Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Korean Similar to Any Other Language?

Dear Korean,

I've discovered this quotation in Wikipedia, that paragon of scientific knowledge: “However, Korean is considerably easier for speakers of certain other languages, such as Japanese; in Japan, it is more widely studied by non-heritage learners.” Is it true that Japanese is considerably easier for native speakers of Korean to learn? What other languages (as suggested by the quotation and reasonable inferences) will native speakers of Korean have an easier time learning than other languages?

I love your blog

Dear Kiss Ass,

While Wikipedia has numerous inaccuracies regarding Korea (e.g. about Koreans’ dog-eating habits,) what you read is correct – Korean language is very easy to learn for Japanese speakers. The reverse is true as well.

It is actually not too difficult to realize the reason once the two languages are compared. Both Korean and Japanese utilize Chinese characters. Korean and Japanese have a similar grammatical structure, with a heavy usage of particles, honorifics, subject-object-verb sentence construction, and many other things that bedevil a Romance language speaker, for example. (In fact, based on the Korean’s limited knowledge of Japanese, it seems that Japanese grammar is almost like a simplified Korean grammar. But he could be wrong on this count, since the Korean’s knowledge in Japanese is really rudimentary.) Both languages also have a very similar set of sounds for pronunciation.

On top of that, because Korea (voluntarily and involuntarily) relied on Japan to be introduced with modern objects and concepts, many of the words in both languages use the same Chinese characters. This is in contrast with the Chinese character usage between China (ironically) on one hand and Korea/Japan on the other. To give an example of a modern contraption, in both Korean and Japanese, a camera is 寫眞機 (pronounced sa-jin-gi in Korean, sha-shin-ki in Japanese), which translates to “truth-copying machine”. But in Chinese, a camera is 照像機 (pronounced zhao-xiang-ji), which translates to “image-lighting machine”.

What other languages would Korean speakers have an easier time learning as opposed to others? The Korean has heard that Mongolian and Cherokee are similar to Korean, but these are all hearsay. Among the languages of which the Korean has some rudimentary knowledge, the Korean (surprisingly) found Latin to be very similar to Korean. The noun conjugation in Latin is comparable to adding a particle to a noun in Korean, which was rather interesting. But it is not as if the Korean knows all the world’s language, so there is really no way for him to definitely answer that. Readers are welcome to contribute.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.


  1. A Turkish girl studying at Yonsei told me Turkish is grammatically similar to Korean...I'll just have to take her word for it.

  2. That would make sense, since some linguists place Korean in the Ural-Altaic language family, of which Turkish is a member.

  3. Going solely by the sound of it, I would agree that Mongolian is similar to Korean. It at the very least sounds similar.

    Linguists are split over what language group to put Korean in, but I've heard of it being placed in the Altaic language group, which would explain the similarity to Mongolian and Turkish.

  4. Xochi, you beat me to it!

  5. Isn't Chinese reasonably easy to learn for a Korean speaker? There are differences in structure, but there are so many words that are either identical or very similar. I found it helpful to have studied Korean when I tried to learn basic Chinese for traveling.

  6. From what I hear, vocabulary wise, chinese would be easy to learn for a Korean speaker, but Chinese is a tonal language, where Korean is not, besides totally different grammar, maybe not...

  7. The Korean's experience has been that Korean skills made learning Chinese easier only to the extent that both languages use Chinese characters -- but even that was not very helpful, since the way the characters were used was often completely different. (e.g. the camera example in the post.)

  8. Two cents on the languages dept... As a native Korean speaker who learned Japanese for 6 years and Chinese(Mandarin) for half-year, I agree with TK: Korean language is nearly identical to Japanese language, but completely different from Chinese language.

    I've been having cultural exchange meetings with my Chinese professor along with a Japanese exchange student, and the professor mentioned that Korea and Japan held on to the older Chinese language and customs more than China herself did.

