Korean is indeed an exciting language to learn. It’s beautiful and rich in history. Today, we will learn some interesting Korean language facts.
With the popularity of Korean culture worldwide, many people are drawn to learning the Korean language. Why not? It’s the language used in the lyrics of different K-pop songs, the language we can hear in our favorite Korean dramas, and of course, the language spoken by famous Korean idols, actors, and actresses.
Learning some basic Korean language facts will give you a deeper understanding of the official language spoken in the whole Korean peninsula. The rich Korean language history will make you understand more about Korean culture. With this, you’ll be able to communicate well not just with South Koreans but also with North Koreans if you ever have a chance to take a tour there.
So, let’s discover some fun facts about the Korean language!
Fun Facts About The Korean Language
The Korean language is definitely one of the most popular East Asian languages in the world today. Aside from learning Korean and widening your Korean vocabulary, it is also important to learn some facts about the Korean language to appreciate the language more.
It’s The National Language Of South Korea And North Korea
It’s no secret that the Korean language is the official language of the whole Korean peninsula. But, it’s also interesting to learn that there are also two jurisdictions in China that speak Korean.
Aside from this, there are also thriving Korean communities in New Malden and London. So, if you are studying Korean or if you’re planning to study Korean, you can easily get by when once you go to any of these countries.
The Korean Language Used In North And South Korea Differs A Lot
If you’ve watched the K-drama “Crash Landing On You,” you’ll notice the difference between how Se-ri from South Korea and Captain Ri from North Korea speak. Although they speak both Korean, there are lots of differences. Korean words are spelled and pronounced differently in South Korea and North Korea.
One perfect example is the phrase ‘thank you.’ It is spelled 고마와 and pronounced ‘komawa’. In North Korea while, in South Korea, it is spelled 고마워 and pronounced ‘gomawo.’
The Korean Script Is Called Hangul
Hangul (한글) is the official writing system used in the Korean language. King Sejong creates this script to encourage literacy. Hangul was developed for the Korean language and is renowned for its simplicity and effectiveness in teaching the Korean alphabet.
Each letter in the Hangul alphabet represents a different phoneme in the Korean language. 14 consonants and 10 vowels make up the alphabet. Each syllable is made up of a block of letters.
The Korean Alphabet Is Easy To Learn
The Korean writing system is incredibly-designed and made to be learned easily. Since the main purpose of King Sejong in the creation of this script was to encourage literacy, he made it possible that it could be learned in just a few minutes.
Of course, it can be hard for English speakers at first since they are using the Latin alphabet, but once you understand the logic of the writing system, it wouldn’t take you even a day to learn it. Despite being one of the youngest alphabets, it has won the hearts of linguists everywhere thanks to its flawless phonetic system.
Hangeul characters’ shapes and strokes are meant to evoke the movements of the tongue, palate, teeth, and throat used to pronounce them. To produce the ㄱ (g/k) sound, for instance, you need to connect your tongue to your molars and keep it stuck to your uvula. With ㅁ (m), the upper and lower lips meet. With this, we can say that the Korean language is one of the world’s most organized, rational, and ingeniously created writing systems.
82 Million Speakers speak Korean
The Korean language is considered the 17th most spoken language in the world. It is spoken by over 82 million speakers worldwide. It is the language spoken in the Korean peninsula, and it is also a minority language in a few areas of China, including Yanbian and Changbai County in the Jilin Province. The Korean diaspora in Turkey, Japan, the USA, and Canada also use it.
There Are Several Korean Dialects
Just like other languages, Korean also has different dialects spoken in the entire peninsula. Korea’s rugged terrain led to the development of a number of regional dialects, many of which are named after the country’s provinces. The following languages are examples of regional dialects:
- Central dialects – It is used in Seoul and the regions of Hwanghae Province, Gangwon Province, Chungcheong Province, and Gyeonggi Province.
- Hamgyong – Spoken in the eastern part of North Korea and Jilin, China.
- Pyongan – Spoken in the western part of North Korea, which includes the capital Pyongyang, and Liaoning, China.
- Gyeongsang – spoken in Busan, Ulsan, and Daegu
- Jeolla – Spoken in the Jeolla region, including Gwangju City. This dialect is also known as the Southwestern dialect.
Jeju Language Is Considered As Separate Language
In the K-drama “Extra Ordinary Atty. Woo,” one of the concluding episodes was taken on the beautiful Jeju Island in Korea. Aside from breathtaking scenery, another interesting thing about Jeju Island is that it has a separate language.
Since the beginning of the 2010s, a growing number of scholarly publications have been referring to Jejueo or Jejuan as a distinct language within the Koreanic language family, despite the fact that it is frequently categorized as a South Korean dialect.
