Thursday, October 1, 2009

Too much English in Korea? Yep, and don't look at us, it's not our fault.

From the Chosun Ilbo yesterday:
An office worker in his 30s said, "When I order coffee, I wonder whether I'm in Korea or America, hearing all the words that are used mixing English and Korean." One Internet portal even posted advice on how to avoid humiliation in coffee shops. "Just ask for 'original' coffee if the shop worker keeps using strange words," one advice reads. At Starbucks in Korea, milk is the only item written in Korean on a menu listing around 50 different drinks.
Stress levels began rising in the mid-1990s when so-called "family" restaurant chains began to pop up in Korea. T.G.I. Friday's, Bennigans, Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants featured menus in English, or words created by mixing Korean and English. The trend continues to this day: all nine restaurant and bakery chains operated by CJ Food Ville with their 1,400 outlets have foreign names.
The bakery chain is called "Tous les Jours," the coffee chain "A Twosome Place," while an ice cream chain is called "Cold Stone Creamery." Even a CJ chain that sells the Korean dish bibimbap is called "Café Sobahn." Its menu too is full of foreign words.
The problem gets worse when it comes to children's snacks. According to a study by a newspaper last year, 54.6 percent of 449 different snacks in production had names that included foreign words. Only 31.2 percent of the snacks had purely Korean names.

In the US I think customers are, at least at first, simlarly confused and annoyed by all the Italian you find at Starbucks. A lot of the drink names at coffee shops derive from Italian, so in Korea it's not actually "all the words that are used mixing English and Korean."

I posted a similar article earlier in the year. From the Korea Times:
Many Koreans have read names such as ``Lac Vert'' (green lake) ``Ma Monde'' (my world) ``Near Skin Visible Deep Wrinkle…'' ``Teint Eclat'' (bright color) and many others on their cosmetic labels at home.

They make sense to people who understand English or French but many people here have been complaining that the names of the brands are too difficult for ordinary Koreans to understand.

``They could use such language if they were imported, but sometimes even original Korean brands have such names,'' 27-year-old office worker Lee Ji-hye said.

``Few can understand the real concept of the products, but the companies seemed not to mind at all. Do the manufacturers think having foreign names make them look classier and expensive?'' she asked.

I've always said that the amount of English and "English" used over here is ridiculous, but I go a different direction with it, and am contemplating using the topic for a future Herald piece when I flesh it out more. But first let's look at how the original Chosun Ilbo piece continues:
But children and teens who are loyal customers of the snacks do not look favorably upon the foreign names. Eight students at Doseong Elementary School in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province sent a letter in 2007 to the heads of confectioners asking them to use Korean names. The petition drew support from around 1,000 people after it was posted on an Internet portal. At about the same time, a survey of third- and fourth-graders in elementary school showed that 79 percent favored Korean names for snacks, saying they sounded more familiar and made it easier to determine what kind of snack it is.
Korean language experts say we may end up thinking that it is only natural for products to have foreign names. This perception becomes ingrained as we become adults and create stereotypes that favor foreign words and developing disdain for our own words.

And, according to that Korea Times article, some companies are taking action:
The Korean Society, a study group on Korean language, Daily Cosmetic and Kolmar Korea said they will hold a competition to pick the best all-Korean cosmetic names under the sponsorship of the government.

``The first stage will be looking out for the best Korean names. Then we will search for the best calligraphy to show them off,'' a spokesman said. The committee is running the Web site for applicants until April 30. All applicants must write down Korean names ― regardless of the product ― and explanations and meanings.

I wish there were more Korean used in Korea as well, especially when native Korean words would do just fine. But the way I see it, advocating for more Korean is not simply about preserving Korean, but also protecting English.

The overuse of "English" in Korea has a lot of negative consequences. Like other things in Korea divorced from context---Christmas, rap, Western-style weddings---a lot of this "English" makes sense neither to English-speakers or to the Koreans who use it. Rather, it's simply applied for decoration, and by cheapening the original it renders our culture and language ridiculous. Moreover, having so many English words imported into Korean makes the learning of actual English that much more difficult considering how badly they get mispronounced.

It's really remarkable how much "English" is used in Korean, and I'm not sure why there is such a need to imitate rather than to develop more native words. Using more Korean would seem a victory for Koreans, even though they're the ones who imported all the crap in the first place, but I also think it would be a great development for native English speakers as well, who now often find their language appropriated in weird and confusing ways by people who don't understand what they're saying.


kushibo said...

Brian wrote:
In the US I think customers are, at least at first, simlarly confused and annoyed by all the Italian you find at Starbucks. A lot of the drink names at coffee shops derive from Italian, so in Korea it's not actually "all the words that are used mixing English and Korean."

I made some similar points, even putting "English" in quotes.

Don't expect the British... er, English invasion to end anytime soon. Korean culture is dynamic, and the constant injection of foreign words into localspeak is part of that. And this preference for freshness and novelty is also reflected in the often clever and innovative way in which new Korean words are also developed, not just in the proliferation of borrowed (and then often mutilated) words. It's just the way "dynamic" Korea works. Just go with the flow.


