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Learn Korean Easy!
January 17, 2013 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Learn Korean Easy!
posted by Blazecock Pileon (46 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was ...not expecting to learn Korean, easily.
posted by The Whelk at 2:50 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awesome! Now QUICK DO JAPANESE I HAVE SMUTTY DOUJINSHI TO TRANSLATE
posted by nicebookrack at 2:55 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here is the original author -- the Imgur is a repost without credit. I think this is the original post.
posted by gilrain at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


No one will ever be able to convince me those A vowels are actually different sounds and that the semester of korean I took was not an elaborate prank.
posted by flaterik at 2:58 PM on January 17, 2013


Wow. That was pretty cool. And what an ingenious way to keep the letters looking like Chinese characters.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2013


My understanding is that learning to read Korean is not so bad (thanks to the phonetic alphabet), but pronouncing it correctly can be tricky. Kind of the opposite of Japanese (which I find very easy to pronounce, but learning kanji... ugh).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2013


That was... easy and really well-taught. Wow. Fun.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:31 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saved this image over on MLKSHK a few weeks ago. It's actually a pretty darn good intro to learning to read Korean.

My understanding is that learning to read Korean is not so bad

The 훈민정음 (Hunmin jeongeum), the document in which hangeul was first introduced in 1446, said "A wise man can acquaint himself with them before the morning is over; a stupid man can learn them in the space of ten days." It's true -- it's remarkably easy to learn, and a fantastic alphabet.

It took me closer to ten days than the space of a morning to learn back in 96, but oh well.

But yeah, it's absolutely true that although it's easy to learn to read and write, the language itself (and to some extent, accurate pronunciation) is pretty damned hard. It's defeated me, pretty much, and I used to pride myself on my language-learning when I was younger.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


> although it's easy to learn to read and write, the language itself (and to some extent, accurate pronunciation) is pretty damned hard.

Learning the characters of an Asian language that uses a limited alphabet-like character set (e.g. Thai)--or even learning the Cyrillic characters--seems to me a bit like learning the moves of the chess pieces. You can learn how the chess pieces are allowed to move in fifteen minutes. Do you then know how to play chess? Nope.
posted by jfuller at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Truth, but it is of enormous help in living (and travelling) in Korea, being able to sound out signs and stuff, even more so nearly two decade back when I first came here.

And, although there are books that attempt to teach the language without the first step of learning to read -- most notably the one from the US Foreign Service that is now public domain, which in some ways is pretty good, in a field of utterly crappy textbooks -- it literally is essential to get the reading and writing bit down before learning the grammar and vocabulary and so on. It's a necessary first step to learning the language. I reckon, anyway.

And I think Korean is miles easier to learn to read than Chinese (because hangeul is an alphabet, and a remarkably logical, intuitive one), or Japanese (with its multiple character sets).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:03 PM on January 17, 2013


One of my daughters is teaching herself Korean.(She spent a month over there a few years ago, and lots of Korean people here in Fayetteville.) She taught herself to read the characters without much difficulty. It comes in handy occasionally.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:08 PM on January 17, 2013


Question for, well, stavros and others who understand this better than I do: How does the Korean language account for F or V sounds?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:18 PM on January 17, 2013


I've seen the cartoon before -- it's pretty good but I've been told it makes more sense when read with an Australian accent.

Hangul throws me, even considering I'm a remarkable lightweight when it comes to learning languages or anything relevant to learning language. One of the things I've found moderately helpful are the low-cost iPad apps that teach preschoolers the letters through repetition and tracing the character strokes.
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 PM on January 17, 2013


Ryan Estrada is one of the most ridiculously prolific and educational cartoonists working today, and it really, really sucks to see his work be spread without attribution. gilrain's comment has the correct attribution links.
posted by sawdustbear at 4:20 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Question for, well, stavros and others who understand this better than I do: How does the Korean language account for F or V sounds?

It doesn't, or at least written Korean doesn't. There are sounds in English (for example) that simply don't exist in spoken Korean, and vice versa. The Korean alphabet is superbly suited for expressing the sounds that exist in Korean, less good with sounds that don't (which include f, v, both forms of th, z, zh and others). This is one of the great challenges for Korean foreign language learners.

Koreans can and do learn to pronounce those sounds, but there is no way to accurately express them with Korean characters. They tend to get pronounced as p or b, the nearest phonetic equivalents in Korean, until people can master the sounds (which requires them to stop 'visualizing' the English words as being written in hangeul).

The same goes in reverse, of course, for learners of Korean -- getting aspiration and glottal tension right for consonant sounds is important in Korean, for example, whereas (unlike English) voicing is much less important.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:30 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


At some point in elementary school, my friends and I used the Korean alphabet as a secret code for passing notes. Mind you, I was the only kid who was going to Korean language school on the weekends, everyone else just got a one-hour crash course in hangeul and a top-secret decoder sheet.

I sympathize with everyone who has tried to learn new phonemes. The Korean language has several that are a doozy for native English speakers; the distinction between the aspirated ㅍ and more propulsive ㅃ seems imaginary to many Korean-language learners. Per Navelgazer's question, there are no phonemes for F or V. The "p" "h" and "b" sounds are the closest. If you pronounced the hangeul listing for McDonald's french fries in Korea, you'd be saying "hoo-rench hoo-ries." That said, South Koreans have taken so many English classes that pretty much everyone under the age of 40 can pronounce F if they are thinking about it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Question for, well, stavros and others who understand this better than I do: How does the Korean language account for F or V sounds?

F and V ends up being pronounced as P and B. So five ends up sounding like pibe.
posted by cazoo at 4:47 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll study this between episodes of Coffee Prince.
posted by THAT William Mize at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that learning to read Korean is not so bad (thanks to the phonetic alphabet), but pronouncing it correctly can be tricky.

A friend and I went to Seoul for a weekend vacation from Tokyo, and saw a paperback book in the giftshop of a museum called "Learn to read Korean in 15 minutes". So, we slapped down some won, got some beers at the museum cafe, and spent some downtime learning Korean. It actually took us closer to 45 minutes, buy by the end I think we had it down. It really seemed to make a world of difference going around the city - like all the signs went from something more like hieroglyphs to something more like German. That is, the words weren't recognizable, but they were readable! Thing is, we'd see signs for foreign words like McDonald's and phoneticize the Korean out, and realize that even familiar words weren't pronounced the same.

Under an hour to learn, and I think it only takes just about as long to forget, as well!
posted by Metro Gnome at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


The great thing about Korean is that, just like Japanese, it relies on Chinese compounds for technical or more abstract words, much like English makes use of Latin in the same way. So if you can speak Japanese you can generally get the gist of some technical documentation... if you master Hangul.

And, very generally speaking, Japanese and Korean share some grammatical patterns and conventions. In theory, it's a no-brainer to try to learn Korean if you speak Japanese, or vice versa.

Learning Korean is something I've wanted to do for a while. It's January, not too late to embark on a New Year's resolution, so maybe I will carve out 20 minutes a day as a start.

This post may change my life!
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I vaguely resented my brother and new sister-in-law for just explaining everything right off the bat for me on this visit to Korea. Last time, I'd gotten pretty good at Hangul, but sometimes I need to puzzle over something, and they were just so goddamned helpful that I couldn't do the work of learning.
posted by klangklangston at 5:42 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw this on stavros' MLKSHK a few weeks ago and considered posting it here. It's really great. Also, I updated the link from imgr to the source.
posted by mathowie at 5:57 PM on January 17, 2013


Ah, I was just about to suggest aloud that some mod could fix the link, but that darn mathowie went and done done it! (I like constructions in which it's legal to repeat words.)
posted by JHarris at 6:12 PM on January 17, 2013


(Quotation from something I wrote on 6 April 2012)

The academic in me finds problems with this pictorial guide to "reading" Korean.

One problem is over-simplification. For example, the concept of batchim is omitted, which is only one kind of exception to the "rules" as summarized. Other exceptions include irregular spelling and pronunciation. 같이 which translates into English as "together" is not pronounced "got-ee" but "ga-chee", and 같이 is a fundamental word in conversational Korean. (I also happen to think it a very beautiful word.)

The other problem is much more complex and falls under the category of cultural colonization. I'm certain were I to give my opinions concrete form, people who encountered them would feel hurt and angry about the claims I make. So, I'll let it alone for now.

