Comparative Analysis on the Armenian and Korean Languages

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1 Comparative Analysis on the Armenian and Korean Languages Syuzanna Mejlumyan Yerevan State Linguistic University Abstract It has been five years since the Korean language has been taught at Yerevan State Linguistic University after V. Bryusov, Yerevan, Armenia, but because of a number of differences that exist between the Armenian and Korean languages this period has been too short not only for the students to understand the language as easily as they understand other languages but also for the teachers of Korean to analyze the causes of the common mistakes often made by the students. The objective of this presentation is 1. to touch upon the mistakes made frequently by the Armenian students by also illustrating the peculiarities of the difficulties that occur and cause these mistakes and 2. to try to shed light on the causes of these mistakes based on a comparative analysis between these two languages. As already mentioned, the current work will not be just an illustration of the above mentioned mistakes, but it will try its best to clearly show the causes of these mistakes as well as offer methods for a possible solution to the problems that arise when teaching the language to Armenian students. Introduction The Korean language has been taught at Yerevan State Linguistic University since September 1, Since 2008, Korean has been taught as a second foreign language, a compulsory course by nature. Currently there are over 160 students studying the language as a second and a third foreign language. This is a huge contrast to the amount of students that were studying Korean at the beginning of the course. According to language teachers one measure of difficulty in learning a foreign language is the degree to which the language differs from the students native tongue. Learning difficulties are mainly caused by the differences in pronunciation, grammar, and levels of politeness and honorifics. The three fundamental dimensions of language identified by most linguists as appropriate areas for research are phonology (study of the sounds of a language), morphology (study of the smallest meaningful units of language and of their formation into words) and syntax (study of word order). This paper will try to represent the difficulties that the Armenian students face especially in two of the above mentioned fields of the Korean language: phonology and morphology. However, it 53

2 will also touch upon the lexicology and the honorifics of both languages that can also be obstacles in the language learning process. Bearing in mind the above mentioned, it should be noted that because of a number of differences that exist between the Armenian and Korean languages in different fields of the language, the whole teaching period of Korean in Armenia has been too short both for the students to properly understand the Korean language and accept it as easily as for example the English, Spanish or French languages and for the Korean teachers to find out the exact causes of the mistakes made by the students so frequently as well as to look for appropriate solutions to them. The current paper will present the difficulties that Armenian students encounter when studying the phonology, morphology and lexicology of the Korean language by also explaining the possible causes of those mistakes. Phonology No two languages have the same sound system; hence, the sound system of any language may cause, to some degree, learning problems to the students for whom the language is not a mother tongue. Phonological mistakes usually occur because some vowels and consonants do not exist in the foreign language or because some others are pronounced differently. Though Armenian students do not meet as many problematic and confusing cases in the phonological use of the Korean language as in other fields of the language, it still comes to be of vital importance to cover some of the most commonly made mistakes that occur: Either because some letters in Korean can be expressed in Armenian with more than two sounds: E.g. Korean ㅈ can be pronounced as ջ [j], ձ [dz], չ [ch] in Armenian E.g. in the word 성적 the letter is purely pronounced as ձ [dz], where as in the word 자주 we first witness the case when ㅈ is pronounced as չ [ch] and then as ջ [j]. For the students it is very confusing to know when and where exactly this letter should be pronounced as ջ, ձ or չ hence a number of phonological mistakes arise in their oral speech. Or because some sounds in Armenian can be expressed in Korean with more than one letter: E.g. the sound [s] is expressed with two letters in the Korean language like: 사다 and 쓰다. In order to understand the main obstacles that might occur when studying the Korean phonology, it would be better first of all compare both the vowel and consonant system in the Korean and Armenian languages. 54

