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More romanization debate

Some folk are unhappy about the Ministry of Culture’s romanization scheme, says the Korea Times.

Personally, I care only in that I have to use whatever romanization scheme the authorities tell me to use putting when together our magazine. Otherwise, one scheme is as crappy as the next.

If you have something to say about the current romanization scheme, post it below.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • montclaire

    McCune-Reischauer. And you’re done!

  • kimchikowboy

    It is my understanding that when they changed it the last time they did not actually consult any foreigners as to how they would pronounce the new version. I hope they would do that this time, though I am not optimistic.

  • ghola

    Korean language is so “unique” that I doubt any system will work to a degree which will be satisfactory to all concerned.
    Trying to read an English version of korean words, is like trying to decipher some sort of a secret code or something. It’s ridiculous.
    Publish everything in both Korean and English. Keep it separate.
    Like oil and water. It’ll never mix.
    Besides, with all of public signposts both in Korean and English, will help the general public learn English all the more faster.

  • Haisan

    I really dislike when people complain about how “foreigners” should pronounce the current romanization system. It is ROMANIZATION, not anglicization. Plenty of languages pronounce sounds (especially vowels) differently. I do not see what is so hard about asking people to learn a couple of pronunciation conventions… Plenty of other languages do the same. Chinese does it a lot, Japanese a bit, not to mention every time you learn another European language. Personally, I like the regularity of the current system, especially the differentiating between ㅂ, ㅃ, and ㅍ (and the like).

    I do wish they kept the s+i=shi, though.

  • http://gopkorea.blogs.com/flyingyangban/ Andy Jackson

    I personally like the new system; no need for all those crappy little dodads to figure out pronunciation. Of course, it helps if you learn stuff like ae=ㅐ and a=ㅏ.

  • LeoStrauss

    McCune-Reischauer. And you’re done!

    ugly

    to hell with romanization

    spend a day to memorize 한글 and its pronunciation

  • Zonath

    Eh… another 5 years, another romanization scheme, another few million for changing all the street signs and such.

    I really dislike when people complain about how “foreigners” should pronounce the current romanization system.

    Eh… the rationale is probably tourism, but if that’s the case, changing the system every few years can be a bit problematic. After all, a lot of place names in Korea are pretty similar, so there’s a lot of potential for confusion if the guidebook you’re using doesn’t match up with the official romanization scheme. Oh well… keeps the road sign manufacturers in business…

  • http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com sewing

    I’ve expended way too much energy over the years on this issue, and I’ve come to the conclusion that both systems have their plusses and minuses. I have come to appreciate both, so I can’t get that passionate about it any more. But…

    * Even if the current system is dysfunctional, is there supposed to be yet another romanization change? Heck, there are still some highway signs with the pre-2000 McCune-Reischauer based system that haven’t been changed yet. I can’t even begin to imagine the chaos….

    * The KT is being disingenuous when it claims (rather self-righteously, it seems) that it uses McCune-Reischauer. It does after a fashion, but without the all-important diacritics (the Yangban’s “doodads”), it would be better to be honest and admit that it’s an improvised system based on McCune-Reischauer. You can’t imply that McCune-Reischauer is superior (which it very well may be) when you don’t even use it properly yourself!

    * Above all, it seems to be an issue of pronunciation versus economy. The current system is probably harder to pronounce for foreigners, but it does away with the doodads, which makes it an eminently simpler system in the world of 26-key, diacriticless, English-language computer keyboards. It’s a tradeoff, and sadly, neither system is the clear winner.

  • montclaire

    McCune-Reischauer is ugly, but words like Eoneohageui aren’t?

  • http://yeomso.blogspot.com/ The Goat

    “Korean language is so “unique” that I doubt any system will work to a degree which will be satisfactory to all concerned.
    Trying to read an english version of korean words, is like trying to decipher some sort of a secret code or something. It’s ridiculous.
    Publish everything in both Korean and Engish. Keep it separate.
    Like oil and water. It’ll never mix.”

