The Korean language
The official language of both North and South Korea, Korean is spoken by approximately 80 million people worldwide
The Korean language, known natively as 한국어 or Hangugeo, has a complex history and a dynamic presence in the global community. Korean’s place on the linguistic family tree has been disputed for years, although many agree it’s a language isolate. However, it’s clearly a vibrant language with an intricate structure and interesting influences from and on other languages.
Origins and Brief History:
- The Korean language traces its origins back to the 1st century BC, with Old Korean being the first form of the language. It was primarily used in the three kingdoms of Goguryo, Baekje, and Silla.
- Middle Korean, spoken from the 10th to 16th centuries, saw significant shifts in syntax and phonology, partially influenced by Mongolian occupation and Buddhism.
- Modern Korean emerged in the 17th century, influenced by a nationwide literacy campaign that saw the creation of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, in 1446 under the reign of King Sejong the Great. The creation of Hangul was revolutionary, breaking away from Classical Chinese characters that previously dominated written Korean.
Number of Speakers:
As of 2023, approximately 80 million people speak Korean globally, including both native speakers and those who learn it as a second language.
Where It’s An Official Language:
Korean is the official and national language of both South Korea and North Korea. It’s also one of the two official languages in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County.
Example of Text:
An example of a simple Korean sentence is: “나는 사과를 먹습니다”, which translates to “I eat an apple”.
Where and How It Is Used:
- Korean is used in all aspects of daily life in South and North Korea – from business transactions to informal chats, broadcast media, and literature.
- It’s also used by significant Korean diaspora communities across the world, especially in countries like the United States, Japan, China, Central Asia and the former Soviet Union.
English Words in Korean:
Many English words, particularly technology and pop culture terms, have been integrated into Korean. Examples include “컴퓨터” (kompyuteo for ‘computer’), “텔레비전” (tellebijeon for ‘television’), and “인터넷” (inteones for ‘internet’).
Korean Words in English:
Some Korean words have also found their way into English, often related to Korean culture. Examples include “kimchi” (a fermented vegetable dish), “taekwondo” (a martial art), “Samsung” (a multinational conglomerate), and “K-pop” (a genre of popular music originating in South Korea).
Although both North and South Korea speak Korean, the language does differ slightly, with variants between the two in areas such as spelling and vocabulary.
Considered one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, there are a variety of different dialects of Korean used throughout South Korea and North Korea.
However, the different dialects are understood by all Korean speakers. Originally written using Chinese characters, Korean now uses Hangul. Despite its visual similarity to Chinese, Hangul is not in fact an ideographic system, but is a phonetic system, just like English. Interestingly, Korean has adopted European-style punctuation marks, such as commas and question marks.
The Korean language continues to evolve, reflecting the country’s rich history and its increasing global influence, particularly through popular culture. As more people learn Korean worldwide, the interchange between Korean and other languages will likely grow, creating a richer global linguistic tapestry.
Our Korean translation specialists offer a number of different translation services, including copywriting, voiceovers and quality assurance.
Our translation services - FAQ
Do you use native translators?
Yes, always. All our translators are native speakers and most are still resident in their native country. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all Brightlines’ translators are native. We do not accept applications from non-native candidates or allow them to register on our online recruitment database. All our translators are rigorously tested.
How long will the translations take?
The turnaround for the translation will depend on the word count. As a rough guide, assume that the translators can comfortably process about 2500 words of non-specialised text per day. Proofreading can effectively be completed on a basis of 4000-6000 words a day. Our minimum turnaround time is usually about three days, although it is possible to shorten this if you are in a rush for the final files and we will always be happy to discuss this with you.
What is the variation in your translators’ experience and qualifications? Are they native speakers? Will the cost increase if we use a more experienced translator?
All our translators have to go through a series of tests to make sure they are as good as they say they are, and only if they pass are they allowed to work for Brightlines. There is quite a range of experience and qualifications, but all translators have a minimum of five years’ experience. All translators translate into their mother-tongue without exception and are generally based in-country so they are up-to-date with the local language. We match translators with projects/clients depending on the subject matter, and most of our translators have industry experience in their speciality – there is no better experience than being immersed professionally in the industry they specialise in. Our costs are based on translator experience, speciality (i.e. medical, creative, scientific) and the language choice.
Which languages can you translate into?
We have an extensive database with hundreds of trusted and tested translators covering all commercial languages. If you cannot see the language or dialect you need please ask.
I don’t know the word count; can you base the quote on the number of pages?
Our pricing structure is based on a rate-per-word, but we can estimate from a page count. If we can’t see the source document then we would usually estimate between 300 – 500 words a page depending on the density of the text and the presence of photos and images.
Does the translation need to be proofread?
Brightlines is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. This means that quality is safeguarded. We adhere to the “four-eyes principle” and translations are always checked by a second professional proofreader (who is not the translator). If the translation is for internal use and reference purposes only (i.e. not to be published, distributed or used in a court of law), or you simply don’t wish to have proofreading, we can remove the proofreading stage.