Asia is home to a huge variety of cultures and languages. Narrowing it down, East Asia in particular has several seemingly similar cultures that are very different from a closer look. Korean culture and language are one of these similar-but-different East Asian cultures. If you are looking to learn Korean, you should be prepared for a tough challenge ahead because it is not an easy language to pick up simply through Korean classes in Singapore. However, to help you travel this journey smoothly, here is a guide to help prepare you for what’s to come.
- The complexities of honour and respect
Korean, reflecting its cultural prioritisation of respect, focuses heavily on various tones of speaking. Specifically, this refers to formal and informal language and showing the proper respect when speaking. This is particularly for the case when referring people older than you or those of a higher official or social rank. Therefore, make sure you get enough practice with this notion of honorifics. Get help from a native speaker to better understand it. For those coming from an American or perhaps an Australian background, due to the egalitarian and informal nature of their culture, getting to grips with honorifics is crucial.
- Understanding adjectives
Korean has a unique element in its expression of adjectives. While in English the usage of adjectives is quite simple, the Korean language uses them in a verb form. For example, while English may refer to a yellow bicycle, Korean will refer to the bicycle as “being yellow”. A simpler way to explain is that while English and other similar languages use adjectives as describing words, Korean expresses them in an active state of being.
- Gender differences
While it may seem offensive to some, some languages have expressions of relations and gender differences. These are a reflection of Korean culture, and it may help you out if you already are prepared by knowing what is expected from you. Women are expected to have a politer tone while speaking. Profanity and vulgar language are not expected of women. On the other hand, men are expected to have a stricter tone and should avoid inappropriate and informal expressions.
- Nature of the language
Korean is a very complex language, primarily because it is an agglutinative language. It is made of words that often include morphemes, which, simply explained, are a part of the words in the form of stems and affixes. These add to the complexity of the language, as the same word will vary depending on the prepositions, conditionals, and context. Thus, be prepared to learn several different versions of the same word, and understand its uses.
Korean can be a tough language to learn for an outsider, particularly if it’s the first foreign language you are learning. However, the language itself is rewarding as it gives an insight into the fascinating cultural values of the Korean people.