Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hangul for Languages Without Writing System

Excerpt from Wikipedia:
In 2009, Cia-Cia language gained international media attention as the town of Bau-Bau was teaching children to read and write Cia-Cia in Korean Hangul (Korean Alphabet), and the mayor consulted with the Indonesian government on the possibility of making the writing system official. However, in 2012 it was reported that hangul adoption seems to hit a snag.

There were a few more occasions where people with their own spoken language without writing system tried to adopt Hangul (Korean Alphabet). It seems we don't have a success story yet, but this kind of news makes Koreans very proud.

Koreans themselves didn't have good writing system either until Great King Sejong invented Hangul in 1443. So how did we write our spoken language before then?

We borrowed Chinese letters. There were various ways but all used Chinese letters.

  1. Sometimes Chinese letters meant the same thing as it would mean in China, and are read as-is, with, let's say, Korean accent.
  2. Sometimes we used Chinese letters to borrow its meanings only and read as Korean word for the meaning. And that letter can be also used in #1 way. So one letter could be read in two ways. You go by context.
  3. Sometimes we used Chinese letters to borrow its sound only. And that letter can be also used in #1 way, so one letter could mean two different things. You go by context.

On top of that, each Chinese letter has to be taught to know how to read them. I am just glad I was not born back then. This is a lot of challenge to communicate in written form.

To all the people who try to use Hangul for their writing system - I hope it works out!