Two notes before I do the Korean wrap-up:
1) I’ll try to return to a regular schedule, e.g., focusing on at least two languages a week (roughly) as I did when I first started. Since spring of this year, I have been involved in a number of activities which take up a lot of my free time (and time to study), so I apologize for not updating the blog sooner.
2) No video recap this time. My camera works fine, but for some reason, my computer won’t recognize it. I promise, there will be one next go around!
Now, on to Korean!
SUMMARY: Linguists aren’t really sure how to classify Korean. Is it a language isolate? Is it in the Altaic language family? Is it secretly related to Japanese? What is known is that Korean has quite a few Chinese-based words; some words are still used in Korean print today and are written with Chinese characters (called hanja in Korean).
Korea saw a lot of growth between the 900s-1500s, in the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. Along with the spread of Buddhism, printing and advances in academia and astronomy Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, was invented in the 1400s. The Korean language itself has remained relatively unchanged, in spite of constant invasions from Chinese and Japanese. One of the most notable invasions took place in the early 1900s, when Japan controlled Korea and banned all things related to Korean culture. Korean is spoken today by almost 80 million people.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: At first I had trouble figuring out what Korean reminded me of. After listening to different sources, it almost (and this is really, really stretching it) reminds me of Japanese. One reason why is because, like Japanese, it’s not a tonal language. Also, words (when transliterated from Hanguel) can be a little long, like some Japanese words I’ve seen before. I noticed a lot of “-en”, “-yo” and “euw” sounds, though, which seem to paint the language.
As for Hanguel itself, it is NOT hard at all to learn. Each block represents a syllable and while some can be just vowels with the (ㅇ) being used as a placeholder, many are consonant and vowel combos which represent one sound.
For example, 한 (han) is made up of ㅎ (h) + ㅏ (a) + ㄴ(n) and are just arranged in a block, which is kind of cool. Honestly, a person can master this alphabet in a week, it is very logical.
Spoken Hanguel is just as logical. Take for example the words for sidewalk (people-road) and street (car-road):
인도 / endo: sidewalk (literally “people road”)
차도 / chado: street (literally “car road”)
Korean is SOV, but there seems to be more emphasis on using the verb. However, I’m guessing that suffixes seem play a huge role in this language. One thing that seems to be common is that -yo is added to the end of verbs to make sentences more polite. Suffixes like these seem to go hand in hand with the fact that Korean uses honorific grammar to a large degree.
I still don’t know if I should learn Korean. It’s not as intimidating to me as I thought before, but rather appealing. It seems easier to learn than Chinese and Japanese. Who knows.
One thing I do know is that Korean pop (K-POP) is AWESOME! If I do decide to ever move to Korea, I am guaranteed really good tunes. Oh my god, what have I been missing? I really have to thank my friend in living there for giving me the heads up about this! The band below is called Big Bang and are tearing up the charts there.
SOURCES USED IN THIS POST:
COMING UP: Croatian