* This would make a great "English" name for some company's product. In fact, I think one could make a living "naming" things using Blogger's Word Verification as a neologism generator

Korean Rum Diary said...

That second-to-last paragraph pretty much nails it. My sentiments exactly.

Chris in South Korea said...

Sometimes it's easier to borrow a word from another language than create one yourself. Any number of words in the English language come to mind - croissant? RSVP? - and more than a few other languages borrow from English.

Let them speak 'Konglish' - the English that is changed into a Korean word can be understood between Koreans, whether it's a 'true' Korean word or not. Accept that all languages change over time - that English has given much room to slang and hip-hop means English no longer sounds the same as it used to...

Ryan said...

My biggest beef with the overuse of English is on Korean music, especially in pop songs.

My message to Korea is this: be proud of your language, and use more Korean instead of embarrassing yourselves by massacring the English language and using phrases that make no sense and only makes you look more stupid.

WeikuBoy said...

Yes, the next-to-last paragraph (penultimate? or is that too much Latin?) IS very good.

If you want to add a dash of humor, update this post with the picture of the little girl at the soccer game wearing a red shirt with large white letters that read, "Just Do Me." That photo summarizes Korea perfectly.

Kelsey said...

Given Korea's nationalist streak, I was really surprised that they don't have laws like France that limit the number of non-Korean words that can be used.

kushibo said...

Kelsey wrote:
Given Korea's nationalist streak, I was really surprised that they don't have laws like France that limit the number of non-Korean words that can be used.

Many (not all) manifestations of Korea's nationalist streak are an optical illusion: the "vocal fringe" speaking first and/or loudest in order to pretend to speak for the masses.

But empirical evidence shows anti-nationalism prevails in this case. The "English" is so dominant in South Korea because that's what attracts South Koreans. It is presumed to have uniqueness, freshness, glamor, cosmopolitanism, novelty, anti-Confucianism, that Korean doesn't always have.

Not only do most (?) Koreans not care that there is so much "English," many (secretly?) like it that way.

[The word verification that just popped up is my ex-girlfriend's unusual first name. I'm kinda freaked now.]

Radical Contra said...

To a certain extent - call it the French level - I applaud consumers for speaking out about products. If enough consumers do complain, perhaps the Konglish on signs and clothing will start to disappear, especially if it doesn't attract Korean customers or invites backlash. OTOH, do South Koreans want to imitate the North Korean habit for coining ridiculously long circumlocutions in Hangul for common loan words?

With my first talk about pronunciation, I tell my students about the perils of transliteration, too. I don't even like English words written in Hangul, especially when the spelling leads to mispronunciation. My all-time peeve is a board for "A Beautiful Mind" at the theater: "beutipul mindu". No wonder students can't get used to articles! Back in the early naughts I saw an old Korean man practically cry in the streets because he didn't know the English word transliterated into Hangul on a sign. The word was "Ta-i-oh", or tire.

I hope this was all just a bad effect of globalization that I hope doesn't dissuade people from learning good English - or Italian and French!

palladin said...

This is merely the side effects of one culture growing into another. As Korea becomes more accustomed to globalization and working with other nationalities they will inject and loan more words from other countries.

The purists hate it, but it's rather naive to expect the people of South Korea to keep progressing and not have their language change with it. It's not just language, they are also assimilating things like fashion, car design, house design, and other culture factors.

The Korea of 10 years from now will not resemble the Korea everyone here knows. I would rejoice the change and integration, they are the signs a country is progressing. Trying to hold it back and stop that would just prevent a culture from evolving.

3gyupsal said...

It is simply the language of marketing. Marketers often destroy languages of any type just to sell products. I'm sure there have been some Korean catch phrases that have been created by marketers, but using English is just easier. In many cases the destruction of English is on purpose so to be more catchy. An example of this would be a company called "11st" which I believe is an online shopping mall.

I think that it is good that Koreans are starting to reply to this, but I don't think that it will go away. As long as there are marketers out there who can make catchy slogans, it won't go away.

I also agree with the comment about English in popsongs. Particularly, the hip hopization of every goddamned song out there these days. You can be listening to some "Sarang," serenade power ballad piece of shit, and in the middle some asshole starts saying, "yo, uh, one time, nae ga sarang, hangeul hangeul hangeul I love you," and the raps don't even rhyme.

Tamar1973 said...

I can understand using an English word for a word that has no Korean equivalent, such as computer, but Koreans overuse English, in my opinion. I was watching a Korean drama and noticed they were using English words such as test, stress, fighting, privacy.
C'mon! Koreans have perfectly good Korean words for these concepts.
I was discussing this topic with a Korean lawyer friend of mine here in the States. She started laughing that embarrassed laugh Koreans have from time to time and she admitted she didn't even remember the Korean word for test anymore.
That's the problem with this overuse of English. They're losing their own language unnecessarily and it isn't helping us "weygooks" much either.

