The Korean language is called Hanguk- oh. It is the only language in Korea and is used by 80
million Korean speakers. The Korean alphabet (Han-gul) was introduced by King Sejong Jong in
1443. Prior to its creation Korea used complex Chinese characters, however this meant that only a
small percentage of the population (mainly the upper class) could read and write. The introduction of
Hang-gul is one of the main reasons for Korea having a literacy rate of over 95%.
Like Korean society the language is highly structured, there are 3 main levels of formality used to
show the level of respect between the speakers. For example, Koreans love to talk aboout food and
the way you would ask someone older or more senior 'did you enojy lunch'? is different to how you
would ask a child. This can be qite confusing at first but don't be afraid to make mistakes
Do I need to learn Korean to get by?
The most important thing for you to know is that it is not necessary to learn the language to live in
Korea. Most signs are translated into English and the country is becoming ever more foreigner
friendly. Unlike in the past a lot of Koreans have a basic grasp of English so if you are stuck you will
usually be able to find someone to help you out. A lot of English has been absorbed into Korean, it
even has it's own name, called Konglish, so if you are having difficulty try saying an English word with
a Korean accent and you my strike it lucky! Learning a few basic phrases will help you get by but if
you really want to absorb the culture then of course there is no reason why you shouldn't learn th
How about in the classroom?
Your lessons will be conducted solely in English and in most hagwons Korean is outlawed. if your
school doesn't have a no Korean policy I would intorduce one into the classroom from the outset. Not
only is it the best way for children to pick up English but if they can't speak the language and are
prohibited from speaking Korean then they have little choice but to be quiet and listen, well.. hopefully!
How do I learn the language?
If you do decide to try and learn the language you will be pleased to know that the Korean alphabet
(Han-gul) is one of the simplest writing systems in the world. It is so easy to learn that most Korean
children can read and write before they enter school. With a couple of hours of studying you will be
able to read and write Han-gul.
Han-gul is a phonetic alphabet consisting of 10 basic vowels and 14 consonants. Each vowel and
consonant is a symbol and the symbols are combined into blocks representing a single syllable. If
you wish to learn Korean check out the Sogang Korean Language website, it is a fantastic program
that will walk you through the basics and if you follow it though to intermediate level you will find after
a year in Korea you can communicate rather well.
Also, check out what's going on in your local city, a lot of
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