    I think this is because CJK has a long history. Sometimes the Chinese were aggressively spreading culture by gifting lastnames to the kings of neighboring nations(Li from Tang dynasty becoming Lee in Korea and Ly in Vietnam), and other times they built a huge wall to block off the rest of the world. As a result of this cycle, the culture that spread during the open times stuck in Korea and Japan(such as the way we say the days of the week), and the culture during the walled-off times never made it out to Korea and Japan. The fact that the Chinese culture was regarded very highly in ancient Korea and Japan also contributes to the preservation of the outdated foreign culture. This somehow reminded me of the story of Australians who preserved the old British culture better than the British themselves.

    Maybe this is OT, maybe my facts are wrong, maybe you should sue me.

  9. English goes like this:

    Subject verb object.


    Subject object verb.


    Subject object verb.

  10. Japanese use shashin (写真) to denote photographs but not shashinki(写真機) to mean cameras, which are kamera (カメラ). Shashinki was part of a thrust in the 30s to quit using foreign words, but I don't think it was ever taken up

  11. when i watch kdramas or movies i hear uljima or don't cry said a lot. in mongolian ul means cry as well...there seems to be a correlation between the languages anyhow.

  12. Korean is also very similar to Hungarian.Esp. when you listen to Hungarian folk songs.

    1. Hungarian is also from Ural-Altic and I'm Turkish Langauge.

  13. Japanese particles I've noticed correlate directly with Korean for the most part, expressing the exact same functions. The only difference I can think of is that Japanese condenses many of the functions into the particles, meaning there are fewer particles but with multiple functions. This seems to be the case with the relationship between Japanese and Korean in general, as the Japanese sound system seems like just a small subset of the Korean sound system, except for such sounds as "tsu" and it handles double consonants differently from Korean. It also distinguishes clearly between long/short vowels in meaning. Japanese only have five vowel sounds, and they also share the exact same "r" sound.

    In my opinion, I could definitely see a direct linguistic relationship between Japanese and Korean formed, as the same group of people who inhabited the Korean peninsula migrated as far over as the Japanese islands (which at the time were actually connected to the mainland). The only perplexion lies in that native words are often completely different (mul vs. mizu for water, gae vs. inu for dog), though the words borrowed from Chinese often sound exactly the same.

  14. I always surprise Koreans by telling them that my year of Latin in college was the most useful background for learning Korean. Noun declensions remind me of subject/object/proposition markers and the word order is not dissimilar (not precisely the same, but basic structure is there).

    I think Korean is easier to learn than Japanese. But that's 'cause I like the scientific-ness of 한글. Silly Japan with its multiple alphabets and necessity of kanji.

  15. whoops-- that should be "preposition" heh heh. Don't drink and comment.

  16. While I personally am glad that Korean and Japanese are similar, I also think the similarities are oversold. Particles don't translate exactly. For example you can't say アメリカ人がなりました as you could in Korean. Participles, tenses, feminine/masculine language are also very different. Ways of expressing politeness also differ. Still, grammar and vocabulary are very similar, and word order is identical as far as I can see, so I'm often able to say things in Japanese only by knowing how they would be said in Korean.

  17. @Nathan

    Isn't アメリカ人がなりました 미국인이 되었습니다? Also, I felt that tenses were really similar. I'm not sure how you thought that they were "very different".

    I've always found います being identical to 있습니다 very fascinating.

    On their own, they both mean "it exists". However, with a properly formed verb in front, they both turn into "verb-ing". For examble 家にいます, 집에 있습니다, (I'm) at home vs ねています, 자고 있습니다, (I'm) sleeping."it exists" and "verb-ing" are completely different meanings, yet the same words are transformed to same alternate meaning in both languages.

    This similarity is so striking that it's almost a proof that they're stemmed from the same root. して 하고, する 하다, します 합니다, した 했다, patterns are also too close to overlook.

    You're right that they're not always the same, but no other languages are even remotely similar with Korean or Japanese as they are with each other.

  18. I guess, it is

    アメリカ人になりました so it's

    not equal with

    미국인이 되었습니다 .

  19. I agree with Nathan.

    Another thing:

    A Korean professor of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies told me once, that Hungarian and Korean is similar. I don't know, but Korean is closer to Hungarian, than Indo-European languages.