Puffin Watch said...

We don't work very hard at keeping foreigner words out of English. I'm not sure why any language needs to be concerned where new words are coming from.

Sure Koreans have a perfectly good word for something. Actually, they frequently have 3 perfectly good words for it. A native Korean, a Chinese, and a Japanese loan word. In English we also have a perfectly good word for something but we also have 12 other perfectly good words for it too. Check a thesaurus. Check the origin of those words. They're coming from many different languages. English would suck if we had to call all red things red.

The only true concern the Koreans have is the languages in the North and South are growing apart. When the nations unify, North Koreans will seem like stumble bums: they look korean but they're mystified by simple terms every 8 year old south korean knows.

But it's not ultimately an issue of concern for the south. It's something the north is going to have to tackle.

Julian Warmington said...

What PuffinWatch (and a few others) said.

A language is as alive as the person using it.

Anyone named Brian can grasp for strong words as straws to be angry about to maintain the vigor in their blog, but that doesn't make a language 'ridiculous'. Strange, unusual, out-of-context, creating a frisson of surprise, yeah yeah yeah, call it ridiculous if you want.

But what is English? It's really quite ... ah.. strange to me to be so precious about English as a 'language'. Huh?! English is a language?! 'English' is the most poor unfortunate ridiculous mish-mashed combination of other languages possibly imaginable. And, it's alive with possibilities of the lives of those who use it. ... Kind of like an absorbent fungus.

We could look at the loan word phenomenon for ever, and it's been well covered by others before. In terms of beautiful examples of contextual nonsense resulting from cross-pollination of languages, I think my favourite example is the answer to the question:
Q: "Where is the light?"

Oh, wait, I get it. Brian wants to be precious for the sake of the poor Korean language (yeah yeah, as WELL as English). Just like BiJ to be worried ... about the effects of cultural imperialism *cough*.

* * * * * * *

A: "It's on the ceiling."

Gillian said...

I guess I will be the dessenting voice here. If used correctly, Konglish, not simply bad grammar or nonsense words on T-shirts or billboards, can be used to learn English. But it needs to be taught, in the same way that it was taught to me when I was learning Spanish.

Recently I had an exam question that had the word "blogger" in it. Many of my students froze on that word, and because it was an exam, no dictionaries were allowed. After the exam, when I was going over the answers with the students, I asked them, "How do you say 'Blog' in Korean?" The answer, "Blog." I then asked them how they say "Blogger"? Answer, "Blogger."

I then explained to them that the reason I can travel all around Korea by myself is because I can read the Hangul for motel, bus terminal, sauna, etc. And if I can read the Hangul and figure it out, then they need to learn how to read the English and figure it out.

I also explained that I do not have a problem saying "Co-pee" for "Coffee" when ordering coffee in Korea, and that they need to be aware that when they are saying "Co-pee" in English it is pronounced "Coffee."

Konglish should be used as a way to learn the language, i.e. English, not a hindrance.

The biggest problem I see is that Korean English teachers are just as guilty as my students in using the Korean pronunciation for English words, then teaching these Konglish pronunciations as "English" when in fact they are not. I hear this not only in my school, but also on the EBS TV station.

People need to stop seeing the use of loan words as an impediment and start seeing them as a useful tool for learning the target language.

Just my two-cents worth.

Brian said...

Julian, I'm not really sure what you're getting at.

Look, I'm not going to sit here and pretend English is a pure language, and I'm not going to get on a high horse and act like I'm a guardian . . . hell, many readers look down on Americans and Pittsburghers for the way speak it. And for anyone who pays attention to pop music or advertising (or blogs) in their own countries, they'll see English used in new and strange ways.

But, I don't think it's inappropriate to gripe about the overuse of English in Korea, and to point out that it has negative consequences. It makes teaching English that much more harder because they're used to the awful pronunciation and the alternative meanings that they're exposed to all the time.

And, yes, I asking why people overuse English (or nonsense variations) in Korea is a good and fair question. If they want to feel empowered with the language, and mold it their own way . . . fine, okay, whatever, but that doesn't mean somebody like me can't ask why. Moreover, it doesn't mean I can't speak up when I see people putting the blame on too much English on outside forces. It is, after all, Koreans doing this to English, and to their own language.

English may be an international form of communication, but that doesn't mean the people who use it natively can't be protective of it or act as custodians. English perhaps is unique in its position, but it bothers me that it's somehow politically incorrect to be proud of it, or to not like it seen used in meaningless ways on ads, t-shirts, in songs, and many other places. Certainly Chinese people think it's weird to look at all the bizarre characters on tattoos and posters . . . ah, but Chinese is much more harmless (even though it somehow became widespread in Asia over the last couple millenia).

Wanting to use more Korean in Korea shouldn't just be seen as a victory for Korean-language purists (insofar as language purists can even exists). Though the papers might portray it that way, I don't see why native speakers can't also be interested in seeing their language used in less ridiculous ways.

