Korean Language Blog

Hangul (한글) Day Posted by on Oct 24, 2008 in Uncategorized

Hangul nal (한글 날) which in English means Hangul Day, is commemorated on the ninth of October.  The word han () means Korean and the word kul () means script, while nal () = day.  Altogether Hangul Day (한글 날) means Korean script day.  Hangul Day commemorates the creation of the modern Korean alphabet system.  The Korean alphabet contains 14 basic consonants and 10 vowels.  In addition to these basic consonants and vowels, there are also 5 tensed consonants and 4 aspirated consonants.  The Korean alphabet also contains some dipthongs as well, but enough about the alphabet. Let’s talk about the history of the Korean alphabet.

Hangul (한글) or the Korean alphabet, was made the official writing system in 1446 A.D during the reign of King Sejong.  Before hangul (한글) was used, Koreans used to write in Chinese characters.  Chinese characters were difficult to write, pronounce and read, so only the nobles were literate while the rest of the population remained iliterate.  King Sejong was determined to close the gap between the noble and peasant class.  He promoted the Korean alphabet as the official writing system, which allowed peasants to communicate with each other through writing.  There were feverish cries of protest from the noble class, many who feared that they would lose their prestige and power with the introduction of hangul (한글).  Despite protests the hangul (한글) system was a success.  Some peasants were able to apply to low government positions and improve their standard of life.  It just goes to show how important writing and reading is.  Sometimes I think people take it for granted, especially in this age of numbers and science.

Whenever I teach hangul (한글) to my students, I always try to give them some kind of a mnemonic way to memorize the sounds with the letters.  Here are some tips that I think will provide useful for those of you who are learning the Korean alphabet: 

1) has an “n” sound and the way I remember this is that the character loos like a person who is kneeling.  The word kneeling is spelt with a k, but it is pronounced with an “n” sound.  Therefore, even if it requires you to use your imagination, try to think of the way a letter looks with a way it sounds.

2) has an “m” sound.  This character reminds me of a mouth.  Mouth begins with an “m” sound, which helps me to remember that  has an “m” sound.

3) has a “b” sound.  This character reminds me of a bed. This requires some imagination.  The two ends of the bed are the bed posts while the horizontal line in the middle is the cot.

So, just like what I have done with the characters above, I encourage you to find ways of remembering the Korean alphabet with the way the characters look.  It may be impossible to find an equivalent sound with a pictorial representation for every character, but at least you have your work cut out for you for the ones you do have equivalents for.  So until the next post, happy learning!

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