This Question Came to My Inbox: Is Korean the Most Perfect Writing System?

Korean is a great writing system. It is very good, but I wouldn’t call it perfect. It is better than English because we have too many exceptions. However, there are also exceptions in Korean, just not as many. One of the good things about Korean is that the letters are easier on our eyes than English letters. It is harder to pinpoint someone with dyslexia in Korea than it is in countries that use the Roman alphabet which is the alphabet we use in English. People can learn to read Korean letters much easier than English letters.

Photo by James Lucian on Pexels.com

For that matter, the hiragana from Japan is also a very good system, but only for Japanese. It is easier on our eyes than the English letters too. It is easy to learn to read hiragana because when you read the words, you say the name of the letters. You don’t have to learn a separate pronunciation from the initial name of the letter which you have to in both English and Korean.

Kanji is not easy to read, but even it is easier on your eyes than the alphabet we use in English. Hiragana, the basic Japanese alphabet, was made for the ladies of the court to write poetry. Hiragana is perfect for writing Japanese and very easy to learn to read. The Japanese just complicate things by adding the kanji and the katakana. With katakana, they try to fit foreign words into the Japanese sound system, and it really comes out sounding strange. They have the Roman alphabet, and they call it “romaji.” It has the sounds of a Latin language, and they should use it for their foreign words because katakana butchers foreign words. Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

As far as the Romanian, it is not an oriental language, so they use the same letters we do in English, but they have a more specific pronunciation for the letters than we do without so many exceptions. The exceptions is one of the things that makes English hard to learn to read. There are exceptions in Korean too, like English, but not as many. As far as Romanian, I don’t remember reading a word that didn’t follow the rules. They use the same letters we do in English, but they put little marks over the and below them to show the pronunciation. As a foreigner, I found Romanian extremely easy to learn to read. It was hard for me to get used to triphthongs because we usually only use diphthongs in English, but once I got used to them and how they were handled, I had not problem reading them. One of the things I really like about Romanian is that they say exactly what is on the page. In English, I had a terrible time with the word “pneumonia.” I could never spell it because it never made sense to me, but I have no trouble spelling it now because Romanian has the same word, but the pronounce every letter, even that “P’ at the beginning. Romanian taught me to spell. Before learning Romanian, I really struggled with spelling and always had to look things up in the dictionary to know how to spell them even though I was a good student in school and studied for all my English spelling tests.

The Dacians of Romania were the first people in Europe. They spoke a kind of Greek. They mixed with the Roman soldiers, and the two languages, Latin and Greek, meshed together to make Romanian. To get the Romanian grammar right, you must rhyme, and it sounds like poetry when they speak. It is a very pretty language. Photo by Annie Japaud on Pexels.com

An example of the marks in Romanian would be on the letter “a.” In English, we have the letter “a,” but it has many different pronunciations, and there is often no way to tell how it should be pronounced on the page unless you have studied and have been taught to read, learning it case by case. Sometimes, it helps to know the combinations of letters, and sometimes not. However, with the letter “a” in Romanian, you have a regular “a” which is pronounced like the “a” in “father.” (Could you tell me why that “a” in “father” is pronounced the way it is in English and not like “a” in apple? We just have to learn it.) However, in Romanian, if the “a” has no marks, it is like the “a” in “father.” If it has an inverted “v” over it, it is pronounced like a grunt down in your throat, not like an English letter at all. If it has the smile form a smiley face over it, it is pronounced like “uh.” Pure and simple. The rules are always followed in Romanian.

The Korean alphabet was written so everyone could learn to read, not just the elite. Before hangul, the Korean alphabet, was invented, only the most elite in the society could read. Now, everyone in Korea reads. King Sejeong who invented hangul, did a marvelous job for his people!Photo by Jc Laurio on Pexels.com

The problem I find with Korean is that they might have two letters that sound the same, but are written differently: An example of this is 애 and 에. They are both pronounced “eh,” but do you know after you have learned to say something how to write it, which one of those letters to choose? no. Another problem is 오 and 어. To a foreigner, those two letters sound the same, but to the Korean, they are completely different letters. We would pronounce them both “oh,” but they wouldn’t, and we would have a really hard time hearing it. Another problem is that they have evasive sounds. If you use the letter ㄱ, it can be either “k” or “g.” They might teach it to you as “g,” but when you go into the subway and see the word “station” written in Korean in English letters, it will say, 역, and transcribed in English letters, it will be “yok,” but that is a ㄱ on the bottom, and you were taught to say it “g.” When I learned to say the word for home or house: 집, I learned to say “cheeb” because that was how everyone was pronouncing it. However, when I began writing it, I learned that it has a ㅈ (j) at the beginning and not a ㅊ (ch) like they were saying it. This means, I always have to check myself when writing Korean to make sure I have the right letter, and not one that is similar to it. They don’t always write what they say.

You can teach yourself to read the Korean alphabet quickly and easily off the computer. Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

It is not that Korean is a bad system of writing. It is a great system of writing, but it isn’t perfect. Every language has its flaws. Languages were made up by people, and people are flawed. We might do a good job, but we can’t do everything perfectly. In fact, as far as Korean goes, it is such a good alphabet that I looked it up on the internet before I went to Korea, and I learned it in one day. However, after that is when I found all the different exceptions and strange things about it. It doesn’t have as many exceptions as English. In fact, I don’t think any language has as many exceptions as English. Korean is a good system, but it was made and is used by flawed human beings like all languages.

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