Brian said...

And look, just so we're clear I'm not going around being a dick to Koreans who mangle the language or who wear things on their shirt---like "Cocaine makes life"---when they clearly have no idea what's going on. I'm also not an ass to the students whom I used to teach.

But I did like what Ryan had to say in this comments section:
"My message to Korea is this: be proud of your language, and use more Korean instead of embarrassing yourselves by massacring the English language and using phrases that make no sense and only makes you look more stupid."

Indeed, for all the pride in Korean we hear about, why, and I ask this again, why borrow so many words? I don't think going the opposite way is ideal, either, but let's not resent English while importing it so freely.

Radical Contra said...

One concern I have is, that Konglish, unchecked, will become a pidgin. The vocabulary phenom is manifest, but students have grammatical habits too based on mixing Korean and English. Students routinely flip prepositions and their objects, move verbs to the end of the sentence, omit articles, and make errors in conjugation, to name a few. It's fascinating, and if were doing a dissertation or writing a sci-fi novel, students would give me ample material. It's also a teaching resource, as Gillian mentions. But, students use it too much, the media reinforces it, and Korean teachers legitimate it.

My wife learned firsthand the perils of Konglish when she tried to speak with my family on her first trip. She's in no way a bad speaker, but it was stressful and she resorted to a few Konglish habits. It's hard for students, as it was for my wife, to realize, a native speaker, regardless of their dialect, just does not understand Konglish. Even my family, with infinite patience for the new daughter-in-law, sometimes just had to stop the flow of conversation and ask her for a clarification.

Most people don't do that. Most businesspeople don't support someone they don't understand. Taxi drivers are the worst people to encounter if one isn't communicating well. ESL teachers do a great disservice if we don't nip Konglish in the bud, in the context of communicating with native speakers who don't live in Korea and use Konglish. If teachers don't do this, we could be midwife to a pidgin, and we ourselves might have to learn a discreetly technical language just to do business in Korea.

I teach with the goal, that my students will impress a listener or reader or that a native language user will not notice my student is a non-native. It's just too much of an impediment to business and communication for someone to think, "Oh, he/she doesn't know English well." All other skills go out the window, and an employee fielding an email, a phone call, doing a interview, or meet and greet is reduced to a caricature. That's a deficit most people can't compensate for.

baekgom84 said...

Radical, I'm guilty of having used Konglish words with Koreans on more than one occassion. I actually agree with you that propogating the use of Konglish is harmful to their English, but when communication is my priority, it's just so much easier to resort to terms that I know they will understand, and I do it sub-consciously.

I'm torn on this issue. On the one hand, I would love to see Koreans show a little more confidence in their own language (they are so proud of all things Korean, so why doesn't this extend to language, surely one of their great cultural achievements?) But on the other hand, as it has been pointed out many times, the nature of language is that it will absorb other languages and evolve into something else. While it's true that Koreans using Konglish will be frequently misunderstood by 'native' speakers, what's the difference between them and my Australian friend who went to America and had a huge problem being understood by the locals?

My position is that I would love to see Koreans being more pro-active in preserving their language, but I accept that this is the natural order of things and eventually Korean as it is now will evolve into something else. I don't think we have any business preventing that evolution.

Ms Parker said...

I'm really happy to hear that Koreans are finally complaining about the amount of English/French/Italian/Whatever used - especially on consumer products that are geared towards people who may not speak any of these languages, and 100% when a suitable Korean word could be used instead.

As was pointed out, yes it did make it easier for me to read Hangeul and sound out words when the resulting words were actually English loan words. Yes, it is normal for living languages to acquire different words from other languages through normal interaction (where would we be in English without words like "zero", "shampoo", "market" etc - which all have their roots in languages other than English).

New words - like blog, video, television - have been generally universally absorbed into different languages as recognized neologisms, but there are also languages who, in the interest of preserving themselves from the onslaught of English have gone so far as to invent new words. In French, you might say, in slang, "checker mon email", but the correct form (courriel - a mix of courrier - mail - and electronique) does exist.

It really depends if you are talking about a corporate name (Tous les Jours), a product name (Teint eclat), naming a previously foreign item once it enters your culture (coffee, motel) and simply using a foreign word instead of one that your language already has.

*verification word is "comation" - a hullabaloo caused by a coma?

Burns said...

For those purists out there, do you get mad when an English speaker mispronounces a French word? Of course, most of those French words came from Latin. So do you say "two bi" instead of "two buses?" If you were consistent, then you would.

Clearly this is not a unique problem in Korea, but it is something that has been happening for thousands of years.

Personally, I always use the Konglish pronouncations when speaking Korean, and the English pronounciation when speaking English. If I don't, Koreans don't understand.

Ms Parker said...

"'English' is the most poor unfortunate ridiculous mish-mashed combination of other languages possibly imaginable. And, it's alive with possibilities of the lives of those who use it. ... Kind of like an absorbent fungus."

