Hangul, the Korean Language

Studying Korean and Similarities to Chinese

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Hangul, the Korean Language

Hangul, the Korean Language

Even though I love China, Chinese languages and my Mandarin is far from perfect, I started learning Korean because I have grown fond of the Korean culture. It has been a long time since I started from zero to start a new language and I must say I love the challenge. I always wanted to be able to speak more than one Asian language and besides Cantonese, Korean is so interesting to me. I would like to share with you guys how I started studying Korean, what methods I am using and how Mandarin skills can help when learning Korean. 

During my time at university in the US, I had a lot of Asian classmates and the last two quarters the majority of them came form Korea; this is how I became more interested in their culture and language.

Koreans do not use the same characters like in Mandarin. However, they did up until 1400. Before that time, Koreans used the same characters like in China but pronunciation varied. Then Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, developed an easier system, the Korean alphabet, which was completed by 1443. The Korean alphabet, called Hangul, consists of of 24 consonant and vowel letters, which makes it actually easier to read and pronounce than Chinese.

Hangul consist of two groups of consonants and vowels.

StHangul consist of two groups of consonants and vowels.

However, Hangul works differently than the Latin alphabet in which you put the letter after each other. Hangul letters are grouped into blocks, such as 한 han, each of which transcribes a syllable. That is, although the syllable 한 han may look like a single character, it is actually composed of three letters: ㅎ h, ㅏ a, and ㄴ n.

Study Tools

I have never taken a class in Korean or had a teacher for it, I am just studying by myself. Also, I did not buy an actual textbook or anything yet, I have just been learning from online resources, and here’s which:

  • Apps:
    I am using several apps that focus on different topics. A few apps only concentrate on phrases, others on vocabulary and others on hangul (the Korean alphabet).
  1. Nemo Korean
    An iPhone app for Korean phrases I like to use. They offer clear pronunciation and hangul with the phonetic version so I can better read it.
  2. Korean 123
    This app is the stereotype of a Korean learning app. It has cheesy Korean music and anime-like characters that teach you the Korean alphabet with pronunciation and vocabulary. I really like this app even though it is entirely in Korean, which can be a little hard but it is made for little kids who learn the language and that’s the best way.
  3. Korean – English Dictionary by Bravolo
    Very good for learning vocabulary of course. Nothing more to add here.
  • Online Textbooks in PDF:
    Luckily, I found a few PDF files of textbooks for free online! And there is one that is particularly awesome and especially explains Korean grammar very very well.
    It is called “Basic Korean – A Grammar and Workbook”. You can find it here.

Similarities to Chinese

There actually are a lot of Korean words with a very similar pronunciation to Mandarin Chinese.

Cheers!         Ganbei in Chinese                 Geonbae in Korean

Really?          Zhen de in Chinese               Jinjia in Korean (sounds very similar to zhen de)

Library           Tushuguan in Chinese         Doseogwan in Korean

Here are more similar words:

My Progress

I have only studied Korean for a few weeks and did not dedicate as much time to it as I should because I am still busy getting my Bachelor’s. However, I am graduating in a little while and then I’ll have much more time to focus on studying Korean. However, I am very proud that I basically got the Korean alphabet down and can therefore read Korean words. I might not know what they mean but I can read and pronounce them. That’s gotta be worth something, right?

Does anybody have some tips how I could learn Korean better? Anyone made the same experience with Chinese and Korean?

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

No Comments

  1. myhongkonghusband on March 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I think they still used it in 20th century – my husband’s Korean co-worker can read some Chinese character because he was taught at school but now no one uses it so in Korean mall we have troubles haha 🙂 good luck in studying Korean! cannot wait for your progress 🙂 you’re so multitalented! 🙂

    • lindalindsch on March 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Yes they apparently use Chinese characters for their names or something…

  2. Feifei on March 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I started taking Korean as an electional course last term. In my opinion Chinese and Korean are quite different. Although our teacher often says that a word in Korean almost sounds the same in Chinese, I find they are not that similar. Our teacher doesn’t speak Chinese, so maybe that’s why. But I have to admit, knowing Chinese is helpful. For example, we are now learning the two counting system, and the one derived from the Chinese language is a lot easier to remember. The one thing I don’t like about Korean, is the conjunction of verbs, it’s so complicated. We don’t use a textbook in class, just the teaching materials our teacher made. If you want, I can email them to you. It’s written in Dutch, but since Dutch is similar to German it may be useful. 🙂