3 Korean Armenian: ㅣ ի 외 ուե ㅜ ու ㅔ է/ե ㅏ ա ㅗ ո/օ ㅐ ե /է 위 ուի ㅡ ը ㅓ օ/ո As far as [ㅣ, ㅏ, ㅡ, ㅜ] are concerned, students do not usually face difficulties as the letters are almost similarly pronounced in Armenian, however, difficulties arise in case of [ㅗ/ㅓ, ㅔ/ㅐ, 위, 외]. E.g. though we encounter the case of two 오/어 letters and sounds in Korean, we have only one [O] sound in Armenian. As a matter of fact in Armenian too there are two letters that can be used to express the sound [o] however there is no specific difference in their pronunciation once they are both used within a word and not at the beginning of it. The same does not apply to the 오/어 case as there is always a difference in the way they are pronounced. In connection with this, not only the students writing suffers but also their grammar because difficulties arise not only when they have to pronounce the words 도 and 더 but also when they have to distinguish between the grammatical meanings of these words. If in case of 오/어, there are difficulties both in writing and grammar, the case of ㅔ/ㅐ is not as misleading in the oral speech as it is in writing. For students it is very difficult to know where and when exactly the open variant should be used and when the closed one. However, when pronouncing words with them, they encounter no problems because in Armenian too there are two types of է/ե (ㅔ/ㅐ) that however differ greatly in their usage. In case of 위/외, it is due to their resemblances to the English language that correctly pronounced [wi] and [we] are made by Armenian students. In case students were not majoring in the English language, sounds would be made closer to [ui] and [ue] instead of [wi] and [we] as those are what can be found in Armenian. When comparing the consonants system of both languages it becomes obvious that their consonant systems have more similarities than differences. However, they do cause problems to the students once neighboring other sounds and being assimilated. Korean Armenian: ㅂ բ ㄷ դ ㄱ գ ㅈ ձ ㅅ ս ㅃ պ ㄸ տ ㄲ կ ㅉ ծ ㅆ ս ㅍ փ ㅌ թ ㅋ ք ㅊ ց ㅎ հ ㅁ մ ㄴ ն ㅇ X (없다) ㄹ ր 55

4 When analyzing the consonant system of both languages, one of the most important confusion causing case that is worth mentioning is the existence of the letter [ㅇ] in Korean the pronunciation of which is almost always incorrect by the Armenian students. This is explained by the fact that there is no such letter as well as sound in Armenian as [ㅇ] therefore the students always pronounce it as <ng > like in the word 형 where we can still hear <g> at the end of the word. E.g. [hyong]. This, on the other hand, leads to other problems as a result of assimilations. Here we should definitely mention cases when ㄱ+ㄴ should be pronounced as [ㅇ] like, for instance, in the word 작년 or cases when the letter is pronounced in one way next to one letter and in a totally different way next to another letter such as 낮다 where ㅈ is pronounced more as <ㄷ or ㄸ> but 낮아요 where it is more or less pronounced as the Armenian ձ [dz] or 없다 where ㅅ comes to be pronounced as <ㄸ> but is pronounced as ㅅ before a vowel such as 없어요, 옷 옷이, etc. It is well known that Korean students always find it difficult to pronounce the English letter r as it is almost always heard as [l]; in case of the Armenian students, there cannot be any difficulties as Armenian has both [l] and [r]. However, the rules when ㄹ is pronounced as [ր] and as [լ] can surely be misleading. E.g. 가라 [գարա=gara] but 빨래 [պալլե, ppalle]. As it has been mentioned above, another difficulty occurring more in writing than in oral speech is the misusage of the letters ㅅ and ㅆ as. This is explained by the fact that the Armenian ս (ㅅ) is a neutral one hence it is both written as ս ㅅ and pronounced as ս [ㅅ] whereas the existence of both ㅅ and ㅆ in Korean makes the students confused every time they have to write a word beginning or containing the letter: e.g. 사다 and 싸다. This seemingly simple analysis of the phonological system of the Korean and Armenian languages is very important when teaching Korean to Armenian students; therefore it should be thoroughly examined and analyzed by the teachers and only then presented to the students. Morphology Almost all languages differ grammatically because of having different grammatical systems. There are certainly languages with somewhat similar grammatical structures that make it much easier to study either one of the languages by the bearers of the other language. On the other hand, grammatical differences occurring among languages can make a language unavailable or partly available to those trying to study a language. The Korean and Armenian languages do not share many similarities in their grammars, this is what gives rise to a number of problems when trying to teach or study Korean. Below, the presentation will cover some of the most common mistakes made by Armenian students when studying the Korean grammar: 56