  20. Nisbett és Miyamoto (2006): „Westerners tend
    to engage in context-independent and analytic
    perceptual processes by focusing on a salient
    object independently of its context, whereas
    Asians tend to engage in context-dependent
    and holistic perceptual processes by attending
    to the relationship between the object and the
    context in which the object is located. Recent
    research has explored mechanisms underlying
    such cultural differences, which indicate that
    [...] participating in different social practices
    leads to both chronic as well as temporary
    shifts in perception.”

    that is, why I feel Korean and Japanese more related to Hungarian.

  21. Fi explained my point about なります.

    Another thing that often trips up Koreans learning Japanese (at least according to my wife, who teaches Japanese) is the difference between あります and います, because in Korean each would be 있습니다.

  22. I speak the Hakka dialect of Chinese and after being exposed to Korean and discussing with my Korean friends, I noticed a lot of similarities between the 2 spoken languages.
    For example, some similar words I've come across so far include:
    - Jook (rice porridge)
    - San (mountain)
    - Sikan (time)
    - Hok seng (student)
    - Seng Ik (birthday)
    - Bak Su (applause)

    Please note that my romanized words follow the Hakka pronunciation, not the Korean. However, the Korean romanization and more importantly the Korean pronunciation is very similar to Hakka in these words.
    Also, I noticed that numbers are almost the same in both languages (I'm talking about the numbers for dates, money, and numbers above 100, NOT the numbers for counting)

    There are many many more similar words in both languages.

    Just my 2 cents...

    1. I am also Hakka and I also noticed some similarities between Korean and Chinese (hakka), for example:
      NAMDAEMUN 南大門 ( a famous gate in Seoul)

      Nam (South)南
      Dae ( Great or big)大, in hakka (tai), slightly different
      Mun (Gate, door) 門
      [乾杯] (geonbae)cheers (literally dry glass)

    2. Yes, I notice that my Sabah Malaysia hakka has a lot of similarities with Korean language

      Maybe once they were hakkas too

    3. True, and you got Vietnamese and Japanese and maybe a tiny bit of English showing similarities to Chinese, i.e. (cumshaw is a gift but means thank you in southern Chinese, tea when pronounced 400 years ago sounded the same as one southern chinese language, popularly known for their tea which isn't hakka or cantonese). The reason you see these "similarities" has nothing to do with those languages being related to others but the transfer of vocabulary words. In English, people would say the exact same thing about French-Spanish to English. Sadly the whole thing is nonsense according to professional linguists at universities. English had plenty of immigrants 500 years ago and speaking French was popular among the upper class. Vietnamese, being a tributory state and then a conquered land after their capital of Guangzhou fell 2000 years ago, had to communicate to the local Chinese (Vietnamese water and mountain is nuoc and nui but in sino-vietnamese becomes thuy and son, but of chinese origin). It's because every language around the world borrow vocabularies but not the grammar structure or use of particles.

      As for Koreans with Chinese words, yes you will see plenty of ancient Chinese pronunciation but not in Manchurian, both of which are the same language and where Manchurian resisted taking in the chinese language after conquering China twice in the Jin Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty under the emperors whose last names in Manchurian is Kim, ie Gold.

  23. @Nad the words you have listed are all based on Chinese characters, with the exception of Jook. These are not native Korean words, and therefore it's not really striking that these words sound similar in the Hakka dialect and Korean. They are just different regional variations in the pronunciation of each Chinese character.

  24. @Jo, then what is considered a "native Korean word"??
    All the words listed are commonly spoken by Korean people, right? So are Korean people speaking Hakka Chinese and not Korean most of the time then?

