[Learn Korean E4] Aspirated and Tense Consonants Perfect Guide

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Today, we will learn about the aspirated sound and tense sound in Korean.

You probably might be thinking “What are the aspirated and tense sounds?”

First of all, Korean pronunciation is largely divided into basic sound, aspirated sound, tense sound, combined vowels, and final consonant.

You can pronounce the basic sound without putting any stress like 가, 나, 다, 라.

On the other hand, when you pronounce the aspirated sound, you push air from your mouth, like 카,타,차,파.

For the tense sound like 까,따,빠,싸,짜, you pull in the air to pronounce like the chirping of a bird.

In the previous video, we learned how to say the basic sound.

Today, let’s learn the aspirated sounds like 차,카,타,파 and the tense sounds like 까,따,빠,싸,짜.

And also, please prepare a piece of tissue for today’s lesson.

It will be used when practicing the aspirated sounds to compare with the other sounds.

So, Let’s get started!
그럼 시작할게요!

the aspirated sounds

The aspirated sounds are difficult to pronounce correctly even for those who have learned Korean for a long time.

However, Koreans are aware of the slight difference in the pronunciations, so if you don’t master this, some Koreans may not understand what you are saying.

So let’s get it right.

Lastly, we will practice together while also learning the stroke order of the characters.

There are 4 kinds of aspirated sounds, 차카타파.

If you look at the Hangul table’s English alphabet notation, 차 and 자 are noted the same as cha.

카 and 가 are also noted the same as ka.
타 and 다 noted the same as ta, and 파 and 바 are the same as pa.

However, the actual pronunciation of them are different.

Because the difference cannot be shown in the alphabet, they are noted the same in the table.

The pronunciation of the aspirated sounds

How to check the correct pronunciation of the aspirated sounds.

As it is called the “aspirated sounds,” it sounds like a staccato in music and makes a popping sound.

Here is an easy way to check whether you are correctly pronouncing the aspirated sounds.

It is called the tissue check method.

Hold a piece of tissue about 5 cm in front of your face, and if this tissue swings up from the strong air coming out of your mouth, it means you are pronouncing correctly.

When the tissue moves just a little, it means you’re pronouncing a basic sound.


Next, let’s try the basic sounds 가다바자.


It might be a little embarrassing when doing this, but it’s an effective way to improve your pronunciation.

Please try practicing many times.

the aspirated sound practices.

Next, 치읓 is pronounced as ch.

There is a dot on top of ㅈ, which means more air is pushed out from the mouth than ㅈ.

Let’s pronounce it.


Now, if you are thinking that over-practicing this might lead to lack of oxygen, you’re correct.

You are pronouncing them in the right way.

ㅋ 키읔 makes the sound close to k, and more air is pushed out than ㄱ기역.

It looks like a gun, doesn’t it? Let’s pronounce it.


Next, ㅌ 티읕 is pronounced t, and more air is pushed out than ㄷ디귿.

Let’s pronounce it.


Next, ㅍ피읖 is pronounced p, and more air is pushed out than ㅂ 비읍.


This is the end of the aspirated sounds.

At this point, let’s read ㅏ column of the first page of the hangul table, vertically from up to down.


Great! It sounds like a magical spell, doesn’t it.

Like this, let’s read out the hangul table vertically and horizontally many times, and practice until the sound comes to your head right away when you see the character.

By the way, unlike the basic sounds 가나다라, the aspirated sounds 차카타파 have only one way to pronounce.

So it will be pronounced this way regardless of whether the consonant comes in the beginning or the middle of a word.

For example, if you combine the basic sounds 호 and 주 together, it becomes 호주 Hoju, and the pronunciation of Chu changes to Ju.

호주 means Australia.

However, when 고 and 추 are combined to make the word 고추, which means pepper, the word is pronounced as Kochu, not Koju.

the tense sounds

Ok? let’s move onto the tense sounds.

First, I’ll teach you the pronunciation of the tense sounds and how to check the correct pronunciation.

At last, let’s practice aloud.

The pronunciation of the tense sounds

Let’s take a look at the tense sounds in the hangul table.

There are 5 kinds of the tense sounds, 까,따,빠,싸,짜.

The tense sounds are made of a combination of two regular consonants.

When you pronounce tense sounds, you vibrate the air around the nose and throat to make a resonation.

Do you get it?

Unlike the aspirated sounds that push out air, it’s more like holding the air.

Well, to describe in an easy way, it’s correct to say that it sounds like the chirping of a bird.

So unlike the aspirated sound, the tissue will not move.

Let’s first start with the pronunciation of [까].


It’s like the sound of a crow (kro), right?

Next is the pronunciation of [따].

It’s pronounced as “ta,” and you pull in the air instead of pushing out.


Next is the pronunciation of 빠. Keep the “p” sound in mind when pronouncing.


Next, the pronunciation of 싸 is similar to “sa.”


For pronouncing 짜, keep the “cha” sound in mind when pronouncing.


To wrap up, let’s actually practice the difference between the basic, aspirated, and tense sounds using a tissue.

When pronouncing a basic sound, the tissue swings a little, and when you pronounce an aspirated sound, it swings up.

Try not to let the tissue move at all when you’re pronouncing a tense sound.

When the tissues move in the expected way, it means you’re pronouncing everything correctly!

Ok. Let’s do it.

가 카 까
다 타 따
바 파 빠
사 싸
자 차 짜

Then let’s check the difference in the pronunciations by using real life words.

기 (qi/spirit)키 (height)끼 (talent)
크다 (big) 끄다 (turn off)
달 (moon)탈 (mask)딸 (daughter)
아파 (hurts)아빠 (father)
비자 (visa)피자 (pizza)
방 (room)팡 (a pop sound)빵 (bread)
상 (reward)쌍 (pair)
자다 (sleep)차다 (cold)짜다 (salty)

Be aware of the difference in the pronunciations and repeat reading aloud about 20 times to completely memorize the pronunciations.

Thank you for watching till the end!

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그럼 오늘도 행복 가득, 웃음 가득한 하루 되세요! 한국어 화이팅, 화이팅, 화이팅!!