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Drawings and photos by the author

While Sarah Shaw was living in Korea, she tapped into her creative side to learn Hangeul, the Korean alphabet.

TO MEMORIZE NEW vocabulary, I made a series of sketches on word cards, featuring words, that I found interesting, or couldn’t remember how to spell. Hangeul is simple to learn, and consists of 24 vowel and consonant sounds that are grouped into blocks. Each block of letters is pronounced as one syllable.

I had used texbooks, attended clases run by volunteers, and used the website, which features video lessons, pop culture, and everyday conversations. But I needed a creative project to make my language learning more personal and meaningful, and since I’d seen so many Korean students flipping through books of flashcards, hole-punched on the left-hand side and connected by a key ring, I decided to make my own.

Here are twelve sketches from my collection.

1. To the right, (o reun jjok eu lo) 오른쪽으로

2. To the left, (oen jjok eu lo) 왼쪽으로

3. To do laundry, (ppal lae leul ha da) 빨래를 하다

4. Envelope, (pyeon ji bong tu) 편지봉투

5. Sculpture, (jo gak sang) 조각상

6. To learn, (ba eu da) 배우다

7. To go down, (nae ryo ka da) 내려가다

8. To go up, (ol la ka da) 올라가다

9. Stairs, (gye dan) 계단

10. First, (mun jo) 먼저

11. Then, (gu da eum ae) 그 다음에

12. To have a rubbery/chewy texture (jjolgit jjolgit hada) 쫄깃 쫄깃 하다

About The Author

Sarah Shaw

Sarah Shaw is a travel writer and artist, currently teaching English at a public elementary school in Seoul, South Korea. She’s originally from Maine, but throughout the past six years she has lived on four different continents, and spends her days getting lost, petting stray cats and embarrassing herself in foreign languages. She is a MatadorU graduate and blogs at Mapping Words, where she explores life as a traveler and expat.

  • Jenny Williams

    What a cool idea!

    • Sarah Shaw

      Thanks, Jenny!

  • Tania Otrutskaya


    • Sarah Shaw


  • Katherine L D Kirk

    Ah, this is such a brilliant idea. :D

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