Korean learners of EnglishKorean learners of english, in general, face some common obstacles when it comes to pronouncing english words. This is simply because some sounds from english words do not exist in the Korean alphabet. One such case is the “r” sound. Koreans substitute the “r” sound from the english alphabet with the “l” sound from their alphabet— known as Hangul— which they believe comes closest to mimicking the english “r” sound. For example, a common word my mom mispronounces is the word orange. She pronounces it as “O-len-ji.” Another commonly mispronounced word is really, which is pronounced as “lilly.”
Another sound which does not exist in the Korean language is the “f” sound. Koreans often substitute the “f” sound with the “p” sound from their existing alphabet. For example, the word funny is often pronounced as “punny”. There exists a well-known Korean slang word, which is adopted from the english word fighting. Koreans often say “fighting!” to one another to express support or encouragement. However, in this particular case, they pronounce the word to sound like “hw-igh-ting.”
The “v” sound also does not exist in the Korean alphabet. Therefore, Koreans often pronounce words with a “v” sound with a “b” sound. For example, the word victory would be pronounced as “bictory”. A common expression that is mispronounced but generally accepted is “thank you berry much.” However, once Koreans learn to pronounce the “v” sound in english, it is easy for them to get confused when pronouncing words that have both the “v” sound and the “b” sound. A good example is the word volleyball. I knew many instances where the word would be pronounced as “volleyvall.”
Words containing the letter “z” are also mispronounced amongst Korean speakers. A good example of this would be the word pizza, which is commonly pronounced as “pi-jah.” The word jazz is said as “ja-juh.” Not only does the “j” sound account for words that contain the letter “z”, it is also applied
to words that don’t necessarily contain the letter z but mimic its sound. For example, the word reason, when spoken, sounds more like “reazon.” Because of the “z” sound in reason, Koreans often pronounce it as “rea-jon.”
In addition to individual consonant sounds, some combined consonant sounds are also foreign to the Korean tongue. A good example is the “th” sound. Amongst native Koreans, thank you is pronounced as “tank-you.” The word that is also pronounced as “dat.” Growing up, my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all called me “Keh-tee” instead of Kathy because they struggled to pronounce the “th” sound in the second syllable of my name. Even to this day, I am still called “Keh-tee.”
Since a lot of the pronunciation issues amongst Korean learners of english involve introducing completely new sounds associated with english words, one might need to devote a considerable amount of time going over tongue placement. Also, it is important to note that a good number of mispronounced english words are used in the everyday Korean vernacular. This might pose a challenge, since it is difficult to revamp someone’s way of pronouncing certain words that they’ve been hearing and pronouncing a certain way for a very long time. In some instances, a correctly pronounced english word may not be identified by a Korean speaker until you mispronounce it the Korean way.