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If you are an absolute beginner, please start your Korean learning career by going over hangul, the Korean alphabet.
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If you don’t know how to type and input Korean hangul yet, be sure to check out our Korean IME (Input Method Editor). You don’t need to install anything, as long as your computer can display Korean characters. After becoming a member, you may create your own vocabulary list easily by using our online Korean IME to input Korean characters.
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You may wonder why when you hear Korean words with consonants ㅂ ㄷ ㄱ or ㅈ, sometimes they are b-, d-, g- and j-like, but some other times they are p-, t-, k-, and ch-like respectively. One of the factors effecting their pronunciations is voicing.
Voicing is one of the 3 important concepts for Korean pronunciations. If you are not sure what voicing is, please review this post. In a nutshell, all Korean vowels are always voiced, so are nasal consonants ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ and consonant ㄹ. On the other hand, all other consonants are voiceless when they are at the beginning of a word. As a result, ㅂ ㄷ ㄱ or ㅈ are more p-like, t-like, k-like, and ch-like than b-like, d-like, g-like and j-like respectively at the beginning of a word.
But how about when these consonants are pronounced in between a word? They become fully voiced, i.e., ㅂ ㄷ ㄱ or ㅈ becomes b-, d-, g- and j-like respectively when they are pronounced in between voiced sounds. It explains why, for the same consonant symbol, you may hear different sounds at different situations.
|비||rain||ㅂ is voiceless|
|나비||butterfly||ㅂ is b-like|
|다||all||ㄷ is voiceless|
|바다||sea||ㄷ is d-like|
|개||dog||ㄱ is voiceless|
|무지개||rainbow||ㄱ is g-like|
|자리||location||ㅈ is voiceless|
|여자||woman||ㅈ is j-like|
|잎 아니야||[입] 아니야||it is not a leaf||ㅂ is b-like|
|맛 없어요||[맏] 없어요||it is tasteless||ㄷ is d-like|
|밖 어두워||[박] 어두워||outside is dark||ㄱ is g-like|
As you can see from the second set of examples, voicing can apply across word boundary, if the ending consonant needs to be pronounced as ㅂ ㄷ or ㄱ, and the following word begins with a vowel.
|At the beginning of a word|
|ㅂ||voiceless, more p-like than b-like|
|ㄷ||voiceless, more t-like than d-like|
|ㄱ||voiceless, more k-like than g-like|
|ㅈ||voiceless, more ch-like than j-like|
|Between two voiced sounds within a word|
|ㅂ||fully voiced, b-like|
|ㄷ||fully voiced, d-like|
|ㄱ||fully voiced, g-like|
|ㅈ||fully voiced, j-like|
|At the end of a word followed by a word beginning with a vowel|
|ㅂ||fully voiced, b-like|
|ㄷ||fully voiced, d-like|
|ㄱ||fully voiced, g-like|
|ㅈ||does not apply|
If you are interested in inputting Asian characters, for example, you want to create your own vocabulary lists, but you are not sure how to input the characters, or your computer does not have that capability, now you can use our online input method editor to do so.
I used to call this online IME a typewriter, but I guess not many of you associated a “typewriter” as something you can use to type Asian characters, and I hope by using the more technical term IME (Input Method Editor), you know what it is all about.
If you haven’t tried it out yet, please give it a try. Below I am setting the default to type Korean, but you can use it to type Japanese or Chinese by simply clicking on the corresponding radio button.
Once you click on the input area above, a little menu will show up on top of the area for you to choose either the input script (Japanese and Chinese) or the input method (Korean). Your choice will be remembered. It should be useful for those who need to type Chinese and Korean, as you don’t need to come back every time to choose traditional or simplified script for Chinese, or Revised Romanization or Dubeolsik input method for Korean.
The Korean IME should be as good as any desktop solutions (on your Windows or Mac machine). If you are not sure how to type, please refer to the legend on this Learn to Type Korean page. Basically if you are an absolute beginner and wanna input some easy Korean, e.g. annyeonghaseyo (how are you), you may do so by using the Revised Romanization input method, but make sure you are aware that, the romanization system does not attempt to represent the sound of the words, instead, it is an one-to-one correspondence of Latin letters to Hangul Jamo. You will have a lot of typos if you simply try to type according to how Korean words sound like. For more details about Revised Romanization, please visit this wikipedia page.
Dubeolsik (2-bul Layout) is the national standard for Korean keyboard layout. It worths your time to learn how to type using Dubeolsik, if learning Korean is more than just a casual hobby for you. Again, please refer to this Learn to Type Korean page for a quick legend and explanation of this input method.
The Chinese Pinyin IME is quite primitive, you can only input one character at a time. So far it supports about the most frequently used 2000 characters. Also you will probably need to wait a bit before the choices will show up (below the input area). For instance, if you type de, 4 words will appear under the input area, namely 的 地 德 得, if you hit spacebar, you are gonna choose the first choice from the list, or you can either click on the word to choose, or press the number associated with the choice to choose. If more users are using it, I will spend more time to make it faster, and to make it support multi-character vocabularies.
The Japanese IME does not yet support inputting Kanji. I know this is definitely a must-have if I want more advanced Japanese learners to use the IME… for now, if you only need to input hiragana and katakana, it should be as good as any desktop solutions, and no installation is required!
