Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Hangul Day (Actually, it was October 9)

And how better to celebrate hangul than by slamming Japan? And not slamming Japanese politicians or historians... but slamming the Japanese pronunciation of an English word (Scottish, I suppose, really), and not just slamming the Japanese pronounciation of any Scottish word, but that of one that Koreans can't say properly, either!

All I can say is... wow. That American tourist sure speaks Korean well!

I also love the smug face of the Korean-speaking (read: "right") one in the clip from McDonalds -- she has the same face as the person in those Christian videos I used to watch in youth group, who listens to friends talk about some relevant, real-life moral dilemma with a smug smile, before jumping in, just after they have presented the dilemma, with,

"Well, I actually have an answer to your question... and I just happen to have a bible with me... let me tell you a story about a man..."

And the icing on the cake has got to be, in this video about promoting Korean culture, that their music selection at the beginning and end of the video, are kayagum arrangements (that's good -- kayagum's a korean instrument) -- of BEATLES songs.

. . . too easy. Just too easy.

But then... I heard when Paul McCartney was killed in that car accident and secretly replaced by a body double, that his replacement was a Korean.

On a slightly more positive note, Sejong is up and running in Gwanghwamun Plaza, and he looks good. Despite my derisive language a moment ago, I still like Sejong a lot for what he did, and even if Hangul was rejected by the Yangban back in the day as something for the "low" people, and they clung to Chinese to maintain the elitist gap between them and the peasants, as cultural mythmaking goes, Korea couldn't have picked a better hero to venerate.

Chosun English on Hangul


Brian said...

Great find. The Korean pronunciation of foreign words is about the last thing they should be taking pride in, besides ranking high in baby-exporting, abortions, and Asian poses.

Chris in South Korea said...

@Brian: always wondered why they were exporting babies, then encouraging women to have more.

The holiday seriously passed me by - but I will have to pay a visit to the new Sejong statue... His other one (Yeouido Park) shows the hangeul letters (including the now obsolate triangle) fairly nicely.

Jason said...

Some of the Korean English teacher trainees I've had in my classes have said it's RIDICULOUS how many English words have been assimilated into the Korean lexicon. They complain that if other languages can create new words using the native system why can't Koreans use Korean to create new words that mean/refer to foreign things like "hamburger" ... If Korean is supposed to be so amazing shouldn't this be the way it's used?

dokebi said...

To Brian: Totally aGREED.

To Jason: It's actually difficult to create Korean words for new or foreign items and concepts because their basis would be Chinese characters, and Chinese characters don't include everything in the world that exist.

Such words would be very long & sound very awkward or uncool.

For example, what would be the appropriate Korean alternative to "computer" ?

Calculator is "ge-san-gi." So.....

Something like the acronynms for the Sony VAIO (Video Audio Integrated Operations)?

Roboseyo said...

Sure, Jason. That's how they do things... IN NORTH KOREA! (I'm trying to make that the Godwin's Law of K-blogs)

Brian said...

Chris: Well, they're trying to stop the exporting now. The drive to have more children came about I guess when somebody realized "wait . . . aborting these fetuses and throwing these baby girls down wells has consequences?"

I had a very circular discussion about the overuse of English in Korean the other day. The other person just said it was easier to borrow words, and didn't think it negatively affected English or dumbed down Korean.

Most of the English words borrowed---for example escalator, elevator, remote control---mean something in English. That is, an elevator is something that elevates, a remote is something that controls . . . remotely, and so on. Of course as English speakers don't make these computations each time they use words, but it is nice to know that words actually mean something. When they're imported into Korean, they simply stand for the noun (or whatever part of speech). An elevator is simply that thing in the closet that goes to the 2nd floor. No connection to anything else. The person, who disagreed with me strongly, said something like "so it should be 올라가는계단?" or something, to which I said, "well, yeah."

Is importing a word you don't understand and can't pronounce really easier than making one for yourself? I'm not suggesting Koreans go through their vocabulary and forceably change the language back to "Korean"---insofar as its even possible to speak in "native Korean"---but at least recognize that there's no reason to hollow out your own language (and then turn around and blame the spread of English.) Do you really want to babble in mispronounced foreign words the rest of your life?

And like I say all the time, the overuse of English in Korean makes it that much harder for Koreans to learn the language. They're so used to pronouncing things the Korean way, and in some cases using the words differently, that it's quite difficult to adapt to English. Happens to foreigners, too---nobody understands "E-Mart" until you say "ee mah-teu."---but far too many Koreans don't think pronunciation matters, or think that their way is okay because English has so many regional variations.

Brian said...

Oh, and I hope the talk about Koreanizing Korean---at least in that article I posted about last week---they start naming body parts after hangeul letters. No more "V-line" face, especially since nobody can pronounce "V."

Jonni said...

I'm Korean and that video definitely made me cringe. I couldn't finish watching it.

I don't think it's valid to criticize the use of loanwords in the Korean language, though, when a vast number of words in the English language are essentially loanwords. Take, for example, the word flotilla, which comes from Spanish. If we had kept the Spanish pronunciation, shouldn't we be saying flo-tee-yah instead of flo-til-la? This probably wasn't the best example, but I'm sure there are thousands of better examples of borrowed words in the English language that sound nothing like the original language that they were borrowed from. Anyhow, many of the loanwords in English have also taken on a new meaning since they've been integrated into English, just like loanwords in Korean (actually, like loanwords in any language.) There are tons of words that have become so integrated into the English language that we don't even think of them as loanwords anymore!