With more than 7,000 living languages spoken today, many language learners choose only among a few, but right now it could be well worth it to learn the Korean language.
Romance languages, such as German, Spanish or French are the usual choices when people think that they should learn at least one foreign language. For many English speakers, this is a common occurrence. For people who wanted to learn an Asian language, top of the list would be Japanese or Chinese.
K-Pop, Hallyu, Korean Dramas and Samsung, LG, Hyundai
The Korean language is not a language that many language learners would be interested in. But that is before the attraction to many things Korean piqued the interest of people worldwide, and we’re talking about K-Pop, Hallyu stars, Korean dramas, the incredibly danceable Gangnam Style, not to mention the smartphones, cars and appliances manufactured by South Korean companies, such as LG, Samsung and Hyundai. Incidentally, Hallyu is a Romanized version of Hanryu or Korean Wave. Han is a root word that indicates Korea while the root word ryu means wave or flow.
Reasons to learn the Korean language (linguistic aspect)
Since the time of King Sejong the Great it was said that it is possible for any person to learn Hangul in just one hour and that you will be able to read Korean within the day. Still, even if you were able to read the alphabet, what would be your reasons to learn Korean?
1. Broader knowledge
Leaning Korean could broaden your perspective about other cultures. The rich history of Korean includes periods under various rulers before the Chinese and the Japanese arrived.
Knowing how to speak Korean could be an asset as it could open doors to many opportunities because very few are learning the language right now. This means that there is less competition for you. Coupled with your academic degrees and experience, your ability to speak Korean increases your chances to be hired. Advanced Korean skills could be the determining factor even if you are lacking in professional experience.
Many English loanwords are now accepted and understood by many Koreans, therefore it is all right to use them when you cannot remember the right word in Korean.
3. Global opportunities
In the global society, preparing for the future has become more important. You not only have to excel academically, but you also have to cultivate more skills to be more competitive because the people who would be going after the same job as you would not just come from your own country.
According to the 2010 data from the 21st edition of Ethnologue, the number of people speaking Korean as their first language is 48.4 million. In all countries (including China, Japan, North Korea, Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation), the number of users is 72.2 million. South Korea’s economy is the 13th largest in the world. Plenty of opportunities are available in the country for work, business or study. But since South Korea is generally monolingual, it is better to learn Korean before going there.
Hangul (or Hangeul) is easy to learn. Korean is quite scientific in the relationship between pronunciation and spelling. The rules of pronunciation are very scientific and logical. They may be difficult to learn initially but once you’ve mastered them, you are not likely to mispronounce the words.
If you are an English speaker, you might have a difficult time learning the grammar because its pattern is SOV (subject-object-verb). You just need to remember that the verb in Korean is always placed at the end. Other parts of the sentence have particular articles so even if there is a change in their order, the meaning of the sentence would not change. In English you say, “Bess eats (a) pear.” In Korean, it would be “Bess a pear eats.” Moreover, there is no change in the verb form whether you are talking about singular or plural objects.
In Korean, the concept of gender of nouns is non-existent nor does it affect the sentence’s other elements.
Unlike other Asian languages, Korean is not tonal, which means it is one aspect of the language that you do not have to worry about.
One of the most intimidating aspects of learning the Korean language is the system of honorifics, but it could help learners to better understand the country’s society and culture. There are different levels of honorifics in the language depending on status, age, context or solidarity but it is all right to use the formal honorific for everyone.
The Republic of Korea, the official name of South Korea is written in Hanja as Daehan Minguk, which translates into The Great Country of the Han People. Located in East Asia, it is the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The northern part of the peninsula belongs to North Korea.
Korea is an old name that was taken from the Goryeo dynasty. Today’s population in South Korea is estimated to be around 51.4 million, with about 10 million people living in Seoul, the country’s capital and largest city, while the rest are distributed over nine provinces and 125 cities. With a total area of 38,690 sq mi or 100,210 sq km, South Korea is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
South Korea was isolated from the rest of the world for many years, and it was only in recent years that foreigners were allowed to stay in the country. The majority of the population’s ethnicity is predominantly Korean. Its official language is Korean. The country has its own sign language.