    The same can be said for most languages from both sides of the coin.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/x85130c4/ Mark

    Doubleplusungood.

  • Remort

    The boys at Harvard University got it right with the McCune-Reischauer (M-R) system. Bring it back please. But more than this, in that the system just makes good sense and accurately describes how words are pronounced in Korean, it in my mind was selected to honor these two men in dedicating their lives to the study and betterment of Asia.

    I will never romanize Pusan as “Busan”, even at gun point. Kimp’o as Gimpo, Kangnam as Gangnam, GMAFB!! Quite frankly, this is a slap in the face that the rominization scheme was EVER changed. Koreans have enough to worry about beyond having their language bastardized by mucking up its romanization with any thing other than the McCune-Reischauer (M-R) system.

    –Remort

  • http://spaces.msn.com/x85130c4/ Mark

    But Remort, North Korea doesn’t like M-R, so this must be done away with in preparation for the second coming.

  • hardyandtiny

    “I do wish they kept the s+i=shi, though.”

    Yeah I never understood that change. What’s the logic on that one?

  • http://www.seoul-man.blogspot.com jonallen

    They are never going to get concensus to the changes.
    I think they are wasting their time if they do it. The current situation is confusing enough for foreigners and tourists. Adding a third version really is going to be a nightmare.

    Does anyone know if Kim Bok-moon from Research Institute for Korean Romanization (KOROMA) has published his brilliant new ideas anywhere for them to be shot down?

  • Cat

    I have to add a second to Haisan’s point about romanization not equaling anglicization. A romanization system, ideally, would be one that would enabe foreigners from many different countries using a Latin-based alphabet to pronounce Korean words. So, we wouldn’t pronounce it correctly based on our English-language perception of how these letters sound, what about people who speak other languages?

    That being said, the current system bugs me because no native speaker of English or Spanish (the languages with which I am mostly familiar) would look at ‘eo’ and say ‘ㅓ’, and I doubt Italian, German, or French speakers would, either. Don’t know about others. Does anyone know how this particular element came about? Just curious.

    Mostly though, I think they’ve got to pick one system and stick with it. It’s no good getting everyone used to one and then changing it based on different groups’ difficulty with particular elements. Haisan is also right that anyone who learns a foreign language learns that certain letters and groups of letters are pronounced differently than their native tongue.

  • http://eflgeek.com EFL Geek

    [quote]to hell with romanization

    spend a day to memorize 한글 and its pronunciation [/quote]
    yeah, a person travelling on business is going to spend the time to memorize a completely alien writing and sound system. Umm.. that’s why there’s romanization – it’s not for expats living in the country, it’s for tourists.

  • http://eflgeek.com EFL Geek

    damn BB code, that should have been surrounded by blockquote tags…

  • Zonath

    would look at ‘eo’ and say ‘ㅓ’, and I doubt Italian, German, or French speakers would, either. Don’t know about others. Does anyone know how this particular element came about?

    Well, don’t take my word for it, but I heard that the reason for having ‘eo’ (and by extension eu) was in order to bring the rest of the spellings in the country in line with ‘Seoul’. Under the McC/R system, the spelling of Seoul was out of line with pretty much every other place using the ‘eo’ sound (and there were a lot), so instead of coming up with a system that would have required them to change the name of the capital (for consistency), they went the other way. Of course, this is only what I’ve heard second-hand, so you might not want to place too much faith in it.

    I will never romanize Pusan as “Busan”, even at gun point. Kimpo as Gimpo, Kangnam as Gangnam, GMAFB!! Quite frankly, this is a slap in the face that the rominization scheme was EVER changed.

    It’s all a conspiracy to change the name of the country to ‘Goria’, so that it can once again take its rightful place in the alphabet (in the English language, at least) in front of them shifty Japaneseses. ;)

  • http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com sewing

    The current system is actually a rehashing of the system in use before 1984 or so, but consonant sound changes are recognized.

