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Korean Tongue Twisters That Language Learners Should Try


Koreans commemorate another major event in their country yesterday, and that is Hangul Day. This is the day King Sejong officially founded Hangul, or the Korean writing system. And today, we'll join them in appreciating Hangul even more by trying out extra challenging Korean tongue twisters!



To give you a brief background, Hangul (한글) is the writing system founded by King Sejong in 15th century Korea. It is also known as the Hunminjeongeum (훈민정음). This writing system is shared by North and South Korea. Hangul is also used in parts of China like the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County located in Jilin Province. These days, Hangul is used along with some Hanja or Chinese characters.

Tongue twisters in Korean are called Jaenmalnoli (잰말놀이) or "playing with quick words". Korean tongue twisters can be a fun way to practice Korean pronunciation. And just like we mentioned earlier, we challenge you to do these Korean tongue twisters!

Are you ready? Let's get it!

Level 1: 

네가 그린 기린 그림은 못 그린 기린 그림이고 내가 그린 기린 그림은 잘 그린 기린 그림이다.

Romanization: "ne-ga geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-meun mot geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-mi-go nae-ga geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-meun jal geu-rin gi-rin geu-ri-mi-da."

This twister literally means, “The drawing of a giraffe that you drew is a poorly drawn drawing of a giraffe, and the drawing of a giraffe that I drew is a well-drawn drawing of a giraffe.”

For you to succeed in this level, you should watch out for these words:

그림 (geu-rim) meaning "drawing," 
기린 (gi-rin) meaning "giraffe," 
and the verb ...
그리다 (geu-ri-da) meaning "to draw." 

Ready for the next level? Let's get it!

Level 2:

간장 공장 공장장은 장 공장장이고 된장 공장 공장장은 강 공장장이다.

Romanization: "gan-jang gong-jang gong-jang-jang-eun jang gong-jang-jang-i-go doen-jang gong-jang gong-jang-jang-eun gang gong-jang-jang-i-da."

The literal meaning of this twister is, “The factory manager of the soy sauce factory is Factory Manager Jang, and the factory manager of the bean paste factory is Factory Manager Kang.”

Words to watch out for this twister: 

간장 (gan-jang) meaning soy sauce,
공장 (gong-jang) meaning factory, 
and 
(doen-jang) meaning soy bean paste. 

PS: The 장 (jang) at the end of words also means manager.

Still easy? Let's get it to Level 3!

Level 3:

서울특별시 특허허가과 허가과장 허과장

Romanization: "seo-ul-teuk-byeol-si teu-keo-heo-ga-gwa heo-ga-gwa-jang heo-gwa-jang."

This tongue twister translates into, “Seoul Metropolitan City’s Patent Granting Section Permission Section Chief, Chief Heo,” in English.

Practice these words to pass level 3!

특허 (teuk-ho) meaning patent, 
허가 (heo-ga) meaning permission,
and 
과장 (gwa-jang) meaning department.

And if you've succeeded level 3, let's see if you can pass the FINAL challenge. Let's get it!

Final:

경찰청 철창살은 외철창살이고 검찰청 철창살은 쌍철창살이다.

Romanization: "gyeong-chal-cheong cheol-chang-sa-reun noe-cheol-chang-sa-ri-go geom-chal-cheong cheol-chang-sa-reun ssang-cheol-chang-sa-ri-da."

This is one of the most challenging Korean tongue twisters ever made that even Koreans themselves, can't get it on their first three tries. This literally means, "The police headquarters’ iron bar windows are single-layer iron bars, and the prosecutor’s office’s iron bar windows are double-layer iron bars.”
Here's the cheat sheet. Practice these words to pass the final challenge!

경찰청 (gyeong-chal-cheong) meaning police headquarters,
철창살 (cheol-chang-sal) meaning iron bar windows,
and
검찰청 (geom-chal-cheong) meaning prosecutor's office.

It's not that easy, eh? But seeing you've come as far as this, you've done a good job.

Hangul is the greatest memento of King Sejong's love for the people of Korea. Nowadays, more and more people are appreciating this wonderful writing system. Let's use it in a good way. Happy Hangul Day!

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