Korean writing, at first glance, may appear to be similar to Chinese or Japanese, especially if this is a new language to you. But upon a closer look, especially with a piece of text by each language placed next to each other, it’s easy to see Korean is quite different.
Some may even be mind blown when they realize that Korean isn’t written by characters but with their own alphabetic system. This can certainly gain one’s interest in how Korean writing works.
Below is a free PDF guide that you can download and take with you:
- 1 Introduction to the Korean writing system
- 2 Korean syllable blocks
- 2.1 Basic rules of forming Korean syllables
- 2.2 How to easily create Korean syllable blocks?
- 2.3 Korean writing practice with syllable blocks
- 3 Wrap Up
Introduction to the Korean writing system
Before we head on to the system of Korean writing, it’s best to take note of the following important points.
Chinese vs Japanese vs Korean writing
In a beginner’s eyes, writing systems look the same and can often be confusing to learn. The difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writing can sometimes be hard to distinguish at first glance. Thankfully, compared to Japanese and Chinese, Korean is much easier to learn.
The Chinese writing system uses characters or a combination of writing systems. Similary, the Japanese writing system uses Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. On the other hand, the Korean language has a set of alphabets they use for everything, and that’s it. It should only take you a few hours at most to learn and memorize each letter!
The Korean alphabet
If you’d like to know how to write Korean letters, you can start by learning the Korean alphabet together with us. This resource is helpful even if Korean is a new language to you. If you have to go check out the Korean alphabet article first, don’t fret – it only takes a little bit of your time to learn Hangeul, and then you can come back here!
Hangeul stroke order
If you’ve already concluded that step and learned about the stroke order, you can continue diving deeper into the Korean writing system.
As you learn Hangul, do take the time to learn the specific stroke order of each letter. After that, you’ll finally be ready to practice more aspects of the Korean writing system with us in this article!
Korean syllable blocks
Korean writing is done through syllables. That means that while each Korean or Hangul alphabet is its own letter, none of them appear alone. Instead, two or more of the Korean alphabet letters are constructed into one block. Therefore, each word also comprises one or more Korean syllables.
Basic rules of forming Korean syllables
There are numerous ways each letter can be combined into a syllable. However, there are certain rules for constructing the letters within a syllable.
Start with a consonant
The first rule of thumb is that each syllable block begins with a consonant. This means that when the syllable technically only consists of a vowel, it gets combined together with the letter ㅇ, so the first letter is still a consonant—for example, the Korean vowel ㅏis not written as ㅏ but as 아.
Although the letter ㅇ normally has an “ng” sound, in these instances, it’s quiet and simply added there due to the Korean writing rules. Of course, no syllable can exist without at least one vowel included, either.
Consider the vowel placement
The way each syllable is constructed depends on the vowel used. If it’s a vertical vowel, in other words, ㅣ, ㅏ, ㅓ, and so on, then the initial consonant is placed on the left side of the vowel.
If the vowel is horizontal, so ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅗ, and so on, then the first consonant should be placed above the vowel. Additionally, it is possible to have one final consonant, two final consonants, or none. Below we have illustrated possible block combinations of syllables.
It is not formed in a horizontal line
To illustrate further, when you write using Latin characters and many otherworldly languages, you will simply place each letter in a sequence. Like this:
K + O + R + E + A = Korea.
However, in the Korean language, you will have to place them into specific blocks, which together then form the word.
So, in the case of the same word, but in Korean, it would look like this:
ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄴ ㄱ + ㅜ + ㄱ = 한국.
This is an excellent example of forming the block both using a vertical vowel and a horizontal vowel.
As you may notice, writing it as ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅜㄱ wouldn’t even make any sense. Therefore, using Korean syllable blocks to write comprehensively makes the most sense.
How to easily create Korean syllable blocks?
Now that we have covered the basic rules of writing syllables, it’s time to start looking at practical examples of them. By learning Korean and practicing this, you establish a great foundation of Korean writing skills.
