Travel, Teach, Live in Korea

How Is Korean Different From English?
By:Daniel C Howard

English, as we know, is spoken in all four corners of the globe. Many countries, like the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Australia use English as their native language. If we learn another language like Korean, it is different in many ways compared with English particularly in the form of words, sentences, pronunciations and compositions.

There are 26 letters that comprise the English alphabet, 20 consonants and 6 vowels (including y). In the Korean alphabet, which is called Hangul, it has only 14 consonants and 6 vowels. The Korean language is only used mainly in North and South Korea. Although, it is different from its neighboring countries, Korean was greatly influenced by Chinese. It is not related to any other languages but it has slight similarities in structure and vocabulary with the Japanese.

Grammar

In English grammar, when writing a sentence, the proper order or sequence is usually Subject (S), Verb (V), and Object (O), like in this sentence, Mary (S) drinks (V) milk (O). In Korean, it is different: the object comes first before the verb, Mary (S) milk (O) drinks (V), which is in the Subject, Object, and Verb order. After the end of the verb, information is added to express social context in the sentence. This makes the Korean language an agglutinative language. Due to the contrasting style in sentence formation, Koreans, who study English, find it difficult to use verb phrases correctly.

Also, Korean does not use articles such as a, an, or the. This adds to their problems when they learn English because of the complex sentence structure. Another significant factor in grammar is that questions and answers in English have varying structures. In Korean, the arranging of questions and answers are the same. The only difference is the tone. When a question is asked, the tone rises, while in a declarative sentence, the tone lowers.

Sounds

English words consist of syllables and are dependent on accents. A word can have another meaning if the accent is on a different syllable. In Korean, the use of the word does not rely on accents. The meaning does not change. And because of this, Koreans may sound monotonous when they speak English. They also tend to pronounce words incorrectly because of the varying sounds in the English vocabulary. Sounds like th, v are often pronounced as b or f sounds.

Other

Korean also uses a number of honorifics to express a relationship in a conversation. Common Korean honorifics are Ssi, Gun/Yang, Seonsaeng, and Gwiha. The comparison between the English and Korean language shows significant differences in alphabet, grammar, phonology and even in the culture. The English language, however, is much easier to learn than Korean, if only because of the influence of honorifics in Korean language which is not part of the English language. Learning Korean is still much easier than any other country in Northern Asia.

Though Korean is limited in scope, there are still many reasons to learn the language. People may learn the language for business, cultural connection, or just the challenge of such a vastly different language. Whatever your reason for learning, it's always easier to know the potential hazards along the way.

I am a language teacher living in Asia. I have over a decade of experience teaching all ages a variety of subjects. For free Korean info and lessons, please visit my blog here.

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