Sorry - this struck me as a rather unnecessarily racist (language-ist) comment. If it weren't for the flexibility of English, it wouldn't be the most learned 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc language in the world. You can speak English poorly, even as a native speaker, add words to it, change spellings and accents and syllabic emphasis and still be understood.... not possible with many other languages, including Korean.

Frank said...

baekgom84. The difference is: your Australian friend is a native speaker of English. Australians don't sound like Clint Eastwood but neither do those "Sootherners" from Alabama. The Australian accent derives from London, the standard American accent derives from the regional accents of Scotland and Northern Ireland. But the language is the same. The grammar books are 99.99% identical. The essential English syntax derives from a place called England. Shakespeare was English, you may be surprised to learn. "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York". Almost 500 years old this sentence can be grasped by any native speaker but it would take a while to explain the pun in it to a Korean. Australians do not speak Konglish or any form of defective English. No educated American would insult Australians with your kind of analogy.

baekgom84 said...

Frank, I think you have missed my point. My point was that it is elitist to judge one language 'correct' and another language 'incorrect' because the natural evolution of language dictates that at some point, people are going to defy the traditional conventions of a language. Yes, of course I can understand the Shakespeare quote, and yes, I am aware that Shakespeare spoke English. But why are Shakespeare's plays filled with notations explaining the particular words, phrases or alternate spellings that no longer exist in English? 500 years ago is one thing - send me back in time 1000 years and I would have almost as much trouble understanding 'English' as I would with any other unfamiliar language. I cannot see how it is insulting to draw an analogy between Konglish and any given dialect of English.

Frank said...

baekgom84. Let your Aussie friend be the judge. I'll accept what he or she says. Also, I'm all for Korea being Korean. For a foreigner that adds to the romance of the country (and it's a pity that such an attractive country with a pretty and mellifluous language has so much hatred of English speakers). And their use of English signs that most Koreans can't read sometimes makes me cringe. And why is it "Grand Open" and not "Grand Opening". My guess is they confuse a new department store with a golf tournament.

Radical Contra said...

Konglish, or Chinglish, Japlish, Singlish, etc., are not dialects, because they are not languages, and not even pidgins. It will take time and effort for Konglish to become a dialect.

One of my Korean teachers, who had perfect English pronunciation, told us he used to stand in front of the mirror with a tape recorder to practice his English. He only had responsibility for his own lessons and his own example, not the entire evolution of the language. I think of the example of radio announcers who develop a radio "voice". No one misunderstands a radio DJ.

WeikuBoy said...

"My wife learned firsthand the perils of Konglish when she tried to speak with my family on her first trip. She's in no way a bad speaker, but it was stressful and she resorted to a few Konglish habits. It's hard for students, as it was for my wife, to realize, a native speaker, regardless of their dialect, just does not understand Konglish. Even my family, with infinite patience for the new daughter-in-law, sometimes just had to stop the flow of conversation and ask her for a clarification."

I would really enjoy (and professionally benefit) from some specific examples, if you'd care to provide any.

In the meantime, let me just observe that something is not right when an entire class (no, nation) doesn't know WTF KFC means but then lights up like a Christmas tree when it hears "kay eff-uh shee".

Ryan said...

Frank: As an Australian who lived in Canada for almost two years, I can say that I did have my fair share of problems with misunderstandings of accents.

But I think your point is getting away from the main point that English is already the main language in both of those countries, and citizens of both countries can read and write fluently in English.

Whereas in Korea, English is being used more and more in place of seemingly perfectly acceptable Korean words for no good reason. Not only that, the Koreans completely mess up not only the pronunciation, but the grammar as well (listen to almost any popular Korean song as proof).

This then rides on the back of the thought that Koreans spend a huge amount of money on education of the English language, but still have such a poor grasp of it, and end up completely destroying the grammar (see most product slogans).

Word Verification: "socaliff"
An adjective describing something of origin from the Southern Californian area.

Ryan said...

Sorry Frank, my comment was in reply to baekgom84, not you :)

Gillian said...

In the meantime, let me just observe that something is not right when an entire class (no, nation) doesn't know WTF KFC means but then lights up like a Christmas tree when it hears "kay eff-uh shee".

This is something that happens with English speakers, also. For example, who many people really know what SNAFU, FUBAR, RSVP, NOAA, OECD, (Korea specific)CFC, GATT, OAS, UNESCO, APEC, OPEC, anyway, you get the idea.

We use these acronyms all the time. Does everyone who uses them know exactly what these acronyms mean? I would guess, no. Do people have a general idea what they mean? Sure. How is this different from Koreans knowing that KFC means fried chicken?

Gillian said...

correction: not "who many" rather "how many"

WeikuBoy said...

"We use acronyms all the time. Do people have [only] a general idea what they mean? Sure. How is this different from Koreans knowing that KFC means fried chicken?"

My point wasn't about the meaning of the acronym KFC. My point was that even something as simple as the correct pronunciation of three letters (kay, eff, see) is totally incomprehensible to a nation that is so wedded to its own system of pronunciation that it only understands the bizarre
"kay eff-uh shee" and cannot undersand correct English when spoken by English speakers.

