Did you know that contrary to popular belief, the Korean language is not related to Japanese? In fact, it is a member of the Altaic family of languages, which also includes Turkish, Mongolian and Finnish. Or that there are over 80 dialects spoken in Korea?
Here are 20 more fascinating facts about this unique language.
What is Special About Korean Language Facts?
Learning a new language can be a daunting task, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. For anyone considering taking up Korean, there are many reasons to do so. Here are just a few of the unique features that make Korean stand out from other languages:
- Korean has a relatively simple grammar system. There are no articles, and verb conjugations are relatively straightforward. This makes Korean easier to learn than some other languages.
- Korean is spoken by over 80 million people around the world. This means that there are many opportunities to practice Korean with native speakers.
- Korean is a very concise language. In Korean, it is possible to express complex ideas with just a few words. This can be quite challenging for learners, but it also makes conversation more efficient.
- Korean culture is rich and fascinating. From traditional music and dance to delicious food and beautiful architecture, there is much to explore. By learning Korean, you can gain a deeper understanding of this vibrant culture.
As you can see, there are many reasons to learn Korean. So why not start today? You may be surprised at how quickly you progress!
Ready to start discovering all of these amazing benefits (and more) of this beautiful language? Sign up for Korean lessons today and check out the video below for more information on the Korean language facts:
20 Fun Facts About Korean Language
The Korean language is a rich one with a long history. Like any language, the Korean language has gone through many changes over time. When you’re learning Korean, it can be fun and helpful to learn about the history and intricacies of the language. Here are 20 facts about Korean language:
1. There are Minor Language Differences Between North and South Korea
The biggest influences on the Korean language come from English and Chinese, respectively. While the language in South Korea reflects this, North Korea has tried to keep the language free of loan words. This means there may be different ways of saying certain things in the north versus the south.
Don’t worry though, the differences aren’t so major that you can’t learn and use Korean. It’s still the official language of both areas.
2. The Written Language is Based on an Alphabet, Not Just Pictures
Many people see Korean writing and assume it has roots in pictures or ideographs, like Chinese and Japanese characters. What you see when you look at one of their characters isn’t a picture, though; it’s a combination of sounds, and the letters that make up a syllable.
3. The Honorifics System Can Make All the Difference
There is also the more advanced nuances that come from the honorifics system. The honorifics system dictates how you address someone, depending on your relationship with that person. There are several speech levels, each one for a different level of respect. Learn more about the Korean speech levels here.
For example, you would use completely different words to address a relative than you would to speak with your employer. This system can be quite complex. Learn it, and you won’t accidentally slip and show disrespect when you use familiar phrasing rather than a deferential one.
4. Singular and Plural Nouns Aren’t Always Different
In English, words change depending on if the subject is singular or plural. For example, there is a distinction between one book versus four books, we add an “s” to the end of the word. In Korean, not every word changes to a different plural form to indicate more than one person place, or thing. For the most part, the context of the phrase will indicate if the subject is singular or plural.
5. Context Goes a Long Way
In a lot of everyday Korean speech, the subject and object can be dropped from a sentence. The person you’re speaking to will understand because of the context.
In English, the basic sentence is subject, verb, and object. In Korean, the basic word order is subject, object, verb.
- S-V-O – He feeds the dog
- S-O-V – He the dog feeds
In Korean, you can often drop the subject and object as long as the context is there. In almost all cases, the verb is the most important part.
6. The Language is Influenced by Chinese
The Korean language is interesting in that it has been heavily influenced by Chinese throughout its history. In fact, a large portion of the Korean vocabulary consists of words of Chinese origin.
This is due to the fact that, for centuries, Korea was a vassal state of China. As a result, the two cultures have had a profound impact on one another. Even today, many Koreans still use Chinese characters in their writing.
However, the Korean language has also been influenced by other languages, such as English and Japanese. As Korea continues to modernize and globalization takes hold, it will be interesting to see how the Korean language evolves in the future.
7. It is a “Language Isolate”
Here are some more interesting facts about the Korean language!
The Korean language is unique in several ways. For one, it is what linguists call a “language isolate,” meaning it is not closely related to any other known language. This is in contrast to languages like English, French, and Spanish, which all belong to the Indo-European family of languages.
It is also believed that the Korean language has remained relatively unchanged for over 2,000 years. This stability is unusual among languages, which typically evolve and change over time.
