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The trick I use to remember which vowels make which sound is to pretend that each symbol is like an arrow, telling me which direction my breath should go.Try to remember this while you study!

Hangeul is a very scientific, logical and simple to learn alphabet. Therefore, it can be quite surprising to think that it is based very heavily on oriental philosophy. As we move on to study the Hangeul vowels, it's important to stop and learn a little bit about what notions they were based on.  If you haven't yet, please take a moment and read Oriental Philosophy in Hangeul. 

The theory of Cheonjiin states that the universe is made up of three things, Heaven (.), earth (ㅡ) and man (ㅣ). The symbols for each of these things are combined in various ways to create the hangeul vowels. It should be noted that the dot symbolizing heaven is now often wrote as a short horizontal line rather than a dot.  These basic vowels can be put together to create combined vowels sounds (known as dipthongs). But once you know the basics vowels, its easy to understand the combined vowels.


The first vowel, "ㅏ", is a combination of man (ㅣ) and Heaven (.).  "ㅏ" is pretty much equivilent to the letter "A" in English.  Open your mouth wide and say "Ah.....", and you will likely be prounouncing "ㅏ" quite accurately.  Take notice of how the air is being pushed outward from your mouth.  Think of the symbol  "ㅏ" as an arrow, telling you which direction your breath should be flowing.

Vowel Sound

Pronunciation Tips (similar sounds in American English)

Sample Vocab
ㅏ  announcer, father  아이 (child) 
ㅑ  ya  yacht  야구 (baseball) 
ㅓ  eo  the o in dog/frog, lawn  언제 (when) 
ㅕ  yeo  yonder  영국 (England) 
ㅗ  home  오늘 (today) 
ㅛ  yo   yo-yo  요리 (cooking) 
ㅜ  too, shoe, moon  우유 (milk) 
ㅠ  yu  you  육수 (broth) 
ㅡ  eu  good (keep mouth relaxed)  금요일 (Friday) 
ㅣ  meet  입 (mouth 

The combining of vowels is very common in most languages. Take the word “Ice” for example. When we say the vowel sound, it sounds more like “ah-ee”. In Korean, these combined vowels are accomplished by literally combining the basic vowels.

The vowel ㅐ is simply a combination of ㅏ and l. And ㅔ is a combination of ㅓ and l. Although long ago, they made a different sound, now they are pronounced the same. If you say those very fast, you simply get a sound like “aye”

ㅒ (ㅑ+ ㅣ) and ㅖ(ㅕ+ㅣ) also have the same sound, simply ㅐor ㅔ with a “Y” sound added to make “yae”

ㅚ (ㅗ+ㅣ)and ㅙ(ㅗ and ㅐ) also have come to be pronounced the same way, “Wae”.

ㅝ (ㅜ+ㅓ) is a ㅜ sound and an ㅓ sound blended together. “Wo”

ㅢ (ㅡ+ㅣ) is pronounced by keeping your mouth flat and relaxed and saying “ㅡ”and then adding “ㅣ”on the end. If you say it quickly it’ll be like “gooey”


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