In other words, I agree with those who say that Konglish is hurting Koreans' (non-)ability to learn correct English.

baekgom84 said...

Yeah, I definitely didn't mean to suggest that Konglish is a valid dialect of English, or even a language in its own right. But it IS valid in the context of the Korean language. As has been pointed out by several other posters, much of English is simply mutated forms of other languages, particularly French. Konglish is ridiculous now, but given time I suspect it will evolve into something quite independent of English, and be absorbed into the Korean more seamlessly. Some of the Korean words which Konglish words replace might disappear from common use, but in some cases, their might be distinct differences between the original Korean word and its Konglish counterpart. My real point is that you can't police the natural evolution of a language.

And just for the record, I'm also an Australian.

Gillian said...

WeikuBoy- my misunderstanding, my bad. Nonetheless, to use a different example to your original point, up near my hometown is a body of water called Padilla Bay. This bay was named by the Spanish explorer, José María Narváez.

Now, even the TV news people call it "Pa-dill-la" when in fact, the Spanish pronunciation would be "Pa-dee-ya".

Then let's take the English pronunciation of llama and juxtapose it to the Spanish pronunciation. The examples are endless.

Does this drive Spanish speaking people crazy? Probably. Has it hurt anyone, hampered anyone's ability to learn and speak Spanish? Probably not.

1994 said...

Sometimes, the English word simply cannot be properly pronunciated. The cigarette brand "This" is a perfect example. It is pronounced dis-eh(디스). Makes it a poor choice for a brand name.

WeikuBoy said...

Gillian - It's frustrating for my students, that to speak English well they have to learn to speak French badly. E.g., label. As you know, Koreans say it la-BEL, as in "de-JINE-er la-BEL." Which I guess is how the French say label.

I'll add a wrinkle to your Padilla example. In the Philippines, it is pa-DIL-li-ya. The last time I was in Madrid, I could have sworn I heard someone pronounce Calle 5 as CAL-li-ye THINK-o, though I've been unable to confirm it, and I have no idea if the speaker was actually Spanish.

Anyway, back to my point about KFC, a closer parallel might be if Americans who live in "call-a-RE-do" were totally unable to comprehend a Spanish speaker who said "coal-o-RAH-do". And while Americans suck at other languages, I don't think we're quite THAT bad.

kay eff see > dazed confusion
kay eff-uh shee > fast food!

kushibo said...

I call b.s. on WeikuBoy's KFC example. No one in Korea calls it kay-eff-see.

It's kay-eppu-shee. ;)


Chew on that, Konglish speakers!

kushibo said...

I've had gringos in California get angry at me for pronouncing the 'g' in Los Angeles like an 'h.'

I suppose the mispronunciation of Español place names in the American Southwest (Los Angeles, San Jose, New Mexico, Texas, etc.) might impede some learners of Spanish, à la Konglish for Koreans, but I think the serious students will overcome that impediment.

If your student pronounces Paris (the one in France, not the one in Texas) as something closer to 빠리 than 패리스, do you "correct" him/her or leave it as is? (asking, not making any kind of rhetorical remark)

kushibo said...

WeikuBoy wrote:
The last time I was in Madrid, I could have sworn I heard someone pronounce Calle 5 as CAL-li-ye THINK-o, though I've been unable to confirm it, and I have no idea if the speaker was actually Spanish.

I think you heard it correctly. My understanding of Spanish is extremely limited, but I have heard of this before. It's often called the Castilian lisp, I think.

WeikuBoy said...

I know about the Castillian listhp. My point was calle (street) being pronounced as CAL-li-ye (the Philippine way) rather than "KYE-ye" (the Mexican way); and was wondering if anyone is familiar enough with kas-thi-AN-o (or kas-thi-li-a-no?) Spanish to tell me once and for all how they say it in Spain. (I learned it as KYE-ye but now I have my doubts.)

You are right, though: kay EPPU shee is a more accurate spelling of Korean pronunciation!

kushibo said...

You are right, though: kay EPPU shee is a more accurate spelling of Korean pronunciation!

There is a sort of sub-dialect of people who do the opposite and pronounce ㅍ like F. This one ajŏshi I met kept telling me, in both English and Korean, that he works for a company that sells faifŭ. I had no idea what faifŭ was, but after he talked about fal-fal olimp'ik (팔팔 올림픽), I realized he sold pipe, and faifŭ was his way of saying 파이프.

Sorry I misunderstood the focus of the THINK-o sentence. I thought that would be something you would know.

Ruby G. said...

Unfortunately, it is the same in the U.S. There are so many brands that are in French, Italian, German and especially Spanish. In fact, many of the labels for products ranging from food to cosmetics have both English and Spanish instructions on them that the majority of the mainstream Americans don't understand at all.

Karen said...

