With most of the country in continued lockdown, I’m still confined to my apartment from which all my teaching, class preparation and self studying takes place. In order to feel a sense of progress and purpose I’ve created a detailed study routine for myself with several chapters to be read every single day. If you follow me on instagram, you know that I recently did two major book hauls from Korea. What can I say, there is no such thing as too many books. No. Such. Thing. Anyway, among my recent purchases was a few gems from Korean language publisher Darakwon. I first got my hands on their newest titles for advanced learners aspiring to study in Korea. One is for humanities students and another is for economics students.

I loved them and learned and relearned plenty of fancy expressions with each of them. Then I realized that a few years earlier, two similar titles had been published. From the looks of it they didn’t seem to be all that similar, so I ended up buying the older versions too.

I’m so glad I did. The two sets of books are completely different in both style and form and each contain so many useful tips. I’m almost done with the one for humanities and it contains so many neat side notes on Korean grammar and pronunciation. I’m fairly well-versed in most advanced Korean grammar but there still are pronunciation issues that continue to bother me. I always strive for perfection in everything I do and here I was offered concrete tips on how to improve. It made so excited that I wanted to share my newfound knowledge with you all here.

Because I’m sure that you’ve been puzzled by the sounds of Korean more times that you can count if you’ve spent more than a few hours trying to decipher this intriguing and at times seemingly impossible language. I know I have. I remember when I had to use the word 열정 I in preparation for a speech five years ago and kept mispronouncing it. What I failed to understand then, was that I was supposed to put more pressure on the last syllable and not say in a more flowing manner like I would in English. Had I just known the following rules then, it would all have made sense.

된소리

I’d never heard this word before but it means fortis or tensification. It’s a rule that states that all consonants following a ㄹ i a hanja-based word must be pronounced with fortis. That means that 열정 must be pronounced 열쩡. 갈등 –> 갈뜽, 절도 –> 절또, 물질 –> 물찔, 발전 –> 발쩐, 부활절 –> 부활쩔 etc.

You’ll even see this pronunciation in parentheses when you look up words in the naver online dictionary. It didn’t say in the book, but it seems to me that the same rules are applying after syllables that end in ㅂ. The opposite of 된소리/fortis is 예사소리/lenis.

If you’re really into the nitty-gritty of this pronunciation change, I recommend checking out this link or this blog.

I also find that this rule helps explain why I’ve seen so many Koreans over the years have write 할께 instead of 할게 in text messages. Because that’s how it’s pronounced.

소리의 동화

This means the assimilation of sounds and is the exact opposite rule. Here we pronounce things in a slightly softer and even more lazy manner than what’s written. A few examples that involve the usually tricky ㄹ. After a syllable ending in ㅁ, ㅇ, ㄱ or ㅂ, Koreans tend to pronounce ㄹ as ㄴ. 능력 –> 능녁, 합리적 –> 합니적, 동료 –> 동뇨, 왕심리 –> 왕심니 etc. Note when ㄴ and ㄹ follow each other they are merged in sound into a double-ㄹ like in 한류 –> 할류.

구개음화

This rule applies to ㄷ and ㅌ when they are followed by ㅣ. Their sounds are changed to ㅈ and ㅊ respectively. 굳이 –> 구지, 같이 –> 가치, 닫히다 –> 다치다 etc.

I make a daily ritual of practicing my pronunciation by reading a text aloud while recording it or by shadowing a youtube video or podcast. I’ll make a habit of paying more attention to these rules in the future. Practice makes perfect, right?

Did you find this helpful? Please share any comments or tips you may have! Happy Sunday!

2 Comments »

  1. Those tips about pronunciation are always so useful, thanks for sharing them !
    I am still trying to memorize all of them, and they enter little by little, like I finally got a hold on “ㄹ as ㄴ” like in “식용유”.

    By the way I wanted to ask, in your previous post, which app are you using for speech to text, to train the pronunciation ?

    Good luck with your routine, it’s so hard to keep up with one ! I’ve set one up and it’s definitely ups and downs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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