As I have been taught Korean language, I noticed that non-native Korean speakers seem to be confused with the sounds of the four Korean consonants, ㄱ[g/k], ㄷ[d/t], ㅂ[b/p] and ㅈ[j/ch] in Hangeul (Hangul). Specifically, in my teaching experience, I have often seen many spelling mistakes by beginner-level students. The majority of students struggle with the consonant sound change depending on the location.
For example, they say “가다” is heard as [kada] not [gada].
Yes, they are right!
In fact, when ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and ㅈ are the initial consonant of a syllable, they become aspirated such as [k], [t], [p], and [ch]. To pronounce aspirated sounds, speakers should puff the air out of their mouth heavily. That’s why 가다 seems to be heard as [카다].
For your Korean listening skills, just keep in mind one thing!
Initial consonants of words are usually pronounced as voiceless and aspirated sounds. In other words, ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and ㅈ sound like [k], [t], [p], and [ch] when they are located at the beginning of a word. In other cases, ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ and ㅈ are pronounced as [g], [d], [b], and [j].
1. ㄱ sound [g/k]
가다 [kada] to go
가구 [kagu] furniture
누구 [nugu] who
2. ㄷ sound [d/t]
도로 [toro] road
모두 [modu] all
3. ㅂ sound [b/p]
바다 [pada] sea
준비 [chunbi] preparation
4. ㅈ sound [j/ch]
자연 [chayeon] nature
자유 [chayu] freedom
남자 [namja] man
As you know, sound recognition and pronunciation of foreign languages are definitely affected by their mother tongue. If you are familiar with this simple rule above, it would definitely help improve your listening and speaking skills as well as your proper pronunciation.
- Taylor I, Taylor M. Writing And Literacy In Chinese, Korean, And Japanese. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.; 1995.
- Shin J, Kiaer J, Cha J. The Sounds Of Korean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2012.
- En.wikibooks.org. Korean/Essential Pronunciation Rules – Wikibooks, open books for an open world. 2015. Available at: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Korean/Essential_Pronunciation_Rules. Accessed December 16, 2015.