When you learn Korean, sooner or later you’ll find that you need to be able to write Korean on your computer, mac or phone.
It’s an important skill to master. Don’t get me wrong, handwriting is also paramount when learning a new language, because it helps you learn the alphabet and remember vocabulary better. But without knowing how to write digitally, you won’t get very far!
There are multiple different Korean keyboard layouts
In Korea there are several different keyboard layouts. The most common one is the “2-set keyboard layout”, also known as the Dubeolsik layout.
This one is by far the most commonly used, so that’s the one you should train yourself using if you ever plan on writing Korean on somebody else’s computer!
You could actually argue that the other keyboard layouts that exist, the 3-set Sebeolsik layouts are better. In principle they’re easier to write on, and even exist in a version that can be used one-handed (which is great for people with disabilities).
Yet it’s really uncommon in Korea, so even though it’s better, you’ll be having a hard time writing in Korean if you ever borrow your friend’s keyboard.
How do I install a Korean keyboard on my PC, Mac, Iphone or Android phone?
The first steep for writing Hangul, or the Korean alphabet on your devices is installing the software.
For the most devices, the alphabet and the language are already installed, and it’ll just be a question of flicking a switch.
I’ve gathered the official guides for the most common platforms here:
If you can’t figure it out, you might want to look for a more detailed guide, or a video. There are plenty of these instructions available on YouTube, so try going there searching for “Install keyboard in …” And search for whichever device you use. Videos for older versions exist too, like Windows 8.
Once you’ve installed the keyboard and figured out how to switch back and forth, you need to do something with your physical keyboard.
With a tablet or s phone, you have the luxury of having all keys change automatically, but with an old-fashioned laptop or PC, you’ve got only the Latin letters.
You’ve got three or four options:
- Get stickers to put on your keys. This is a simple solution and it might be a good option. I’ve found, however, that the glue in these stop working as well after a year or two and your keyboard turns into a sticky mess. But they’re worth having a look at and they hardly cost anything. (see a few options on amazon)
- Getting a keyboard cover in silicone to put on top of your existing keyboard. These are really great and easy to work with, but you need to get one that is made for your device specifically. If you have a common brand, chances are that there is a silicone keyboard cover available. (link to amazon)
- Buy a keyboard with the Korean keys already there. This is as easy as plugging an USB cable into your computer and start writing Korean with a Korean keyboard directly. These are best for home offices, where you don’t need to take your computer with you all the time. (Some Korean keyboards on amazon).
- And lastly, you can buy nothing, and simply remember by heart which English keys on your current keyboard correspond to which Korean letters. This is actually not so difficult. You can simply print this illustration of the Korean keyboard layout and keep it near your computer. Look at it each time you write in Korean. You’ll quickly find, that you’ll refer to it less as time goes by and you get used to the keys.
How to write on a Korean keyboard?
Once you’ve got the keyboard installed and set-up, you need to learn how to use it!
These kind of things are much easier to show you than to describe in words. So have a look at the video below.
On the Korean alphabet, vowels are grouped together on the right and consonants are on the left. To write double consonants and the few remaining vowels you need to press shift while hitting certain keys.
Korean symbols are combinations of 2-4 characters, the vowel always comes after a consonant. Your computer or phone will automatically figure out when a syllable is finished and close the character block and start a new one. But the above video should clear that up for you.
Daily typing practice in Korean
Now all that remains to do is to really get this new skill under your skin.
I suggest that you start copying text onto your computer. Find a news article or something similar in Korean, and start typing it into your computer.
At first, it’ll be painfully slow, and you’ll be searching for the keys all of the time! Don’t worry, you’ll pick up speed quick enough.
Do this exercise once or twice per day, and you’ll notice that after each pause, it gets a little easier. Keep at it and eventually you’ll be able to type in the Korean Hangul characters without even looking!
If you want to read more about learning the Korean language, go read my article entitled “How to learn Korean by yourself“. – This is a very in-depth article that will walk you through all of the steps from the beginner stage towards fluency.