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The Use Of Konglish Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1730 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Konglish what does it mean? Konglish, short for Korean-English, is the use of English in the Korean language. In South-Korea Konglish is wildly used in daily speech of the Korean citizens and also in the entertainment and advertising industries because the new generation of Koreans thinks it’s cool and exciting to use English. Some people don’t think it’s a good thing of Koreans to use English in this way and that it doesn’t create a special status in using it. But on the contrary Konglish does help communication between English speaking people and native Koreans, what gives tourism a revival because of the possibility of easy communication between western countries and the Asian country. Konglish is an enrichment for the culture of Korea, it helps to develop the Korean language. However it’s a loss of the original Korean language and Konglish has a bad influence on the process of learning the English language. To make this understandable there shall first been given an explanation about the existence of Konglish.

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The term Konglish originates from merging of the two words Korean and English. Konglish started to arise after English and other languages started to penetrate into the Korean language through loan words. The high degree of that English fused with the Korean language caused that English is almost fully integrated with the Korean language and the way of speech of the Koreans. Where there are for some terms/things Korean words they even changed these into English words. The pronunciation of Konglish and English is almost identical but the writing of it in Hangeul is slightly different when romanizing the Hangeul system back to western system. The Konglish words are written according to the Hangeul system. So for example the word “rhythm/ 리듬” changes into “lideum” or “rideum” when romanizing it back in to the western writing system. So when pronouncing it the pronunciation is almost the same as the original pronunciation of the word. On the internet you can find various lists of translations of Konglish/Korean words that are written in Hangeul and Romanized and translated into English. But it doesn’t end there, Koreans even create their own Konglish words like “drunken rice” what describes “Makgeolli” the country’s traditional rice wine. Another example is “skinship” which means bonding physically or in a different way between persons like friends or lovers.

Some people do think Konglish and English are used too much in the Koreans daily life. Someone with this opinion is Brian Deutch, a blogger and freelance writer. On his personal blog he wrote an article called ‘Korean language evolves into Konglish’. In this article he wrote that he firmly believes that English is used too much in Korea. He also writes: “I also firmly believe Korean words should be used rather than simply borrowing words from foreign languages, a process that not only strips the original words of meaning and context but can leave people behind.” My opinion about this is that indeed where and when there are words for things in the original Korean language these should remain in the Korean language and should not be directly used from the English language or changed into Konglish. This is to preserve the Korean language for the next generations. Now the younger generations sometimes don’t even know the original Korean words for these things because of the usage of Konglish in their daily life. But when there is a thing or object that the Korean language doesn’t have a direct translation for then, in my opinion, the English language or even Konglish could be used to describe these things.

I also believe that Konglish helps communication between English speaking people and Koreans and that using new English words or Konglish makes Korea more accessible for non-Korean speakers to visit the country for tourism. On the other hand there are rising questions about the level of English education in Korea and if Konglish has a bad influence on this. Deutch said that he thinks that Konglish does have bad influences on the English education and that makes it harder for native Koreans to learn the language. He posted about this on his personal blog, where he talked about what these bad influences are causing for the English education of Korea: “Because they are so accustomed to pronouncing these borrowed words the Korean way that they can’t adjust to English pronunciations and meanings. Even English teachers with decades of experience cannot produce some of English’s sounds, and with so many English words being used in daily Korean speech, it’s harder for students to adjust to the demands of the other language.” I can’t help but agree with his statement that Konglish in a way does make it harder for students to learn the correct way of using the English language, but I also think that Konglish in a certain degree also helps Koreans to learn English. This is because Konglish also is a product of the great unstoppable western popularity and influence that forced itself into the daily lives of the Koreans. Just like Sebastian Harrisan, a writer of the Korean Times, says his article ‘The State of Art’: “Koreans are fascinated by English and will always opt to put English on a t-shirt, on a shop window or even play English music to enter a cool little clique and the demand will only rise in the future.” And I can only agree with his opinion from my own experience with the Korean culture. My experience is mostly based on what I read, hear and see about the country but I’ve got what I think is a good knowledge from the 3 years that I’ve concentrated on Asian cultures and also about the current state of popular things in South-Korea. From that knowledge I know that the South-Koreans are very interested in the western culture. They have a high fascination for the different western cultures, products and mostly the music is what really attracts them. Seeing the growth of the popularity for these things in the past few years I can only assume that it will only grow bigger in the years to come.

But I think the biggest problem of the use of Konglish is the division it’s causing between the older and younger generations. Also the difference between citizens of South-Korea and Korean speaking people from outside South-Korea is a big problem. Lee Eun-joo a contributing writer of the JoonGang Daily wrote about a North-Korean defector with the name Lee Chul-min entering South-Korea. In the article ‘A wordy problem faces the Koreas’ he writes that the North-Korean defector was so shocked after his arrival in South-Korea by the numerous problems he faced because of English and Konglish. He had never faced the problems he had in South-Korea when he was still living in North-Korea. The North-Korean had much difficulty with adapting to the environment of South-Korea and their unfamiliar expressions. The defector came across problems of miscommunication and felt humiliated and left out. He claimed to be a victim of his own ignorance that was causing these problems. After months living in South-Korea he still was terrified that his ignorance would cause miscommunication and the defector then came to the conclusion that: “Difference is regarded as a handicap in the South,” His quote confirms my thoughts about the difference between Korean speaking people from outside South-Korea. You can see that even the closest country to South-Korea has problems with understanding Konglish, maybe this because of North-Koreas lack of contact with the western/outside world. But it also shows that because of the integrated English and Konglish in the Korean language it also causes misunderstanding and miscommunication.

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But that Konglish makes the daily life, in the same country, a problem is stated in another article called ‘Foreign Names Take over the World of Food’ from The Chosun Ilbo, a Korean online newspaper. Because of the sudden coffee craze in South-Korea coffee has become an essential part of the daily lives of Koreans. However ordering coffee is still a difficult and strange thing to do for the older generation, who cannot speak English, as well as for the younger generation of the Koreans who aren’t yet interested in coffee. Because coffee is imported they use the original names of the coffee and sizes of the cups like “short” and “tall”, which are difficult for the Koreans to understand. An older citizen in his 60s year old tells: “I never imagined I’d end up getting nervous ordering coffee.” You can see that the older generations who don’t have much knowledge of English or Konglish are having difficulty with these new situations that are occurring. Because of growth of the use of Konglish I think there is going to be a big division between the generations because the younger generation won’t know the original meaning of words and the older generation can’t understand the younger generation because of their use of Konglish in the Korean language. Maybe that people don’t even know the original language anymore after several generations.

In conclusion you can say that Konglish certainly is an enrichment for the Korean language if it comes to tourism, entertainment and advertisement. Tourism will grow because of Konglish thanks to the possibility for non-Koreans to understand certain things and aspects better of the country. But also the growing popularity for the western world such as music and other products in South-Korea causes the growth of Konglish. In daily speech and English education of South-Korea you could conclude it can also cause confusion between different generations and could even cause a division between them. It even could provoke the disappearance of the original language if this goes on. As conclusion I can say that it would be better if Konglish is only used when necessary and should not be used in daily life. This is to preserve the original language of the county and to prevent it causing trouble for students learning the English Language.


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