This is due to the fact that speakers of any other Korean dialect cannot understand the Jeju language. Because of this, many Korean speakers from other dialect zones, such as Seoul and Busan, have a difficult time understanding or only have a very basic understanding of what native Jeju speakers are saying.
Korean Is Rich In Famous Tongue Twisters
The Korean language is not just rich in different Korean vocabulary words and loanwords. It is also rich with tongue twisters, which makes it more interesting to learn Korean. Here are a few examples:
Korean Is A Language Isolate
If you have read about the Korean language history, you’ll be aware that the language was made by King Sejong. It’s not like other languages that have emerged and have different roots from other languages. However, there are linguists who have tried to link Korean to other languages.
Some linguists have said that Korean is part of the “Altaic” language group of central Asia, which means it is related to languages like Turkish and Finnish. However, this idea has been mostly disproven. Most of the time, Korean is called a “language isolate,” which means it has no clear ties to any other language.
Historical Korean Language Facts
History plays a big role in the invention of the Korean language. After we learn some basic Korean language facts, let’s go deeper and let’s discover some historical facts.
The Korean Language Is Divided Into Four Periods
The Korean language is divided into four periods – Old Korean, Middle Korean, Early Modern Korean, and Modern Korean. We might have only limited resources to know about the origin of the Korean language, but it’s widely known to be descended from Old Korean. Here are the four periods of the Korean language:
- Old Korean (The beginning is unknown, but the end is 1918) – This period ended at the time that Unified Silla was destroyed. During this historical period, Koreans wrote their language using idu script in addition to Classical Chinese. The only pieces of literature that have been preserved are a form of vernacular poetry known as hyangga.
- Middle Korean(918–1600) – This linguistic period encompasses both Goryeo and Joseon and is known as the Golden Age of the Korean Language. This is because it was during this time that the Hangeul () writing script for the Korean language was developed.
- Early Modern Korean (17th to 19th centuries) – This time period corresponds to the latter part of the Joseon era.
Korean Formerly Used Chinese Characters
Ancient Koreans employed Classical Chinese from the fourth century or before. They (or at least the nobles who could write) used Chinese characters adapted for Korean, known as hanja. Various phonetic scripts patterned after hanja include idu, gugyeol, and hyangchal.
Hanja was used for nearly a millennium; Hangeul replaced it in official and scholarly writing in the 20th century. Many schools in South Korea still offer Hanja education since it’s believed to improve Korean language ability.
Hangul Was Created By King Sejong
Before the 15th century, only Korean nobility and elites could write hanja. Enter King Sejong, a renowned Korean king. He instructed scholars to invent Hangeul or invent it himself to promote literacy. Although his specific role is uncertain, he is credited with creating the alphabet.
Hangeul has 10 vowels and 14 consonants for a total of 24 characters. It has 11 complex vowels and 5 double consonants. The symbols are organized in syllable blocks, making Hangeul a “syllabic alphabet.”
October 9 Is Hangul Day
Hangul plays a big role in the identity of Koreans. That’s why every ninth of October, Koreans commemorate (Hangulnal), also known as Hangul Day. The celebration of the Korean alphabet, also known as Hangul (or “Hangeul”), is the purpose of this event.
Since the holiday’s origin in 1926, the date of Hangul Day in Korea has moved around quite a bit; nevertheless, the 9th of October has been celebrated as the holiday every year since 1945. Workers in Korea will be happy to see that October 9th is circled in red on their calendars these days.
That means the day is a holiday for the whole country. But, from 1991 to 2012, Hangul Day was no longer a national holiday, so people didn’t get the day off. The good news is that it became a national holiday again in 2012.
Hangul Used To Be Written Differently
If you’re learning Korean today, you might be surprised that it’s now how it was written before. Hangeul was traditionally written in columns, from top to bottom and right to left. This format was similar to that used in traditional Chinese, Japanese, and other East Asian writings. Texts written in Korean are often still written in this fashion for decorative reasons, such as when they are created as hanging scrolls.
Similar to how they are written in English and other scripts, syllabic blocks in Modern Korean are arranged in rows and read from left to right and top to bottom. In contrast to Chinese and Japanese writing, Western writing has spaces between each word.
Other Korean Language Facts
You have learned different Korean language facts based on its history. Korean has more facts to offer that even people who don’t have Korean heritage can enjoy.
Hangul Shares Similarities To Other Languages
Although Korean is believed to be the largest language isolate in the world, it still shares similarities, especially with other Asian languages like Chinese languages and Japanese. This may include vocabulary words, grammatical forms, and more.
China has influenced Korea’s trade, religion, cuisine, and language for millennia. 50-60% of Korean terms have Chinese origins, called Sino-Korean. So, do not be surprised if you have encountered Korean words that are very similar to Chinese words.
Japanese vocabulary and grammatical traits overlap (e.g., the same subject-object-verb structure). If you know Korean, learning Japanese will be easier, and vice versa.
