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Did you know?
Korean is a fascinating language with a vast vocabulary:
It is the 13th most spoken language, with around 80 million speakers.
Korean is the official language in North Korea and South Korea. However, the two countries have different accents, vocabulary, and distinct standardized official forms.
Korean alphabet Hangul is one of the youngest and most scientifically designed alphabets.
History of the Korean Language
Korean is one of the world’s oldest surviving languages, but its origins are somewhat obscure. The linguist scholars are yet to come to a consensus regarding the origin and early history of the language. Some scholars argue Korean belongs to the Altaic language family. The language family also includes languages like Turkish and Mongolian. However, this claim is disputed, and most modern scholars consider Korean to be a language isolate without a direct connection with any other surviving language. Due to its long association with China, Korean vocabulary is highly influenced by the Chinese language. However, linguistically, the two are not related.
The information available on Old and Middle Korean is limited. During the early Christian era, people in Manchuria and Korean Peninsula used two language groups, Puyo and Hang. After Silla conquered some areas in the southwestern part of the Korean Peninsula, the Silla dialect became dominant. In the 10th century, the Koryo dynasty came into power and transferred the national capital to Kaesong city. As a result, the Kaesong dialect was recognized as the national standard. In the 14th century, the capital was moved to Seoul; however, it didn’t have much impact on the language as both were geographically close enough to share similar dialect.
The Korean language didn’t have any writing system until the 15th century. The elites in the society used to write Korean language texts with Chinese characters, while a large part of the population remained illiterate. The Chinese characters were adapted for Korean during the 1st century BC, and the writing system was known as Hanja.
In 1440, King Sejong took the initiative to invent a phonetic script in an attempt to improve the literacy rate among the common Korean people. The new Korean script was developed in 1443. Three years later, it was recognized as the official writing system of Korea. The new script was named Hunminjŏngŭm, and this name persisted until the 20th century. However, Korean elites continued to use Hanja as they considered the new writing system inferior and called it ‘vulgar script’.
Currently, the Korean script is known as Hangul in South Korea, and in North Korea, it is called Chosŏn muntcha. South Korea retains some Hanja and often combines the two scripts, whereas North Korea sees Hanja as a part of imperial aggression and has completely done away with it.
Korean speakers use various mutually intelligible dialects, while the dialect from Seoul is considered the standard.
Why Learn Korean?
How to Learn Korean?
Is it hard to learn Korean?
Korean is comparatively easier to learn than other East Asian languages like Chinese or Japanese. The writing system is easy and logical. The basic grammar is not difficult either.
What makes it challenging to learn Korean?
Korean has many words that have the same pronunciation and spelling but means something completely different. These homonyms can be confusing for a non-native speaker. For example, 팔 (pal) means both eight and arm, 병 (byeong) means bottle or disease, 이 (i) means two, this, or teeth.
Unlike English, in Korean, they use subject-object-verb word order. This part can be a little challenging for English or European language speakers who are adept with subject-verb-object order.
The most challenging part of learning Korean is perhaps how you need to modify a sentence depending on the level of formality. The level of formality depends primarily on three factors: the age of the person, the relative social ranking, and the degree of intimacy or familiarity. Many non-native speakers who are not familiar with such systems in their language often struggle to master this part. However, in Korean culture, this hierarchy is important, and they expect you to follow the rule.