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When I was working at a Korean firm, I remember an employee event where the president, a Korean with a thick accent, was singing karaoke, or ‘noraebang' as they call it. He was singing to an older American song. He got to the chorus and was singing with such gusto, “Rah, rarararah, rarararah.” It was a glaring error in consonant sound (‘l' vs. ‘r'), but the executive, despite living and working in the U.S. for a few years, was none the wiser. I had been taking a Korean language courses at the time and noted my own difficulties with consonants having interchangeable sounds. Korean writing has an alphabet of characters and it is easy to determine how words are pronounced. Unlike english, there are very few special cases in how words are formed. What you see is basically what you hear. The only difference is that certain sounds can be interchanged. Looking at a chart of Korean consonants, you can see five consonant sounds that carry multiple english-sound counterparts (g/k, d/t, l/r, b/p and ch,j). Going from 14 vowels in Korean to five in english makes matters more complicated. Granted, several vowels are compound, but there are still six basic vowels and differences between compound vowels, such as the ‘ae' and ‘e' sounds, which sound almost identical except for the length of time they are said. Korean Alphabet and corresponding sounds: I searched for common errors for the Korean english student, and, sure enough, many of the same problems I had learning Korean, Koreans have learning english. The top errors are with consonant sounds. ‘B' versus ‘P' and ‘V' tends to get mixed. They might say ‘peas' or ‘vees' and really mean ‘bees'. ‘F' and ‘P' also get mixed, sometimes combining the two with a ‘F-P' sound. Since there is no ‘f' sound in Korean, ‘Fair' might sound like ‘pair'. ‘L' and ‘R', as mentioned above, get interchanged a lot. I've listened to japanese as well as Korean songs where two versions of the same song will have certain words pronounced with the ‘L' sound and the other version with the ‘R' sound. ‘J' and ‘ch' sounds get confused with ‘z' sounds. I learned that there is a soft and hard ‘ch', and a hard and soft ‘j' sound. They are both formed by pressing the tongue hard to the front teeth, as you would start ‘d', then releasing the breath as you would say the ‘j' sound. ‘Pizza' would sound like ‘peach-ah'. Dropping sounds is another problem, as is the case with ‘s'. It seems common that the Korean speaker will drop ‘s' at the end of words or drop the ‘s' at the beginning. ‘Peas' would become ‘pea' and ‘she' would become ‘he'. ‘S' also has the problem of becoming an ‘sh'. You can imagine the confusion when they try to say, “he sit on the chair,” and you're reaching for the cleaning equipment. Extra ‘eu' or ‘e' sounds tend to be a common error. I've noticed a lot of english words are incorporated into Korean and almost always, the extra ‘e', ‘eu' or ‘ae' letter sounds are added to the end. ‘Fax' in Korean is said, ‘pak-seu', doubly difficult since both the ‘f' sound is changed and the ‘eu' sound is added. ‘Th' and ‘s' or ‘z' also seems to be a common error. ‘Sick' might be pronounced ‘thick'. ‘This' might be pronounced ‘sis'. The errors stemming from consonant interchanges, dropping or adding sounds and confusion between vowels are usually caused by the differences in the basic sounds forming each language. The fact that many english words have been adopted by Koreans and their pronunciations changed to fit the rules of the language, this makes speaking english particularly difficult. This makes the job of the english teacher difficult as he must teach new sounds and drill the differences between sounds that, while obvious to native english speakers, are nearly indistinguishable to Korean speakers. Knowing the common errors and being familiar with their letters and language is invaluable to planning lessons and dealing with problems that arise along the way. Emphasis on choral repetition and drills should help reduce errors and make students more aware of their speech and pronunciation. Sources: Korean Language Backgrounds: 15 common english pronunciation problems Some Basic Korean Pronunciation Problems: