Since this question has to do with phonetics, I'll use IPA symbols to represent the sounds I want to describe.

I know that (if I am not mistaken):

  1. is an explicit [t] sound;
  2. is [th], i.e. a 't' followed by an aspiration;
  3. is pronounced [d] between two vowels, otherwise [t];
  4. is an explicit [t∫] sound;
  5. is [tç] where 'ç' is like the German 'ch' in 'ich';
  6. is [dʒ] between vowels, otherwise [t∫];
  7. is [∫] before an [i]/[j] sound, otherwise it's [s];

Moreover, all aforementioned letters are pronounced [t] if they occur at the end of an isolated syllable (꽃, etc.). If they occur before a consonant, almost all of them are pronounced the same, but specifically becomes a duplicate of the next consonant.

The pronunciation rules of apply to as well. Unfortunately, I could not realize the difference between and yet.

This may be a ridiculous question, but is it OK if, to my comfort:

  • I pronounce both and as though they are the same letter (whose pronunciation varies among [s], [∫], [t] and [{duplicate of next consonant}]),
  • as [dʒ] (where the [t∫] pronunciation is expected)
  • and as [t∫] (where [tç] is expected)?

1 Answer 1

  • pronounce both ㅅ and ㅆ as though they are the same letter

I'd strongly recommend that you don't do that. In Korean language system, they are two different sounds. By conflating them, you will be artificially hampering your practice and make yourself harder to understand to others. It won't be just a matter of pronunciation, as there are many word pairs with ㅅ/ㅆ distinction and you will forever struggle to remember which one is which. (E.g., 살/쌀, 상/쌍, 시/씨, 서서/써서, 싶다/씹다, etc.)

Yes, it's true that there are some Korean dialects without this distinction. But you are not learning these dialects: you would be learning what is spoken in the Seoul area, but with an artificially modified sound system that doesn't match the Seoul dialect (or any other dialects).

It's just like there are many actual English dialects without the "th" sound (/ð/ or /θ/), but every English textbook teaches you how to make these sounds. If you are an English learner and can't tell "thin" from "sin", you won't end up sounding like a London or Philadelphia native. You will sound like someone who didn't learn English very well.

  • ㅈ as [dʒ] (where the [t∫] pronunciation is expected)

  • ㅊ as [t∫] (where [tç] is expected)?

IMHO, these two are less of a problem: when ㅈ is expected to be voiceless (e.g., "잠"), it does not contrast with any other voiced consonant at the same position, so if you make it a voiced sound, it cannot be confused with another Korean sound. It will likely sound like a "ㅈ with a foreign accent."

Similarly, Korean does not have a distinction between [t∫] and [tç]: the distinction between ㅈ/ㅊ is that of aspiration. So, if you change [tç] to [t∫], it won't become a "different sound": it will still be perceived as "ㅈ (or ㅊ if aspirated) but with a foreign accent."

  • Thank you so much for your detailed answer. Just one more thing, is it OK to pronounce ㅆ just as a slightly longer [s]? Ore like two [s-s] pronounced separately? And in the case of 씨, here ㅆ is like a double [∫-∫]?
    – swrutra
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 2:44
  • 1
    In general, don't worry about whether it's OK to pronounce X as Y - instead listen to native speakers, learn to understand how different letters sound different, and just try your best to imitate them. (Of course your "best" will still sound like a foreigner, but that's OK. By practicing you will get better and better.)
    – jick
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 5:43
  • 1
    Also, from what I've heard, it's not ㅆ but ㅅ which trips up learners. ㅆ actually sounds pretty close to English s - so an English speaker won't have much problem with ㅆ. It's ㅅ which is hard.
    – jick
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 5:46

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