Saturday, March 25, 2006


This story about Chirac walking out in an EU summit because the French speaker insisted on using English has gotten rather more media coverage than you'd expect in the Korean media.

I think it may be because it kinda hits home for many Koreans - Korean government and business leaders are trying to improve the English competence of the whole country (resources are devoted to teaching Japanese and Chinese here too, but they're just ordinary languages - English is something rather different, a new way of life for the country), and I think some Koreans feel on the defensive about their own language.

Korean doesn't have the history as an international language that French has, but it is indeed being inundated with English vocabulary. I read a little piece in a 4th grade school reader all about how Korean has lots of perfectly beautiful words, and Koreans shouldn't be letting the English language ovverrun their own mother tongue. If you can sound out words written in Hangul, it's easy to find advertisements here that are almost entirely composed of transliterated (but not translated) English slogans.

I am a native English speaker, and I am making money off of Korea's mania for English, and even I find that somewhat weird and creepy.

Of course, Chirac (who is said to be capable of speaking excellent English, though not in public) was not trying to give a shout of support to languages everywhere... but he seems to have struck a chord over here.

No comments: