10 fun facts about the Korean language

Marguerite Arnold
Marguerite Arnold
K
Korean is one of the hardest languages to learn. It is also one of the world's youngest. Created during the 15th century by a local king, it was created to increase literacy. Linguists praise the language for its unique structure.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Quick—list the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Korea! Yes, the Winter Olympics are sometimes held there. Indeed, it is part of a peninsula just south of the other Korea. It is also the 11th largest economy in the world. And while Korean is not one of the most spoken “immigrant” languages, sizable communities exist in big cities all over the world. There are 76 million native speakers. That makes Korean the 17th most spoken language. Learning Korean, however, is not easy. The language is an almost complete “isolate”. In other words, it does not share many similarities with other languages. It is believed to have come from the Jeju language.

 

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1: KOREAN IS HARD FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS TO LEARN

Korean is hard to master. The reasons? A very different word order, an elaborate honorifics system which determines the endings of verbs, and a mind-blowing array of nouns and verb endings in general. The good news? Picking up the basics is pretty easy. The alphabet at least is easier than Chinese. It has no tones. It also has no gender, number agreements, or articles to learn (like French or German).

 

2: KOREAN HAS ITS OWN SCRIPT

Hangul is the name of the Korean alphabet. It was created in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great. Before then, Koreans used the Chinese alphabet and characters (called Hanja). This was difficult for commoners to master, and thus, Hangul was created for the purpose of literacy. There are 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Letters are grouped together in syllable blocks.

 

Letters are grouped together in syllable blocks.

raker / Shutterstock.com

3: DOES KOREAN SHARE SIMILARITIES WITH OTHER LANGUAGES?

The Korean language belongs to the Altaic language family. It is related to Turkish, Mongolian, and Manchu (a Chinese dialect). In terms of grammar, Korean is closest to Japanese. It also shares many words of Chinese origin. As such, learning Korean will give you a head start on learning Japanese, as well as some Chinese vocabulary.

 

4: THE LANGUAGE IS “BRILLIANTLY DESIGNED”

Hangul is one of the youngest alphabets in the world, but apparently took its cues from the best. Linguists love Korean. They describe it as the “most perfect phonetic system devised”, with an alphabet that fits the language like a glove.

 

5: THE SHAPE OF THE LETTERS MIMIC YOUR TONGUE

When you look at the shape of the letters, they mimic what your tongue is doing to pronounce them.

 

6: SPECIAL NOUNS AND VERB ENDINGS INDICATE FORMALITY

Formality, politeness, and status are a big deal. Special nouns and verb endings are used to show respect to the person you’re talking to. This is also one of the reasons that international businesses need skilled Korean translators. Nuances are very important in this language.

 

7: KOREANS OFTEN USE COMMUNAL PRONOUNS

Koreans often used shared pronouns like “we” or “us”, rather than “me” or “I”. This comes from the communal nature of Korean culture and society. Learning how and when to use the difference is a subtle nuance that takes years for outsiders to understand.

 

 Learning how and when to use the difference is a subtle nuance that takes years for outsiders to understand.

Keith Homan / Shutterstock.com

 

8: THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF NUMBERS

There are two kinds of counting systems. One system uses native Korean. It is used for all numbers under 99, for counting objects, expressing time, distance, dates, and for talking about age. All other numbers over 100 are derived from Chinese.

 

9: THERE ARE DISTINCT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREAN

There is also starting to be a language drift between North and South Korea. The two countries have evolved different vocabularies, pronunciations, and grammar rules.

 

10: THERE IS A NATIONAL HOLIDAY IN HONOUR OF THE LANGUAGE

There is actually one thing that both North and South Korea can agree on; they love their language so much, they created a national holiday to honour it. In both countries.

 

YUQO HAS THE SKILL TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR KOREAN TRANSLATION TASKS

At Yuqo, we have skilled translators available to help with your Korean translation needs. Whether it’s business documents, web campaigns, or the script for your newest game, we can help you reach global audiences! Contact us today for a quote.