    1. Native Korean words would be those that were not borrowed from other languages. For example, English has lots of loan words from Latin via French such as "final" "second" "dance," that sound similar to the language from which these words came. The English word "Final" would be be "Finale" in French, "Second" "Second(e)"; "dance" "danse." They would be pronounced slightly differently depending on the different intonations of the languages. But at the same time, there are also NATIVE ENGLISH WORDS such as "I" "the" "of" "it" "with" "on" "be" "at" "in". These words have been there since when the language first evolved. These are not borrowed from French or any other languages. Sure, the loan words are spoken very commonly by English speakers, and they have become English words but those LOAN words are not NATIVE English words (see my example below with "purple."). They have become a part of the whole composition of the English language, but these loan words from French and Latin wouldn't put English in the same category as these said languages. English is not a Romance language, it is Germanic, however many words it may have borrowed from Romance language group. You may notice that the few remaining native English words are ones that are extremely basic words and not something that is as articulate as many loan words, like, "anatomy", "bishop", or even "cheese" (notice that the loan words are often nouns that were demanded by new influx of ideas and concepts.) Basic they might be, these are also the most important components of the English language.

      Now, on to Korean, that is the similar case. The Korean language has borrowed tremendous words from Chinese, and now it is borrowing a lot from English. Like the loan words from Chinese, the English loan words are very commonly used by the modern Korean speakers, such as "aiseu keurim" and "ellebeiteo". The romanized Hangeul may look tricky,but these English loan words sound very similar to the words spoken in English. The word "aiseu keurim" is actually pronounced more often as "ais krim." So, to phrase your sentence exactly, are Korean people speaking English and not Korean most of the time then? Not likely. French/Latin loan words in English like "candle" and "purple" are very commonly used, but that does not make "speaking English" speaking French/Latin. The word "purple" is English, and not French. The French would be "pourpre."
      You mention the similarity in numbers in Korean and Hakka. This is a whole another story because the Koreans have assigned the Chinese numerical system and the native Korean system each to specific fields, like you said in your comment, Chinese numerical system to money, dates, book volume number, etc.

  25. I realise most uneducated Minan Old Folks speak like this.

    Gun(Gwo - I) Odeng (School) Che(Bus) Tak(Take) Le(+'particle) Keu(Go) Polite Form.. Gun Odeng Che Tak Le Keu Ase bo ? or I school Bus Take Go(commute) can. (?)

    The traditional uneducated old folks at home speak in the grammer opposite to Chinese though they can understand when our grammer is reversed as in Chinese-mandarin.

    Before Kongming took over Southern China, the Northern Chinese considered the Southern Chinese as Barbaric tribe of a kind. But after China was unified and Chinese Characters created by Northern Chinese whose main staple food are flour and meat influence The Southern Chinese whose staple food are mostly Rice and Soup.

    We read their Characters in our own ways. Now being Minnan language similar to Chinese-Mandarin near to 48% compare to English and French with 58% similarities in pronunciation.

    Moon- Minna is Gek (Chinese is Yue)

    Cook rice, Porridge - Minnan is bak (Chinese:Zhou)

    Prayer -Minna is Kido (Chinese is Dao Gao)

    Door -Minnan is Mon (Chinese is Meng)

    Student -Minnan is Hak-seng (Chinese is Xue Sheng)

    Father -Minnan is "Be/Peh" (Chinese is Fu)

    Brother -Minna is "Hyeng" or "Gok" (Chinese is Xiong)

    Sister -Minnan is "Ji" (Chinese is Jie Jie)

    Children,Son -Minnan is call "Tousaeng", "kia" (Chinese is Hai Zhi)

    *Note these are not Northern Mandarin-chinese pronunciation but rather Minnan, The Southern Chinese Pronunication. But the Chinese Characters were created by The Northern Chinese.

    And if the language is due to influence by China imparting of these characters, why not they used the pronunciation of the Northern but instead Southern.

    Thousand of years have passed, it is so difficult to know all the whys but I think migration is possible in all country when mankind is still looking for place to stay due to famine or political unrest.

    Liken Korea, Manchurian and Mongol, The Southern Chinese have round face but are darker compare to people living in the North (weather being colder in the North). Being considered as Barbaric tribe by The North Chinese in Kongming times, cross marriage and cultural is almost impossible for Northern Chinese with people living in Korea or Japan at that times. But perhaps not after Korea was "civilized".

