Saturday, June 07, 2008

발음 - 동화

We have a relief teacher, Ms Kim Jung Joo, for our SKS's class this week. She is a Samul-nori (사물놀이) teacher at SKS. I saw the Samul-nori performance put up by her students last year at the Korean Speech Contest and I must say that I was very impressed with their percussion skills. This Thursday, she came to class with a bad throat because she had over-exerted her voice box during her Samul-nori class in the afternoon. I could imagine how intensive the training must have been to the extent that she almost lost her voice.

During our lesson time, Ms Kim came across as a teacher who is very particular about our Korean pronunciation. I have yet to meet a teacher like her who goes after my pronunciation with so much vigour. I wonder if it has something to do with her being a music teacher. Perhaps mispronounced word, to her, sound like a wrong note or a beat that is off. She never failed to pick out and correct all my bad pronunciations. Due to her teaching, I discovered that I have a lot more to learn about proper pronunciation.

There is some good explanations about 발음 in the elementary-level KLPT preparatory book and I thought it may be useful to share them here since pronunciation is seldom taught and explained in class. To start off, it is best to go back to the basic. Of the 19 consonants (자음, 子音) in the Korean language, only 16 of them (ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ excluded) are used as "batchim" (받침). And of these 16 consonants, there are only 7 distinct sounds. It is important to recognise and remember these 7 "batchim" sounds as it will help a lot in understanding the many "deviations" in Korean pronunciation later.

1. ㄱ,ㄲ,ㅋ are pronounced as [ㄱ][k]
Example: 각,갂,갘 are all pronounced as [각][gak]

2. ㄷ,ㅌ,ㅅ,ㅆ,ㅈ,ㅊ,ㅎ are pronounced as [ㄷ][t]
Example: 닫,닽,닷,닸,닺,닻,닿 are all pronounced as [닫][dat]

3. ㅂ,ㅍ are pronounced as [ㅂ][p]
Example: 밥,밮 are all pronounced as [밥][bap]

4. The other four "batchim" sounds are ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, and ㅇ

One main difficulty of getting my Korean pronunciation correct is that I don't quite know when the pronunciation for a Korean word will change. And when a word sounds differently from its written form, I usually call that a "deviation". This just shows that, for a long time, I am quite ignorant of the rules governing the change in sound. My KLPT preparatory book has something to teach me about the "rules of change".

Nasalisation - 비음화, 鼻音化

When "batchim" ㄱ, ㄷ or ㅂ meets ㄴ or ㅁ, they will be "nasalised" in the following manner:

1. ㄱ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㅇ (Note: ㄱ includes ㄲ and ㅋ)
Example: 먹는다 [멍는다], 국물 [궁물], 작년 [장년], 박물관 [방물관]

2. ㄷ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㄴ (Note: ㄷ includes ㅌ,ㅅ,ㅆ,ㅈ,ㅊ,ㅎ)
Example: 걷는다 [건는다], 있는다 [인는다], 좋네요 [존네요], 엣날 [엔날]

3. ㅂ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㅁ (Note: ㅂ includes ㅍ)
Example: 합니다 [함니다], 십만원 [심만원], 입는다 [임는다], 싶는다 [심는다]

* In the case of 없는다, it should be pronounced as [엄는다] since 없다 is pronounced as [업다] and "업" has ㅂ as "batchim".

Lateralisation - 설측음화, 舌側音化

When ㄴ meets ㄹ, ㄴ will be "lateralised" to ㄹ in the following manner:

1. ㄴ + ㄹ → ㄹ
Example: 연락 [열락], 신라 [실라], 곤란 [골란], 원래 [월래]

2. ㄹ + ㄴ → ㄹ
Example: 설날 [설랄], 일년 [일련], 틀니 [틀리], 칼날 [칼랄]

Palatalisation - 구개음화, 口蓋音化

When "batchim" ㄷ or ㅌ meets the vowel "이", they will be "palatalised" in the following manner:

1. ㄷ + 이 → ㅈ
Example: 굳이 [구지], 해돋이 [해도지]

2. ㅌ + 이 → ㅊ
Example: 같이 [가치], 겉이 [거치]

My experience tells me that, even after understanding these rules, you will probably still read the Korean words as they are. To be able to make the right changes to the pronunciation, as and when required, will only come after a lot of practice. The truth is I am still struggling in this aspect. More often than not, I am still reading Korean words as they are, even when the situation warrants a change in the pronunciation. It means I need to put in a lot more effort so that I will not sound stiff or "딱딱해요" when speaking in Korean. That's all for today but this is not the end yet. More rules on 발음 shall be coming up.


  1. 딱딱해요 ^^
    I guess reading Hangul properly (and fast) is my biggest problem. Especially with names (이수영 is Lee!) and g-/k- sounds Q_Q
    So I usually listen to a lot of radio stations and series to get used to it although it might become rather colloquial then.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Neslihan, you are welcome ^^

  3. thanks for sharing..I'm having problem with this too ..gosh ><

  4. Practice makes perfect :)