    The most uproarious example cited for the pre-84 system is “dogrib” for 독립 (independence). Now it’s written as “dongnip,” with the sound changes in the “d,” “r,” and “b” reflected.

    Before the postwar era when the first attempts at a standardized (government-endorsed) romanization were made—and especially before McC. & R. came on the scene—there were a variety of romanization systems floating around, in use by various authors, missionary groups, dictionaries, etc. Many of the conventions in both McC. & R. (the ŏ and ŭ symbols) and the current system (use of “eo” and “eu”) have precedents in one or another older systems. (There are only so many ways to cut a cake, after all.)

  • http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com sewing

    …I meant ŏ and ŭ, and by “postwar” I meant “post-World War II.”

  • Haisan

    I agree that a lot of the current system was designed just so Seoul would not change its spelling. Can you imagine if all of a sudden we were living in “Suool”?

    But I would approve if the country changed its name to Goryeo.

  • http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com sewing

    Although under the old system, Seoul would properly have been spelled “Sŏul.” There was an exception to the rules (as there is today) that well-established romanizations would not have to be changed to conform to the prevailing system.

    The NAKL cited a variety of reasons for introducing the current system—which reasons people may or may not agree with—but changing the entire system for the sake of making the spelling “Seoul” consistent was not one of them.

  • http://sungnyemun.org/wordpress/ dda

    This little post sounded like a call for trolls, but so far, the crowd’s behaving – I guess that dead horse’s been beaten once too many. Even I can’t get worked up anymore.

    And for the record, there’s another system, Martin-Yale, used mostly by linguists, which is the closest you’ll ever get to one-to-one correspondance. It’s the system I used in my [unfinished] PhD thesis. It’s a purely phonological system, and is great for research purposes. For everyday use, it’s as user-friendly as Pinyin…

  • montclaire

    Martin-Yale…a monstrosity.
    McCune-Reischauer rocks. We just need to find out the Korean names of those two esteemed scholars. Call it the Kim-Park system and the Koreans will have fewer objections to it.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Strauss LeoStrauss

    #25 # montclaire wrote:

    “McCune-Reischauer rocks.”

    Only if you are living in the stone age.

  • iGEL

    To read a romanisation correctly, you have to know the sounds behind it. It doesn’t matter, if you have to learn how to speak eo or ŏ, if you speak it like an o, hardly 50% of the Koreans will understand you. But if you have to learn a romanisation, you could learn Hangeul instead with just a little more effort and be even more accurate.

    So, a romanisation is just a ugly help for people, who just want to read a few words or travel Korea for some days. Thus, it should be easy to use, but also it should be possible, to figure out, which Hangeul letters are behind it. And because of this, I don’t like McCune-Reischauer. It is more complicated to build (why do you write 제주 cheju instead of chechu?) and uses the apostroph to mark the asperated sounds. This is uncommon for westerners. Also, it uses characters, which are not available on the normal keyboard.

    Because it is to complicated for the daily use, it is common to drop all apostrops and write o and u instead of ŏ and ŭ. But then it is impossible to figure out, which is the original Korean word, unless you know the word and the romanisation of it.

    Back to McCune-Reischauer is a no-no for me. Either they keep the Revised Romanisation or they use the system, Koreans use for their names. ㅡ = eu,ㅓ = o, ㅗ = u and ㅜ = oo. This combined with the other rules of the revised romanisation would be a quite good romanisation, which is a good compromize between easiness and correctness, I guess. Everyone, who wants to be more correct, can learn Hangeul.

    Regards, iGEL

  • http://www.korealiberator.org/ Richardson

    ㅡ = eu … ㅜ = oo

    Ok, fine with that, but not;

    ㅓ = o, ㅗ = u

    No way /ㅗ/ sounds like /u/.

