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I hear 우 instead of 으 and am told I pronounce them the same. (I'm a French native)

This is a question from the definition stage.

How are 으 and 우 pronounced?

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    I suggest putting more stuff in the question and less in the title. Perhaps a title like "How do the pronunciations of 으 and 우 differ?" and change the rest of the current title into descriptive sentences in the question body. – busukxuan Jun 28 '16 at 15:07
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is the standard /u/, as in boot or moon in English. For a French example, Wikipedia tells me it's like . It is called the close back rounded(protruded) vowel, meaning that your mouth is relatively "closed" (as opposed to "open" in "ah" /a/ 아), the tongue is posited at the back of your teeth (as opposed to "front" over the teeth or touching the lips in /a/), and has the lips forced to a "round" shape (as opposed to hardly any effort at shaping your lips in /a/).

is the harder one, as doesn't appear in as many languages as /u/. Its IPA is /ɯ/, and is called the close back unrounded vowel, which is pretty much like /u/, except it is unrounded rather than rounded (and protruded).

Introductory methods for pronouncing /ɯ/

There are two approaches I use to teach others how to pronounce it:

  • Through /i/
    1. first say 이 /i/, hold the shapes and positions of your mouth, lips and tongue
    2. notice that your tongue is positioned slightly over your lower teeth
    3. retract tongue (don't just move the tip back, move the whole tongue), and keep it down, so that it rests behind your lower teeth
      Personally, my tongue would rest just behind and touching the back of the teeth
    4. now hold the shapes and positions of your mouth, lips and tongue once again, and try to make a sound
  • Through /u/
    1. first say 우 /u/, hold the shapes and positions of your mouth, lips and tongue
    2. notice that you are pushing your lips towards the center to make the sound
    3. keep holding shapes the positions of your tongue and shape of the inside of your mouth, while changing the shape of your lips by "smiling"
    4. keep hold the shapes and positions, and try to make a sound

Although it does help, there are still many people who cannot do it using these methods, and which one is the better one also differs from person to person.
Also, this is only a way I use to guide people in finding the right sound. People should be able to discover a more natural way to pronounce it over time, once they have a basic grasp on how to make that sound (albeit unnaturally).

Samples

/u/ and /ɯ/, from Wikimedia Commons. To me, the /ɯ/ sample sounds somewhat off. Here's a better one from YouTube.

Vowels do vary somewhat, depending on what other sounds are adjacent to them, what pitch the speaker in speaking in, the speaker's mood, emphasis on the word, etc, so these samples are for reference, while listening to more generic Korean speech is the better way to learn to pronounce it naturally.

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I think a good way to answer your question is to show the shapes of lips. I found this image on the internet: enter image description here

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Just to add to the other replies for your specific case:

You might be confused because the typical transliteration of hangul has 으 as 'eu' and 우 as 'u', but these should not be read as the equivalent French sounds.

으 is pronounced closer (not identical) to the French 'u' as in unique and

우 is pronounced like the French 'ou' as in mouler.

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I realize the OP is French, but in an effort to make make this question more relevant to American English speakers I offer the following answer:

우 is the same as the long oo sound (e.g. moon, boot).
으 is the same as the short oo sound (e.g. look, book).

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우 pronounced as oo (as in yahoo)

으 is pronounced as somewhat similar to uh (as in the expression of disgust)

Here is a video where we can hear the pronunciation of 우:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VIrBnxaYUI&feature=youtu.be&t=25

Here Is the part oif the same video that has the pronunciation of 으
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VIrBnxaYUI&feature=youtu.be&t=26

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    Hello, the "u" sound in "disgusting" is not "으" sound. It is closer to "어". – user7 Jun 28 '16 at 14:11
  • @Rathony I agree, it's more like "a" in a book, or "e" in retirement. – busukxuan Jun 28 '16 at 14:21

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