Linguistics

5 Reasons You Should Learn Korean This Year!

First things first. If you are considering learning a language this year…FANTASTIC IDEA! Learning a new language offers many benefits beyond just words and grammar – enhanced cognitive development, cultural appreciation, and a gigantic amount of personal fulfilment. And let’s face it, who couldn’t use a brain boost and some personal growth in January?!

We all have different motivations for deciding which language to learn. Whether we hope to expand our career opportunities, communicate with a new friend, enhance our travel experience, or simply challenge ourselves, the language we choose should be a reflection of both our passions and our goals.

In case you are still deciding on a language to learn this year, let me make a suggestion.

Drumroll…..

(If you haven’t already guessed from the title of this blog)

Korean!

Why on earth should you learn Korean this year? Here are a few great reasons!

1. You’ll be in good company

There are around 77 million speakers of Korean worldwide, putting it in the top 15 of world languages. While the majority of native speakers can be found in South and North Korea, there are also hundreds of thousands of Korean speakers in Japan, Russia, the United States and around the world.

2. You can learn the most logical language writing system in the world

The Korean written language (Hangul or Hangeul) was introduced in the 15th century by King Sejong in an effort to create a written language that was better suited to Korean grammar than Chinese Hanja. It also served to improve the literacy rate among Koreans who could not afford to be educated in the Chinese language.

Hangul is basically a cross between an alphabet and a syllabary. Clusters of letters representing a single syllable of a word are placed together in one block. So while Korean writing might look like a series of complex symbols, in reality it is a collection of syllable blocks made up of easily recognizable consonants and vowels.

한글
Han gul

The Korean alphabet officially contains 24 letters – 10 vowels and 14 consonants. (If you also include double consonants and vowel combinations, the total increases to 40).

Consonants: ㄱㅋㄲㄴㄷㅌㄸㄹㅁㅂ
ㅍㅃㅅㅆㅇㅈㅊㅉㅎ

Vowels: ㅏㅓㅗㅜㅡㅣㅑㅕㅛㅠ
ㅐㅒㅔㅖㅢㅘㅙㅚㅝㅞㅟ

Korean vowels are based on three elements – a flat line (representing earth), a point or short line (representing the sun or sky) and a vertical line (representing human beings). Combinations of these three elements comprise all of the vowel formations in the language.

Hangul consonants are designed to resemble the shape of your mouth or position of your tongue as you pronounce the sound.

Hangul was created to be both logical and efficient. So, while the Korean language does have many challenges, learning the alphabet is not one of them.

3. You’ll be unique

While some linguists suggest that the Korean language originated with the Altaic language family (i.e.Mongolian, Turkish) and others suggest the Uralic (i.e. Hungarian, Finnish), Korean is often classified as a language isolate. In other words, the Korean language is not related to any other language on earth!

This may seem strange, given the large influence of both China and Japan throughout Korean history. Korean does share some attributes with Mandarin, including many borrowed Chinese words and the use of some Hanja characters. But unlike with Mandarin, you don’t need to learn any tones or memorize thousands of Hanja symbols!

Korean and Japanese share the use of particles – small suffixes or short words which follow nouns – as well as a subject-object-verb order. But unlike Korean, Japanese requires the memorization of two alphabets (hiragana and katakana), in addition to the Chinese hanja.

While it is widely debated which of the three languages is the most difficult to learn, in the end, all are beautifully crafted languages steeped in tradition and culture.

4. You can feel part of a fantastic culture

The use of honorifics in the Korean language can DEFINITELY present a challenge for new speakers. Nouns and verbs are continually modified to reflect the age and status of the listener and the relationship between speaker and listener. For example when speaking to a customer or client, a manager or superior, someone younger or less experienced, a child, a grandparent, or a friend – all of these situations require the use of a different honorific. While it does complicate language learning, honorific speech is a window into the highly respectful and honor-filled culture of the country.

Koreans are also well-known for their aesthetic and artistic culture. In the past few decades, a phenomenon known as the Korean wave brought forth a wealth of Korean K-pop music to the world. (Think Psy of Gangnam Style fame or the boyband BTS ). Korean film and television are also finding their way into international markets, including this year’s Academy Award shortlisted film “Burning.”

Learning Korean provides a great opportunity to enjoy Korean music, film and television on a whole new level, in their original production language!

5. Your career will thank you

Korea is home to many large multinational companies including LG, Samsung and Hyundai. For those hoping to live and work in Korea, or work for a Korean company abroad, learning the Korean language is an immeasurable asset. With the Korean economy ranked in the top 15 in the world, it’s a great time to join the Korean wave!

If all of these aren’t reason enough, here is one more great incentive to study Korean this year.

The Korean language is now available on the Fluent Forever Beta App!

Visit fluent-forever.app to access the Fluent Forever Beta and start your Korean language learning journey this year!

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