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Say what? Language hurdles plague two Koreas after years of division

Discussion in 'The NF Café' started by mr_shadow, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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    When South Korean businessman Kim Yong-tae worked with North Koreans at the Kaesong Industrial Complex before it was closed in 2016, one of the biggest challenges was communicating in what is ostensibly a shared language.

    "There were confounding moments because there were terms I never heard of while working and living just in South Korea," he said, describing blank looks from some North Korean workers when he used the word "container," which is pronounced similar to its English term in South Korea.

    Between the South's increasing adoption of international terms and the North's political sensitivity to some words, the growing language divide is complicating cooperation on a range of joint cultural and economic exchanges as ties between the neighbors improve.

    To counter the confusion and promote a feeling of unity, the South Korean government is working to restart an obscure academic project aimed at developing a common Korean language dictionary with the North.

    North and South Korea speak the same language based on the Hangeul alphabet, but after decades of division, only about 70 percent of words are mutually understood, according to some experts.

    GROWING APART

    The two Koreas officially maintain the goal of reunification, but as each side has developed in strikingly different ways, that dream has faded.

    North Korea's government has maintained - at least officially - a tight grip on its economy, meaning many North Koreans are unfamiliar with some economic and business terms common in the South's more capitalist system.

    "Homelessness, yearly rent, monthly rent: The North Koreans have no such terms since everything is owned by the state which gives out housing," said Kim Wanseo, a South Korean lexicographer on the committee working to compile the dictionary.

    After she defected to the South in 2002, Kim Young-hee said she had to learn a number of financial terms that didn't exist in the North, including the words for stocks and shares.

    "When it comes to general terms, I would say seven out of 10 words can be mutually understood by people from each side," said Kim, the lexicographer. "However, when it comes to jargon and technical words there is a big, big difference between the two now."

    The North's cultural and political isolation has also meant North Koreans have adopted fewer English words.

    This became obvious when the players from North and South Korea combined for a joint ice hockey team during the Olympics.

    "The only two words we shared were 'skates' and 'puck'," said Kim Jung-min, spokesman for the Korea Ice Hockey Association. "We had to coordinate before all training started, and we printed out the list of different terms between the two and stuck them on the athletes’ lockers."

    For a related graphic, click tmsnrt.rs/2KdXMcS

    COMPILING A DICTIONARY

    In the wake of April’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the two counties have embarked on a number of cooperation projects designed to avoid running afoul of sanctions.

    Besides the dictionary, began in 2006 but halted in 2015 due to political tensions, projects being discussed include the archaeological excavation of a palace in North Korea, performances by a North Korean art troupe in South Korea, pest control projects in the North, and a number of sporting events.

    And in a gesture of unity, North Korea changed its time zone by half an hour to realign with the South.

    The South's Unification Ministry says preserving and unifying the language is needed to prepare for eventual unification.

    Politics is never far away, however, and past dictionary discussions with the North Koreans often involved sensitive terms.

    For example, the dictionary's authors had to avoid one term for "him," which was typically used only to apply to North Korean leaders, and the United States could not be mentioned in examples, said Kim, the lexicographer.

    The sides debated the definition of the word "dong-mu," which means childhood friend in the South, but has come to mean comrades who experienced the communist revolution together in the North.

    "We had to negotiate what an impartial definition is – and ended up defining it as ‘someone who strives together for a single goal,’ Kim said.

    Other debates were less serious.

    In South Korea, the verb "sal-ji-da" is used to say "hey, you’ve gained some weight."

    "It’s insulting in some contexts here too, but it’s a very insulting word to the North Koreans - to a whole new level," Kim said. "They only use this verb for farm animals."

     
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  2. wibisana still newbie

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    Language evolve. Some fast some not

    Before 1972 Bahasa indonesia use 'oe' as 'u'. So 'fuck' would be written as 'foeck'

    And back before 1928 bahasa Indonesia isnt even exist, it is basically bahasa malaysia with many modification

    And right now "seronok" means "fun" in malay
    But means "pervy" in bahasa indonesi

    Imagine your kids watching upin ipin and learn word seronok but later in the class his/her teacher teach that seronok means totaly different thing
     
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  3. WorkingMoogle Well-Known Member

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    "At one point the South was reported as saying 'Zerg Rush, kekekekekekeke' only to be met by bewildered stares from the North."
     
  4. Roman Emperor

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    My takeaway from this is that it's fun to be a pervert.
     
  5. wibisana still newbie

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    You are not wrong
     
  6. Island In the Sun Moderator

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    Minus the whole "one side has lived in a totalitarian hellhole for 70 years" thing, this is fascinating.
     
  7. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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  8. Tarot XVIII. La Luna

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    The South needs to adapt their vulgar dialect to the the superior Juche tongue.
     
  9. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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    TBH in the event of reunification it's probably easier for Southerners to learn Northern Korean than vice versa, since NK uses more native Korean roots.

    E.g. all else equal it's probably easier for a Swede to learn German than English, because German preserves more common Germanic roots whereas English has a crapload of Latin and French loans.

    Swedish: Berg
    German: Berg
    English: Mountain

    Swedish: Sjö
    German: See
    English: Lake

    Swedish: Slott
    German: Schloss
    English: Castle
     
  10. Mider T Oh Christmas T!

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    Fascinating from a linguist's standpoint.

    Why was it off a half hour to begin with?
    Sea:pek:gun
     
  11. mr_shadow Minister of State Security Moderator

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    They're cognates for sure ("large body of water"), but the Swedish/German words refer to bounded freshwater lakes whereas the English word refers to unbounded saltwater seas.

    Not sure how that happened.

    "Sea" is "hav" in Swedish and "meer" (from Latin "mare") in German.
     
  12. Alwaysmind 总是心神

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    The unified female Olympic hockey team was trained in English because of this dialect issue.
     
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