The country is blessed with natural beauty – forests, mountains, rock formations, streams, rivers, waterfalls, mud flats, swamplands and more, but it lacks natural resources. But this fact did not deter South Korea from becoming a developed country with a high-income economy, which they attained from perseverance, hard work and the will of the people.
Due to the lack of natural resources, South Korea concentrated in producing products for export. The country also had to import a wide variety of products. Its export-driven industries focused on automobiles, ships, petrochemicals, machinery and robotics.
In the past four decades, South Korea’s economy bloomed, turning the once isolated country into an industrialized, high tech economy that is worth trillions.
The Korean language
Given the economic statics and the position of South Korea in the global stage, one can say that it is about time to study the Korean language, even if it is only to further understand the culture of a country that remained under the radar for centuries.
Despite that, Korea’s culture is very rich, interesting and intriguing. It has many traditions and customs that people outside of the Korean Peninsula and its close neighbors such as China and Japan are not familiar with.
Modern and historical linguists believe that Korean is a language isolate although some linguists suggest that it belongs to a small linguistic family with many of them already extinct. Korean, which is the official and national language in both North and South Korea has many dialects. However, the language spoken in Jeju Island is distinct from the language spoken in the mainland, thus it is considered a language of its own and not a Korean dialect.
There is very little record and research done on the older languages that were used when the peninsula was divided into different kingdoms. Middle Korean was the language spoken during the 10th to the 16th centuries, which was based on the Kaesong dialect. By 1103, Hanja or the Chinese characters used for writing Korean were recorded.
King Sejong the Great promulgated the use of Hangul in 1446. But the creation of Hangul, or the Korean alphabet was started in 1443 by King Sejong the Great and his team of scholars. Hangul’s original name was Hunminjeongeum or the Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People. Hangul is the native script that was created by the king in order for Korea’s common people to learn how to read and write Korean easily. During those days, only the rich and the privileged were allowed to attend school and learn Hanja.
The Korean alphabet
Hangul contains 10 vowels and 14 consonants. Characters are grouped into horizontal or vertical syllabic blocks to form words. The Korean writing system can be written from top to bottom going from left to write in the same manner as the Chinese writing system. It can also be written from left to right. Today, it emulates the Western style of writing and includes spaces between words and punctuation marks.
According to some linguists, Hangul is the world’s most logical writing system because the shapes of the consonants resemble the shape the mouth of a speaker makes when pronouncing them.
Both South Korea and North Korea use Hangul as their official writing system. It is also used in a co-official status in the Changbai Korean Autonomous County and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Both are located in China’s Jilin Province.
The mayor of the town of Baubau in Buton Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia became famous for teaching school children to read and write their language, Cia-Cia in Hangul. He asked the Indonesian government if it was possible to make Hangul their official writing system but it was rejected in 2011 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Hunminjeongeum Society and the officials of Baubau City. The project was stopped in 2012 but some local signs in Hangul remain as of 2017. Moreover, Hangul is still being used in school.
The day of Hangul’s publication, October 9, is now celebrated in South Korea as Hangul Day.
Indubitably, the Korean language is difficult to learn for someone who speaks English. However, it is a fascinating language spoken in a country that is quickly gaining ground as an economic powerhouse. You’ll get a bonus for learning Korean, as you’ll be able to understand all those Korean dramas and movies that are widely available online. You’ll understand the lyrics of the songs of your K-pop idols and know what they say during interviews. Aside from that, you’ll get the chance to read Korean literature, which is as great as those coming from other Asian countries.
But while you’re still learning Korean, you might need translations from and into Korean. We’re here to help. Call Day Translations, Inc. at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us for a quick quote. Our translators are located around the world, ready to serve you wherever you are. Our native Korean speakers are available 24/7 any day of the week to work on your translation project. We guarantee that our translation, in any language, is 100% accurate.