Korean Language

77M Korean Speakers

The Korean writing system called “Hangul” is created in the fifteenth century by a team of royal linguists, the system can make almost any sound with 24 alphabetic characters.

Korean, the national language of South and North Korea, is one of the world’s oldest living languages. It is very similar to Japanese in terms of grammar, and over 70% of its vocabulary is “borrowed” from Chinese. Korean has a very sophisticated honorific system, which can be challenging for translators and foreigners to master.

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The complexity of Korean translation

1. The written language > Translation Service

  • The structure: Korean can’t be translated effectively on a phrase-by-phrase basis, as it incorporates an entirely different word and sentence order compared to most Western languages, and there are various types and unique usage scenarios for postpositions (or particles) which would render literally translated text nonsensical.
  • Grammar: In Korean, subjects and objects are marked with participles. These participles are added after the word and give us information about the grammatical function of that word. Along with that, they change the form, depending on if the following word starts with a vowel or a consonant. Single sentences like “Eva dislikes John. John dislikes Eva.” may not be difficult to translate, but they definitely look more complicated in Korean than they do in English, in this case: 에바는 존을 싫어한다. 존은 에바를 싫어한다. That’s how those single sentences are written in Korean.
  • The sensitivity: Topics or names related to North Korea or Japan should be treated carefully. For example, Sea of Japan should be adapted as East Sea (동해), Liancourt Rocks to Dokdo Island (독도), South Korea to Korea or the Republic of Korea (한국 or 대한민국).
Korean Language Map

2. The spoken language > Media Service

Korean spoken language is a challenge to many non-Korean speakers due to the honorifics and the different dialects.

  • The honorifics: Korean is a language that uses a lot of honorifics, with 4 levels of formality: hashipsyo-che (formal), haeyo-che (semi-formal), haera-che and hae-che (both informal). In order to choose the appropriate level based on the content characteristics and target audience is very important for the quality of Korean translation, because misusing honorifics may lead to appearing as if you’re not addressing people with the proper courtesy.
  • The dialects: There are about 6 dialects* in Korean which is different among geographical locations just like many other languages in other countries. Mainly, the dialect used in Seoul and Incheon is Gyeonggi dialect (경기 방언) which is also the standard language that everybody understands (even though they may speak other dialects). It is taught in school and used in news broadcasting. In the south like Busan, Daegu and Ulsan, they speak faster in Gyeongsang dialect (경상 방언).
    1. Gyeonggi dialect (경기 방언)
    2. Gangwon dialect (강원 방언)
    3. Chungcheong dialect (충청 방언)
    4. Gyeongsang dialect (경상 방언)
    5. Jeollado dialect (전라도 방언)
    6. Jeju dialect (제주 방언)

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Our Korean linguists grew up with the language and culture, and each member of our team of experienced translators has been mastering their craft and producing high-quality work for years. Translating Korean to English or any other language is a daily life for them. Their knowledge of the local culture makes the difference in their work, as having it ensures that the content is conveyed accurately and with as much cultural relevance as possible.

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