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I'm just starting learning to spell and pronounce various Korean words. One thing that's tripping me up is the pronunciation of the characters ㄹ and ㅅ. I've seen different words in which ㄹ is pronounced like the English letter R, and others in which it is pronounced like the English L. Similarly, some words have ㅅ pronounced as the English S, while others have it as the English digraph SH.

Is there any set of rules that will help indicate to me which way these characters are to be pronounced as I encounter them in written Korean?

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Yes. In ~99% of cases, Korean pronunciation does follow a very specific set of pronunciation rules. Exceptions are very uncommon. There are several sound change rules, and specific interactions between some letters, but these are for the most part entirely standard.

some words have ㅅ pronounced as the English S, while others have it as the English digraph SH.

When followed immediately by ㅣ or ㅟ, for example, ㅅ is pronounced more similarly to the "sh" sound in English.

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