See also: Korean
Grammar and Spelling
Section One – Grammar and Spelling
The Korean language is vaguely classified as a Ural-Altaic language, a group which also includes Mongolian, Hungarian, and Finnish. The Korean character system, han-g/l, which is not a semantic or ideographic language like Chinese, but a phonetic language like English, is completely different from and independent of Chinese and Japanese. Han-g/l was created in 1443. It is composed of 10 vowels and 14 consonants. But there are some vowel and consonant sounds that English does not have. In addition, there is no difference in pronunciation between 'l' and 'r', and between 'b' and 'v'.
The Korean character set includes several compound Roman expressions that are displayed or printed as single, wide characters. They include:
Numbers up to 30, variously circled, boxed or printed
white on black
There is no upper/lower case distinction in Korean. Therefore headings, titles and bullet points are given extra import by the use of italics, underlining or bold, and are sometimes parenthesised using '[ ]'or '( )'.
The typical plural form is “들” but singular and plural are not generally differentiated.
There are no cases or genders, and no definite or indefinite articles.
Korean follows the word order subject, object, verb.
Section Two – Punctuation
Full stops are not used at the end of headings/titles/bullet points.
Speech marks are as English:
“Would anyone like some tea?” asked George. > “차더드실분있어요?“ 라고조지가물었다.
“I’m bored – can I go home now?”, Michala said. > “지겨워, 이제 집에 가도 될까? 라고.
Apostrophes, colons and semi-colons are not used in Korean, but ellipsis is used in the same way as in English.
Brackets are used in the same way as in English, but generally do not contain punctuation other than full stops.
Section Three – Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: Metric measurements are the official standard in Korea, but inches are used for computer and television monitors.
Roman numerals (I, II, III and i, ii, iii…) are used.
The decimal point is used as in English, (3.7%) and numbers over 9999 are separated by a comma (16,000,000,000).
A space is usually left between a figure and its unit of measurement.
Time: the most common format is 10 am and 3 pm (or 10:00 AM and 03:00 PM).
Noon: 정오 Midnight: 자정
Date: preferably yyyy/mm/dd or yy/mm/dd.
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Section Four – Hyphenation
Although not ideal, if words must be broken up in Korean then this is acceptable. They may be separated at any point in the word, and without adding in a hyphen (-).
Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Surnames precede first names.
Section Six – Geographic Distribution
Korean is spoken in both North and South Korea by about 65 million people. There are also about 2 million speakers in China, 700,000 in Japan, and 600,000 in the United States. Korean's linguistic affiliation is uncertain, though in its grammatical structure it is most similar to Japanese. It is certainly not related to Chinese, although it has borrowed many Chinese words and has used the Chinese characters, together with the Korean alphabet, for many centuries. This latter practice was abolished in North Korea after World War II and is gradually being phased out in South Korea.
is spoken/used in the following countries:
Section Seven – Character Set
Consonants - Plain
Consonants - Aspirated
Consonants - Glottalised
By McElroy Translation
McElroy is continuing this series of interviews that highlight some of the characteristics of languages used in doing business globally. This month, we look at Korean.
Korean is the official language of North Korea and South Korea. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers, with large groups residing in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, the United States, CIS (post-Soviet states), and more recently the Philippines.
This month we dive into this language and learn some of the characteristics that are unique or different from English and/or other languages, pitfalls to avoid, and five tips for assessing professionally qualified translators.
What are some pitfalls specific to Korean to avoid that a client should be aware of when choosing a Korean language translator?
There are plenty of English-to-Korean translation services to be found. The biggest challenge for the translator is the effective handling of the huge differences, not only in the script but also in the culture. Effectively dealing with these differences is the task of a good translator.
The Korean language is traditionally written in a phonetic script also known as Hangul. It consists of 10 vowels and 14 consonants, a far cry from its Chinese and Japanese counterparts called Hanja, which is more complex and difficult. The Korean script is generally easier to understand and is rapidly gaining in popularity.
The top 5 tips for assessing professionally qualified translators:
What are other characteristics of Korean that are unique or different from English and/or other languages?
The significant differences between Korean and English, particularly in sentence structure and morphology (word structure), make it hard for most Korean ESL students to acquire English at the same rate as, for example, Dutch. The Korean alphabet is called hangul. It was introduced in the 15th century by King Sejong to replace the existing Chinese script (called hanja), which few Koreans could read. Hangul consists of 14 simple consonants and 6 simple vowels (together with consonant clusters and dipthongs). Hangul can be written horizontally or vertically, with the horizontal, Latin style, much more favored. Koreans are exposed in their daily lives to the Latin script and therefore have no particular difficulties with the English writing system.
How do these characteristics make it important to use properly qualified, professional translators?
Examples of localization mistakes occur frequently with improper translation into Korean, such as problems wit text expansion, date/time formats, counting errors, character encoding, etc., or mistakes with the translation itself.
Dates and times are usually expressed in the following formats:
In Korean text, numerical values are not usually expressed in script, but rather in numbers.
The date and time are usually written in the beginning of the sentence where it is usually expressed at the end in English.
Korean does not have as many punctuation rules as English.
Examples abound that appear to be translated by translation software rather than by professionally qualified translators. The word order is jumbled, contents are missing and the meaning is confusing at best. Of course, it will take more time to proofread than to translate directly.
Do you know examples where translation or localization mistakes have occurred with Korean, such as problems with text expansion, date/time formats, counting errors, character encoding, etc., or mistakes with the translation itself? Perhaps, you've been asked to review a translation that did not seem to be the work of a properly qualified, professional translator.
Language translation is the act of rendering words, phrases or text into another language with an equivalent meaning. Translation must take into account constraints that include context, the rules of grammar of the two languages, their writing conventions, and their idioms. For example, certain colloquial phrases may have no meaning in another language and an equivalent expression must be found. Using a professional translation service means you will benefit from translation by a native-speaker who has an inherent grasp of one or more foreign languages. Also, the translator will usually be a specialist in a particular area, such as scientific or political terminology. This helps to facilitate translations into understandable, relevant, and culturally sensitive documents.
Relate an example or two where you found a website page or form difficult to use because it was poorly localized into Korean/locale. How might a business lose money, prestige, or incur legal risk due to an unprofessional translation?
The goal of translation is to accurately and appropriately communicate the client's "message" into the local language. This helps maintain a mutual understanding of business expectations when dealing with the native-language speaking population.
We have all encountered website pages, forms or operating manuals from overseas where the translation was comical, unintentionally offensive or just plain embarrassing. The quality of a translation is an important reflection of the quality of an organization.
When a business is going to the effort to market or communicate in a foreign market, it is vital that the message and the materials presented to the customer sound natural and effective. Many translations are accurate, but fail because they don't make contextual or cultural sense.
Language breakdowns resulting from poorly translated documents can be embarrassing and costly—jeopardizing customer relationships and brand identity, and even creating costly legal liabilities.
The US State Department estimates that US businesses lose $50 billion every year in potential sales due to the failure to provide professional quality translations of documents.
Compromising on the quality of the translation can cause more than embarrassing consequences; it can also cost dearly due to unintentionally offending customers. As an organization looking to expand its horizons, it makes sense to hire only the best English-to-Korean translation services.
If possible, provide one example of a particular phrase or concept that only a properly qualified, professional translator would be able to correctly communicate. (by incorporating the following concepts:)
Properly qualified professional translators are able to translate accurately and render the document easy to understand by the readers of the target language. When translating into Korean from English, the following concepts should be followed:
The above concepts should be properly mastered, so the translator can render his/her translation professionally so the client can communicate correctly with customers.
Published - October 2008
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