5 I. Use of the subject particles 이/가 은/는 and direct object particles 을/를. In the beginning the use of the particles 이/가 and 을/를 cause big problems when teaching Korean to the Armenian students. Once only 이/가 is explained students seem to understand its usage perfectly: used with the subject of the sentence only, sometimes replaced with 은/는 once the subject is emphasized, etc. However, when the students come to learn the object particles 을/를, they start to confuse subject and object particles in general. However, when analyzing sentences (subject of the sentence, object of the sentence, etc.) first and then trying to put the particles it does become somewhat easier but students still make mistakes in cases like: 좋다 좋아하다, 싫다 싫어하다, 무섭다 무서워하다, etc. E.g. 사과가 좋아요 (the apple itself is good) 사과를 좋아해요. (Somebody likes apple) It is even more difficult when, for instance, one sentence contains both subject particles: 이/가 은/는. E.g. 안나는 머리가 짧아요. 우리 오빠는 키가 커요. In case of 있다/없다, we always use subject particles in Korean and once this simple grammatical rule is learnt by heart, it seems there cannot be any difficulties as all students have to remember is that they always have to use 이/가 with the nouns before the adjectives 있다/없다. However, in sentences like e.g. 저는 집에 재미있는 책이 있어요, students usually use 을/를 with the word 책 thinking that the subject is 저는 which has already taken the subject particle thus the other nouns in the sentence should be objects taking object particles. II. Case of the interference: 1. The use of 부터/에서 ~ 까지: As we know the Korean language distinguishes between 부터 and 에서, 부터 being used with time modifiers and 에서 being used with place modifiers. However, as in English, in Armenian too, there is only one from used in any context having the meaning of from ( ից). Since there is only one word meaning from in Armenian, it s difficult for the students to understand the correct use of 부터 and 에서. E.g. 어제 아홉 시부터 세 시까찌 수업이 있었어요. E.g. 예레반에서 아르따쉬아뜨까지 한 시간 걸려요. Based on a number of examples and exercises this difficulty can also be overcome but there is always confusion once the students do translations especially in cases when from should be used to mean just from somebody, students do not usually know whether 부터 or 에서 should be 57

6 used. E.g. 친구에서 (O)/친구부터(X) 편지를 받았어요. 2. The use of 에/에서: In Korean 에 is used only when a state or an existence of something/somebody is meant, whereas in case of an action 에서 is used. In Armenian, like in English, there is no difference between these two. E.g. 책이 칩에 있어요. (The book is at home, Գիրքը տանն է) 숙제를 집에서 했어요. (I did the homework at home, տնայ ին աշխատանքը տանն եմ կատարել ) Thus, in the first sentence, when we talk about the existence of the book by mentioning where exactly the book is at the given moment, we use the form 에, whereas in the second sentence where there is a definite action of having done homework, 에서 is used. In English, we have used at home and in Armenian we have used տանը in both cases. 3. Converting verbs into nouns Both in English and in Armenian, as in many other languages too, vocabulary of the nouns can be enriched when using the verbs in the role of nouns as well. Though this can be done in different ways, one of the most common way of converting a noun into a verb and also using it as the subject of a sentence is by just using the gerund of the verb, that is to say by just adding an ing to the verb, such as, for example, Traveling is a pleasure where traveling is the subject of the sentence and is used more as a noun. In Armenian, the same word, to travel, means ճանապարհորդել. When used as a noun, just the word ճանապարհորդել can be used with the definite article ը added to it. To make it clearer, in Armenian, the infinitive of the word travel is used with the definite article ( the in English, ը in Armenian) to become the subject of the sentence. Thus the same sentence mentioned above (traveling is a pleasure) can be translated into Armenian as ճանապարհորդել ը հաճու յ ք է. On the other hand, in Korean, the word 여행하다 which means to travel in English and ճանապարհորդել in Armenian is changed to 여행하기 in order to be converted into a verb. However, as Armenian students are used to just adding the definite article ը to the verb when substantivizing it in Armenian, they usually use the word 여행하다 and add 은/는 when using the verb in the role of a subject in a sentence: E.g. 여행하는 좋아요 whereas it should be 여행하기가 좋아요 or 여행하는 것이 좋아요. 4. 많이/ 많은 Though students with a good knowledge of English use adjectives and adverbs correctly also in Korean, mistakes do occur especially in case of the use of 많이 as an adverb and 많은 as an adjective: e.g. 많이 음식을 먹었다 (X) whereas it should be 많은 음식을 먹었다 (O) or, as used most frequently, 음식을 많이 먹었다 (O). 58

