Friday, September 15, 2006

"Morning letters" and My Third First Day of School

So I got that hangul (written Korean) thing down now. I took care of that this morning. Hangul was developed almost six hundred years ago. However, for about 500 of those years, it was considered vulgar and common. It was derogatorily called "women's script," "children's script," and "morning letters." That last name was used because it was said that someone could learn the letters in a morning. I found that to be true today. Below is "hangul" written in hangul. The image is from Wikipedia's entry on hangul.

My third first day of school was at Dong Bo Middle School and was a little boring. The students are taking a state achievement test, so my only role is a thirty second introduction before each of the English classes. That gave me plenty of time to crack my "Korean Made Easy" book and get going. I had my English co-teacher next to me to help me with pronunciation and explain how some of the vowels are indistinguishable even to native speakers. Then there are the silent letters, and the "ng." Simply put, I now feel incredibly empowered.

I think my time so far in Korea has cemented for me the necessity of learning native alphabets. While Romanizations are helpful for lay travelers or for quick pronunciation, I am finding so much of a difference even between the Korean-English alphabet charts and what is actually pronounced. Simply put, there are not sound for sound correlations for all sounds. The Korean "R" is not the "R" found in English, just as the English "R" is not exactly the "R" found in Spanish. However, I must say there is much more of a difference between the Korean and English Rs than the Rs in any other languages I've experienced. Next up, speaking Korean.

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