Koreans are Now Speaking a New Language Called ‘Konglish’

South Koreans have now grown accustomed to using some words that may look Korean but sound distinctly English. These words, a hybrid of two languages, are called Konglish.

A graphic designer from Ulsan, South Korea decided to explore this phenomenon via an art project.

In an interview with Wired, artist Ran Park shares how Koreans use the fusion of languages:

“People had started using English words as if they were Korean,” she said.

Stores would put up signs that read “바나나,” which is pronounced “banana.” People also use “컴퓨터,” pronounced “keomp-yut-eo,” or “computer.”

Park created “Lost in Konglish,” a special book she filled with beautifully designed definitions of English words that have assimilated into the Korean language in one form or another.

Konglish has its own rules that must be met. For instance, it uses loanwords like camera, which is written in Hangul as “카메라,” and is pronounced exactly like “camera”.

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Another example is the word ice cream, written as “아이스크림,” but spoken as, “ice cream.” Some words are not borrowed as an exact copy; 매니큐어, the word for nail polish, is pronounced like “manicure,” while the word for “cell phone,” is “hand phone.” It is important to note that the spelling of Konglish words still follow the rules of “Hangul”, the highly phonetic Korean alphabet.

The flexibility of Konglish allows for some entirely new words created by morphing or fusing together familiar terms. People in Seoul may call a luxury apartment “Luxtige” (luxury + prestige), or “Forestige” (prestige). 

Digital camera is shortened to dika (디카),  while “remote control” is shortened to rimokeon (리모컨) and apartment is apateu (아파트).

Park recognizes the popularity of Konglish as more Koreans become more welcoming to Western culture ands influence.  “It is really important for going out and getting a job,” she said.

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She is, however, weary of the effect of using Konglish, which sometimes fail to convey a meaning entirely, compared to using native words.

“People haven’t really realized that there’s a phenomenon, that we are losing our own language,” she continued.

The design of “Lost in Konglish” portrayed this in a very striking way. Pages of the book were made to become less and less legible as one goes over each page . Even the graphics she created “becomes more chaotic, because the phenomenon is more serious,” she said.

The increasing number of Konglish users in the country has been an area of concern by some government officials. Some have even called for the increase of Korean exposure to native English speakers.

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