Whether you are looking for a Korean translation for something technical, legal or medical, or simply a letter, we can help you.
Lingua Translations is well known for its quality-driven Korean translation services.
We will equip you with knowledge and methods, enabling you to communicate in the correct written form of Korean, so can reach your target audience with ease and confidence.
We offer a professional Korean to English and English to Korean language translation service. Here is some information which you will find useful as the Korean language is full of interesting facts and essential tips when you are looking to communicate effectively in Korean speaking countries.
North Korea: 25 million
South Korea: 50 million
Language Family: Koreanic
Related Languages: None (considered as a language isolate)
Number of Global Speakers: 78 million
Korean is spoken in and is the official language of both South Korea and North Korea, and it is also one of two official languages in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, China. It is worth noting before continuing with this guide that any translation services you require will be in your dealings with South Korea, and therefore there is little need to be concerned with differences of dialect, accent or vocabulary between the two states.
South Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy and one of the four Asian Tigers (the four highly free and developed Asian economies which also include Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan). The country has a GDP of over 1 trillion US dollars, and was ranked first in Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index, 2014. With a high growth market and a taste for British consumer goods, South Korea presents excellent business opportunities for British companies looking to take their brand into Asia. Indeed, South Korea made the single largest contribution to UK goods export growth in 2012. South Korea is a world leader in the electronics, automotive, shipbuilding and steel industries. With the existence of Free Trade agreements like the one agreed between the EU and South Korea in 2011 (which is predicted to be worth £500 million for the UK), exporting to South Korea has become easier for European businesses.
Due to the ever increasing business between the UK and South Korea, high quality translation and interpreting services are needed more than ever. The accurate translation of legal documents, patents, business correspondence, trade agreements and many other documents both into and from Korean is of paramount importance when setting up your business abroad and can be the making or breaking of your international branch. Lingua Translations are seasoned professionals in the provision of quality Korean translation and interpreting services, and we’ll be happy to chat to you about your requirements.
Korean used to be written using an adapted form of Chinese characters (or Hanja), due to Korea’s proximity with China. Chinese characters were borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language, but used Korean pronunciation. Writing in Korea was formerly only for the elite, many of whom wrote exclusively in Classical Chinese.
However, in the 1440s, a separate Korean alphabet was commissioned and promulgated by King Sejong the Great, but it only became truly popular and widespread in the twentieth century. This writing system is called Hangul (“Korean letters”). At first, a mixture of Hanja and Hangul scripts were used to write Korean, but Hanja has gradually fallen out of use, and now Hangul is used almost exclusively to write Korean.
Hangul (한글) is recognised as being a very efficient alphabet and is credited by foreigners as being very easy to learn. The alphabet has 24 consonant and vowel letters, and these letters are grouped into “blocks” to form syllables. These blocks look similar to single Chinese characters, but are actually made out of several individual phonetically pronounced letters, just like in the Latin alphabet. Syllables are always constructed by beginning with a consonant, followed by a vowel. They either stop there or incorporate more letters. For example, the word Hangul consists of two syllables and six characters. Han (한) and gul (글) mean “great” and “script” respectively.
Like Japanese, Korean Hangul can be written either vertically and read from right to left, or horizontally and read from left to right. The vertical layout is more traditional whereas the horizontal one is more modern and has slowly been becoming used more and more. Today in Korea, vertical writing is only really encountered in old books and newspapers. For the purposes of modern communication and literature, the horizontal left to right writing is used.
Differences in the Korean spoken in South and North Korea
Although for translation purposes you will not need to use the North Korean dialect, it is interesting to see how the language in these two countries has evolved differently. Since the separation of the two states in 1948, they have adopted different language policies and the two forms of Korean have slowly diverged. In 1964, Kim Il-sung issued a document called “A Number of Issues on the Development of the Korean Language” and various other papers revising rules of Korean language use. South Korea brought out different language regulations, and the 1988 “Standard Language Regulations” is currently in use.
North Korea has also borrowed many loanwords of Russian origin, whereas in South Korea it has been more common to borrow from English.
For example, in North Korean, the English word “Poland” is translated as뽈스까 (Ppolsŭkka) in North Korea, from the Polish Polska, whereas in South Korea it is폴란드 (Pollandeu) from the English “Poland”.
In Korean, there are three main registers of speech related to politeness: plain, polite and deferential. There is heavy use of honorifics and speakers have to signal a certain level of formality in every sentence. Verbs are conjugated according to the formality of the situation and usually reflect the age and social standing of the speaker’s audience. These speech levels, derived from a form of the verb 하다 (hada, or “to do”) plus the suffix 체 (che, meaning “style”), include hapsyo-che, hao-che and hage-che.
For example, a shop assistant speaking to customers would use different verb conjugations and formality signals to two friends having a conversation. Because the understanding of exactly when to switch between registers is so innate and embedded in Korean culture, it is very important to use native speakers when you are looking for professional Korean translation or interpreting services.
Differences and difficulties between Korean and English
Korean does not conjugate verbs in agreement with the subject, unlike English.
In Korean, there is only one single past tense, which can cause problems translating into English because the choice then has to be made between several possibilities, all of which change the meaning of the sentence (past simple, present perfect, past perfect continuous, etc.)
There are no articles in Korean, meaning that the word “dog”, for example, could translate as “a dog” or “the dog”, depending on the context. This could cause significant ambiguity if there is a lack of context.
As previously explored with the paragraph on politeness and honorifics, it can be very difficult to translate a language where a culture of politeness is embedded into the language itself. Translating back into English could be problematic as the cultural norms used to express this deference in Korean do not exist in English.
Word order is different between English and Korean; whereas in English it is Subject Verb Object (I go there), in Korean it is typically Subject Object Verb (I there go).
Korean does not use capitalisation, and so this aspect of English cannot be represented in Korean. If capitals are used in English for emphasis, this would be represented in Korean through the use of bold formatting or underlining.
Addresses in Korean are literally written backwards, starting with the largest area (county or state) and working backward to the street and house number.