    As for Southern Chinese, it is possible when they migrated there since Kongming considered us as barbaric.

    One common food is the Koreas colourful sweets (longs, round, flower shapes) made from glutinuous/rice flour which Northern people don't have. We Southern Chinese have this in our tradition but is now hardened rarely eaten by the younger generation but mainly for offering to ancestors or the deads now.

    In fact you can find chinese overseas everywhere now are mostly Southern Chinese. The term is Chen, Lim filled all over the world is Southern Chinese not Northern Chinese. The surname "Kim" is mostly a converted surname in Korea so it is very hard to trace their ancestors root.

    I was thinking if Korea is a mixture of Nationalities since korea lies in the intersection point of all the country, (Jin-The Jurchens, The Mongol, The great China)But how about Korea History of civilization which I read seem to be very huge in the past but have been refuted by historian.
    And if they have chinese root, they would be Southern and not Northern that is why some DNA read so low.

    If only there is someone who can translate the Kore history into English wikipedia fully..?

    1. The reason that korean chinese words and southern chinese pronounciation tend to sound similar is because they have retained the old way of pronounciation rather than northern chinese dialect, which went through a lot of changes since Ming dynasty.

    2. Korean and Manchurians were one two thousand years ago..but koreans were a mixed of nationalities? Nope. They just picked up Chinese words whereas the Manchurians resisted taking the words.

      As for Minnan, it's very complicated because it's a bi-lingual system...like Vietnamese which has nui for mountain and son for mountain for literary purpose when they wrote in Chinese characters, Minnan had the same situation with numbers, brother, door, moon, etc.

  26. Aunt -Minnan is ah-Kim, ah-Gim, ah-Jum (Chinese is Ah-Yi)

    Uncle -Minnan is Ah-Pek, Ah-Gu, Ah-Jui (Chinese is Jiu Jiu, Shu Shu)

    Pronunciation may different even my generation and my granny read diffent pronunication as I selom speak, my pronunication went away like..

    "Ou Ah" I pronounce as "Oh Ya" "Lao Ti" I read as "Lao Tui". " "Kian Kong" I pronounce as "Kian Kang" . Hence of newer generation changes all because we study chinese-Mandarin and the latter are its pronunication.

    Suppose we pass them to our children, as years gose by, all our original pronounciation will be lost or amended or even distorted. Moreover if we do cross-marriage. We take other grammer and we infused their pronunication into our languages. I think it is so amazing isn't it....

  27. The Southern Chinese: 南蛮,中国最古老的原生民族。是世界稻作文明、海洋文明的创造者;茶、陶器、漆器...手工业的发明者;世界女神祭祀、南蛮为世界古老民族之一。

    "南蛮" literally translated as Southern Barbaric-Tribes. (But we are all Chinese today.)

    In fact some Southern Chinese do not look like "pure Chinese", some resembles some features of Korean or Japanese.

    The 南蛮 is the oldest original inhabitants exist in China famous on agricultural, marine navigation? (boats building -implying they sail in early times), tea, pottery, tainted containers, all handicraft invention)

    Main activities also include Hunting, Drum beating during harvest times, song singing, children under 5 years old wear hats, young girl-unmarried has single hair braided woman hairstyle different) Different tribes exist within the Southern China, i.e. hakkas, minnan, xinghwa with similaries in pronunication with one another as in the Korea language.

    (And to say the koreans have the look of some Southern Chinese, I rather say, some of our children have the look of some modern korean -fair and some darker having "traditional koreans, japanese" features depending on the father and mother.

    But based on eating habits and some languages, I really cannot believed the DNA reading to say that Koreans have absolutely no relation to the Southern "Chinese" or unless there is great DNA changes/modifications caused by marriages within the same clan or surnames become prominent.)

    There are many reasons but still Koreans certainly do not look like Europeans or turkey people a bit..

