About 77 million people speak Korean. Most of them live in North or South Korea, but there are also smaller areas in major cities around the world with a vibrant Korean community.
Korean is the official language in both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. There are different standardised versions used, but overall, both countries use the same language.
The Changbai Korean Autonomous County and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of the People’s Republic of China also view Korean as one of the official languages. You will also find that the Commonwealth of Independent States includes Korean as an official language as well.
There are many debates about the development of Korean and the family that it belongs to. For many, the Korean language is a language isolate. Some others, however, see it as part the Koreanic language family that further includes some already extinct languages like Jeju.
Others argue that it belongs to the Altaic language family, although this is a controversial family of languages. Some research supports the idea that Korean is part of the Dravidian languages, which links Korean to the Japanese language.
There are two main types of Korean Standard language. In South Korea, the Seoul version is used. This is named after the former capital, which was once known as Hanyang.
North Korea uses a version developed from the Pyongyang dialect. Both of the standard dialects are extremely similar, so speakers of either of the two won’t have problems understanding the other with only a small set of phrases that won’t be translatable.
Sometimes the Jeju Island dialect is classified as its own language. This isn’t linked to either standard versions as many other smaller dialects. In addition to those mentioned dialects, there are many other ones around the country. The majority of them just have differences in pitch accents and use of long vowels. Many people in those areas are also able to use the standard versions for their respective country.
Korean isn’t going to be an easy language to learn. It’s one of the hardest, according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). The FSI recommends that students spend half of their time learning the language in an area that speaks the language to learn it fluently. This will help to pick up exact sounds of the various words.
Korean is one of the Category III languages, considered “quite difficult” for English speakers. It will take around 2,200 hours of study, which will take about 88 weeks to complete if done full-time.