Some problems in teaching Korean vocabulary to foreigners


Chairman Kim Jong Il said:

"Our national language has a rich vocabulary and a great stock of expressions. There are a great number of national languages in the world, but it is hard to find a language like ours, which is so rich in expression."

One of the most important problems arising in teaching Korean which is rich in vocabulary and expressions to foreigners is to give correct understanding of lexical and grammatical characteristics of Korean vocabulary.

In making them recognize the lexical and grammatical characteristics of Korean vocabulary, there is a need for a theoretical education of real meaning, combinational structural characteristics of meaning and semantics.

In order to let them acquire correct Korean vocabulary, it is first of all necessary to define and correct their real meanings.

Defining and correcting the real meaning of vocabulary is a relatively common method at the basic stage of vocabulary learning.

In Korean, for example, the denotative meanings of the Korean words 《언니》 (onni-elder sister) and 《오빠》 (oppa-elder brother) are "an elder woman" and "an elder man".

The foreigners couldn't understand the correct meanings of these words only by giving them such denotative meanings.

This is because in addition to the words mentioned above, we also have 《누이》 (nui-elder sister) and 《형》 (hyong-elder brother) in our language that refers to this same denotative meaning.

Therefore, only when the premise is given that the speaker is a woman, they would understand and use the words correctly with its restrictive meaning of "a social relationship with a woman and it is used only between women".

The additional explanation that define the actual meaning of vocabulary may be made by specifying the actual conditions, circumstances and premises, in which the meaning is to be applied.

Among the Korean vocabulary, it is more convenient to explain the actual conditions or circumstances in which the meaning is applied rather than a direct explanation of the real meaning.

Especially this is more common for words such as adjectives that express people's feelings and the characteristics of phenomena, except the specific ones.

For example, for words such as 《딱하다》 (ddakhada), 《공교롭다》 (gonggyoropdda), 《따분하다》 (ddabunhada), etc., it is not so easy to correctly understand them only by their lexical meanings.

In this case, it is more effective in semantic learning if the linguistic environment in which these words are used is given in detail.

At the basic stage of language learning, where there is no great need to distinguish semantic differences between words, the Korean learners easily acquire the similar words.

However, since the level of language learning gets higher, the synonyms become a vocabulary group that creates many obstacles for learners. At this point, the way to define and restrict their meanings can be effective.

The elucidation of the combined structural characteristics is one of the issues in educating foreigners the correct Korean vocabulary.

As in other languages, there are many vocabularies that is restricted structurally in Korean. Some types and combinatorial structures that define the individual meanings may be due to the logical needs of the statements, but there are many that are tolerated by conventional use. Thus, the structure that restricts the functional realization of meaning can be called as the linguistic characteristic that expresses the national character intensively.

In our speech there are some special words that are used only in limited form, such as 《불굴》 (bulgul), 《절세》 (jolse), 《만고》 (mango), 《천추》 (chonchu), etc.

In Korean, the words 《불굴》 (bulgul), 《절세》 (jolse), and 《만고》 (mango) are generally used only in genitive form, while words such as 《천추》 (chonchu) and 《제딴》 (jeddan) are used in dative form with Korean particle 《에》 (e).

In addition, there are words like 《최선》 (choeson) which is used only in accusative form with its particle 《을》 (ul), while there are some words like 《추호도》 (chuhodo) which have meanings only by the help of particles. Thus, in recognizing the meaning of these words, it is important to additionally explain the limited types of the corresponding words.

In Korean, there are many vocabularies with defining correlated structures.

A defining correlated structure is a kind structure in which a class of words combined with a certain word is defined or its form is defined.

The connotations, restricted by the conjunctive relationship, have many categories attached by commonness and idioms.

In Korean, we often meet some nouns that are only used together with some definite verbs or adjectives, while others are used only with some definite nouns.

Δ이런 형편에서 공작을 해야 되는데 무엇부터 어떻게 해야 할지 엄두를 못내고있었습니다. (novel "1932")

The word 《엄두》 (omdu) in this example means "mind to dare to do something" and is used mainly in conjunction with the negative expressions, including 《나다》 (nada), 《내다》 (naeda) and so on.

Therefore, in the case of explaining the meaning of this word, an additional explanation that appears in the connective relation should be provided. In this way, we can give the additional explanation that the adjective like 《대수롭다》 (daesuropdda), 《시답다》 (sidapdda), 《맞갖다》 (madgadda), etc. are matched with the negative words like 《아니하다》 (anihada), 《않다》 (anta), 《못하다》 (mothada) and so on.