    1. Phenotype is not a reliable way to determine which people belong to which group. Actually, phenotype can be a very dangerous method. While I've always thought that my maternal grandfather looked like a native Hawaiian, my brother looks more like a half white. Relatives say that his look came from our paternal grandfather. As for myself, I think I resemble my late grandmother, who was pale and had "the typical" Asian eyes (but I'm not really pale). On the other hand, my cousin and his father is very tan, and when his father goes to South Asia, the locals take him for a fellow citizen, although he doesn't have any known external foreign ancestors in lineage. You see, there's a huge variation even within the "same" ethnic group, so phenotype is not the most reliable guidance to determining ethnicity.

  28. This is totally Random...I have been hooked on to Korean dramas...crazy hooked on...and I find the language super fascinating and interesting...

    One thing I found shocking was that in Korean they say Umma and Appa for mom and dad...in Tamil (an Indian language), we say the same thing...amma and appa. It baffled me that of all the things...we call our parents the same...(almost) half the way around the globe.!

    1. It's not surprising that many languages, not just Tamil and Korean, share the similar-sounding words for 'mom' and 'dad.' For example, in Hebrew, the word for 'mom' is Ima and for 'dad' Abba. Across many languages from around the globe, the 'm' sound is found very frequently from the words for 'mom' and 'b/p' sound is found very frequently from the words for 'dad' as well. The reason being is that [m] and [p/b] are the easiest sound a baby can produce at the linguistic 'default' status. All those [m] [b] [p] sounds are produced when you release air from the closed lips by opening up. They are technologically the least challenging sounds a human being at his default linguistic setting can produce. Likewise, while a baby tries to imitate sounds made by people around him, the baby will likely try those 'easiest' sounds, and the excited parents around the globe have been taking the random m, b, p sounds their babies make for their attempts at addressing their parents (which is more or less true...) The only exception to this [m] [b] [p] rule that I've found is Japanese. Some people do use the 'mama' and 'papa,' but the native Japanese words for mom and dad is okaasan and otousan respectively.

  29. Hi I grew up speaking bengali (and Eastern Indian language) and I currently live and work in the United States and my wife and I have a number of Korean friends and Colleagues. Just as Anu mentioned, we find a number of similar words in Bengali and Korean. For example, uncooked rice in Korean is ssal, in Bengali it is Chaal; Tea is ofcourse cha and cha but this may have come from other sources in both languages. The sentence structures also appear similar. This is interesting because we learn in school that most Northern Indian languages are of Indo-European origin and most Southern Indian languages are of Dravidian origin. Yet, there appears to be some similarities in food and relationship related words between the Indian and Korean languages :).

    1. Actually I heard that Korean and a particular Indian language share a few words that are related to agriculture and many people attribute this similarity to the spreading of farming techniques from India to Korea. Legend says that an ancient korean king named Suro was married to an Indian princess

  30. similarity between tamil ( Dravidian language)and korean
    K: Turawa ( come back) - T: tirimbiva
    k: nal (day)- T: nal
    pul( grass)- pul

    k: ....yo- T:.....go
    there is more if you type similarity between Korean and Tamil language

    also there is over 500 words that are similar between Korean and Tamil

    apparently we used to have more common words but since people r talking modern Tamil and modern day Korean .. they r being forgotten!

  31. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ural%E2%80%93Altaic_languages

  32. I'm Hungarian, currently studying Japanese(or at least I'm trying :D), and it's very similar. Mostly the structure of the language, but there are some words too.

    For example water in Japanese is "mizu", in Hungarian "víz", but when somebody is talking fast you can hardly hear the difference.
    Also the Japanese word "sukoshi" is very similar to the Hungarian word "szűkös"(should be pronounced: sukosh). Or Japanese seki(seat), Hungarian szék(chair). And so on...

    I have to mention that Hungarian shamanism(our old religion) shows some connection to Shinto.

    I don't know what's the situation with Korean, but I think we would find similarities as well.

    1. I think it ate my previous comment.

      There is a MASSIVE list of words, which indicates that Japanese and Hungarian is of common origin.

