Appreciating the Korean languageSAMY RASHAD
There are 7,000 to 8,000 languages spoken around the world, but the official languages of the United Nations are Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and French. When leaders around the world get together in the United Nations, only these six languages are used for communication. In UN meetings and speeches, only these languages are used, and if a speaker does not command any of the six, the United Nations provides interpretation service.
Then where does the Korean language stand? According to the National Institute of Korean Language, Korean is 13th-most spoken language in the world in terms of number of users - 77.2 million people use Korean in South and North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, Thailand, the United States and many other countries.
As a foreigner, I was more attracted to hangul, the writing system, than the Korean language at first. Korean teachers educating foreigners in other countries praise the outstanding system of hangul. Moreover, some people do not distinguish hangul from the Korean language and say the language itself is scientific and systematic. But no spoken language can be scientific if you think about it.
When I talk to Koreans, even college-educated people often lack knowledge on hangul and the Korean language. For example, if I ask Korean college students praising hangul’s scientific system to specifically explain how scientific it is, they often cannot answer. Many of them also falter when asked to explain the characteristics of hangul and the Korean language. Not all Koreans are linguists, but they should at least have basic linguistic knowledge about the language they speak.
In fact, the Korean language is just as beautiful and unique as hangul. The Korean language is most useful to express the ideas and emotions of Koreans. No foreign language can describe the unique Korean sentiment. Nevertheless, when I ask Koreans what they think Korea is known for, they mostly say impatience, division, hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and Chuseok. But I’ve never heard anyone say “the Korean language.”
While Koreans are taught to take pride in hangul, the education has not focused on the Korean language. There is a day dedicated to hangul and fashion shows on hangul. But there is no day celebrating the Korean language. Rather than teaching Koreans to use Korean better, schools seem to emphasize foreign languages.
I wish there were an educational program that teaches the importance and characteristics of the Korean language to the Korean people. In order for the Korean language to be spoken around the world, it should be treated better at home.
The author is a TV personality from Egypt who appears on the JTBC talk show “Non-Summit.”
JoongAng Ilbo, March 17, Page 32
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