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Korean Language

Overview of the Korean Language

Korean, the official language of both North and South Korea, is spoken by approximately 78 million people in the world. Korean is also spoken in China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia, as well as by many in the United States. It is a fascinating language, descending from Proto-Korean, Old Korean, Middle Korean and Modern Korean. The oldest version of it may be close to 2000 years old. Though exactly where Korean came from is unknown, it is believed that Korean came from the Altaic language group, and that it is related to Mongolian, Turkish, and Japanese.

There are several dialects within the Korean language. Depending on the region it's spoken, the language can be quite distinct, though the basic vocabulary is always the same. There are at least 10 dialects of Korean spoken. Since the Korean War, some notable differences between North and South Koreans speakers have developed. There can be differences in pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary and grammar. Words that are spelled the same way may also be spoken differently.

Korean has 14 consonants and ten vowels. The Korean alphabet was formulated in 1444 during the kingship of King Sejong, who reigned from 1418 - 1450. Before the alphabet was formulated, the Chinese alphabet was used to write out Korean words. The shapes of the Korean consonants are based on the shape the mouth makes when the sound is made. The basic form of a sentence is Subject, Object, Verb, the verb being the only required element. In English, one might say "I like candy," but in Korean, one would say the equivalent "I candy like." There are two sets of numbers commonly used, one from Chinese and one native to Korea. Either can be used, though not together.

Most of the vocabulary is made up of native words, but there are many words that have been borrowed from Chinese as well as Japanese. English has also made its way into Korean, and there are many who speak a mixture of both. It is considered to be an easy language to learn, not only to speak, but also to write and read.