Wednesday, April 7, 2010

English Word Sounds that Don't Appear in the Korean Alphabet

The Korean alphabet is made up of letters that are pronounced phonetically. This is great for someone who is learning to read Korean because the pronunciation is consistent from word to word. The problem comes when attempting to "Korean-ize" English words. Korean society is being infiltrated by American culture, but there are some word sounds that just don't translate. For example...

  • The letter for "r" and "l" is the same. This has resulted in many, many stereotypes against Asian culture. The Korean alphabet has a character ㄹ that sounds like an "r" and an "l" combined. Impossible, you say? Sort of. I've been trying for months and I still can't quite do it right.
  • There is no letter that sounds like "i." This is one of those things that only becomes a problem when writing English words in Korean. The Korean alphabet just doesn't have this vowel sound. Instead, the sound for "i" is made by writing two vowel's consecutively: "ah" plus "ee." If you say it fast, you can see how these sounds together make an "i."
  • There is no letter that sounds like "f." This is usually solved by using the letter for "p" instead, and these sounds are close enough to keep me satisfied with the translation. However, on occasion the letter "h" will be used, which leads to ridiculous words like "hu-rench hu-ries."
  • There is no letter that sounds like "v." This is a fairly minor complaint because "b" and "v" have very similar sounds. In fact, I mainly mention it for two reasons. The first is the popularity of Valentine's (or Balentine's) Day here. The second reason is the popularity of the movie Avatar, or as it is written in Korean and pronounced by all of my students, Abatah.


  1. herro sisterrr, ahee robe you!

  2. haha, wow, it all makes sense now!