If you’re thinking about learning Korean it’s always good to know a little about the origins and history of the language you are learning. Here, Cactus Language offers up our most interesting Korean language facts:
Korean is one of the world’s oldest living languages and is spoken by nearly 80 million native speakers worldwide. There are several different theories, linking the origins of the Korean language with Japanese, Chinese and even Tibetan, though most linguistics classify Korean as the largest language isolate in the world. The earliest historical records of the language implicate that there were two different languages spoken in Korea and it was only in the 7th century that the Silla dialect became the dominant language in all of Korea. Due to the separation of the two countries North and South Korea have evolved distinct vocabularies, pronunciations and grammar.
Korean Pop Culture has become immensely popular in the last decade. Especially K-Pop bands such as BTS, G-Dragon and Red Velvet which have gained huge international popularity, with fans travelling from overseas to see them in concert and sold out world tours. K-Pop is characterized by a mixture of Western sounds with an Asian performance. The most popular singles even come with their own choreography, including a key dance move, that fans can learn at home. The most well-known Korean dance move is from Psy’s Gangnam Style. As of 2018 the music video has a whopping 3 Billion views on YouTube and is one of the most watched YouTube videos of all time.
One of the most famous Korean tongue twisters is: “Kanjang kongjang kongjang-jang-ǔn jang kongjang-jang-igo toenjang kongjang kongjang-jang-ǔn kang kongjang-jang-ida” it can be translated to “The factory manager of the soy sauce factory is factory manager Chang and the factory manager of the soybean paste factory is factory manager Kang.”
Hangul is one of the youngest alphabets worldwide and linguists love it. It is often described as being the “most perfect phonetic system” with an alphabet that fits the language like a glove. That is partially because the shape of the letters actually mimics the shape of your tongue while pronouncing them. The language is so popular with native speakers that both South and North Korea have a national holiday to honour their language.
Humour is a deeply rooted in the culture of a county and in the UK we are used to primarily verbal humour, such as puns and sarcasm. In Korea, that is mostly frowned upon, as there are strict social expectations to convey respect and deference, especially towards elders and superiors. Therefore Korean humour is mostly based on physical jokes, and there are many Korean variety shows and game shows, the most popular being “Running Man”, “Knowing Bros” and “We got Married”. In those shows the contestants are put into unusual situations and the comedy just seems to happen naturally. The game shows can be fun to watch even if you have just started learning Korean, as most jokes are emphasized by sound effects and cartoons.