    • lindalindsch on March 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Oh cool! Awesome, yeah could you send that to me? I am sure it is helpful! Yes, I do think that certainly the languages are not the same but like you said it helps a little to know Chinese.
      But yeah, grammar sounds pretty hard in Korean compared to Chinese 😀

  3. Marta on March 6, 2014 at 3:03 am

    You can watch Korean dramas to practice listening! (with subtitles, of course). During my first year in Beijing all my friends were Korean and just listening to them I could learn some words haha. Specially related to food! They eat all the time! And I remember them saying “Really?” all the time… sounded like “chinchá?”.
    And I also think there are a lot of words that sound similar.
    I think Korean language sounds cute. 加油 with your study!

    • lindalindsch on March 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

      yeah that’s a great idea! thanks Marta!

  4. Mélody on March 6, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Hi, I can also recommend you to study with Talk To me In Korean http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/. They are awesome and all for free (except if you buy their books). This is how I started to learn Korean and now I’m learning Chinese. There are some similarities that helps to learn Chinese.
    Anyway good luck with korean ! ^^

    • lindalindsch on March 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Thanks Mélody that website looks great!! thanks so much for recommending! Good luck with ypur Chinese!!

  5. Behind the Story on March 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    You’re a hard-working girl, Linda. Good luck in your study of Asian languages.

    My Korean friend, who might be 70 years old by now, not only reads Chinese characters, she does excellent calligraphy, making wall hangings of poetry using Chinese characters. She and I studied Chinese brush painting together. After about 10 years, I stopped painting, but she’s still at it. She painted some beautiful horses for the the Year of the Horse.

  6. scott on March 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

    watching korean dramas is the worst idea ever. they inherently dumb down people’s intelligence. actually, i take that back. it applies to all dramas.

  7. Natalie on March 18, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Actually, I’ve had a similar experience to yours- I’ve been learning Mandarin for a little over four years now, but about two years ago I became interested in Korea and started learning Korean. Lately it’s been hit and miss for studying because of Chinese exams (I’m a junior in high school) but I love it a lot. Korean and Chinese are very different, but they also have their similarities. I’m so jealous of my friend Sally because she speaks Canto and Mandarin fluently, and I’m just sitting here like ( ;´Д`) so I feel your pain about not being fluent.
    Good luck with your studies! Wish you the best! 加油!

  8. mang0es on April 22, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    the similarities is also apparent in the sino-korean number system, or well at least the first three numbers. “eel”, “ee”, “sam” in sino-korean. “yet”, “ee”, “sam” in cantonese.

    • lindalindsch on April 22, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Yes good that you mention that! Very similar!

  9. ninjaitis on September 2, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Actually, Japanese and Korean are thought of linguistically to be the most closely related languages to one another. I might post about the similarities of J/K because even full phrases sound really similar to both ears! Japanese still retains a lot of similar pronunciation to Chinese, but the grammar structure is fundamentally different.

    • lindalindsch on September 2, 2014 at 8:43 am

      oh yes! Japanese and Korean are much more similar to each other than Korean and Chinese! But since I don’t speak or study Japanese I usually try to find similarities between Chinese and Korean and there are a lot actually! entire words are the same sometimes! so cool!

      • I-wrote-this on December 4, 2014 at 5:13 am

        I heard that it is helpful to learn both chinese and korean if you want to learn Japanese XD Korean for the grammar and chinese for vocabulary XDD Korean and Japanese are easy to read. [if you ignore the hanja and kanji]
        i like to see chinese writing because it looks ‘mystical’ lol,

        • lindalindsch on December 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

          yes. Chinese is the only written language still existing that is pictorial (even if it’s not all characters, but it’s how it started). Chinese characters are beautiful which makes me eager to study hard and learn them but then Korean writing is so beautiful to me as well and it’s easy cause it’s an alphabet!

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