There are also adverbs in Korean, which express definite matching relationships.

The matching relationship is closely related with the logical requirements. In other words, logical requirements are expressed as linguistic forms, i.e. grammatical structures. Therefore, it is important to correctly understand the meaning of a particular word in order to clarify the relationship between the words.

In the relations of compatibility between adverbs in Korean include the compatibility with negative words, the compatibility with expressions that express questions or repetitive questions, and the compatibility with expressions that express the meaning of suppositions and concessions.

Δ그렇지만 그들이 생활력이 약해서 그렇게 된것은 결코 아닙니다. (novel "Kanggye spirit")

As shown in the example, the adverb 《결코》 (gyolko) is mainly characterized by its usage to match with negative words, such as 《없다》 (obdda), 《아니다》 (anida), 《못하다》 (motada), etc.

The adverb 《차마》 (chama) also falls in this kind of category. It is used mainly to contradict the verb's meaning by matching with negative words like 《않다》 (anta) and 《못하다》 (motada).

Moreover, the adverb 《설사》 (solsa) is used to match with words expressing the supposition and concession like 《더라도》 (dorado), 《ㄹ지라도》 (ljirado), 《기로》 (giro) and 《ㄹ망정》 (lmangjong), and the adverb 《비단》 (bidan) goes with the expressions that refer to the inclusive meaning like 《만 아니라》 (man anira), 《ㄹ뿐아니라》 (lbbunanira), etc.

Thus, the problem arising in correctly acquiring the phenomenon in which the grammatical meaning of "matching" in Korean appears together with form is as important as the understanding of the actual meaning of the relevant vocabulary.

In the education of the Korean vocabulary to the foreigners, it also raises the question of clarifying the nuance.

The nuance varies according to the words. Some are coherent with lexical meaning and cannot be explained separately; others are easily separated from the lexical meaning. Here the nuance complements the lexical meaning.

One of the comparatively difficult points in the acquisition of the Korean vocabulary is to correctly distinguish the nuance of the vocabulary.

In the case of the Korean language as a mother-tongue language, because of the unity of language acquisition and language environment, the nuance is distinguished by linguistics conventions and there are no significant errors in language use. However, when learning Korean as a foreign language, it is not easy to distinguish the nuance of the vocabulary.

As the nuance is detached to the linguistic meaning and it is the part not easily distinguished from the semantic structure of the vocabulary, the foreigners can learn them only by teaching.

The nuance is the meaning expressed by adding one or another evaluation or emotional tint to the main meaning of a word.

As it shows the emotional tint of objects and phenomena, it can be divided into positive and negative ones according to the attitudes towards them.

Positive nuance is expressed in various ways according to the richness of the content, variety of forms, and degree of dealing with the opponent.

For example, in the different meanings of the words 《아바이》 (abai), 《아주머니》 (ajumoni), 《언니》 (onni) and 《아저씨》 (ajossi), the nuance of kindness is expressed, while in words such as 《꼬마》 (ggoma) and 《엄마》 (omma), the intimation is referred to. Meanwhile, the cuteness is expressed in words 《아가》 (aga) and 《녀석》 (nyosok), decentness is observed in words like 《사랑하다》 (saranghada) and 《편찮다》 (pyonchanta), and the euphemism is expressed in such words like 《돌아가다》 (dolagada) and 《앉다》 (andda).

There is also a negative nuance in expressing the relationship between people, which is in the understanding of the meaning of the vocabulary. This is because it reflects the confrontation between the people and their negative feelings.

For example, the words 《애비》 (aebi), 《할미》 (halmi) and 《녀편네》 (nyopyonne) contain in themselves the undervaluing nuance by referring to each 《아버지》 (aboji), 《할머니》 (halmoni) and 《안해》 (anhae). Meanwhile, 《꼬맹이》 (ggomaengi) and 《풋내기》 (punnaegi) means "short little man" and "the one who is clumsy about something or insensitive in surroundings" with the nuance of being trivial and insignificant respectively.

As a result, in the Korean vocabulary education for foreigners, it is important to correctly distinguish and educate the nuance of vocabulary commonly used in Korean language in order to acquire the vocabulary meaning and use it correctly in conformity with manners.

In elaborating and acquiring the vocabulary meaning, there is also the clarification of the social and historical premises of the meaning of vocabularies in certain socio-historical context.

Those problems mentioned above are fundamental ones in Korean vocabulary learning by foreigners.