Thursday, September 17, 2009

Learning hanja...

Since arriving in Korea, I started passively learning some hanja, or Chinese characters used in everyday Korean life. Knowing hanja is in no way necessary to learn basic Korean, but if you know some characters, or even of their existence, even if you don't know what they are, it makes the Korean language make more sense. This is because so many words come from Chinese roots. The pronunciation is often related to the Chinese word. Some of these characters I only know the Chinese word for, I realized now as I am writing this post. But, it doesn't matter, since characters carry meaning, not sound, you can still understand without being able to pronounce it.

I realized a few months ago that I knew quite a few hanja (like almost 10) and I had done that with very little effort on my part. So, then I decided that I would work a little bit harder to learn a few more common ones. My life plan involves learning many languages, Chinese and Japanese being among the top of the list, so I might as well start learning early how to read them, it might help me in the long run.

Here are some of the basic ones I learned without much effort, between just being in Seoul, and going to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing:

ri : sun; day- (il) day, sun
門- gate, door
mei : beautiful- (mi, mei in chinese) beautiful, also the character for America... long explaination for that one, deserves another post.
yue : moon; month- (wol) month, moon
zhong : centre; middle- (jung) medium size, center, middle
bei : north- (Buk, bei in chinese) north
西- (seo) east
ren : person- (saram, in) person
jing : capital- (gyeong) capital
yi : 1; One- (il) one
er : 2; two- (ee) two
san : 3; Three- (sam) three
shi : 10; Ten- (ship) ten
口- (ip) mouth
- (yo) woman
大- (dae) big, great
小 - small
水 - (su) water
心 - heart

Then when I started to put more effort in, I learned a few more:
山 - (san) mountain
入- enter
王- (wang) king
火- fire

Then you can start combining characters like 火 (fire) 山 (mountain) to make 火山 (volcano), or you can start reading the names of cities, like bei : northjing : capital -Beijing, sunri : sun; day and moon yue : moon; month blend together to make 明(myeong- bright) as in myeongdong. I highly recommend learning some hanja while you're here. If you enjoy languaves, it will really help your understanding of the Korean language.

1 comment:

  1. How fun. My Kanji is coming back to me - of course now I need to learn the Korean way of saying them. :-)