This Tuesday, October 9th, was “한글날,” or Hangeul Day! In celebration, we’re going to talk about the awesomeness of Hangeul and why you should give learning it a try, even if you hadn’t thought about studying Korean!
It Has a Rich History
Hangeul has an amazing backstory.
Way back during the Joseon Dynasty, before Hangeul was created, the Korean language was written using classical Chinese characters. As you can imagine, this isolated knowledge to a select few, almost exclusively those of upper class. Now, aside from the task of learning the absolute plethora of Chinese characters (been there, done that, almost died), it just wasn’t reasonable to have Korean’s sounds represented by a Chinese writing system.
Enter the great King Sejong!
Full disclosure, I kinda stan for King Sejong. He’s pretty awesome. So is his badass statue/museum. Musetu? Stateum? Yeah, let’s go with that.
King Sejong believed that everyone, including commoners, should be able to read and write their own language. He had great concern for the struggles of the common class and their ability to convey them effectively to those of higher status. He created Hangeul as a solution and hoped that people would come to use Hangeul in their everyday lives!
Is that not the best thing you’ve ever heard? Seriously. He worked hard to create an entire writing system just to make sure his citizens were all able to have their voices heard.
I’m not tearing up, YOU are.
It Was Made to be Simple
Now, if you’re going to teach an entire community of people to use a new writing system it can’t be rocket science levels of difficult. I know most things seem simple in comparison to traditional Chinese characters but still. King Sejong really thought this one through. For extra, bonus cool points, each consonant is shaped to represent tongue placement in the mouth when making the sound. When will your faves? Never.
ㅏ ㅐ ㅑ ㅒ ㅓ ㅔ ㅕ ㅖ ㅗ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅛ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅢ ㅣ
ㄱ ㄲ ㄴ ㄷ ㄸ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅃ ㅅ ㅆ ㅇ ㅈ ㅉ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ
Looks like a lot but it isn’t!
Instead of putting letters one after the other, they go into ‘syllable blocks’. There’s an awesome explanation of how to do that over at.
For instance, Sarang (love) would be writing with the letters ㅅ ㅏ ㄹ ㅏ ㅇ. Broken down into its two syllables gives you ㅅ ㅏ + ㄹ ㅏ ㅇ. The last step is to put them in the appropriate order and…사랑! Tada!
How easy is that?
If you want to learn more about Hangeul, and Korean in general, you can check out the King Sejong Institute website as well as the National Hangeul Museum website. You can also try out Eggbun. I wrote a review on it a few months back. If you’re in Korea (or will be soon) I highly recommend visiting the Hangeul Museum. I had a great time learning about its history. And I got to play with stuff!