Some Korean Lessons

These are lessons on pronouncing Korean names. I’ve tried to do the best I can in describing the sound without actually sounding it. These rules not only apply to the following names but should be followed as general practice for reading both Korean and Japanese transliteration of any kind.

First, Nam Gi-han

Okay, so I seem to be interchanging between Gi and Ki in Nam Gi-han’s name and they’re both correct. Gi is actually the official version the author (Miti) used when displaying his name in english but that Korean character is often characterized as Ki instead. But, do note, it’s a HARD G. Like as in Goat or God. It is NOT soft like J. That’s why K is often used instead.

Second, as many are aware by now, Korean first name are made of 2 syllables. Gi is the first, Han is the second. By the official Korean name writing standard of today, it is correct to write this as “Gihan” or “Gi-han”. By the old standard, many also did “Gi Han”. So, take note that all these are the same thing. I will try to keep it constant, but I sometimes just fail. lol And occasionally, I will do it so people don’t end the syllable on the wrong places. So, someone won’t accidentally say “Shing/i” instead of “Shin/Gi” which is clearly different. Sometimes I will also write like this “GiHan” so denote the separation of syllables.

Baam / “a”

If you see the character a in Korean names (and Jap). It is almost always an ah sound like in Cart. It’s even better if you do it the British way. Infact, the British pronunciation of all Korean names should be closer than the American version most of the time. But sometimes, I will write aa just to make that clear. Like in Tower of God, I wrote Baam as his name. The entire name is a single syllable. Do not say the english word “bam” like when hitting things for ToG’s “Bam”/”Baam”. You have just learned the Korean character ㅏ (also written as 아).

Seung-hui / “eu”, “ui”, “s”

EU – no, not the European Union. eu as in Seung-hui from Zippy Ziggy. Or sometimes just a u. This is one of the most difficult thing to teach an English speaker without showing it to them. This, sometimes called the international u but with also very very many other names including “absent vowel” but it does not actually exist in English. But the best I can tell you how is to say oo first like in boots. Notice that your lips are gathered in an O shape towards the front. While the teeth, tongue, and voice stays the same, move your lips so that your bottom teeth may show. That is, retract your lips as far back as you can or even try making a frown. Then say oo again. That is the sound that needs to be made. With practice, you can make that sound without looking like a retard. (으)

Seung-hui is actually quite a horrible name in English. Not only because of eu but also ui. There are many diphthongs in Korean that is not present in English. Rather, because Korean language works like a multiplication table of the sound, you can express lot of strange diphthongs in writing (not that you could say it though). But that aside the u in the ui in this case is like the eu just explained. And the i is a short, like in hit. Now start the sound with eu and end with the i sound fast, making them into like one syllable known as a diphthong. (으 + 이 = 의)

The dilemmas of a soft s. English is really horrible for emulating other languages. 😛 Or as my linguistic professor once said, the written English is bad for expressing even the English language.
Soft s is found in English when you have an h attached to it. Making it sh. Like shower. But you could easily imagine a soft s without the h. So it would become sower but with a soft s, that is, let the air flow out of your mouth more easily. When you see an s in Korean names (and Jap), it’s a soft s. But it is also often written as sh to show that it is indeed soft like in Shin-gi. But you could probably imagine, Sheung-hui makes it go the wrong way a little too much because h acts like a half vowel. (soft: 스 vs hard: 쓰)

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