Overall, I think the comic is fantastic for people unfamiliar with 한굴, especially if it gets them curious about learning more.
posted by mistersquid at 6:18 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer: "Question for, well, stavros and others who understand this better than I do: How does the Korean language account for F or V sounds?"

I can't say I understand Korean much. But I've seen Korean folks cheering on Starcraft players! The common cheer is "fighting!", like the Japanese "faito!". It's spelled 화이팅 , which would be romanized as "hwaiting".
posted by vasi at 6:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was shocked when, on my way to Korea last year, a friend from Seoul instructed me to "spend the last hour or two of the flight in learning to read Korean." I thought for sure she was joking or delusional.

Amazingly, I spent about 2 hours with the bilingual (Korean/English) man in the seat next to me teaching me the alphabet, and by the time I got off the plane I was only nominally intimidated by Korean signage. I attribute it to the similarities in both the structure of the letters themselves (vertical lines, semicircles, and other familiar letter shapes) and the number of letters. I don't know a damn thing about linguistics, but I was amazed at how fun and easy it was to pick it up.

Plus, all of the Korean people I spent time with got a huge kick out of watching and helping me work words out, and they got a lot of laughs at my failings. So, yeah: great language, great place. I try to avoid categorically defining entire national populations, but Koreans are just flat-out kind. Most outgoing and friendly people I've ever been around.
posted by broadway bill at 6:59 PM on January 17, 2013


What KokuRyu said. My most successful attempt to learn Japanese was using a Korean-language textbook. My brain could convert between Korean and Japanese way more easily than from/to English and either language.

While I was taking intensive Korean language classes in Seoul as a 20-something, I taught basic English in an after-school program at the local elementary school. The kids were irritated to have to remember both capital and lowercase letters and then basically threw their collective hands in the air once we covered the multiple ways to pronounce "-ough".

I suspect the English language / the Roman alphabet handles loan words better in part because of those inconsistencies in pronunciation. Even with the common irregularities in hangul usage that mistersquid pointed out, Korean is much more straightforward. (Scientific dare I say?)
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:06 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Overall, I think the comic is fantastic for people unfamiliar with 한굴, especially if it gets them curious about learning more.

That is clearly and obviously the intended audience.

One problem is over-simplification.


It's a single-serving comic, for goodness sakes. I think it does quite well what it sets out to do, particularly given the limitation of the form.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:27 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Learned it more or less on the way here in '02--took a little less than an hour I guess. Great writing system, for sure. Of course there are some tricky ones: Wangshimni looks like Wangshipli, for example, but I could do menus at least on day one in Seoul. Three cheers for King Sejong.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:32 PM on January 17, 2013


The kids ... threw their collective hands in the air once we covered the multiple ways to pronounce "-ough".

Give 'em the old gag: how do you pronounce "ghoti"?


("fish"--gh as in tough, o as in women, ti as in motion...)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:34 PM on January 17, 2013


What KokuRyu said. My most successful attempt to learn Japanese was using a Korean-language textbook. My brain could convert between Korean and Japanese way more easily than from/to English and either language.

The English-Korean textbooks are kind of hard to use compared some Japanese-Korean ones I've picked up. Both languages use different registers (aka "politeness levels"), which is really hard to parse into English.

Plus there are some formal idioms that don't have a counterpart in English - like what to say when visiting someone's home or workplace, what to say before or after dinner, that sort of thing.

So a Japanese-Korean phrasebook is kind of fun to use with my Korean friends here in Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:47 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The great thing about Korean is that, just like Japanese, it relies on Chinese compounds for technical or more abstract words, much like English makes use of Latin in the same way. So if you can speak Japanese you can generally get the gist of some technical documentation... if you master Hangul.

And, very generally speaking, Japanese and Korean share some grammatical patterns and conventions. In theory, it's a no-brainer to try to learn Korean if you speak Japanese, or vice versa.


Another anecdote for you. When I was studying abroad in Japan, we had an exam that placed us into the appropriate level Japanese class. For the level that I was placed in, the average amount of time that we studied Japanese was about 1-1.5 years in a classroom setting. This was a fairly broad sample of students from different countries, Anglophones, Francophones, Sinophones, and a couple of other European languages were represented I believe.

The only exception to this were the native Korean speakers. They had all studied Japanese for about 3-6 months to get placed into the same class.
posted by C^3 at 8:21 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like constructions in which it's legal to repeat words.