      It covers 300 pages(it's in English). The interesting part is from page 12: http://www.magtudin.org/Kazar_Lajos_JAPANESE_URALIC_LANGUAGE_COMPARISON.pdf

      For example:

      しびれる - zsibbad
      ただよう - tutaj
      あと - után
      あやつる - játsz(ik)

      They say, the situation is the same with Korean-Turkish.

  33. For someone with English as their native language, how long did it take to fully comprehend the Korean language?

  34. The answer to this question is easy. All it takes is a little research to find out the well-known facts for this. First, you must consider your question in three ways. #1 which languages are Korean related to genetically (linguistically); #2 which languages did Korean borrow many words from, #3 which languages have coincidental similarities.

  35. #1 Korean is most closely related genetically to Manchurian (albeit mostly extinct) and further out, Mongolian. If one uses native (non-borrowed) Korean words there would be some ability to find words in common with speakers of these languages. BUT Korean commonly uses borrowed words in place, or replacing native words. The "Altaic" theory is called hogwash by modern scholars, so don't even use that. Japanese is now considered an isolate but is connected by the next two categories.
    #2 A large amount of current Korean words were BORROWED from an OLD Chinese language--not Mandarin. Note that what Chinese call "dialects" are, in fact, different languages, in the same way that German and English are related. But Korean is not genetically related to Chinese at all (many English speakers think English comes from French because of the borrowed words, but in fact English comes from German and just borrowed many words from French and Latin.) So the current Chinese languages (ones that cannot be understood by Mandarin only speakers) that are very similar to Korean in terms of borrowed words are Hokkien (Fujian province) and Hok-lo (Taiwan). Many Taiwanese people find they are able to pick up Korean due to so many nouns having the same sound (minus the tones.) There also seem to be some Cantonese speakers that find this to be the case too, but not as many as Taiwanese (this is linguistically confirmed anyway.) There are many words that Korean borrowed from Japanese or Japan borrowed from Korean too, although the biggest connection between both of those languages is that they both borrowed words from Chinese. And they also both borrowed words from English. Regarding Chinese characters, the average Korean does not have fluency in Chinese characters anymore, however, the Chinese characters, when used are close to traditional Chinese characters that are still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, in China and Singapore they use simplified characters which is very difficult to read if you only know traditional and vice versa. Japanese, which only uses Chinese characters for nouns, is not a one to one relationship. Through its history, Japan adopted characters sometimes through meaning and sometimes through sound. So many characters do not have the same meaning (since they were just borrowed for sound.)
    #3 The whole reason for the Altaic theory in the first place was because of grammatical and other non-genetic relationships between Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Turkic, Uralic, Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian, etc. etc. One of the main connections was the S-O-V order that these use (plus a few other elements.) However, this theory is widely debunked. Nevertheless, speakers of these languages DO find it easier to learn each others languages for these convenient (albeit non-genetic) happenstance similarities.

  36. Therefore, in conclusion,
    A. Japanese is the easiest language for Koreans to learn and vice versa due to what I discussed in #2 and #3 above, even though they are probably not related via #1
    B. Manchurian and (more distantly) Mongolian are most closest genetically to native Korean words, BUT much of Korean (around 70%) uses borrowed words....
    C. Hokkien and Hok-Lo speakers (not Mandarin only speakers, but perhaps Cantonese speakers) would have less difficulty because of many words sounding similar, even though the grammar is entirely different.
    D. People from the debunked theoretical Altaic group have told me they have an easier time learning due to the grammar similarities (plus many people who speak these languages are often multilingual already--Hungarians, Finnish, etc. so they are already good at learning new languages.)
    E. If you can speak English then you also have an advantage, because Korean has MANY borrowed words from English. In fact, if you learn how Korean typically "hangeulize" English words, you can sometimes get by though saying English words like a Korean would. In fact, even Japanese, Chinese, Germans, French, etc, find learning Korean easier if they already know English for this very same reason.

  37. When I first moved to Korea, I was coming from a Russian speaking country. I went out with some new Korean friends for dinner and drinks. Way into the night, after plenty of Soju, one of my friends told me something (I can't remember) and I blurted out without thinking, the Russian word "Harasho". Both my friends did a double take and immediately wanted to know how I knew Korean. It turns out that what I said, which is "OK" or "fine" in Russian, is almost identical to a Korean word for "ok" or something. I think the Korean word is pronounced "Horaseo" I found it fascinating that these totally different languages had such similar sounding and meaning words.

