Learning Korean was comparatively harder than learning German, the first blaringly obvious reason being that I had to learn a new alphabet system in order to learn Korean. For the first month or so I tried to guess which characters were responsible for the various sounds but without proper tutelage this form of self teaching would have taken much longer than necessary.

I remember after I had first started taking classes at a night school and we began to learn the Hangeul and their sounds, going home that night I began to recognise how to pronounce words as they were written and I felt so excited. Hangeul itself is fascinating; the way that it was constructed is incredibly clever. A lot of people probably have the misconception that Hangeul has thousands of characters like Chinese or Japanese, but in fact Korean has just 14 basic consonants and 10 basic vowels. The characters are grouped into syllable blocks.

The sounds still get the better of me though, there is one which is almost impossible for a Westerner to pronounce. The character combination of “ – “ + “ 이 “ is an impossible blend of “u” + “i” which initially caused a lot of the class mates an hour at least of snickering at each other.

By the end of just a couple of lessons I felt that I could quite confidently recognise and pronounce the Korean that I was seeing around me. I was a little bit obsessed with sounding all the words that I saw and pronouncing the words in my head. Another wonderful part of the Hangeul was that there were many words that were actually English words just written in Hangeul. So I would look up at a movie poster I had never seen before and sound out the Hangeul and realise that it was an English movie title.

It’s also incredibly useful to be able to read a menu. There are so many places with Hangeul only menus so being able to read Korean will keep you from going hungry.
Learning the Hangeul was outstandingly helpful and also fun. I hope I won’t forget it now that I’m not faced with it daily. 감사합니다

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