People that do do it as often as they can.

posted by maryr at 8:48 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the attribution - I'd bookmarked this on Imgur the other day as it looked potentially quite useful (especially if I'm going to keep getting hooked on Korean dramas - finished the aforementioned Coffee Prince of Christmas break), but I'm happy to be able to go to the source instead.
posted by maryr at 8:50 PM on January 17, 2013


It's pretty easy to learn to read Russian, too. Just learn the sounds of the letters and sound out the words. Russian and English are both derived from Greek, so you already have most of the vocabulary.
posted by neuron at 10:07 PM on January 17, 2013


"You are linguist, no? So listen, and try to understand."
posted by No-sword at 10:12 PM on January 17, 2013


Thanks for all the answers on F and V. I knew that they were absent phonemes in East Asian languages in general, but I also knew that, well, for instance with my last name, Smith, there are ways to make it fit (Sumitzu is the approximation I've heard in Japanese. The version google translate gives me for Korean is closer to See-mu-see) and I just got curious looking at this alphabet wondering how it handled those obviously foreign phonemes. And the answer appears to be, "at least as well as western alphabets handle East Asian phonemes, especially tonal ones."
posted by Navelgazer at 10:19 PM on January 17, 2013


Korean "Smith" would sound more like "Su ME su" with both "su" syllables being more like the "oo" in "book" (but even closer to "e"s).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:34 PM on January 17, 2013


Yeah that's the way Koreans who have trouble with th would say it, although the long i (이) sound isn't always as long as all that.

스미스 would be the rendering, I think. Maybe with an extra ㅅ closing the second syllable to provide a quick stop to better simulate the /θ/...? Probably not -- that's just messy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:02 AM on January 18, 2013


Russian and English are both derived from Greek, so you already have most of the vocabulary.

Russian and English are not derived from Greek. They're related to Greek, since all three are Indo-European languages, but Russian and English are distant cousins to Greek, not descended from it. Here is a version of the Indo-European family tree from Wikipedia. Note how high up the tree these languages were separated.

There are some Greek loanwords in both, but the majority of the commonly used vocabulary in English and Russian is not Greek in origin.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:08 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Navelgazer: "The version google translate gives me for Korean is closer to See-mu-see"

Just a little note, the 시 phoneme, that looks like it should sound like the English "see", is actually pronounced like the English "she". For some reason, "see" is an illegal sound in Korean—I think Japanese is similar?
posted by vasi at 2:17 AM on January 18, 2013


Which the 8-year-old in me finds hilarious even after all these years, because L1 pronunciation effect on L2 (L1 being Korean here and L2 English) means that Koreans, unless they catch themselves, always pronounce any 'si' or soft-c 'ci' as if it were 시, so people are always shitting down and loving life in the big shitty.

I find it hard to predict what's going to give me the giggles, but I'm happy that at my advanced age, I still get 'em.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, I was just into a few cups and in error when I wrote my last comment last night. Su-ME-su, or 스미스, seems to be the most accurate. I'm still curious for a decent Japanese approximation.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2013


You actually can make the "see" sound in Korean, but it's actually written as 씨, which is not addressed in the link.

And, yes, Smith would be 스미스. Also, in Korean, the first syllable tends to stressed, rather than the second. So, Smith would be better rendered as SU-mi-su, although the initial SU isn't as strong as a stressed English syllable would be.

I'm surprised to see that "book" was turned into 븍, although I guess it makes sense. When I was growing up, "book" would have been written as 북, although the ㅜ in 북 is more like the "oo" in foot.
posted by tickingclock at 12:31 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I've seen Smith written as 스미트, just to address the /θ/ (th) sound at the end, but I think that rendering is much rarer than 스미스 suggested above.

On Korean being engineered: I once visited my little cousin in Paris, who was fascinated by my English; until then, his only two languages had been French and Korean, and had no concept of other languages. He then asked his dad, in his cute French accent, "누가 영어를 inventer 했어요?" (Who invented English?)
posted by tickingclock at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2013


You actually can make the "see" sound in Korean, but it's actually written as 씨, which is not addressed in the link.

Absolutely. Which means that 'ss' in English maps nicely to the double-siot in 씨, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:31 PM on January 19, 2013


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