When I started learning Korean almost 4 years ago, I thought it would be as simple as learning the writing system which is 항글 (Hangul) and studying meaning of words, then I would be ready to communicate in Korean. So when I memorized those characters and bought a dictionary, I hurriedly looked for a Language Exchange partner only to find out I am far from being a decent speaker.
Since I don’t have time to attend a formal class I opted to buy a text book that will allow me to understand Hangul. I learned my first big lesson, this language is not like learning English. The basic structure of a Korean sentence is Subject-Object-Verb or SOV in short. No wonder I sounded like a fool putting up those words based on their dictionary meaning just how I would construct my English sentence. The sentence structure alone is a big difference. So when we typically say ‘I love you’, in Korean, the order would be ‘I you love’. The order of words in a sentence also signifies their importance. The first in the order is the least important and that the verb is the most important component of the sentence. The first words in a sentence are most likely to be dropped. This is because the subject or even the object can be implied in a conversation.
Using the sample statement ‘I love you’, this is 나 너를 사랑해요 (na noreul saranghaeyo) in Korean. Let’s dissect this simple statement.
- 나 (Na means I)
- 너를 (noreul means you)
- 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo mean love)
You might have heard 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo) in dramas and songs which actually means i love you as well. The subject and object in the statement were dropped but the meaning stays the same. This is why the role of the verb in a sentence is important.
Of course creating a clear statement doesn’t end with knowing the word order. Although subject and object can be dropped in a sentence this should not be taken as a rule of thumb. In the Korean language post-position and markers are used to emphasize the role of the word in a sentence. Again using the example above 나 너를 사랑해요, 너 which means you is marked as object in the sentence without it the sentence would be vague since the subject 나 (i) is not marked.
Can you just imagine how it is to create a compound or complex sentence in Korean? I am not even at that level but I am trying =)