Korean English and language funnies - Page 16

Living in Seoul, Korea by Paul Symonds

Koreans generally speak a combination of American and British English and sometimes this is combined with Konglish. Confused? If we are talking about telephones for example, the following is generally true:

Mobile phone (British) = Cellphone or cellular phone (American) = Hand-phone (Konglish and used in some other Asian countries including Malaysia and Singapore).

Students day out in Seoul, KoreaPronunciation, in Korean English, sometimes follows the American English style and other times British style English. In Korean English, the words ‘vitamins’, ‘aluminium’, ‘data’ and ‘leisure’ for example:

Vitamins: (Pronounced vit-a-mins with a soft ‘t’ sound in the ‘vit’) -British/Konglish
(Pronounced vied-a-mins with a hard ‘t’ sound in the ‘vit’) - American.

Aluminium: (Pronounced a-lum-in-um) - British/Konglish
(Pronounced a-lume-in-um) - American.

The majority of Korean English though, is American English, with the accentuated rolling ‘r-r-r-r’ sound and dropped definition of many letters i.e. the ‘t’ sound, which is stronger in British English. In Korean English ‘went’ will be pronounced ‘wen’, in the American style. As a British person and having travelled and lived in the U.S for 5 years, I am interested in both British and American English. It is heart breaking though, when students read some words absolutely perfectly, but are then told by an American teacher that their pronunciation is wrong.

The student then tries to learn the word the American way and then struggles to get the American pronunciation correct and the word becomes difficult to understand in any form of English.

I always taught students that the correct form of English, whether American or British, is the form with which they feel most comfortable. There is no doubting the American influence in Korea and the desire to learn the American style of English, is understandable. Nevertheless, many countries in Asia use British English i.e. Hong Kong, India, China and Singapore. Hence, understanding what we call ‘International English’ is perhaps the best English to learn. By International English we mean a form of English whereby we understand the different accents and differences and learn a combination of British and American English. British English is the dominant world English, except for Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines, with Japan also having a strong usage of British English.

If you have any thoughts, would like to publish this book, or any general comments or questions about this book 'Living in Korea' then email me now.


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