the bottom. I’ll leave you to figure out what it sounds like when it’s used on top with words like 오 and 아) You can then kind of guess that ㅈand ㅣwould represent j and i respectively, and go ahead to confirm them using other words.
These are two words that i literally thought of on the spot, and it is so fun to do with any words with just a few similar characters.
Please, if you’re struggling to find somewhere to start, you can always get a chart up, and memorise a few characters to get you started.
4. Practice Reading
Now that you’ve got your 24, the hardest part is over! You can finally sit back and watch your korean shows! Whoo!
Instead of completely skipping over the name of the hotel or a menu full of korean in a scene of a drama this time, sit with the little list you made and try pausing the video to read the korean! I would really recommend variety shows over dramas while you’re still beginning though, because shows like running man have heaps and heaps of un-subtitled captions which gives you so much more practice than the occasional few words in the background of a kdrama. Weekly idol is also pretty good but their captions come and go a lot quicker and i would say their language is also more complex compared to what running man uses. (running man uses some actual korean phrases, weekly idol is sometimes more colloquial)
Remember to be patient with yourself! You’ve just learned how to read a new language. You don’t have to be a speed reader or anything, just go slow and pause the video to give yourself time. And obviously, you probably won’t understand half of the words you’ve just read if you’re only starting to learn korean and that’s nothing to feel horrible about. Remember there’s always a dictionary(◕‿-) and once you’re reading hangul, expanding your vocabulary is no problem at all!
i truly hope you’ve gained something from reading this and that you’ll give this method of learning hangul a shot. (i’m generally horrible at explaining things so if there’s anything you’re still confused about please say so and i’ll try my best to clarify thingsㅋㅋ) Otherwise, Thank you for reading and all the best with your korean journey!