Note: This article contains Hangul (Korean letters). If you can't read Korean yet, download a free guide here to start reading in about 60 minutes!!
Learning the onomatopoeic Korean words might sound like an easy way to improve your Korean ability, but it's not as easy as it might seem. This is because the sounds that Koreans associate with something can be very different from the sounds that English speakers associate with the same object or action.
Jay Park did a great parodoy of "What Does the Fox Say" on a past episode of Korea's SNL. Check it out below and see if you can't catch a few of the animal sounds (including that of the legendary gumiho).
But learning about animal sounds is only really useful if you are a hunter (unlikely) or if you want to try and talk to an animal in a zoo (assuming that they are a native Korean animal... llamas and armadillos would most likely speak in Spanish). Instead, let’s learn some useful onomatopoeia that we can use on a daily basis.
잉잉 (ing-ing) - whimpering
If you are talking about your crush, or a situation that gets your heart beating, then you can say 두근두근 to describe your feelings. You may have heard 두근두근 used in K-pop songs.
삐뽀삐뽀 (bbibbo-bbibbo) – police or firetruck siren
뽀글뽀글 (bogeul-bogeul) – the bubbling of boiling water
Tips and Tricks
The best method to learn these words is by trying to listen to them naturally. A fun way to learn the words in this article might be to draw a cartoon and write out the onomatopoeia on the that represents the sounds in the illustration, such as a knock on the door, a gunshot, or a villain slipping on a banana skin.
Reading manhwa (만화, Korean comics) is also a good way to learn Korean onomatopoeia, as actions and sounds are often written out next to the illustrations. Of course, there are thousands of onomatopoeic words in Korean to match the thousands of sounds in real-life. Learning all of them is too big a task to take on at once, so learn the ones that you think that you will use regularly and find most useful.
In the meantime, check out Seoul Searching's Facebook page to enter a contest to win one of three Korean language scholarships at 90 Day Korean.