Step 1: Figure out which vowel you are using
As the vowel used in the syllable determines the placement of the Korean consonants, this is your starting point for building one. Are you using a horizontal or vertical vowel?
Step 2: Determine whether your syllable ends with a vowel or a consonant
If the syllable ends with a vowel, you will only need two letters to complete it. However, if you add one or two consonants after the vowel, you need to leave space for them below the first two letters in the syllable.
Step 3: Create the syllable block
Now that you have determined the ingredients of the syllable block, you can “fill in the blanks,” so to speak. Note that English and other language sounds are unreliable for telling you how each block should be formed. Hence, it’s best for you to master Korean pronunciation while forming syllables.
Korean writing practice with syllable blocks
Now that you know the rules for writing a word and have a step-by-step guide for creating them, it’s time to start your writing practice!
First and foremost, practice reading and writing syllables with only one consonant and vowel, as presented below. This is how Korean children learn to read and write, too.
Writing words with one syllable
Of course, many blocks of syllables include 3 or even 4 Korean letters. You can practice forming these blocks first for one-syllable words before moving on to more complex ones. Below are a few examples with their romanized Korean version.
|English||Hangeul syllables formed||Romanization|
|Rain||ㅂ + ㅣ = 비||bi|
|Dog||ㄱ + ㅐ = 개||gae|
|Second||ㅊ + ㅗ = 초||cho|
|Door||ㅁ + ㅜ + ㄴ = 문||mun|
|Horse||ㅁ + ㅏ + ㄹ = 말||mal|
|Why||ㅇ + ㅙ = 왜||wae|
|Leaf||ㅇ + ㅣ + ㅍ = 잎||ip|
|Chicken||ㄷ + ㅏ + ㄹ + ㄱ = 닭||dak|
In the case of the last word, 닭 (dak | chicken), you may have noticed we also come across some specific pronunciation rules. When there are two final consonants, one may become a silent one, as in this example.
However, the pronunciation also depends on which syllable follows it. Thus, depending on the word as a whole, the ㄱ may also become audible while ㄹ will become silent, or they may both get pronounced! You can start learning Korean pronunciation with our guide, which has been linked above.
Writing words with two or more syllables
Next, let’s go over some longer words for practice.
|English||Hangeul syllables formed||Romanization|
|Bedroom||ㅊ + ㅣ + ㅁ + ㅅ +ㅣ + ㄹ = 침실||chimsil|
|Laptop||ㄴ + ㅗ + ㅌ + ㅡ + ㅂ + ㅜ + ㄱ = 노트북||noteubuk|
|Penguin||ㅍ + ㅔ + ㄴ + ㄱ + ㅟ + ㄴ = 펜귄||pengwin|
|To eat||ㅁ + ㅓ + ㄱ + ㄷ + ㅏ = 먹다||meokda|
|To borrow||ㅂ + ㅣ + ㄹ + ㄹ + ㅣ + ㄷ + ㅏ = 빌리다||billida|
|To prepare||ㅈ + ㅜ + ㄴ + ㅂ + ㅣ + ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄷ + ㅏ = 준비하다||junbihada|
|To like||ㅈ + ㅗ + ㅎ + ㅇ + ㅏ + ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄷ + ㅏ = 좋아하다||joahada|
|To dislike||ㅅ + ㅣ + ㄹ + ㅎ + ㅇ + ㅓ + ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄷ + ㅏ = 싫어하다||sileohada|
By now, you should be properly familiar with the Korean alphabet letters and forming syllables and Korean words too. If you are also well-versed in pronouncing Korean words, then creating those syllables presented above should be easy.
Now that you have better knowledge in writing in Korean, you can practice writing different words and even your Korean name! If you don’t have one yet, learn how to have your own Korean name through our full article about it here.
Next up on your road towards Korean fluency is writing practice on those syllable blocks! Perhaps you could do so with the help of our article on the most common Korean words and nouns? Also, let us know what you thought of the Korean way to construct syllable blocks in the comments!