Korean Has Two Counting Systems
There are two distinct methods of accounting for things. Different terminology is used to refer to tiny and large numbers in Korean. The native Korean lexicon is utilized in one counting system, which is also utilized for expressing the hour when telling time, mentioning your age, and counting objects. This method can go up to the number 99.
The other system has its Chinese origin and is utilized not just for the expression of the minutes when telling time but also for a variety of other metrics like distance, money, and dates. Additionally, it is used for integers that are greater than 99.
Korean Is A Collective Language
If you’re an English speaker and used to say “me” or “my,” then you might have to adjust because Koreans are used to saying “we” or “our.” You might notice this when you watch K-dramas. But why do Koreans do this?
It’s because they want to show shared values or a sense of belonging and intimacy. Korea is a collectivist society, like most East Asian countries. Many Koreans, influenced by Confucius, think the greater benefit of the group trumps individual preferences.
Test Your Korean Fluency With TOPIK
If you’ve been learning Korean for quite a while now and you wanna test your Korean language fluency, then you might use TOPIK. The Test of Proficiency in Korean, also known as TOPIK, is a Korean language examination designed for individuals who are not native Korean speakers.
The exam evaluates a candidate’s reading, writing, and listening comprehension primarily through multiple-choice questions, although more advanced students also have to complete a short-answer writing examination.
There Are Many Konglish Words
When you’re learning Korean, you might be surprised because there are lots of Konglish words that you’ll encounter. Konglish is different from loanwords. When the meaning of a word or phrase in Konglish differs from that of the word or phrase in English, we refer to such words as Konglish words. You could recognize some of these parallels if you have prior knowledge of Japanese.
Words and phrases that are acquired from the English language (and occasionally from other languages) are frequently abbreviated. Slang words in Korean are frequently abbreviated, but they are not the same as Konglish words. Here are some Konglish words that you might wanna know:
- 개그맨 (gaegeumaen) – comedian
- 오바이트 (obaiteu) -vomit
- 버버리 (beobeori) – trench coat
Korean Has Lots Of Loanwords
After talking about the Konglish words, let’s now go to the loanwords. Loanwords are words or phrases in Korean that are derived from the English language and have the same meaning as the corresponding English word. Loanwords are words or phrases that are used in a language other than English but have the same meaning as the original. The Japanese and German languages contributed several useful loanwords to the English language.
You may understand these terms without knowing Korean. Even native English speakers can grasp these terms because of their easy pronunciation and consistent meaning. These words will bridge your knowledge from English to Korean. Here are some examples of Korean loanwords.
- 컵 (keop) – cup
- 초콜릿 (chokollit) – chocolate
- 아이스크림 (aiseukeurim) – ice cream
- 콜라 (kolla) – cola
- 피자 (pija) – pizza
- 비타민 (vitamin) – vitamin
- 와인 (wain) – wine
The Korean Language Uses Honorifics
One of the things that Koreans are known for is their use of honorifics. You don’t just learn Korean and speak it right away. There are more things to learn, especially the honorifics. Koreans have different levels of formality, and using honorifics is one way of recognizing this hierarchy.
Even in K-dramas, you’ll hear that Koreans talk differently with their friends compared to someone older than them, their colleagues, and acquaintances. Korean honorifics show closeness.
First-timers may use honorifics to indicate respect and unfamiliarity. As you get closer, they’ll employ fewer or different honorifics and more phrases. Close friends can use informal language with older people. Relationships matter. First impressions should be courteous.
It Has No Grammatical Gender
Another nice thing about the Korean language is that it has no grammatical gender. Korean is not gendered. In spite of this, there are words that categorize people based on their gender, much like in a lot of other languages. If a term or title refers to a female person, the prefix 여 (yeo) is added before it, and if it refers to a male person, the prefix 남 (nam) is added instead. Here are some examples:
- 사장 (sajang) – boss (male); 여사장 (yeosajang) – boss (female)
- 학생 (haksaeng)- student; 여학생 (yeohaksaeng) – female student and 남학생 (namhaksaeng) – male student
Special Noun And Verb Endings Are Used To Denote Formality
Korean is an SOV language. In English, the pattern SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) is used, but in Korean, verbs always come last. Take a look at the example below:
- English: I study Korean
- Korean: 나는 한국어를 공부한다 (naneun hangugeoleul gongbuhanda) – I Korean study
Another Fun Fact: You Can Learn Korean With An App
You might have enjoyed yourself with the Korean language facts mentioned above. But one of the greatest facts is that you can actually learn Korean using a language app. So, if you’re looking for a language learning app to aid your online courses, Ling App is a worthy app to try.
With this app, you can explore and develop your language skills. Show no limits in learning vocabulary words and have fun accomplishing the lesson. Since it has well-developed features, you won’t need to worry about the quality of learning you’ll get.