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Japanese and Korean

Japanese and Korean are two languages spoken in East Asia, but they belong to different language families and possess distinct linguistic characteristics.

Japanese, known as Nihongo, serves as the national language of Japan and falls under the Japonic language family. Its writing system comprises three different character sets: Kanji (Chinese characters), Hiragana, and Katakana (phonetic scripts representing sounds in the Japanese language). Japanese exhibits a relatively high number of homophones and lacks grammatical plural forms. Consequently, the same word is employed for both singular and plural objects, with the intended meaning typically discerned from the context. Additionally, Japanese incorporates different levels of formality in its vocabulary and grammar, which are employed to convey social hierarchies and demonstrate respect.

Korean, referred to as “한국어” (Hangul) in Korean, serves as the official and national language of both North Korea and South Korea. The Korean writing system, Hangul, is a phonetic script that utilizes syllable blocks composed of consonants and vowels. Korean also features a complex honorific system, which involves the use of distinct nouns and verb endings to indicate the particular relationship one holds with the person they are conversing with. Superior status may be attributed to individuals who are older or occupy higher positions in school or the workplace. Korean vocabulary also incorporates numerous loanwords from various languages such as Japanese, English, and even German. For instance, words like "Cup" (컵/keop), "Camera" (카메라/kamera), and "Bus" (버스/beoseu) have been adopted into Korean.

Interested users could go to the Language Learning Centre of the Hong Kong Central Library to find out more about Japanese and Korean.


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