Japanese vs. Korean

By Skyy Genies

It was a normal day in the Japanese Plus Program, Eshita Sensei was teaching us about asking someone what they like to eat/their favorite food and how to speak about yours. Being myself (super obsessed with Japanese and Korean culture), when asked what I thought favorite/number one was in Japanese, I impulsively shouted “ichiman,” a combination of “ichi” one in Japanese and “마지막” (machimag) last in Korean. Silly, I know. However, to my surprise, that was actually correct. This situation caused me to be very curious about the similarities and differences between the Japanese and Korean languages. So I did a little research…

In terms of grammar, both Korean and Japanese use similar sentence structures and rely heavily on particles. The basic sentence structure of both languages is generally “Subject+Object+Verb.” In Korean particles such as 은,는 (eun/neun) and in Japanese は (wa) が (ga) are used to indicate the topic or subject being spoken about in the sentence. Also, many words in both Korean and Japanese have roots from the Chinese language or can be written in Chinese characters. In fact, around 70% of words in Japanese and Korean are rooted from the Chinese language. At one point, like Japanese, Korean used Chinese characters widely in their writing called “Hanja.” However, unlike in Japanese, the use of Chinese characters in Korean decreased drastically due in part to the formation of nationalistic ideas formed in 20th century Korea.

Despite these similarities, Japanese and Korean have many differences. These differences lie in the writing systems of the two languages. In Korean only one writing system is used in both Northern and Southern Korea, it is called 한굴 (Hangul). On the contrary, three writing systems are used in Japanese ひらがな (Hiragana) and カタカナ (Katakana), and Kanji – one for native words, another for foreign words, and the latter for Chinese symbols. Also in terms of the writing systems, in Japanese some of the symbols that are used have syllabic pronunciations, i.e “Ta, To, Ta, Te,” while in Korean, the symbols usually represent a single sound, i.e “B,D,R/L”; however some are pronounced “Yu, Ya, Yo”.

Cool, right? 🙂

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