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How Many Korean Words Do You Use?

 

   
 
  ▲ In a Korean sentence, the English word “size ” is written in Korean alphabets following the English pronounciation.  
 
  Globalization through modern technologies creates new lifestyles and brings cultures closer to each other. Language also cannot be of an exception in the face of this new and huge wave. In our daily life, we can notice that we frequently speak and write foreign words. People have even started to use foreign words without realizing this, and this general trend is becoming a part of our lives. But, is this life style of using foreign words in daily life instead of Korean words good? Here is the story of daily life example.

 


  “It is too hot to walk around the street! How about staying inside a cool café and ordering some drinks?” When the hot summer’s sunshine tried to make all the creatures on the earth feel like they are on a giant barbecue, Mr. Kim, a student of Dongguk University, made this suggestion to his friend. They went into a nearby café and ordered a cup of coffee and tea. A clerk asked them. “What size do you want?” “Size? What kind of sizes can we order in this café?” “We have four kinds of sizes which are small, medium, large and grande,” the clerk answered. “Grande and large, please.” The Clerk asked one more time. “Ice or hot?” “Ice please.” “Take your coffee when the bell rings.” After they ordered their drinks, they sat on the table and started to talk about their daily life. “Is everything going well with you?” Kim asked. “Oh dear, these days I’m losing my mind because I’m worried about my specs.” “What kind of specs are you trying to get?” The friend said with tiredly, but with a little bit of pride. “I am doing an internship, arbeit and a group study.”


  How many foreign words, not Korean, were used in this conversation? If you were a native English speaker with no experience in Korea, you could probably answer just two words, grande and arbeit. “Grande” is Spanish and “arbeit” is German which means “huge” and “working”, respectively. If you have any experience of living in Korea you will probably notice more than five words; café, coffee, ice, spec and internship. And if you were Korean and read this conversation very carefully, you would say there are too many English words. It is because more than one foreign word was used in every single sentence; size, small, medium, large, grande, bell, and group study etc. Koreans truly use a lot of foreign words in daily life. Is this situation good? Doesn’t this situation have any problems?


  Go Jae-seol, the president of “The Society of Poetics & Linguistics” says no. He said that using foreign words can cause many problems. Communication problems arise when foreign words are used in official situations or with older generations. Confusion deepens when the words are written because of the pronunciation gap, and an identification problem by losing own language and words. Many nations disappeared after they were dominated by other cultures, losing their own languages and traditions. Language is changing and foreign words can be a part of own language, but if people use foreign words more than their own, original words will eventually fade away. It actually is happening in Korean language. Go mentioned most Korean words are Sino-Korean which means words come from Korean Chinese vocabulary system. And today, almost no original Korean words are used. Can this language even be called by its original name, in this case, as Korean? He asked and continued. “Changes happen slowly at first, but in the end, the language has become totally different. Therefore, people should try to keep using their own language and their own words.”


  He also added that mother language has more benefit for native speakers because words consist of prefix and suffix. Usually, native speakers learn prefix and suffix naturally and many words are made of mixing prefix or suffix. This experience makes a huge difference in using the language with experience. The knowledge of prefix and suffix helps to guess the meaning of a word when we hear the word for the first time. For example, in English, the prefixes such as dis- or un- make it possible for people to guess that they give words opposite meanings from the original words.  The same thing happens in Korean too. For example, “Nam,” which means south in Korean, helps people to guess certain words are connected with South. When “Nam” is used as suffix and prefix in words such as Gangnam and Namhan which mean southern part from river and South Korea. In addition, many people need to participate in using our pure native Korean. Korean words which people use nowadays are so different from originals by Chinese words and characters.


  As he mentioned, trying to speak in our own words is important and meaningful. In the past, the Korean peninsula was invaded a lot by foreign nations not only by Japan and China but also France, England and others. Koreans could have remained as a Korean because they reserved their language and culture. This is the critical moment to continue our tradition as well.

Kim Du-hyeon  kimduhyeon51@dongguk.edu

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