Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Korean Language Skills: Some Gaps with English

Most Koreans have adequate English language proficiency--at least when compared to Anglos with Korean language skills. Nevertheless, some Koreans misuse common English terms. This article by a Korean professor points outs gaps Koreans have with some English terms. I find the automotive terms relevant to those in the car business.

Korea Herald
Few Koreans seem to realize that they are frequently using incorrect English terms known to be coined in Korea or Japan. The term "Mama boy," for example, has been widely used in Korea for the past few years. Yet, the correct English term is not "Mama boy" but "Mama's boy." Likewise, Koreans say "ice tea" and "a ball pen" but they are supposed to be "iced tea'" and "a ball-point pen," even though the distinction between the two may be disintegrating in oral expressions.

When it comes to automobile parts, the gap is even wider and thus reconciliation seems almost inconceivable: "handle (steering wheel)"; "back mirror (rearview mirror)"; "side brake (emergency brake)"; "window brush (windshield wiper"'; "tire punk (flat tire),' to name but a few.

Koreans driving in a foreign country also have a hard time communicating at a gas station, for they say, "I need oil," instead of "I need gas." Unlike Koreans who call gasoline "oil," foreigners regard "oil" as engine oil.

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