Monday, July 16, 2012

Learning Korean #2 - The Alphabet (Hangeul Part 1 of 4)

In my last 'Learning Korean' post I talked about numbers as I think that it was one of the best things I've learned so far.  I don't really want to go too far into Learning Korean as I am in no way an expert but I am happy to share some things that I have learned so far.  There are also many other resources out there if you are serious about learning - I would recommend 'Talk to Me in Korean'.

TTMIK is an online resources made up of podcasts, videos and other stuff to help you on your journey to becoming a Korean Language expert.  They are produced by Native Korean Speakers who have impeccable English. This is a free resources and is really helpful, they do also have a sister site that is one where you can pay for more support, it's called Haru Korean. The free site has more than enough to get you started.

Today I wanted to talk about the Korean Alphabet, the most common thing you will hear its that it's easy to learn. The Korean alphabet is a created writing system that is the result of careful study and planning, prior to its invention the Koreans had been using the Chinese writing system.  There are still some Chinese charters in Korean writing but they are slowing being phased out - for our purposes you don't have to learn them but its good to be aware that they are there and that Korean children are expected to learn and memorize them at school.

As I have mentioned before I'm not the best learner so I was a bit dubious of people when they said they learned the alphabet in an afternoon or a weekend.  I did a bit of study when I first got here and figured out the most common letters but I soon let it lapse and did not continue.  I finally booked myself in for a Korean Language Course at a Training Institute so that I could force myself to go and try and get on track.  I only ended up going to one months worth of courses as it was cancelled due to low numbers and it was coming into winter, the course was in Seoul so I had to travel a couple of hours to attend.  I decided to wait until it got warmer and see if I still wanted to continue, I have not booked into anything so far but might do something next month.

The course was pretty hard for me and I found the teacher went a bit fast, it was more about grammar than speaking and pretty soon it was over my head.  However the one good thing to come out of it was that I learned the alphabet - it was our first homework assignment and we had to learn it or we would have held the class up. I was already the slowest in the class so I did not want to be the one who did not do their homework and held the class back; I made a concerned effort to spend the week memorizing.  Many people can do it quicker but I spread it out over the week, I copied all the letters out I recited them and even had an iPod app that recited them to me so I could listen on the bus.  I'm still a bit unsure of some of the double vowels as I did not spend as much time on them but the main consonants and vowels I can read OK now - I do still have to think about it a bit usually.

Once you know the alphabet you can practice almost anywhere you are, there are always signs on the buses or in shops you go to.  I find myself practicing on the bus the most, not really trying to read the words but trying to recognize the letters - every now and then you surprise yourself and find you actually know the word which is a great feeling.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to do a few Hangul Posts where I go over the alphabet and give tips to how I learned it and links to the resources that I used.  Feel free to leave comments to let me know how you learned and share any tips you might have.

Visit the Tourism Korea site for the complete story of the Korean alphabet - Hangul.

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