Korean Language – Project in the Process
I am no authority on the Korean language, in fact, despite my study, when I generally speak Korean, Koreans look at me in dumbstruck confusion. I’m sure the experience is common.
Back in 2000, when I first experienced living in Korea, there was little on the internet either in terms of Korean language, history (other than the Korean War) and culture. Indeed, if you wanted to write Korean on a computer outside Korea, you had to buy Microsoft Proofing Tools. Korean language courses and dictionaries, certainly in the UK, were few and far between. It’s not really surprising, despite my having traveled fairly extensively, I can put dates to the first four Koreans I met before coming to Korea: Richard Koo, 4th degree Taekwon-do, instructor, Twickenham, London, 1979, Rhee Ki Ha, 8th degree, August 1988, a student in a British school in 1994 and a student in the Philippines in 1996. My university, which boasted 14% overseas students (in 1989), had no Korean students between 1988-1992 and it was a similar situation in a subsequent university in London, where I was a ‘live-in,’ hall of residence counselor, between 1992 and 1996. My house in the UK, only a fifteen minute walk from my original university of study, now boasts a small Korean community and you can even buy kimchi in the campus supermarket.
An early scarcity of anything Korean taught me to record even basic words and I continued this practice up until about 5 years ago. Now, I record only words which are obscure and absent from dictionaries because you can guarantee if you don’t, that when you need them, they’ll have been forgotten. I do exactly the same with hanja. Information in relation to Korea is so new, that dictionaries often contain mistakes, misinformation or simply do not list a word you might be searching. As an example, ‘persimmon,’ ‘peach’ and ‘chili’ appear in most dictionaries but there are there are several different types of each. Persimmon can be bought very sort, soft, hard, and dried and all have different names which are not so easily tracked down. The problem regularly occurs and though you can ask people to clarify, experience has taught me they too, often make mistakes or simply don’t know the answers.
So, I have decided to place a small dictionary ‘page,’ accessed through my side-bar, to list words that are obscure and/or interesting. Of course, they are a personal list and like anyone else learning Korean, each of us has a batch of words pertinent to our own interests and experiences. However, it can be shared and added to and corrected by anyone who is interested and is prepared to send a comment. Most words I will generally look up in my mediocre dictionary, and will always check in an online dictionary such as Babblefish. However, often words I want translating, are simply not there. I do not intend this resource to be for anything other than obscure words and words often missing from dictionaries because their is no direct English equivalent. You can access Interesting and Obscure Korean here.
© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.