Confusing Korean words and dyslexia

I’ve reached the stage in my learning where I know enough words that they are starting to look alike to me.  Words are beginning to have multiple meanings.  I might not be able to differentiate between words by the sound of the individual word, but need the context.  I might need the Hanja.  I might need a sentence the word appears in.

This is a good sign my vocabulary is expanding.

I included a few examples of words I get confused.

The rest of this post is a discussion of dyslexia.  Dyslexia is little known in Korea, in part because of Hangul.  Features of the language such as how closely the sound matches spelling and which writing system is used impacts dyslexic students.  The same techniques used by teachers instructing dyslexic students  should be used by the self-learner.   Some software is simply better for a dyslexic student to learn from.  In my own experience, Korean is easier for a dyslexic to learn than English.


반=half  번=time, occasion 본=model, example 분=minute, people counter 뿐 = just, only

더=more, 다=all

모른, 모르, 모르다=to not know

모두=everybody 모든=everyone

그리고=and, and then 그래서=so, therefore  그래=yes, OK 그래도=but, however



I do not know enough about the grammar to know if similarities between words is due to conjugation or particles.


Dyslexia and the Korean Language

Educational Broadcasting System in South Korea is filming a documentary on dyslexia Many people in South Korea are unaware of dyslexia (난독증, 독서 장애). [Doosan Encyclopedia – dyslexia, 難讀症]  That has certainly been the case with me as I attempted to explain my dyslexia to my Korean mentor.

Things that I can not visualize or which have multiple meanings have always been a problems for this dyslexic.  Words that sound the same but are spelled differently are another source of confusion.

Dyslexia is not mental retardation.  Simply put, it means difficulty with words.  It is a learning disability that a dyslexic individual is born with.  The brain has trouble processing language.

A review of the symptoms of a dyslexic explain a lot of my struggles learning language.  I have similar issues with my second language that I had with English.  It was somehow a great comfort to see that I confuse ㄱ ㄴ and have to work super hard on reading, vocabulary, spelling, and typing.


Writing system affects how dyslexic learns

I did not realize that certain dyslexic deficits may be more pronounced in some writing systems than in others.  (Dyslexia in different types of writing systems)   Chinese uses pictures based on meaning. Chinese characters are easier for dyslexics to learn than alphabetic systems.

One post said, “I heard that because of the way their languages are written, in China and Japan their fewer people experience dyslexia. I was wondering what effect the Korean alphabet has on dyslexia; is dyslexia less common in Korean than in countries that use the western alphabet, or perhaps more common than in China and Japan because so many of the letters in the alphabet are like reflected versions of other ones?” Dyslexia in Korea

I had a moment of enlightenment when I realized that I see each Korean syllable as a combination of letters, whereas a native Korean sees the entire syllable as one picture.  I’m remembering  24 consonant and vowel letters.  A Korean knows roughly 11,000 pictures of the syllables.  I couldn’t explain to my Korean mentor how I perceived the letters are reflections because to him, the whole syllable is one thing, not these wiggly things that can flip in my brain to turn  ㄱinto ㄴ.

I take a deep breath when I realize what that implies.  I should probably strive over the long term to change from someone who thinks of Hangul syllables as composed of consonants and vowels to someone who sees them as entire pictures.  Phew.  That sounds hard.


How sounds match the words affects how dyslexic learns

Some languages are “transparent,” which means they have a more predictable correlation between letters and their sounds. In transparent languages, it is easier for everyone to learn to read, even those with dyslexia. Korean is certainly more consistent in matching letters to sounds than English. That is good, because it means I will have less trouble with Korean than I did with English.

Techniques that aid the dyslexic learner

One method used to help dyslexics is the Wilson Reading program. Browsing it’s key points, I had to laugh at how similar it is to my own coping techniques and explains why I have a preference for some learning software over others. Mango, Memrise, and Duolingo all get high marks for using these features:

  • color coding syntax
  • learning spelling at the same time as vocabulary
  • hear as well as see
  • practice within the lesson
  • actively engaged
  • thinking exercises to apply concepts learned
  • memorization includes many senses
  • student sets the pace
  • repetition to reinforce, with forgotten words seen more often

Understanding and Overcoming the obstacle of Dyslexia

I conquered reading and have an extensive English vocabulary.  Dogged determination and intense concentration are skills I can use when learning my second language.

I use to say, it was hard enough for me to learn one language, why would I try to learn another?  I have a different attitude now.

  I learned one language, I can learn another, I just have to work harder.


Symptoms of Dyslexia


A preschool-age child may:

  • Have more difficulty than others pronouncing words.
  • Slow to add new vocabulary words and be unable to recall the right word.
  • Have trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell.
  • Have difficulty reciting common nursery rhymes or rhyming words.
  • Have difficulty separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words.

Kindergarten through grade 4

Children in kindergarten through fourth grade may:

  • Have difficulty reading single words that are not surrounded by other words.
  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds.
  • Confuse small words such as “at” and “to,” or “does” and “goes.”
  • Make consistent reading and spelling errors, including:
    • Letter reversals such as “d” for “b.”
    • Word reversals such as “tip” for “pit.”
    • Inversions such as “m” and “w” and “u” and “n.”
    • Transpositions such as “felt” and “left.”
    • Substitutions such as “house” and “home.”

Grades 5 through 8

Children in fifth through eighth grade may:

  • Read at a lower level than expected.
  • Reverse letter sequence such as “soiled” for “solid,” “left” for “felt.”
  • Be slow to recognize and learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other reading and spelling strategies.
  • Have difficulty spelling, and he or she may spell the same word differently on the same page.
  • Avoid reading aloud.
  • Have slow or poor recall of facts.

High school and adult

Students and adults may:

  • Read very slowly with many inaccuracies.
  • Continue to spell incorrectly.
  • Avoid tests that require reading and writing.
  • Work intensely on reading and writing tasks.
  • Have poor memory skills and complete assigned work more slowly than expected.
  • Have an inadequate vocabulary and be unable to store much information from reading.
  • Have spatial thinking skills.
  • Have difficulty with planning and organization.


I have been using Memrise recently to learn vocabulary.

Having me tap on syllable at a time to spell out the word is helpful.  It makes me focus on just one syllable.  I have to pick from different syllables the one that might be used to spell the word.  Therefore, I have to actually learn the syllable, not just rely on the sound of the word.  As I read in the new article above, this is the same technique they use to help dyslexic students learning English.   Focusing on one syllable at a time enhances looking at the vocabulary words.   Learning not only the definition and the sound but also how to spell the word all at the same time is different from other flashcard systems I used. It has me more engaged, and the number of words I am learning has increased.

The memory cues are also great.  I pick which memory cue I want, which makes me slowly look at each image or word.  Often it is a strong visual image, but also English phrases that sound similar enough to the Korean and trigger connections are useful as well.

Memrise gets a big thumbs up recommendation from me.

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One Response to Confusing Korean words and dyslexia

  1. J. G. says:

    I really enjoyed this post. As someone who studied linguistics in college, and came to Hangul through marriage, I often thought of it as a beautiful writing system in that each character tends to reflect tongue and mouth position. After learning more about dyslexia, however, I can see the challenges of the system. I can see how taking each “set” of characters taken as a whole could help with the problem, but people who come late to the language, especially after using western alphabets, have a tendency to break down each “set” into its component characters. I wish there was a faster way to get around this. This post has given me a lot to think about. Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

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