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Review: Similar Sounds

Before we go over the sounds that are difficult to tell apart for non-native speakers we'll start by reviewing some letters that are pronounced the same in modern Korean (originally they did sound different).

Identical sounding letters

Simple Vowels:
The two vowelsandare usually not distinguishable when spoken by young people with a Seoul accent. Other parts of the country or older speakers may distinguish these two but don't worry about it. Of course for spelling you need to use the correct one.

e (에) ae (애)


W Semi-Vowels:
The three W Semi-vowels,andare not distinguishable in spoken Korean but for spelling you need to use the correct one.

oe wae we


Similar Vowels
All the Korean vowels (except and) have a distinct sounds. The problem for English speakers is that multiple vowels sounds can be represented by the same letter:

Vowel sounds sometimes represented with "u":
eu
u

Vowel sounds sometimes represented with "o":
o
eo

Vowel sounds sometimes represented with "a":
a
에 & 애 e/ae

Similar Consonants
Non-native speakers often have trouble distinguishing between the plain, tense and aspirated form of the basic vowels. Here they are side by side:

Plain Tense Aspirated
b/p

pp

p'

t/d

tt

t'

s

ss

none
ch/j

tch

ch'

k/g

kk

k'