This may not be the way to increase Korea’s chances of getting that Nobel Peace prize

This is a classic piece of jingoism – the reason Korea is not getting more Nobel prizes is that, ironically, its language is too good.

I far prefer Yun Cho’e’s approach of doing good work.

BTW – because this seemed so combustible, the translator had a quick go at the language .. which I have reproduced below the video.

Translator Says:

Each language differs in depicting sound, and Korean is the most developed language in depicting and expressing sound. Korean is very developed in “sound symbolism (onomatopoeia)”. We have “red”, “clear(?)”, “dark red”, “rust (and opaque) red”. There are more words, right? And a brook flows “jol jol jol”, “jul jul jul” “jil jil jil”, “tjol tjol tjol”, “zjual zjual zjual”, “qual qual qual” and we can feel by only listening the volume of water flowing. There is no other language but Korean that is developed in this fashion. I’m an English instructor, but I am also a Korean enthusiast. My principle is that one must speak Korean well to speak English well. (Personally,) I devote much effort to speak better Korean, as much as the effort I put into further studying English. And I love the Republic of Korea. Truly I do. You need to speak English well, and you need to speak Korean correctly. Korean language is extremely superior. (Because of that,) Translating Korean into English is too difficult. Hence, there has not been a Nobel Literature Award for Koreans. Did you know this? Why are you chuckling? You are chuckling because you feel dumbfounded, right? You are not laughing at yourself (for your own inability?), right? How many Nobel Literature Laureates are there in Japan? A factoid for you: 2 (Laureates). One time, late Midang, Seo Jung Ju, contended for the award, but the honor went to Japan. Then, why Japan has…. In fact do you know how substandard Japan had been? If we had not introduced our culture to them during the Baekje Dynasty in the 4th Century, they might still be living primitively even today. Then why is that we have not received the Nobel Literature Award with all this superior culture and heritage, while Japan won it 2 times? Why? It’s the translating Korean (literature) is difficult. In case of Japanese, the language is shabby and that’s why it is very easy to translate it into English. However, Korean is too superior to a point where no other language on earth can compare. Hence translation is (nearly) impossible. It’s not my own claim. It’s the truth. Do you know the poem Seungmu (Buddhist Dance), by Cho Ji Hun?

This thread fair-white peaked hat
Is finely folded (into) a fluttering butterfly

6 thoughts on “This may not be the way to increase Korea’s chances of getting that Nobel Peace prize

  1. Yeah, I posted this last week but then took it down after about an hour because I, rightly, didn't want people to think one loon spoke for all of Korea.

    Interestingly, I've heard that crap about the finely-developed onomatopoeia of Korean, but . . . don't many languages use it, and doesn't each one consider it most-representative of the sounds it stands for?

    But yeah, this guy is a moron.

  2. Brian,

    Your language point is a good one. That thing he says about all the great ways Korean has to explain "red?"

    Sure.. but Korean (language) doesn't use the noun as a color trick that English does (Lemon, Orange, Chocolate — jeez, why do we so often use food).

    His is the viewpoint of someoe who doesn't understand that every language has its complexity.

    He'd be a rotten translator and I doubt he is very good at teaching English.

    OTOH, The Translator says to discount some of this, cause the dude is trying to pump up his career in hagwons and selling to the home crowd is always a way to win that kind of thing.


    it isn't quite sparkling…


  3. I find this fascinating, not just on a jingoistic/nationalistic level, but because the speaker is perhaps unwittingly reliving one of linguistics great controversies, the Saussurean idea of whether language 'causes' thought or vice versa – (not so much a controversy anymore, since most people are on the camp that every language expresses all needed communication perfectly)- a modern corollary to this thinking is the existence of 'snowclones' – what linguists call language myths such as that eskimos have 20 words (sometimes the number is higher or lower) for snow, and that therefore language shapes thought. hmmm…

  4. Gringo,

    Funny that you mention that "snow" thing, because I use it in an example for a follow-up I'm posting with the TRANSLATOR here. The local example is how "yellow" is described in Korean versus noun-based descriptions in English..

  5. An interesting video and one that I really enjoyed listening to. I'm sure he makes some excellent points, but it does sound a little strange to say their language is too developed ^^"

  6. Little did your Angry Friend realize you would get so much mileage out of that little clip…

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