7 5. Many mistakes are the results of the direct and word by word translation of some grammatical forms from Armenian into Korean. For example, in case of 과 달라요 students would think that it should be N에서 달라요. This is explained by the fact that in Armenian, if directly translated into English, it coincides with the English version differ from. Thus, both in English and in Armenian, the same rule is followed, which results also in the wrong usage of the form in Korean. E.g. Armenian differs from Korean or հայ երենը տարբերվու մ է կորեերենից BUT 아르메니아어가 한국어와 달라요 NOT 아르메니아어가 한국어에서 달라요. All the above mentioned mistakes are just a few of the many mistakes made by Armenian students when studying Korean. Nonetheless, because these mistakes are usually met on the lowest level of learning the language and they always lead to more important grammatical mistakes on the advanced levels of the language, their thorough analysis is a must for the teachers who teach the language to beginners especially as they are the ones responsible for finding proper methods in order to make this type of mistakes disappear or at least make them fewer before going deeper into the language. Lexicology It is usually much easier to learn the vocabularies of some languages compared to other languages mostly due to genetic relationship, borrowing of words and/or loan translation. Languages may have strong vocabulary resemblances especially because of borrowing of words as in the case of the Chinese words that have flooded the vocabularies of Korean and Japanese for example. Because there are no borrowings from Chinese, Korean or Japanese languages in Armenian it can be assumed that the Armenian students find a number of difficulties when learning Korean words for the reason that the language possesses no cognates or words related to their native language, Armenian. Because of the absence of similar words in Armenian, students usually refer to the word by word translation from Korean into Armenian which usually results in a completely wrong usage of certain words in a completely wrong context. E.g. to make friends in English or ընկերներ ձեռք բերել (=to obtain friends) in Armenian is usually translated into Korean (by Armenian students) as 많은 친구를 만들다 or 하다 whereas in Korean the correct way to mean make friends is 친구를 사귀다 (make friends with, become a friend of somebody) instead of 친구를 하다 or 만들다. In many cases what is a verb in Armenian comes to be an adjective in Korean. This results in a number of grammatical mistakes as well especially in case of the usage of particles with these adjectives. 59

8 The words 아프다 and 피곤하다, to be sick (հիվանդ լինել, ցավել ) և to be tired (հոգնած լինել), are verbs in Armenian but adjectives in Korean. The fact that they are adjectives in Korean presupposes that the noun preceding them is to be used as the subject of the sentence hence taking the noun particles 이/가. However, in Armenian, both of the above mentioned words are verbs. Students usually use the Korean variants as verbs thus almost always using 을/를 particle instead of 이/가. Honorifics/Stylistics In the Korean language, factors such as sex, age, degree of intimacy and social position play a great role in the choice of a level of speech in a given situation. The stylistics of courtesy varies in Korean and Armenian, though it does exist in both. In the Korean case, when talking about someone superior in status, a speaker or writer usually uses nouns or verb endings to indicate the subject's superiority whereas in Armenian, when you want to sound polite or official you just make changes within the verb ending ( եք, եցեք) like we do in Korean when adding 시 to the ending of the verb (e.g. 하다 하시다). Because in the Korean case we also have separate words expressing different levels of politeness such as for example 집/댁, 자다/주무시다, 있다/계시다, etc., it comes to be a great difficulty for Armenian students in the language learning process. This seems to be the most confusing part of the Korean language because students get lost in the variety of so many words that should be learnt by heart for a more appropriate use of the language. And if in case of 집/댁 for instance, the problem can still be solved in case of the use of 주시다 and 드리다 things become even more complicated because students find it hard to understand in which case one uses 주시다 in which case 드리다: when we give something to somebody we want to be respectful to or when we are given something by somebody who respect us? E.g. 엄마에게 꽃을 주셨어요 (X) 엄마에게 꽃을 드렸어요 (O) E.g. 칼 좀 드리세요 (X) 칼 좀 주세요 (O) Because of the above mentioned difficulties connected with the honorifics of the Korean language, students usually choose the versions they know for sure, such as for example, 선생님이 집에 있었어요 instead of 선생님이 댁에 계셨어요. This might be a proper use of the language at school or when talking to their teachers, but out of school, in a more professional field where they are considered as Korean specialists, honorific use is certainly more preferable. 60

