How Other Languages Help Me with Korean Pronunciation

In February or March of this year, I started learning Korean. It has been a dream of mine to learn an Asian language, specifically Japanese or Korean. Having focused all my time on the romance languages and not having time to start focusing on an Asian language, I decided that I was going to make time. That is when I took a Korean class for beginners in France. Whenever I learn a new language, I try to make connections with my other languages to see if that could make my learning experience easier and quicker. I noticed some similarities in pronunciation between Korean and English as well as Korean and the romance languages. These similarities do not guarantee that I will pronounce words perfectly, and I do not want to form bad habits when pronouncing words in Korean because of my observations, but I thought I would share with other learners out there what I have noticed during my studies:

The vowels 아, 이, 우 and 애/에 remind me of the vowels in Spanish. Is the pronunciation exactly the same? No. However, it is closer than their English counterparts.

Pronouncing Korean words with a ㄹ can be hard. Although this is not always the case, ㄹ reminds me a lot of the sound an “r” in Spanish makes when it is by itself in the middle or at the end of the word. (Ex. The sound of the r in the word pero)

My knowledge of Spanish has also helped me better pronounce the Korean consonants ㄷ and ㅂ. In Spanish the “t”, “d”, and “p” sounds are not aspirated.

ㅇ before a vowel makes it silent, but sometimes it can have the nasally sound “ng.” While nasal sounds exist in English, they are more emphasized in languages such as French and Portuguese. This helped me when trying to say words like 빵 (bread) in Korean.

Of course, having English as my first language has given me an advantage when it comes to pronouncing the consonant ㅎ which is aspirated. It sounds like an “h” in English. This does not exist in Spanish nor French as the letter “h” never gets pronounced. If you are a native English speaker, this sound should come to you very naturally.

There are even more aspirated consonants in Korean that can sound like English such as: ㅋ,ㅌ,ㅊ,ㅍ or romanized as k, t, ch, and p.

ㅓ can be tricky at first. It is romanized as “eo” but it sounds like the “o” in the word “coffee, “bought,” or “cot.” Once again, this is a sound that I have not come across in my studies of the romance languages, but it is pretty common in American English, depending on where you are from.

It has been said by polyglots and language-learners everywhere that the more languages you know, the easier it is for you to learn another language. Korean is known for being hard to those who speak English or a romance language as their first language. The grammar is not at all alike. Even so, when you start to make connections with your own language when it comes to pronunciation, this makes learning the language a bit easier. Do you notice any similarities in pronunciation between languages you are learning and languages you know? Be sure to share in the comments below!

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