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I have just 2 months of experiences in learning Korean, but one of the biggest hurdle for me is that I cannot tie a sound with a character.

For example, when I hear 녹색, I cannot come up with the correct spelling of the word. Sometimes I mistyped it as 넉색 or 넉세 or 녹섹.

Now, I wonder if I could make myself understood even if I mistyped the spelling. In English, people still make themselves understood mostly if they mistype it, like:

I purchased a grean T-shurt.

In Japanese, while it might be less apparent than English, you can still make yourself understood sometimes, like:

緑なTショツ買った。

However, since the character is a logogram, mistyping Kanji starts to make the sentence more prone to the failure of understanding.

みだりのTシャツ買った。

Now, how about Korean? It seems that each of Korean characters (Hangul) shall be categorized to alphabet. And because there are so many characters that have a ton of different meanings in Korean, and because changing only one vowel or consonant in a character makes the word totally different, which can have another set of different meanings, I wonder if you can make yourself understood when you mistype the spelling.

Note that I only talk about a noun, or a stem of a verb or adjective. Mistyping a conjugate would change the meaning of the sentence, which I know I should avoid.

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Can you make yourself understood even if you use a wrong character with a similar sound?

It depends. I'd like to say "No, never.", but I think there is a small chance some words might read confusing and misleading even though I can't think of any word on top of my head now.

You need to note that there are no such words as 넉색, 넉세 or 녹섹 in Korean. Depending on the right context, those three words will definitely understood as meaning '녹색'. I think there is no word similarly spelled to シャツ in Japanese, either.

There are many Korean words that even native speakers find difficult to type correctly. For example, 곰곰히, 윗어른, 쭈꾸미, 구렛나루, 설레임, 되물림, 희안하다, 금새, 제작년, 임마, 궁시렁거리다, 귀뜸, 넓직한, 서슴치, 설겆이, 요컨데, 몇일, 개구장이, 뒤치닥거리, 정답을 맞추다, 줏어, 왠일, 오랫만에, 어의없다, 짜집기, 고난이도, 파토나다, 되갑다, 어줍잖다, 어리버리하다, 갈갈이 찢다, 눈꼽, 깨끗히, 그럴려고, etc.

Well, all the words above are misspelled. But they will be understood perfectly. I wonder how many Americans would know how to spell those words that appear on spelling bee contest.

You should not care so much about how you write when you begin to learn a language. I think how to pronounce a word and getting yourself familiarized with how it is used are more important.

Sometimes, I am still confused when I have to choose between '냄세 (smell)' and '냄새'. Well, I know the latter is right, but I write the former when I don't pay much attention.

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  • Thanks. I agree with "You should not care so much about how you write when you begin to learn a language.", as it takes so much time and effort to care about the exact spelling and keep looking each word up in a dictionary. But if it has a high chance of causing misunderstanding, I must look up all the words I don't know how to spell. That's why I asked, thanks.
    – Blaszard
    Sep 21 '16 at 10:55
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As always, it depends on the context and how much other information is available. Also, usually, how much the words actually sound similar. (Consider how often native English speakers mix up its/it's, there/their/they're, etc.)

For example, if you type 녹색 as 녹섹 in a sentence, almost everyone will still understand the sentence, because 녹섹 is clearly a typo (there's no such word) and it sounds exactly like 녹색.

On the other hand, 녹색 to 넉색 is a bit harder to understand, because to a native speaker ㅗ and ㅓ are two very distinct vowels. (However, even ㅗ/ㅓ can apparently be merged by some speakers, especially in verb endings. I see people writing like "질문 있어여" often, but I must say it looks very un-educated to me, so please avoid such forms.)

E.g., if you say/write "코피 마실까요?" you will probably get weird looks: it may take people a few seconds to connect the dots and understand that you meant 커피.

In the end, it's a matter of how much effort the reader is willing to put in order to decipher(?) the text. The more errors you make, the harder the readers must work to understand it, just like any other languages.

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