I think the writer of the Chosun article failed to distinguish between foreign words that are used unnecessarily in Korea("Look! We have English sign!"), and ones that are used worldwide as part of a corporate identity. You can hardly criticize Outback Steakhouse or Cold Stone Creamery for having English names -- they're American companies.

As Palladin and kushibo pointed out, that's the nature of globalization. You want to have a vibrant, multicultural city, you're going to see a lot of foreign words. And companies use those words to convey qualities about their products. For example, a French name on a cosmetics label evokes sophistication. Especially in restaurants, using foreign words in the restaurant name and on the menu go a long way toward creating a sense of authenticity -- and that's true all over the world, not just in Korea. If I'm looking for sushi, I'm looking for a place with a Japanese name and kanji on the menu, not "Sushi Shack."

palladin said...

Well Korea could always make a law making any non-standard English illegal and banning all use of English words if a Hangul exists that works. Then they could further ban all non-Korean clothing when a perfectly functional traditional Korean clothing would do the job. Then we further go into music, if its not pure Korean derived music (aka traditional) then its banned also.

All in the name of keeping the culture / language "pure" and protecting it from the evil WEM's (White European Male's) trying to pollute innocent Korea.

That is what many of the posters sound like, once you boil down the nice words to their core meaning. How arrogant for ANYONE to think their some form of "guardian" of something as large / multifaceted as a language. Your not Kim Jung Il, you don't get to dictate to an entire nation what words they will or will not use, and in which fashion they will use them.

Konglish is NOT English, its a Korean adaptation of English words into the Korean language. Its not something unique to "pure innocent" Korea, its something that happens anytime two different languages are in close proximity to each other. Example, I grew up in Northern Maine. When I say Northern I mean French Canada was 5 miles from my house. My town was the border town the the bridge that crossed over to our sister Canadian town. Guess what language was spoken by many Canadian's (and some American's)? Frenglish, a mixture of French and English words thrown together in a way to communicate across language barriers. This is the same with border towns between the US and Mexico, except its more like Spanglish.

Think long and hard about this fact before anyone thinks Korean should go back to using Korean only for their communication amongst each other. Its a natural function of cultural growth to adopt and change itself when introduced with new material. The English of today has very little semblance to the English of Shakespeare's time. We've added so many words from other languages, modified our own language structure, and even forgotten / removed old non-used words.

Mike said...

"We don't work very hard at keeping foreigner words out of English. I'm not sure why any language needs to be concerned where new words are coming from."

I agree with this statement but also think that English is an excuse to the rule. Because it is derived from many languages it is adaptable to various language additions. For example: sushi, wasabi, quesadilla, Chicago, Milwaukee, derriere, fiance (which we do have an English word for... betrothed- "Middle English bitrouthen : bi-, be- + trouth, troth (from Old English trēowth; see deru- in Indo-European roots").

The difference I have gleaned from all the other commenters is the pronunciation is so different that it is a) impossible for a native speaker to understand and b) when the actual word is said by a native speaker the Konglish user can't understand it.

Language is obviously fluid and as I have always understood the meaning a "word" is any collection of phonemes that connote a meaning. I think we are arguing over the validity of the language.

The presence of proper nouns in American-English that were originally Mexican-Spanish is not a proper comparison because both English users and Spanish users can understand each other regardless of how the words are pronounced.

The lack of equivalent consonant and vowel sounds between Korean and English makes it hard for Koreans to say "Febreeze" and hard for English users to get home in a taxi.

*word verification: quariffe- a very stylish giraffe.

jay said...


WalMart "failed" because I heard it was too-foreign here. Carrefore too!

Tesco popped up, and were smart enough to borrow the Samsung name. HomePlus is a big hit.

Its funny, but until all of that BakChungHee-bred 40 year-olds that hold the purse strings are gone, that may be the way to be.

I have noticed ABC MART (japanese shoe shop) is promoting its self here as a SHIN NARA, downplaying its nipponess, all the while selling HAWKINS shoes copying Red Wing boots (a japanese brand and a japanese fashion thing)

kushibo said...

WalMart "failed" because I heard it was too-foreign here.

No more foreign than Costco, which is a huge success.

WalMart in Korea was icky. While LotteMart, E-Mart, etc. are bright and clean, WalMart was dingy and seemed cheap. It wasn't a fun place to shop.

Carrefore too!

Carrefour did not fail. Rather, they left because it is their policy to be #1 or #2 in whatever market they're in. In a highly competitive market that is South Korea, they were #4, and they were constantly packed with people. They left and sold their holdings for a tidy profit.

They packed up and went to China, which was a political flop in many ways.

WORD VERIFICATION: leaver, as in one who leaves.

Puffin Watch said...

Carrefour was wonderful. I think most expats cried when Carrefour pulled out. 99 loafs of bread that tasted like bread. Good, cheap coffee. Carrefour priced a lot of things amazingly cheaper than emart etc. It could be an example of cherry picking, because I would only focus on western products which would be less of an interest to Koreans. Maybe they weren't radically cheaper with their kimchi, winter cabbage, etc.

