The Advantages and Disadvantages in Learning Mandarin for Speakers of Korean

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Ik-sang EOM


       This article presents the advantages and disadvantages that native speakers of Korean may encounter when they learn Mandarin. It will discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between Mandarin Chinese and Korean in terms of the writing system, lexicon, phonology, typology, and cognition from comparative and contrastive linguistics perspectives. This article will make the following points: (a) Although Chinese characters are still part of the modern Korean writing system, the simplified Chinese characters are not easy for Koreans to learn because Korean uses traditional characters and they are only taught as an elective course in secondary schools; (b) the number of identical vocabulary words in Korean and Mandarin is not large even though Chinese-based words comprise a large portion of the Korean lexicon, (c) Sino-Korean pronunciations are mainly based upon Middle Chinese, so although Korean learners can guess the pronunciations of some Mandarin words, others are quite different due to divergent language change in Korean and Mandarin, (d) the typological similarities between Korean and Chinese are approximately 30%, but the similarity rate of word order can be as high as 60% if frequency is taken into account, and (e) both Korean and Mandarin are similar in terms of placing a larger unit before a smaller one, while they differ in the Principle of Temporal Sequence. It is recommended that Mandarin instructors encourage Korean learners to make the best use of the similarities between the two languages, which may trigger a positive transfer, and to pay more attention to the dissimilarities, which may trigger a negative transfer.

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How to Cite
EOM , I.- sang. (2022). The Advantages and Disadvantages in Learning Mandarin for Speakers of Korean . Journal of Sinology and Chinese Language Education, 2(1). Retrieved from