    Better like this; /ㅗ/ = /oe/ (as in ‘hoe’).

    And to avoid confusion; /ㅓ/ = /o/ or perhaps /eo/.

    MC of course wasn’t perfect but it needed only tweaking on vowels and a few consonants rather than a complete new system.

  • montclaire

    Right. Modifying MC is all it takes.
    Though the notion that the Koreans (with their 뜻만 전달 되면 approach to language in general) would stick to any one system, no matter how good it is, or actually read through signs and brochures before issuing them, is pretty unrealistic.

  • http://www.meet-korea.de/ iGEL

    Hi!

    @Richardson: The approach was to eleminate the eo, because untrained speakers always read it as two seperate vowels. But it was a little late yesterday, so my suggestion was not so good. Here a new one:
    ㅡ = eu
    ㅗ = o
    ㅓ = ou
    ㅜ = u (or oo, if the English nativs insist on it, also I don’t like it)

    Also, I would introduce the shi/sha etc. for 시, 샤 instead of the si in RR/MC

    Inchoun instead of Incheon/Inch’ŏn
    Souul instead of Seoul/Sŏul (looks bad, I agree. But isn’t Seoul even worse?)
    Pyoungchang instead of Pyeongchang/P’yŏngch’ang
    Shiheung instead of Siheung/Sihŭng

    If you want to keep a modified MC, please explain, how you would distinct ㅍ from ㅂ, ㄷ from ㅌ, ㄱ from ㅋ and ㅈ from ㅊ. The apostrophe is a pretty bad idea in my oppinion. Also I think, the rules should offer a 1:1 translation rules for the Hangeul-Letters, with the only exception in obvious cases like 신라. To distinct the ㅈ in 제주 (Cheju in MC) is far to complicatated for daily use.

    One of the problems with the romanisation is the English writing (And of course I as a German exspect a romanisation to be made for English). In my oppinion, reading Hangeul is easier than reading English, since there are so many exceptions and ways to read a letter. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti for examples. ;)

  • http://www.xanga.com/w84meplease ShawnLee

    Maybe it’s just me, or some of the other Americans here (including the KA kyopos), but why can’t ㅓ = uh? Duh? I mean, doesn’t it sound right? And if you’re looking to nit-pick, ignore the “doe” in “doesn’t” for a moment.

    And yes it’s technically a latinized transfer in Romanization, but let’s face it, the native language for MOST of the people that are going to read the Romanization is English! Want evidence of this? What’s the second language on Korean signs that have Romanized transliterations? Hint: It’s not Spanish, French, German, or Latin.

    Simplify.

    Suh-ool. Boo-Sahn. Gong-nahm. Ahb-goo-jung-dong. Sool hahn-geh-duh-yo.

  • Remort

    Right then, I’m for either bringing back the M-C system, or a modification to it (for vowels only). The current system SUCKS!

    –Remort

  • Pingback: Pinyin news » Blog Archive » Korean romanization — again

  • Arghaeri

    It’s a “romanisation” system to allow transcription into the roman alphabet.
    The M-C method was good and I still have an attachment to it, however with its extensive use of diacritical marks its not really best placed for modern keyboards (as opposed to handrwiting). Pronunciation is not really the issue, transcription is, no system will be perfect. As correctly noted above there are many different pronunciations of the roman alphabet in different languages and dialects.

    Shawn, repeat, its a romanisation system. By defination, most korean signs that have roman transliteration have no second language, they are transliterations! A road sign saying “Seoul”, is korean transliterated into the roman alphabet, ti is not english. You are also totally ignoring the differences, in pronuciation amongst the varied users of the roman alphabet. Attempting to justify it by saying MOST of the people who are going to read it are English is very weak. Actually most of the people who are going to read it are likely to be asian, e.g Japanese, not familiar with hangul, but familiar with their own romanisation systems. You also, ignore the fact that MOST of those who use the roman alphabet do not speak English as a first language, most of Europe, South America, et al, are you suggesting only tourism from America should be encouraged. Also a large proportion of those who do speak english, don’t speak “American”. If it’s to be english which dialect do you suggest we follow for a new system, deep south cotton farmers, geordies, glaswegians, cockneys, australian?