However if prices were across the board cheaper you would think Carrefour would have done better in the rankings. I would have to dispense with the notion Carrefour should be number one because Koreans are rational economic actors and believe something else was at work. Some people blamed shelf height. Back channel bitching was that Carrefour didn't want to join the price fixing cabal.

Like coffee. Odd Canada and Korea import it. They use the same labor to get it on a shelf. It's about 3x more in Korea. But one nation, the company that sells the coffee also owns the ships that bring it in, owns the ports the unload it, owns the trucking company that brings it to its stores...

Also one could be #4 and still lose money. I'm not sure if I saw you quote if Carrefour was actually making an operating profit. Claiming you're pulling out because you're #4 might be good (well better) PR to cover you couldn't crack a profit and had no hope given your business plan.

Why foreigner firms fail in Korea despite being #1 in major markets has many reasons. Sometimes it's not being able to adapt to local culture. I read Walmart was failing in Germany because Germans don't like help. They don't want someone packing their stuff at the end of the cash. They fear the person packing will pocket items. I know in Korea I wouldn't buy some things because the help was too oppressive or I didn't want to have to endure the narrator model cooing and shouting and dancing around me.

Koreans are pretty good, however, in spotting the trends and establishing a local version a few years before the foreigner company comes to town.

emart was a study for foreigner companies on not how to enter korea. Costco was originally a partnership with Shinsegae. Shinsegae learned the skills and opened emart while also co-running Costco. Costco was like, ummm, wtf? But they trusted their Korean business partners and didn't have tighter non compete agreements. One would assume your partner doesn't start competing with his own business.

Walmart Korea was only Walmart in name. It had nothing like Carrefour's unique items or even Carrefour's wonderful billingual signage.

kushibo said...

Costco was originally a partnership with Shinsegae. Shinsegae learned the skills and opened emart while also co-running Costco. Costco was like, ummm, wtf?

I think Costco Korea was originally owned completely by Costco. It wasn't a partnership until 1998, when a joint venture was formed.

E-Mart and Costco are two very different types of store, just as Shinsegae and E-Mart are different kinds of stores. If Shinsegae learned anything from anybody, it would be the now defunct Kim's Club, on whose business model E-Mart was based.

E-Mart's success came largely from the low rent they have to pay because they made the "crazy move" of expanding into buying loads and loads of property on the cheap as the dust was settling from the economic collapse of 1997-98. That is what makes it hard for others to compete.

I read a lot about Carrefour's exit from Korea and I don't have any reason to doubt their stated reasons for leaving: they were doing well, but they were stuck in #4 without a hope of getting up to #2, even though they were doing well. They sold at a time when they were able to make a lot of money from their property, and they thought it would be good to take that money and expand into China. Little did they know that France would become a bogeyman over the 2008 Olympics and Carrefour stores would be attacked.

I mean, who would ever predict that foreign capitalist ventures would have problems in China?!

kushibo said...

Shinsegae learned the skills and opened emart while also co-running Costco. Costco was like, ummm, wtf?

The more I look into it, the less that timeline seems correct. Shinsegae opened their first E-Mart store (in Changdong, one I still go to often) in November 1993, whereas the licensing deal with Price/Costco for Shinsegae to open Costco stores wasn't until January 1994.

Brian said...

Interesting discussion, thanks for resurrecting it, Jay.

I just wanted to add, kushibo, that Kim's Club isn't defunct. Second-tier, perhaps, compared to Home Plus or E-Mart, but you'll still find Kim's Club and the smaller Kim's Mart. There was a Kim's Club next to my place in Suncheon (and a Kim's Mart across town), and a Kim's Mart near my apartment in Gwangju. But it sounds like E-Land took a big hit with the labor dispute a couple years ago, since it has a small presence and Homever is gone.

There are 44 Kim's Clubs in Korea, according to the website:

Brian said...

I'll also add that the Kim's Club in Suncheon came to have a pretty decent selection of foreign food---including items you couldn't find at E-Mart or Home Plus---perhaps by virtue of it being next to the apartment complex where most of the NSET public school teachers were housed.

Unfortunately, the Kim's Mart in Gwangju wouldn't accept my point card from Suncheon---said it wasn't "E-Land," which didn't make any sense---so it lost a loyal customer to Lotte Supercenter.

kushibo said...

You're right. I misspoke about Kim's Club. The one closest to my home has in fact disappeared, but the one closest to my work is still there (but is struggling).

But whether they're struggling or merely defunct was not my point. My point was that Shinsegae was following Kim's Club's business model, not Costco's, in setting up E-Mart, and even then not exactly. Arguably Kim's Club was following the Sam's Club model, initially, and that had elements of Costco/Price Club's business model, but E-Mart was far enough removed from the Kim's Club model that they were quite different from what Costco was offering.

And at any rate, Shinsegae had set up and opened E-Mart before it made a deal to open up Coscto, so it's inaccurate to say "Shinsegae learned the skills and opened emart while also co-running Costco."