Do you 한자?

To 한자 or not…that is the question.  I told myself I’m going to start this blog so I can record how I learned Korean (once I get there of course).  So I better start posting some of the things I’m doing to learn korean as things change alot!

But since I read a post on KC101 today on whether it’s needed to learn hanja or not in the korean language learning process I’d thought I would post  what I’m not doing.

I read a number of posts, blogs, forums on the matter of 한자 learning and since I have korean family members I also asked them their thoughts on whether I should learn 한자.  한자 are those chinese characters that there seems to be so many of.  Should I spend the time and learn them?  Will they benefit me?  What will I get out of learning all these chinese characters?

In the beginning of my korean learning adventures I read articles that stressed the importance of learning hanja and how you really needed to know these characters to understand korean.

The answer by my korean family members and my own observations since to whether to learn hanja or not is that it’s not needed.  Understanding the root’s of the words may provide some helpful knowledge but I don’t know the history of the words in English and I do pretty good with that language.  I mean do I need to know the history of english words to be able to use them? 

I can’t find a good reason to learning them so they are off my radar.  Yes I read the stuff where supposedly if I know hanja I can pick up other vocabulary because I know the actual underlying roots of korean words, how the korean government has flip flopped in their stance on the usage of hanja throughout the last 60 years, etc.

I’m on korean websites all the time.  I watch korean tv all the time.  I’ve been to korea 3 times.  Seeing the occasional chinese character does not justify to me the time needed to learn all these extra characters that will in my opinion provide very little return in reading and speaking korean.  I sometimes see a hanja character in a news headline but in reality I see them very little in korean media or in korea itself. 

Korea has one of the most scientific and advanced alphabets in the world!  With all the press we korean language learners probably have seen about how great the korean alphabet is, why would the korean government insist on more usage of hanja in the future?  They have 한글!  And what a great thing it is!  My teenage relatives don’t use hanja when texting on their phones.  I’m on the korea yahoo page on my other tab in IE.  Not a hanja character in site. 

For the argument that it  can help you learn new vocabulary because you know the roots of korean words.  I just don’t buy it.  I mean maybe I can make a guess that a word means something because I know the underlying hanja for it but what if it’s an exception?  I mean either I know the word or not and the correct usage of it in context.

My conclusion (and it’s my conclusion) is that hanja is not needed in the korean language learning process.  (There someone needed to say it.)

The future and younger korean generation proudly have the most advanced alphabet in the world!!!!  And Hanja doesn’t have a place in this world.  If you are learning hanja and don’t agree with my thoughts on it hey more power to you.  Just posting my thoughts on the matter, but it’s the choice I’ve taken on the matter.  I’m not interested in becoming a linguist or becoming a historian of the korean language.  I just want to be fluent in the korean language and feel that the bang for the buck in learning hanja is not very great.  Not very great at all. 

Thanks Sejong for having the guts to go against convention and create the worlds best alphabet.   I bet we can at least all agree to that!

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