I put the IME on the front page so that when you come back to the site, you don’t need to navigate through the site to find the IME and use it. Also, this IME will show up on input areas (supposed to have Chinese, Japanese or Korean vocabularies) when you are creating your vocabulary list. I hope it will make you easier to create your own vocabulary lists.
Let me know what you like and dislike, and if you want to see any additional features, or any bug you may have found, just leave me a comment below. Thank you!
Recall that tensing is one of the 3 important concepts for Korean pronunciations, and it is the easiest one to memorize – all the “doubles” ㅃ ㅉ ㄸ ㄲ ㅆ are tense. The opposite of tenseness is lax, and as you expect, ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ are lax consonants.
So when would you pronounce a lax consonant as a tense one? The whole idea of this kind of phonetic change is to make the pronunciation more natural, and if you ask a native speaker, most probably they would simply tell you “When it sounds more natural that way.” Fortunately, a lot of tensing occur with a regular rule, as follows:
When a consonant ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ or ㅅ follows another consonant other than the nasal (ㄴ ㅁ ㅇ) or ㄹ, you need to pronounce it as ㅃ ㅉ ㄸ ㄲ or ㅆ (i.e. tensing).
|좋습니다||[졷씀니다]||It is good|
|책 보세요||[책 뽀세요]||Please read the book|
As you can see from the last example, this tensing process can apply across word boundary, depending on the focus of the phrase or sentence.
Tensing without a Rule
While we have a regular rule for tensing, unfortunately there are many other Korean words which tensing applies without a rule. You will need to learn them on a case-by-case basis down the road of your Korean learning career.
|한자||Chinese characters [한짜]; one character [한 자]|
|시가||market price [시까]; city streets [시가]|
|장기||special talent [장끼]; chess [장기]|
|출장||business trip [출짱]|
|먹을 거||things to eat [머글 꺼]|
|먹은 거||things that I ate [머근 거]|
In the first 3 examples, you can see that different meanings in the same word are distinguished by with or without tensing in the second hangul. The last 2 examples is to demonstrate that the pattern with future tense modifier …을 거 is always tense but not the pattern with present/past tense modifier 는/은 거.
A lot of borrowed words have an optional tensing in the initial consonant, such as 바스 [바스 or 빠스] for bus, 바나나 [바나나 or 빠나나] for banana, or 게임 [게임 or 께임] for game. For native Korean words, very often tensing for the initial consonant is to emphasize intensity, such as 작아요 [짜가요] to emphasize it is small.
When you say thank you (감사합니다) in Korean, you say gam-sa-ham-ni-da. You do not say gam-sa-hab-ni-da, due to nasal assimilation.
Nasal assimilation, or nasalization, is a process to convert a consonant into one of the nasal sound ㅁ(m) ㄴ(n) ㅇ(ng). When an ending consonant of a hangul is followed by a hangul with a beginning consonant ㅁ(m) or ㄴ(n), then nasal assimilation takes place. See the table below for the assimilation process.
|Ending Consonant||Pronunciation||After Assimilation||Example|
|ㅂ ㅍ ㅄ ㄿ ㄼ||ㅂ||ㅁ||감사합니다 [감사함니다]|
|ㄷ ㅌ ㅈ ㅊ ㅅ ㅆ ㅎ||ㄷ||ㄴ||믿는다 [민는다]|
|ㄱ ㅋ ㄲ ㄳ ㄺ||ㄱ||ㅇ||작년 [장년]|
Here are more examples:
|Example||Pronunciation After Assimilation||Meaning|
|몇년||[면년]||how many years|
|갔나요?||[간나요]||Is he gone?|
|밥 먹어요||[밤 머거요]||I am eating rice|
|옷 많아요||[온 마나요]||There are many clothes|
As you can see in the last 2 examples, the nasal assimilation process can apply across word boundary, especially when you say it fast enough and do not pause between the words.
Recall that in spoken Korean, a sequence of sound is easier to pronounce when it is in a consonant-vowel sequence. It leads to an important pronunciation rule that, if a final consonant in a hangul is followed by a hangul without a beginning consonant, that final consonant “spills over” to the next hangul. A simple example is that you pronounce 음악 (music) as [으막], with the final consonant ㅁ “spills over” to 악 to make it 막.
Technically it is called resyllabification, or in a more layman term, consonant relinking. Consider when you say Thank you in English, you don’t utter “thank” and “you” separately, but you link the ending “k” to “you” in your pronunciation. In Korean, as you will see, this pronunciation rule is very common.
In the previous example, 음악 is a single word. How about cases like those in between word boundary in a phrase? In fact, as long as no pause is required between the words, this resyllabification rule applies. For example, 밖에 (outside) is pronounced as [바께], and 꼭 오세요 (please come by for sure) is pronounced as [꼬고세요].
When the final consonant is a complex one, i.e. ㄳ ㄺ ㄵ ㄶ ㄻ ㅄ ㄿ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ or ㅀ, you only “spill over” the final consonant that is on the right for the double final consonants. For example, you “spill over” ㅈ to make 앉아요 (sit down) pronounce as [안자요].
Here is a summary of the resyllabification rule:
|1||spill over within a word||음악||[으막]||music|
|2||spill over before a particle||밖에||[바께]||outside|
|3||spill over between words in a phrase||꼭 오세요||[꼬고세요]||please come by for sure|
|4||spill over for a complex final consonant||앉아요||[안자요]||sit down|