To many foreigners, learning Korean vocabulary may be an overwhelming task. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. As most Korean learners know, the majority of all words in Korean are Hanja words. This means that most Korean words stem from a Chinese character. Now, don’t be frightened. Although you may see Chinese characters from time to time in Korea, you can totally learn the Korean language without learning how to read or write Chinese characters. What is very useful, however, is knowing their meaning.
My good friend Jeremy from Motivate Korean and the Spongemind podcast has just uploaded a real gem of a Korean lesson, which I’m sure you Korean learners out there will really enjoy. The lesson is divided into two videos and demonstrates how you can use the knowledge of Hanja to build your Korean vocabulary and make it stick.
Hurry to the website called http://hanjadic.bravender.net/ and try typing in a Hanja word stem in Korean. Let’s try out the word stem 실 (meaning real, true, solid, honest) from 사실 (truth), 현실 (reality), and 실감 (actual feeling).This word stem is written like this in Hanja: 實. If you type in 실 on the top of the page you’ll see a list of all the possible Hanjas that represent this sound. For 실 these are: 失, 実, 室, 實, 悉, 蟋, and 飋. Note that the meaning depends on which Hanja character you use. Another wellknown Hanja, which is written as 실 in Korean, is 室 (meaning room, home, house, chamber). We know this from words like 화장실 (bathroom), 강의실 (auditorium/lecture room), and 회의실 (meeting room).
This online dictionary is a goldmine for Korean learners, and when you understand the principle of how most Korean words are formed, you will not only be able to learn and remember new words more easily. You’ll also discover that you’ll be able to infer the meaning of words you’ve never seen before. This makes learning Hanja words one of the most powerful tools to have in your Korean study routine.
Watch Jeremy give you an introduction to the Hanja dictionary here. Try replicating the exercise and discover how much fun it can be to expand your Korean vocabulary. Happy studying!