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I have just started learning Korean in an online course and I'm looking for resources that use mnemonics for Hangul or Hangeul, so I can learn the writing system in less time.

Are any such resources available? Digital or in print?

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  • P:erhaps someone knows whether this is true: I was told that the shape of the consonants relates to the place and manner of articulation of the consonant.
    – WGroleau
    Oct 24, 2017 at 18:13

3 Answers 3

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Ryan Estrada's Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes uses mnemonics. For example, for the consonants:

  • ㅂ looks like a bucket and is pronounced 'b' (the first consonant in 'bucket);
  • ㅁ looks like a map and is pronounced 'm';
  • ㄹ looks like a rattle snake and is pronounced 'r'.

For the vowels, he start with

  • ㅣ, which looks like a tree;
  • ㅡ, which looks like a brook.

He builds up the rest of the writing system from basics like these. The page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike licence (CC BY-NC-SA).

The German blog post Koreanisch lesen lernen in 30 Minuten contains a partial list of mnemonics. Curiously, some are based on German, while some are based on English.

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This is a YouTube video titled Learn to Read Korean in 5 Minutes (seriously); it covers the vast majority of the symbols that compose Hangul in a short and easy to understand format.

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The introduction of the textbook "Integrated Korean: Beginning 1" by Cho et al. is a useful academic resource for picking up mnemonics for some letters, especially the letters whose shapes correspond to human anatomy used for speech.

Most usefully, the authors wrote that: "Consonant letters originally depicted the speech organs that produce consonant sounds: the lips, tooth, tongue, and throat." Therefore, they wrote that (from page 25):

  • ㅁ (mieum) is pronounced as "m" because the shape is similar to a mouth with closed lips
  • ㄴ (nieun) is pronounced as "n" because it is the shape of one's tongue touching the ridge of one's upper gum
  • ㅅ (siot) is pronounced as "s" because it looks like a tooth, which is used to make hissing sounds
  • ㄱ (giyeok) is pronounced as "k/g" because it is the shape of one's tongue touching one's soft palate to make the "k/g" sound
  • ㅇ (ng) is pronounced as "ng" because the sound comes from one's throat, which looks circular when looking down one's throat

This learning approach may be particularly helpful to beginners, as it takes a historical perspective that demonstrates the "why" behind the development of some of the letter shapes for Hangul.

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