The Chinatown Lunch Club Message Board › But Korean scholar’s publications are mostly in Hanja....

But Korean scholar’s publications are mostly in Hanja....

A former member
Post #: 12
Once again thanks to Sarina's arrangement for last night’s wonderful culture event, beside walking and eating meetups (which I enjoy very much).

After last night Prof. Ledyard’s talk on the foundation of Korean language, I just can’t stop thinking of all these questions I’ve been having for many years unanswered. First, let me say that learning Chinese characters/language was such painful experience, as I was growing up in Japan/Taiwan. Mainly, Chinese language does not logically connect; if one knows how to read it, does not mean one knows how to pounce it. If one knows how to pounce it, does not mean one knows how to write it; or knowing the meaning of that character, not to mention what it meant in the middle of a sentence structure (I spend much time guessing things while in school reading Chinese articles). I know all these things because it was major part of my graduate school thesis in converting English robotic machine commands onto Asian languages.

So, how did they teach me Hanja/Kanji/Chinese character? Basically, we had to write the each new character 200~300 times a day, memorized it then write an essay with those newly learned Chinese characters by end of the week. We did this for 12 years of education and same technique goes with math lessons. From what I know Korean do not use Hanja(Chinese characters) like they used to. Everyone I know who is Korean cannot read or write Hanja besides their own name. But scholar’s publications are mostly in Hanja.

One also needs Chinese character to help distinguish between different words that sound the same. Or you'd always get lost disturbing the speed of reading, not knowing the meaning of words simply by their sound since many words sound the same; Korean language is a wonderful unique homonym rich language. I think if Japanese completely abolished the use of kanji then it would be too difficult to understand, since it is also a homonym rich language, so it is essential for readability.

I do not have the answer of which way is better. I think this regional language “not-using-Chinese character” strategy is mainly for political reason. Now that Korean society by not using Hanja in newspaper, TV and magazine, disconnect me completely for understanding their culture and news event. We all know for fact the China’s neighboring countries are sick and tired of been bullied by China in the past thousand years and just couldn’t wait to separate themselves from China in language, culture and tradition (Korea, Mongol, Vietnam, Tie Biet, Taiwan…). I just don’t think it is necessary to disconnect all elements of relation, especially in language (as much as I dislike it).

I must point out; even though, King Sejong the Great, came up with the idea of Hanjul 6 centuries ago, Hanja was not complete disappear from Korean society till early 1970. Then, 10 years ago Education Ministry reversed the course by requiring college graduate must know at least 1500 Chinese characters before graduate. This is what not making sense to me - it’s much easier to learn a language while in elementary school rather later in high school/college.

Though North Korea rapidly abandoned the general use of Chinese soon after independence, the number of Chinese actually taught in primary and secondary schools is greater than the 1,800 taught in South Korea.[ Kim Il-sung had earlier called for a gradual elimination of the use of Chinese, but by the 1960s, he had reversed his stance; he was quoted as saying in 1966, "While we should use as few Sinitic terms as possible, students must be exposed to the necessary Chinese characters and taught how to write them." As a result, a Chinese-character textbook was designed for North Korean schools for use in grades 5-9, teaching 1,500 characters, with another 500 for high school students. College students are exposed to another 1,000, bringing the total to 3,000.

In Korea Society exhibition of calligraphy art last night, I was able to comprehend a Korean Hanja Li Bai’s poem (in 925 AD.) without difficulty. Thanks to my early education in Chinese?
Sarina
user 3335372
New York, NY
Post #: 65
Hi Jimmy,
Thank you for sharing this information and clarifying some of the things we learned at the lecture. When language is so difficult people are hung up more on semantics rather than on ideas and new concepts and a society can become stuck.
Although I speak 3 Romance languages it seems like a huge feat to try to learn an Asian language, especially since they are all so different from each other.
Sarina
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