9 Implications and Conclusion As this paper has illustrated, teaching Korean is not easy in Armenia once the differences between Korean and Armenian are taken into thorough consideration. Therefore a continuous and time consuming job is necessary for a better explanation and elucidation of all important yet confusing points of the material taught by the teachers. The most significant task of the Armenian instructors of the Korean language is to first of all try their best to help the students identify their mistakes, because in most cases students do not really feel their mistakes and thus continue making them. During the very short period of time that Korean has been taught in Armenia, another important duty of the teachers has been the assessment of the needs of the classes, groups and individuals through questionnaires and surveys as the practice has proved that this greatly helps to know what specifically causes difficulties for the students in addition to what we already feel during classes. The information that the paper has presented above is both the result of the survey among students to be better aware of the points they find difficult as well as the result of personal experience. By combining those two together, a few useful implications can be assessed both for us and for those who too are new in teaching Korean and hence will sooner or later encounter the same or similar type of mistakes in their teaching. According to Armenian students and instructors of the Korean language, it might be difficult yet possible to overcome the common phonological mistakes once listening comprehensions become the most important part of the lesson. Thus we first of all apply listening exercises consequently followed by listening tests. Production samples with native speakers' text reading and conversations recordings are very useful tools for identifying mistakes, as it is usually done in case of all the other languages. However before each of these exercises an explanation as well as a thorough illustration of the phonological peculiarities encountered in the listening exercises should always be given. This is explained by the fact that students do not often feel these peculiarities when listening to the recorded speech, however, when they start reading the same text as the recorded one, they make mistakes which they do not usually make when simply repeating the recorded variant of the text. Thus first reading and then listening and imitating are a better method. In conclusion, reading rules and phonological cases that cause confusion should always come first and only then be followed by listening comprehensions and tests in order to see what has been understood by the students and what needs more explanation. In case of grammar, written exercises found in workbooks come to be the biggest help. However, what is usually done at home should always be checked orally in class because students understand grammar better only in that case. For Armenian students being explained things step by 61

10 step is very important as they understand things with ease once explained with detailed examples and concrete exercises rather than being given the general rule. This is time consuming yet helpful therefore instructors need to have good skills of time management in order to do this. When explaining new grammatical material bringing examples based on the grammatical rules are really helpful because the just explained grammar rules come to be used in a sentence of their own. Moreover, among the homework assignments, making sentences containing each of the grammatical rules given in a unit is even more useful because in classroom everything seems to be clearly understood but once back home, much of what has been explained is almost forgotten. At the beginning or at the end of each lesson, handing in a short summary of the daily grammar is also important as having the main points in front of you make it easier to understand the overall grammar rather than reading a more complicated variant usually given in books. Translation can be given as a final stage only after exercises are done and examples are brought based on sentences both at home and in class. This is a useful tool not only for the sake of understanding the grammar rules but also for actively using the vocabulary of a given unit. As already mentioned, because of the absence of cognates and similar words in their native language, learning Korean words is really a difficult task for students. However, once they read texts with the vocabulary of the unit, try to learn some paragraphs from the text by heart, do translations and write essays using the words, it becomes easier to memorize the vocabulary that also includes honorific words and expressions. As a conclusion it should be mentioned that what has already been researched by many foreign instructors of Korean is only now being researched by Armenian instructors new in this field, however, the implications covered above as well as the experience shared by others can be vital for the development of a better teaching plan that will consequently result in the improvement of the Korean language teaching in Armenia. Sources: 1. 서 경 석 (2007). 스페인어권 학습자에 대한 한국어 발음 교육 방안. 이베로아메리카 제9권 2호, pp Junmo Cho et Hae Kyeong Park (2006). A Comparative Analysis of Korean English Phonological Structures and Processes for Pronunciation Pedagogy in Interpretation Training. pp Penglin Wang (1995). Indo European Loanwords in Altaic. Sino Platonic Papers Foreign Language Learning: A Comparative Analysis of Relative Difficulty 62

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