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? 🙂

Arlington Cemetery with the Kakehashi Students

by Skyy Genies

On Sunday January 29, 2017, two of my classmates, Rakiya and Chidera, and I met the Kakehashi Japanese exchange students at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. Even though, I was born and live here in DC, I have never been to Arlington Cemetery, so from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a life-changing experience for me in many ways.

When we first arrived, we were kind of shy so we walked behind the Japanese students for a while. Then when the crowd slowed down to take pictures, we introduced ourselves to the Kakehashi leader. Immediately, we were greeted and thanked for coming by the Japanese students. This felt, amazing because not only did it make us feel comfortable, but appreciated even though we were the ones who were thankful.

We trekked along the paths throughout the cemetery, taking pictures, learning facts about the sites. This was very fun and educational, however for me, the most memorable moment about this experience was watching the “Changing of the Guard” Ceremony at “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” We all watched in awe as the precise and synchronized guards saluted the tomb, checked their rifles, and yelled their duties. Afterwards, the Japanese students asked if we’ve ever been here before and what that meant, in this moment, we were the same. I didn’t know any more about what we just watched than they did. We learned and grew together as a group despite our cultural differences.

After the ceremony, we walked through the amazing amphitheater and museum. Then we walked to the peak of the cemetery where you could see the Capitol and monuments. It was here that we took the group photo. Even though we weren’t formally a part of the Kakehashi program, we were graciously invited to be a part of the photo. This was our last stop at the cemetery. After the peak, we walked to the seating and were asked to take selfies with the Japanese students. This was so nice, even though we had just met, I felt comfortable around these students as if I have known them for much longer than just a day ago.

It was then that I realized, that Japan was the place I wanted to be, I am so grateful that I was able to spend that time with the Kakehashi students. It changed my life drastically.