Hangeul Day and looking back at the Korean language
Hangeul Day and looking back at the Korean language
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.10.01 00:00
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▲ Many foreign exchange students at Ewha think that Hangeul Day should be celebrated as a reminder of the dynamism of the Korean language and its resilience

By Adelide Mutinda


Words such as hand phone (which means cell phone), service (which means free) and cunning (which means cheating) are just a few examples of English words, referred to as Konglish, that are commonly used by Koreans in everyday conversations.

Walking through the streets of Seoul, one can be sure to use or hear some of these words. These terms are used so often that despite their English origins, they have taken root and become part of Korean daily conversation. I think Koreans use a lot of English words when they speak, said Josephine Gachwe (Engineering, 2) from Kenya. Liu Qian Ying (International Studies, 4) from China, also agrees that English words are used a lot compared to Chinese, which hardly incorporates English or any other foreign terms.


But on October 9, Hangeul Day, the day to celebrate the creation of the indigenous written Korea alphabet, the question of whether Hangeul is being undermined will once again be raised and provide a chance to look back at a part of their heritage. During this time of the year, critics voice their concerns over the increased usage of English in Korean conversation and ask people to use more pure Korean language.


Although some view the increasing use of English in Korean conversations as undermining the Korean language, some foreign students see it as a blessing for them and admit that without some of these English words they would otherwise not understand much from Korean conversations. Because Koreans use some English words, it definitely makes it easier to understand them because you can easily pick up some of the words, said Liu.


Many foreign students studying at Ewha also disagree and view the critics of English usage as harsh, arguing that all across the globe, the use of English is a popular trend. In Portuguese, we use many English terms in our conversations which were not used before. However, we do not see this as undermining Portuguese, but rather a symbol of the cultural integration that define the era we live in, argued Nadia Utui (Engineering, 2) from Mozambique. Despite the increasing use of English terms, just like Persian, I dont think Korean will ever really be faced out, added Zahra Rasouli (Political Science, 2) from Afghanistan.


The increasing use of English terms in many languages can be attributed to the fact that English is now recognized as the global language and that it is an inevitable force of globalization. Therefore, it becomes clear why some advocate the use of pure Korean terms, but does this widespread use of English pose a threat to Korean? In countries where English is predominantly spoken, local languages are still very much existent and English is seen as no more than an effective tool of communication in an otherwise language-restricted society. In Kenya, English is our official language because there are 42 tribes. Without English, we wouldnt be able to understand each other. Local languages still exist today but English just serves as an effective means of communication, said Gachwe.


To some people, the advocacy of the use of pure Korean terms is equivalent to maintaining the language in a static form and finding the idea that English might pose a threat to Korean as lauguage. Language can never be protected because it is characterized by its dynamism. The strength of any language can only be measured by how it can adapt to and withstand the tests of time. There is no such thing as a pure language anymore nowadays. Hangeul Day should be a celebration of the dynamism of the Korean language and its resilience when some native languages have become extinct all over the world, commented Nurliana Kamaruddin (International Studies, 2) from Malaysia.





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