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Leo
Which writing system is more efficient, Korean Hangul or Japanese Kana?

I'm posting this here because I just started learning Korean (today is my 10th day), and although I'm interested in everyone's opinions, I'm especially interested in those from Korean learners and native speakers.

I was surprised and disappointed to find out Hangul wasn't nearly efficient as I was lead to believe. I guess to a people who were used to Chinese characters, which can be made from 214 different radicals and aren't usually phonetic, Hangul was a godsend. Only 24 Hangul letters are used to make Hangul blocks, and all letters are (more or less) phonetic. So it's much simpler than Chinese. But how unfortunate that they stopped there. Whole words aren't very phonetic, and clusters are cumbersome. 

In comparison, Japanese Kana is much simpler, imo. Almost 100% phonetic, and no "blocks". Yes, there are more letters (over 100 if you include hiragana, katakana and modified forms), but that's a small price to pay for being phonetic.

So despite all the hype I've heard about Hangul being the world's most efficient writing system, I find kana to be more so. How about you?


Sep 25, 2016 4:24 PM
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Comments · 3
I’m not an expert on Asian languages, so take this with a grain of salt. 

I believe it’s not fair to compare Japanese and Korean writing systems, because the two languages are very different phonologically. Korean syllables often end in a wide variety of consonants that cannot end a syllable in Japanese (or even Mandarin, for that matter). The number of Japanese syllables (or “morae”) is under 100, whereas Mandarin (as I’m sure you know) has 1300 (with tone). I don’t know the exact number of possible syllables in Korean, but it’s in the thousands. (According to Wikipedia: 11172). Not only do syllable-final consonants greatly multiply the number of possible syllables, but they also create a lot of situations where two consonants come together, something that never occurs in Japanese. When we have two consonants together, they will undoubtedly influence each other in almost any language, including English. Think of all the ways the T is pronounced in English (released / unreleased, aspirated, unaspirated, flapped, glottal stop).
September 25, 2016
Unlike western languages that share the origin, Asian languages are highly regional. Meanwhile, each writing system must meet the characteristics of each language. So in order to judge if their writing system is efficient, you must know their languages first. 

My personal experience and impression on the languages you mentionedlanguage have been very different from yours.

Mine on Korean: the hype was not a hype. I was amazed how simple, easy and sensible the entire system was. It created infinite number of sounds, something like 11100 syllables, and all I needed was less than 30 characters. It is ridiculously accurate and easy system. Your definition of 100% phonetic means "each symbol = each syllable". Korean is 100% phonetic because "each symbol = each sound", not just a syllable. Is Hangeul efficient for Korean language? Highly. Is it efficient as a writing system? Absolutely. 

Chinese: cumbersome but interesting and fun. I found it difficult to memorize Chinese characters, but it's been a fun and interesting process. Each character has its own philosophy behind it. It's the land of philosophers, so it represents the language with high efficiency. But efficient as a writing system? Maybe. 

Japanese: nonsensical and for simple-minded. I am not saying Japanese people are nonsensical or simple-minded. They are anything but. I think highly of them. But their language is comprised of limited number of syllables. All they need is a few number of symbols that represent sounds they can produce, only 100 something syllables. So their writing system absolutely works for their own language. But efficient as a writing system? Unlikely. While I love Japanese culture and languages (especially Kabuki), their writing system does not get many stars from me. It's just easy. Easy doesn't mean efficient.    

October 11, 2016

I wanted to learn Japanese some years ago, and I was extremely happy when I learned the hiragana and the katakana. But I was told by the teacher that in order to write to someone in Japanese or to read Japanese websites (news, blogs, etc.) I needed to learn the kanji also. And that's what stopped me to keep pursuing my Japanese studies: I realized that I'm extremely bad at learning each particular kanji with their two readings (on-yomi and kun-yomi), so I was devastated when I decided to left Japanese. In my frustration I though ma ny times that I didn't understand why they needed the kanji, having hiragana and katakana (two beautiful writing systems).

I started recently with Korean. My first impression about hangul (even before knowing that it was called like that) was that it was messy and very similar to kanjis but more "squared" and "circular" (more "plain"). Then I started step by step. I loved the idea of combining some basic characters and form blocks. For me that was mindblowing: it was like hiragana but with less characters. It is true that is not very phonetic, and in that sense I think it loses against Japanses Kana, but after learning some basic rules (ending consonant goes up if the next character starts with vowel, the double vowel sounds, etc.) all starts making sense.

In summary, my personal opinion (also not an expert) Japanese kana is more efficient from the phonetic point of view, but Korean hangul is more efficient speaking about the characters/words formation (blocks are awesome!).

September 26, 2016
Leo
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, Filipino (Tagalog), French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai
Learning Language
Filipino (Tagalog)