Furthermore, the Korean alphabet (known as Hangul) is particularly distinctive. It was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great and consists of 24 letters (14 consonants and 10 vowels). Finally, Korea has a complex system of honorifics that are used to show respect for elders or superiors. All of these features make the Korean language unique and interesting.
8. The Verbs Always Come Last in the Sentence
The Korean language is unique in many ways, but one of the most striking features is the way that verbs are always placed at the end of the sentence. This can make for some very long sentences, but it also allows speakers to change the focus of their statements simply by moving the verb to a different position.
For example, a speaker who wants to emphasize the subject of a sentence would put the verb first, while someone who wants to draw attention to the object would put the verb last. This flexible word order can be tricky for foreign learners, but it also provides a great deal of expressive power.
With a little practice, anyone can learn to use this feature of the Korean language to add nuance and depth to their speech
9. There Are Two Counting Systems
Korean has two different number systems: native Korean and Sino-Korean. Native Korean numbers are used for counting things like people and animals, while Sino-Korean numbers are used for counting everything else, such as money and days of the week.
The two number systems are completely different, which can be confusing for Korean learners.
For example, the number “eleven” is “ship” in native Korean, but it is “pal” in Sino-Korean. In addition, some words can be counted using either system. For example, the word “person” can be counted as “one person” or “ten people.” As a result, it is important to learn both number systems in order to be able to count properly in Korean.
10. Until the 15th Century, the Language Had No Alphabet
Did you know that the Korean language didn’t have an alphabet until the 15th century? Before that, Koreans used Chinese characters to write. In 1443, King Sejong the Great commissioned a team of scholars to create a new alphabet for the Korean language.
They came up with a system of 28 letters, which were called “hangul.” The new alphabet made it possible for people of all social classes to learn to read and write. Today, hangul is still used in North and South Korea. It’s considered one of the most logical and easy-to-learn writing systems in the world!
11. … But Now There Was a Korean Holiday Celebrating the Alphabet
The Korean government decided to create a holiday called “Hangeul Day.” Hangeul Day is celebrated on October 9th, which is the day that the Korean alphabet was created back in 1446. On this day, Koreans all over the world celebrate by learning more about the Korean language and culture. If you’re interested in learning more about the Korean language, Hangeul Day is a great time to start!
12. Hangul Is Referred to as the “World’s Best Alphabet”
The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, is often praised as the “world’s best alphabet.” And it’s not difficult to see why. Hangul was specifically designed to be easy to learn and use, and it is considered one of the most scientific writing systems in existence.
The alphabet consists of just 24 letters, which can be combined to form thousands of different words. And unlike many other writing systems, there is no ambiguity in how the letters are pronounced. In addition, the alphabet is very efficient, using far fewer symbols than most other languages. As a result, it has been estimated that an average Korean speaker can read and write twice as fast as an English speaker.
Indeed, Hangul is an impressive achievement, and it’s no wonder that it is considered one of the world’s best alphabets.
13. It is Considered a “Collectivist” Language
In Korean, there is no word that corresponds to the English “I”. Instead, the pronoun “우리(uri)”, which means “we”, is used when referring to oneself. This usage reflects the collectivist nature of Korean society. Collectivism is a social philosophy that emphasizes the needs of the group over the needs of the individual.
In collectivist cultures, people are expected to work together for the common good. Individual achievement is often secondary to group success. The collectivist orientation of Koreans is evident in their family relationships, their interactions with friends, and their attitude towards work. In many ways, collectivism is the cornerstone of Korean society.
14. The Consonants Might Mess You Up
If you’re thinking of learning Korean, be warned: the consonants might give you some trouble. Unlike English, which has a relatively simple system of consonants, Korean has a much more complex one. There are 19 different consonants in Korean, each with its own unique sound.
What’s more, these consonants can be combined to form even more complex sounds. As a result, mastering the pronunciation of Korean can be a challenge for even the most experienced language learner. But don’t let that discourage you! With a little practice, you’ll be speaking like a native in no time.
15. There are Multiple Dialects
The Korean Peninsula is a unique place because it is home to multiple dialects of the Korean language. Despite being separated by just a few hundred miles, these dialects can be quite different from one another. This is one of the many cool facts about the Korean language!
