Korean, the official language of North and South Korea, is also spoken in a part of the People’s Republic of China near the border with North Korea. There are large groups of Korean speakers spread across the world in the US, Russia, Canada, and Japan, all in all, roughly 78 million people.
Opinions are divided when it comes to potential relationships to other languages. Despite the large number of Chinese loan words in Korean, the language is not related to Chinese. Most linguist who have studied this agree that Korean is an isolate language – a language with no demonstrable relationship to any other language. The Korean alphabet (Hangul), on the other hand, can be dated very accurately; it was introduced in the year 1443.
At first sight, Korean appears to be composed of characters (just like Chinese), but that is not true; each character represents a sound, just like our letters. To form a syllable, several of these characters are put together in a block (which looks like a character to us). Korean has 24 ‘letters’; 10 vowels and 14 consonants (You wouldn’t get far with a language that consist of just 24 characters, right?).
Counting is a different story in Korean; they use two digit sequences. One system is designed to indicate objects and ages, and numbers between 1 and 99, for instance: 3 boxes, 15 years old. The other system is used for money, phone numbers, addresses, and numbers above 100.
A good translation goes beyond just converting words and sentences into another language. The cultural element must not be forgotten. A translation that does not connect to the target group’s experience often completely misses the mark. That is why we use in-country translators, in this case, Korean translators who live on Korea and are native speakers of Korean. Translators who are immersed in the living whole of their language and culture on a daily basis.
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