A List of Korean

I’m a bit of a language nut, in all honesty. The majority of my music is in Chinese or Korean (周杰伦, CNBlue and JJ Lin… and Vic Chou and ), the majority of my TV and movies are in other languages (Chinese, Korean, French, Yiddish, you name it), and I’m starting a collection of books in other languages too. My list of languages to learn (just in case you’re curious) is as follows: Chinese, Korean, Arabic, French, Japanese, Italian, German, Russian. If I can speak reasonably well in the first five of the above by the time I retire, I’ll be a happy camper. But today’s list is about Korean, the second of my language loves.

Reasons why I love Korean:

The lack of tones. When I first started learning Chinese, the tones scared me. I couldn’t hear them. I had no idea how I was going to learn a language when I couldn’t even hear half of what I needed to. Thankfully, I soon learned to recognize tones. That said, I was glad when I learned Korean didn’t have tones in traditional sense. One language full of them is enough for me, thank you!

Jondaemal and Banmal. For some these two distinct language forms might be off-putting, like trying to learn two languages at once–and when it’s appropriate to use them. But I love the nuance it gives to a conversation, when I can pick up on whether they’ve raised their speech or lowered it, and why. I’m definitely not very good at it yet–but that’s ok. It’s to be expected, and I’ll keep plugging away until I have it down.

Oral Similarities. Did you know that the Korean word for sun is 태양 (taeyang)? Maybe. What about the Chinese word for it–太阳 (Tàiyáng)? Or this one: exercise in Chinese is 运动 (yùndòng), and the Korean word for it is 운동, undong. Or completey, thoroughly, entirely. In Korean it’s 완전히, wanjeonhi. In Chinese, 完全 (wánquán) means the same thing–give or take a 的 (de). It’s always exciting to learn another language and realize you already know a few of the words.

The Written Language. Have you ever looked up the history of Korean’s written language? If you’re a fellow drama fan, maybe–or you’ve watched Tree With Deep Roots, in which King Sejong plays a role. King Sejong introduced Hangul, Korea’s alternative to the complicated Chinese characters they had used before. Basically, he created their alphabet, studying the workings of the throat and how sounds were formed to make it easier to pronounce. Looking at Hangul now I can even sense how a sound is made by the character. I’d never known Korean was an alphabetical (yes, that’s how I’m describing it) language, but I’m glad it is. One of the best ways to learn a language is by surrounding yourself with it–books, music, tv, everything. It’s hard to read a book in Chinese–you can learn the meaning of a character and not how it’s pronounced. With Korean, however, I can learn the whole package–which is good because you know me… I love to read.

And to finish it off, a few words I’ve learned from K-dramas. I can follow a simple conversation fairly well now, it’s amazing!

Pronouns, boy, girl, police, crazy, pretty, potato, friend, totally, to understand, everything, to eat, to see, to sit, to rest, therefore, one more time, just this once, really, truly, seriously, thank you, hello, goodbye, here, there, leave, forget it, together, sun, exercise, entirely.

There’s more, those are just the ones I can think of off-hand.

Thanks for reading,






5 responses to “A List of Korean

  1. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love the Korean language! It’s beautiful and I really love the history of Hangul. And it’s great that Hangul is pretty easy to learn.

    I admire your ability and goals to learn multiple languages. I’ll be thrilled if I can just get a decent grasp on Korean. I’m good at memorizing words and phrases, but even when I understand the grammar, I’m terrible at executing it. Ah well, I still enjoy learning all I can :)

  2. I’ve always thought that Korean and I were destinded, ha. The first time I heard it spoken it sounded oddly familiar and it didn’t take long before I was in love… with the language.

    About 60% of Korean words have Chinese origin, so it’s not all that surprising if many sound the same. There are also several Korean words that are almost the same in Japanese, e.g the word for ‘family’ 가족, kajok is kazoku かぞく (家族) in japanese, or ‘photo’ 사진, sajin is shashin しゃしん (写真). I don’t speak a lick of Japanese but if you watch enough jdramas, you are bound to pick up some words and idioms. :) For some reason Japanese words are much easier to remember than Korean.

    I’m a slow learner, so it’ll probably take me forever to get a good enough grasp of Korean but I’ve now advanced enough watch dramas raw and get most of the dialogue. I seem to have become better at reading too lately. Don’t ask me to speak though.. or write. XD

  3. Gotta say, Jay Chou is one of the worst singers to pick up Chinese from, cuz he mumbles through his songs. Also, wait till you encounter Cantonese and its 9 tones, heh.

    Chinese is pictorial, though. And you can guess characters’ meaning and pronunciation from surrounding words. You may hear, say, an idiom on the TV or radio, but not know how to write a couple of characters. If you read this particular idiom in a story, you can kinda guess the pronunciation of the whole thing.

    Despite the Korean language having significant Chinese influenceand possible relation to Japanese, it’s interesting how linguists have classified Korean as a language isolate. Also, since Timescout mentioned similar words, I always get a good laugh out of the hilariously different meanings of some similar-looking characters in Chinese and Japanese.

    OT: I may be the only one, but I still prefer 漢城 as the name for Seoul, but maybe because I just like how it sounds in Mandarin.

    • Yes, I know about Jay Chou… but I still love his songs. Chinese music in general is harder for me to learn from, but I still enjoy it. :) I do love the pictoral characters, though.

      What different meanings for Japanese and Chinese? I wanna know, that sounds potentially fantastic!

      • Taiwan has solid singers who enunciate better, especially from the 90s. Buzz if you need recs.

        As for the different meanings, a couple of my favourites are:
        勉強 – miǎnqiǎng, to do something with difficulty or to force someone to do something
        勉強 – benkyou べんきょう, to study/to learn

        凄い – sugoi, great/wonderful/awesome
        凄 – qī, cold/miserable/sad/chilly

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