How To Teach Yourself To Read Korean In 7 Easy Steps

There’s a very common misconception that if you can understand a particular language, you should be able to read it as well even if it’s written in the language’s specific alphabet.

The truth is that understanding a language doesn’t always mean you can read it. This is very true about the Korean language.

Like a lot of Asian countries, Korea has its own writing alphabet called the Hangul.

The Korean alphabet may look like an alien language to you but it’s actually not that difficult to learn with the right strategy.

To help you out, we have devised the following steps on how you can learn to read the Korean language as quickly as possible.

1. Know your Korean ABCs.

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Always keep in mind that you are starting from scratch. With that said, the very first step you should take is to familiarize yourself with the Korean alphabet as it corresponds to the Roman alphabet.

What is the letter “a” in Hangul? What is the letter “b” in Hangul? Are there variations of the letters?

These are very simple questions but they lay the foundation of your learning process. It would be very difficult to proceed with the other steps in this guide if you haven’t mastered your Korean ABCs.

It’s worth mentioning here that the Korean alphabet operates differently compared to the Roman alphabet.

2. Get a Hangul handbook.

There are a ton of these handbooks, a lot of which you can get online. Whether you are speaking, writing, or reading the Korean language, a handbook will serve as your portable tutor whenever you are confused about a particular word or phrase.

A handbook also allows you to review certain sentence structures and systems that you may have forgotten.

Learning to efficiently read Korean is all about mastering these structures so that the moment you see a sentence in Hangul, you can already deduce what it means or what it’s trying to say.

Preferably, you should get a Hangul handbook that’s portable and small enough to stick in your pocket.

3. Master the 11 letters associated with the Korean language.

In written form, Hangul has nine (9) consonants and two (2) vowels based on the sounds they may.

Below is a quick overview of these consonants and vowels and the sounds they make. This overview is taken from a simple guide by Ryan Estrada.

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na – as in nothing

ba – as in bucket

do – as in door

ga – as in gun

ra – as in rattlesnake

ma – as in map

no – as in nose

pa – as in part

sa – as in summit


ee – as in tree

oo – as in brook

Taking note of these consonants and vowels will make it easier for you to learn to read Hangul in the long run. These are the basics but they are instrumental in helping you learn faster if you plan on taking advanced Hangul lessons.

4. Read a lot of Korean poems.

This doesn’t sound like a good strategy but it’s very practical and effective once you try it. Reading poems written in Hangul is great for several reasons.

One, the poems often use evocative language that can help in expanding your Korean vocabulary.

Two, the poems are written on shorter phrases and stanzas which means they are easier to learn and digest.

And last but not the least, the poems give you a crash course on the idioms and types of figurative speech that Koreans use. You can also use the lyrics to Korean songs for your lessons if you ran out of poems to read.

5. Watch a lot of Korean movies with Hangul subtitles.

Watching subtitled movies is one of the most effective ways to see the connections between spoken and written language.

As you listen to the Korean words being uttered by the actors, you get to see how they are spelled and written in real time. In fact, a lot of foreigners rely on this technique to learn how to speak, write, and read in Hangul.

What’s great about watching a movie is that you can always pause it so you can closely study what’s written in the subtitles.

Another advantage of this technique is that you will be exposed to new words and phrases that are common in Korean culture and society.

6. Sing karaoke with Korean songs that have Hangul subtitles.

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This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go to a karaoke joint. Just get your hands on karaoke songs and have them played while you sing along while reading the Hangul lyrics on screen.

This is a great way to practice and hone your Hangul reading skills. There’s a lot of these Korean karaoke songs that are available online. You can find a ton of them on video-sharing sites like YouTube.

Again, just like watching a movie, you can always pause the songs so that you can analyse the words you are reading on the screen.

7. Use flashcards.

Since time immemorial, flashcards have served a very important role in language education. Flashcards help you memorize words and get acquainted with new ones. You can purchase ready-made flashcards or you can create your own.

There are also online applications that allow you to make digital flashcards and learn wherever you go. The more popular of these apps include Quizlet, Memrise, and Anki.

You can input Hangul words and see how they are written. The beauty of these apps is that they allow you to learn to read Hangul wherever you are.

In a nutshell, learning to read Korean isn’t a difficult task if you follow the right strategies.

The steps discussed above will help you get on the right direction. These steps are very practical and they will maximize the results you get from your efforts.

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