Romanization is Not Bad

Romanization is not bad. Romanization serves one purpose, it serves as pronounciation guide. Romanization is very important for beginners. Especially if you’re self-learning Korean. Why? Because those Korean letters are very tricky creatures: they change how they should be pronounced. Beginners are not aware that there are many cases that we must change the way we read hangul.

For example, the word for “toys”, 장난감, is actually pronounced “jang-nan-kkam”, not “jang-nan-gam”.
(For beginners’ ears, it’s actually closer to “chang-nan-kkam”, because “j” at the beginning is closer to “ch” sound than “j” sound, so there are textbooks that romanize it as “chang-nan-kkam”).

The word for “grammar”, 문법, is actually pronounced “mun-ppeop”, not “mun-beop”.

And if you love K-Pop, you’ll know this term “막내” (=the youngest member in the group), is actually pronounced “mang-nae.” The “g” sound changes to “ng”.

There are tons of other examples, you’ll be surprised when you find those words, but you got the picture.

Now, how would you know that, if you’re self-learning, you have no one -no teacher- to tell you? By reading the romanization, of course! Romanization is helpful. This is true especially at the beginning phase of your learning, when you’re reluctant to check the Korean dictionary for pronunciation.

Check Naver Dictionary for pronunciation:

Check Naver Dictionary for pronunciation:

Take as long time as you need with romanization, and then one day, you’ll find yourself not needing it anymore. Just like me.

Japanese books use “katakana” letters for pronunciation guide. So it’s “katakanization“? And I don’t hate it. I find it useful. ###


12 thoughts on “Romanization is Not Bad

  1. Pingback: I’m Not Lying! 나 거짓말 안 했다니까! | Korean Vitamin

  2. Like your example “막내”is pronounced “mang-nae” The “g” sound changes to “ng”.
    So when you memorize the word by romanization, you will memorize “mang-nae” or “mag-nae” ?
    I am a beginner and wonder maybe I will write the word “망내” if I memorized the correct pronunciation.
    I also come across the similar questions regarding 받침…
    Can you give me some advice?


    • Hi! I just used romanization because reading hangul wasn’t easy for me for a very long time. Haha. If you can read hangul well, there’s no need to remember the romanized form. Pronunciation changes can be shown with hangul. When you see the word 막내, just tell yourself that it’s actually pronounced [망내].


  3. Thank you for your reply.
    I also have the trouble on reading hangul and it’s difficult to memorize the word.
    I think it’s work better by memorizing the word with romanization after reading your blog.
    Some may say it’s not good for pronunciation.
    But I memorized more words than before with romanization.
    For avoiding wrong spelling, I will try to remember “mag-nae”.
    Sorry for asking stupid question and thanks for your informative blog. ^^


    • Sometimes I don’t reply to comments. Especially when I have nothing to say.

      I agree with you, romanization can be helpful sometimes. I memorized the Korean word for ‘pillow’ ‘베개’ in its romanized form ‘begae’, because 애 and 에 sound similar, and it’s hard to remember which comes first in that word.

      Memorizing Korean words is hard. There are people who find it so easy that they think it’s not even worthy of further discussion but I’m not one of them so I don’t think your question is stupid.

      Thank you for reading and leaving comments. 화이팅~


  4. For similar sound like 애 and 에, all I can do is memorize it blindly. ><
    Thanks for understanding a beginner’s difficulty.
    I wonder can you give advise about the space of sentence? I mean is there any rule to put a space between words correctly?
    Thank you so much!


  5. could you share a recording of yourself reading or speaking Korean? I’m so curious of your pronunciation since you’re really into getting it down. At this point is it automatically correct for the most part since you’ve put in so much effort to perfect this.

    I’ve noticed Korean learners who are 10 years in and they still can’t even get the pronunciation down as in like they can’t say the correct consonant sound for 간단 (how ironic lol.) correctly or their vowels sounds incorrect like ㅓ ㅗ ㅕㅗㅛ which makes me wonder if they can hear it and can’t say it or they just can’t tell they’re saying it wrong… like i remember somebody saying 교과서 but it sounded like 겨과서 but i could tell from the context what the person was trying to say (i think this was hangukdrama in her latest youtube video which disappointed me because she’s been at it for so long.)


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