  38. Yeah ... I'm Turkish and I'm saying this , Japanese , Korean and Turkish is just like each other . Grammar and words are similar in these languages . Also , Korean's some letters are VERY similar to Göktürk letters . Japanese is like old Turkish inscriptions too . But different from Göktürk letters (another Turkish alphabet) . These languages are more easy than Europe Languages . But some of Turkish people thinking these languages are too difficult to learn . Because they can't read , so they think these languages are as difficult as Chinese . That's the wrong point . Chineses aren't Japaneses , Japaneses aren't Chineses , Koreans aren't Japaneses , Japaneses aren't Koreans , Koreans aren't Chineses and Chineses aren't Koreans ! Their languages are different from each other too (except little similarities) . I think Japanese and Korean are too easy to learn . If peoples can speak these languages as their native languages , so we can speak too . Because we're people too just like them , right ? :D Love all world ... That's the answer of everything . <3

    1. You guys think "EVERYTHING" is like Turkish runes, Gokturks, Huns, blah blah. Damn Turkish weeaboos.

  39. Korean and Tamil have some common mother language. I am watching korean drama. 1000s of tamil words in korean. Some distorted. There is no language that can be compared to tamil except korean. Its not coincidence. My theory is people from africa move south asia , some went to india and some went to china and they get kicked out and pushed to corner. Its surprising with china almost ruled korean for centuries by proxy and koreans never converted themself to chinese. To do that koreans has to be pride of korean language. For me its most beautiful language ..better sounding than tamil

    1. Korea was a tributary state of China just like many other states around of China. Never lived with Chinese and don't need to convert to Chinese.

  40. I'm a native Spanish speaker but I also speak English fluently. I'm trying to learn Korean but I don't know which language to translate Korean to. Spanish has formal speech and so does Korean but not English. But I understand English better than Spanish sometimes. Do I translate Korean into Spanish or English?

  41. The other day I was watching Korean drama....to express the sudden loss the actress suddenly cried with AIyoo.AIyooo.. Exact word and exact expression tamilian use to reflect the extreme pain. Googling highlighted common words with exact meaning between the language.. This is amazing.

  42. Korean is actually modified/deformed tamil.

    Especially the way they speak behave words (more than >1000words (any non chinese words are mostly deformed tamil words).

    I am thinking if i study old chinese or mangolian it would be more closer to tamil than korean. Because people moved from one place another.

    My theory is Tamil came from africa and people moved turkey russia , mongolia , america. They basically went north to find edge then moved east and west.

    That is my north india china has no resemblance of tamil. China has one tamil word NE!

    By mistake i watched korean drama in sept 2013 and that opened the door. I actually watch mainly because Korean is far better sounding than tamil. Tamil sound japanese for people outside to it.

    The reason no one made a link because there is no physical connection.

    Korean is a improved tamil than actual tamil in south india. the tamil in india was unchanged for 2000+years. Astonishing.

    Korean should research their origin.

    WHy i say tamil from africa because even in some cameroon villages kids speak tamil words and no indian live there never. The word they used is difficult to pronounce and its not a noun.

    Tamil has natural efficient sound actually. But korean sound better for my ears.

  43. I am a Japanese speaker and everyone says Korean, Japanese and Chinese are similar. Yes grammatically, Japanese and Korean share the same structure but the prononciation wise, I understand almost non. Even Chinese person repeat the same word 10 times, It's unlikely that I will understand the word. I know indoeuropean languages usually share the same consonant. If you say apartment, and change some consonants, apertmanto it's still understandable. And the problem between Korean and Japanese is that consonant don't correspond that much and only vowels do. For me, it's almost impossible to understand if consonant K changes to J, B to P. It is easier to learn Korean and Chinese but if we have no knowledge, or without seeing characters, it's really difficult.


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