Yesterday’s blog discussed the secret to learning to read Russian (Cyrillic alphabet).


A friend who read the post pointed out that the same cartoonist who produced the “Russian in 15 Minutes” guide that inspired me (Ryan Estrada) also did one for learning Korean writing (Hangul).

15 minutes? This is completely misleading. I think it took about 5 minutes to read and absorb.


I’ve “done” Hangul before, but I kept forgetting letters.

Ryan’s mnemonics are very smart. He suggests an object that the letter looks like, and the English word for the picture indicates the sound of the Hangul letter.


Then you are off and running.

To practice reading, I’ve done the same as I did for Cyrillic (Russian)—I searched for a list of words imported into Korean (“Konglish”) so that I already know the target vocab. I will learn ordinary Korean words after I am comfortable with reading.


I found the best list of Konglish I could and took easy words from the list and I created a deck in Anki to practice. For the “answers” I used cryptic clues rather than the actual word’s pronunciation, so I am forced to look back at the word if I still haven’t deciphered it completely.


I am pretty keen to learn some Korean, which I hope to “piggy back” off my Japanese due to apparent similarities in grammar and vocabulary. I have an introductory text book, which I now will be able to read. (The text book is Japanese-based, rather than “back-tracking” to English. This will also give me bonus Japanese revision.)


I have my eyes on some books (in Japanese) to learn Korean vocab using kanji (Chinese characters). I saw two such books in Kinokuniya. Many words in Korean which might be unrecognizable to a Japanese speaker when written in Hangul characters are derived from the same Chinese word (apparently 60% of Korean vocab comes from Chinese).

For example 한국 (hangug) which is from the kanji 韓国, read “kankoku” in Japanese, meaning “Korea”.

For someone who knows Japanese or Chinese, and loves kanji, I think recognizing the root word can be a fast track to boosting vocabulary, instead of just learning words as random sounds. There is the risk of confusing pronunciation (in my university days, we Japanese speakers had this problem in Mandarin class. Other friends have reported similar confusion with other related language pairs). But the chance to unlock a huge potential vocabulary is just too tempting for me.


Then what? I’m still looking for a mnemonic system for Thai and Arabic, but perhaps I should make them myself!



Learn to Read Korean in 15 Minutes

Credit to @ryanestrada (Twitter)


Ultimate Konglish List