    The important factor is to have a consistent system for transliteration, the sound that such a system represent can then be learn’t by those likely to be exposed long enough to warrant it, but towns, places etc in guide books, maps, streets signs and the like, will not be confused by those with short term tourist exposure.

    Of course, if you do have the time to learn the correct sounds, then as hangul is pretty easy you’re better to go that route, as opposed to Japanese where kanji make learning to read and write a very difficult option. This is no different from the Japanese romanisation system, where the letter represent the japanese equivalent not one particular foreing countries pronunciation.

    The current system should not be changed again, consistency is the main point, and once learn’t it is easy to convert the current system into hangul and back again without worrying about the diacritical marks that the M-C system relys upon.

  • http://www.korealiberator.org/ Richardson

    And if you’re looking to nit-pick, ignore the “doe” in “doesn’t” for a moment.

    Adding a consonant after the /oe/ changes the sound, so the nitpick isn’t really applicable.

  • http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com sewing

    Arghaeri:

    Just a couple of thoughts…you are right that often the romanized name of a street, station, etc. is simply a transcription of the Korean; but when Korean words that form part of such names are romanized, they are translated into English: 영등포구청 becomes “Yeongdeungpo-gu Office,” for example.

    Is this right? I don’t know…I agree that there are many non-Koreans in South Korea whose first language isn’t English. Then again, as English is evolving into an international lingua franca, if any foreign language has to be picked for such signs, English can probably be more widely understood than any other language that could be picked—at a minimum, it would be readily understood by Europeans and South Asians, who come from places where English is used extensively as a second (or third or fourth in some cases!) language.

    On another note, I always thought that the Hancha on subway station signs was for the sake of Chinese and Japanese visitors, but now that I think of it, they wouldn’t really help such people, since pronouncing such names in Mandarin, Cantonese, or Japanese would rarely help if they were, say, asking for directions! (It would help for wayfinding, though—”Okay, I have to get off at 市廳驛”—but then only if the traveller is from Taiwan or Hong Kong or otherwise well versed in the traditional (non-simplified) characters!) I imagine this is a practice that started during the Japanese colonial period, as station signs in Japan are in Kanji, Kana, and Romaja.

  • Arghaeri

    Sewing,

    You’re right that sometimes elements are translated, the favourite one’s being yeok=station and (tae)gyo=(big)bridge however in these case the system of romanisation is superflous since it hasn’t been romanised but translated directly into english. These are most common on road signs but not so much on non-governmental signs, and equally there are many more signs that are not particularly street names e.g. ro/gil are not translated to road/street, cheon/gang are not translated to stream/river etc.etc.

    Agreed, where tranlsations are used then english is probably the best bet,if there is only room for one translation, but tourist locations often have chinese and japanese. The subway stations and many tourist locations do indeed reflect signs but these are usually direct translations to help tourists, in the majority tourist languages, rather than romanisation systems of the korean, and are accordingly typically in Chinese, Japanese and English, just as in Japan where the subway frequently has signs in English and Chinese.

    But if a romanisation system is used rather than translating then it simply has to be consistent, as the problem of different pronunciation remains whether in different languages or as noted in the multitude of different pronunciations/dialects of English. Think potato -> potahto or potaytoe, neither -> neever or nighver.

  • jeok geol yun

    For me, the advocate of the Korean government to remove apostrophes and breves is a good thing. But as time lapses, the new system met many criticisms. So for me, no modification of MR is needed but a modification of RR since the problems attritutable to the new system can be solved if a modification (even slight) is done.

    But as for now, for all K-addicts…

    Let us prove that we love Korea..

    Let us follow the law…