Are you a Korean language beginner who wants to play 양말장난 (Yangmal Game)?
Below you'll find resources to learn the entire Korean alphabet (just 24 characters) in under 2 hours so you can begin playing Yangmal today!
A Quick Note on Romanization
You might have heard that Korean sounds can be "romanized" with English letters, such as our game title "양말" being written as "Yangmal." However, relying on this strategy to understand written Korean is a very bad idea.
A couple examples to illustrate why:
- is "oh" in "oh-you" pronounced like "eww," or "owe," or something else?
- is "se" in "sejong" pronunced like "say," "suh," or neither of these?
English romanization of Korean words is not consistent across websites, books, or even official study materials. Therefore, the first step to learning Korean is to abandon the English alphabet and learn Hangul, the Korean alphabet.
By the end of this post you'll be able to read "Hangul" in its real form, "한글," and sound just like a native Korean!
Introduction to The Korean Alphabet
Only 24 characters
There are 14 vowels and 10 consanants. But even with the vowels and consonants there are similar sounds, so in reality you only need to learn around 19 unique sound + visual combinations.
Whatever sound a given Korean character has, is consistent across 10s of 1000s of words which use that letter. In English we don't have this luxury... just think about how "o" is pronounced in "hello," "how," and "would."
Each 'block' of 1-4 Korean letters is a single syllable. Thus 우유 (milk) is 2 syllables, 아마도 (maybe) is three syllables, and 응급대원석 (ambulance driver seat) is 5 syllables. This makes sounding out words predictable.
Designed for Simplicity
If the Korean alphabet sounds easier than you expected, that's because it was designed for exactly this purpose! Korea's 14th century King Sejong the Great is credited with personally inventing the Hangul writing system to popularize the language and make education more accessible to people of all socioeconomic classes. Which means that to learn Korean you only need to be as clever as a peasant farmer, 700 years ago. ;)
Depending on whether you're a visual or rote repetition learner, we've identified two great resources for learning to read and write in Hangul (한글).
The first guide is by a native Korean speaker, Vicky Shim, who walks you through the entire alphabet and sounds in just 30 minutes:
The second guide -- our personal favorite -- is a bit longer at 90 minutes, but is taught by an American who learned Korean as a second language.
What we love about this video is the pronunciation tips at the end, as well as the proper stroke order for each letter.
After You Learn the Alphabet
With 24 different shapes and sounds bouncing around in your brain, the best way to make it stick is to begin creating words.
Here are a few words you can practice reading and writing on your own:
- 우유 (milk), pronounced "eww-you"
- 한글 (Korean alphabet), pronounced "han-geul"
- 친구 (friend), pronounced "cheen-goo"
- 아마도 (maybe), pronounced "ah-mah-dough"
- 가게 (store), pronounced "gah-gay"
- 고양이 (cat), pronounced "go-yang-ee"
- 금 (gold), pronounced "geum"
아마도 고양이랑 가게에 가고 우유를 살 거예요. = Maybe I'll go to the store with a cat and buy milk.
Playing 양말장난 As A Beginner
Whether you just started your Korean language journey or are already a native speaker, most game rounds incorporate short, 1-3 syllable words.
We suggest focusing on 2-4 character, 1-2 syllables to start. This is because the nature of stealing and combining words makes it difficult (even for a native) to form more than a few letters at once.
After learning 30-50 short words, you can begin practicing 양말장난 by yourself. Simply set up the game board according to the rules and flip pieces over 1 at a time, until you spot the characters needed to form a word in your mental dictionary.
Over time, as you play with more advanced Korean speakers, you'll pick up new words naturally. For example, this guide's writer (Ryan) recently learned 늪 (swamp), 볕 (sunbeam), and 밭 (patch of land) from a single game round.
Give yourself at least 1-2 hours to learn the Korean alphabet (한글), memorize 5-10 words, and begin reading short sentences to get the hang of how characters can be combined to make syllable blocks.
Before playing competitively with friends, open a frequency word list like this one and play by yourself, cross-referencing the list with the available characters in front of you.
Within a couple weeks you can host your first game night, and then who knows... maybe you'll even beat a native Korean at their own language. :D