For example, residents of Jeju Island have their own distinctive way of speaking, which includes several loanwords from the Jeju dialect of the Chinese language. In addition, there are also differences between the standard Korean spoken in North and South Korea. These differences can be traced back to the division of the peninsula into two separate countries after World War II.
As a result, the Korean language has developed into a rich and diverse tapestry, with many different dialects and variations.
16. K-Pop and Korean Television Shows Have Caused an Increased Interest in Learning Korean
Over the past decade or so, there has been a marked increase in the popularity of Korean pop music (K-Pop) and television shows around the world. This has in turn led to a growing interest in learning the Korean language. Indeed, many people who would never have considered studying Korean are now signing up for classes or taking online courses.
There are several reasons for this trend. Firstly, K-Pop and Korean dramas are extremely popular and widely available. They provide an enjoyable way to learn about Korean culture and pick up some basic language skills. Secondly, the rise of social media means that it is easier than ever to connect with Korean speakers and learn from them directly. Finally, more and more people are realizing that knowing Korean can be a valuable asset in an increasingly globalized world.
Whether you want to watch your favorite K-Pop band or simply be able to order food on your next trip to Seoul, learning Korean can be an enriching experience. With patience and practice, anyone can develop proficiency in this fascinating language.
17. You Can Test Your Fluency By Taking the TOPIK Test
The Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) is a written test designed to measure the ability of non-native speakers of Korean to use the Korean language in their daily lives. The test is administered by the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KIEE) and is offered four times a year.
There are two levels of the test, with Level 1 being for beginners and Level 2 being for intermediate-level learners. The test consists of four sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each section is worth 100 points, for a total possible score of 400 points.
The TOPIK test is widely recognized as a reliable way to measure one’s proficiency in Korean. Many universities and employers accept TOPIK scores as part of their admissions or hiring process. In addition, the test can also be used to assess one’s eligibility for certain scholarships and other benefits. For anyone interested in learning more about the Korean language, taking the TOPIK test is a great way to gauge your progress and set future goals.
18. There are a Lot of Loan Words in the Language
Korea has been occupied or under the influence of other countries throughout much of its history. As a result, the Korean language has borrowed extensively from other languages, particularly Chinese. According to one estimate, nearly 60% of the Korean vocabulary consists of loanwords from Chinese.
However, Korean has also borrowed words from Japanese, Mongolian, English, and other languages. These loanwords often reflect the borrowing culture’s technology or economic dominance at the time.
For example, many Korean words for modern technological devices are borrowed from English, while older words for traditional Korean items are more likely to be of Chinese origin. As Korean continues to evolve, it is likely that even more loanwords will enter the language.
19. Korean Has No Grammatical Gender
Korean has no grammatical gender, which means that there are no masculine or feminine forms of nouns. This can be a bit of a shock for learners of Korean who are used to English, where almost every noun has a gender.
For example, the word for “book” is 책 (chae), which is neutral, while the word for “bird” is 새 (sae), which is female. The lack of grammatical gender in Korean means that there are no pronouns like “he” or “she,” and all verbs and adjectives are conjugated the same way regardless of the subject’s gender.
While it may take some time to get used to, not having to worry about genders can actually make learning Korean simpler in some ways. So don’t worry if you can’t tell whether a Korean noun is male or female – chances are, it doesn’t have a gender at all!
20. It’s One of the Hardest Languages for English Speakers
Korean is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. There are several reasons for this.
First, Korean has a unique alphabet that is completely different from English. This means that English speakers have to learn an entirely new set of symbols in order to read and write Korean.
Second, Korean grammar is very complex. For example, there are seven different levels of speech, which must be used depending on the relationship between the speaker and the person they are talking to. This can be extremely confusing for English speakers who are used to using only one form of address.
Finally, Korean pronunciation is also very difficult. Because of the way the Korean alphabet is structured, many words have multiple syllables, and each syllable must be pronounced clearly in order to be understood. For all of these reasons, Korean is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn.
Impress Your Friends With Korean Language Facts
By learning about the Korean language facts, you can impress your friends with your knowledge of this fascinating culture.
Korean is an interesting and unique language that has many quirks. If you’re interested in learning more about it, or want to start learning the language yourself, be sure to check out some of these resources. And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be able to converse with your favorite K-pop stars in their native tongue!
Learning Korean is challenging, but it is also fun and rewarding. You can apply many of these principles as you learn the language and use them to help you advance.
Photo by Emmanuel DYAN