The country nearest to Japan is South Korea! The foreign language easiest for Japanese people to learn is Korean! Why not learn Korean, make friends from South Korea and enjoy Korean culture?
Have you heard that the Korean language is really simple? Personally speaking, the easiest foreign language for Japanese people to learn is Korean. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is associated with the process by which the Korean language came into existence. The Korean characters, “Hangul”, actually have a short history that starts in the Joseon Dynasty. After performing different testing processes on the characters, they were made official in 1446. Why did they go out of their way to create new “Hangul” characters? It was for the sake of ordinary people. During the Joseon Dynasty, Chinese characters were exclusively used, but most ordinary people did not know Chinese characters. Therefore, the creation of characters so simple and reasonable that everyone could use them was ordained. For that reason, though “Hangul” may look difficult at a glance, the characters were, in fact, created as simply as possible to make it possible for everyone to learn.
The second reason that Korean is easy for Japanese people to learn is the great number of similarities between the Korean and Japanese languages. In terms of sentence structure, the word order “Subject-Object-Predicate” corresponds perfectly in the two languages. Thus, if a Japanese person learns some Hangul words, he/she can have a simple conversation almost immediately. In addition, about 60% of Korean words are “Sino-Korean vocabulary”, which means that they are related to Chinese characters or kanji. For example, the words 理由 (Riyu: reason), 家具 (Kagu: furniture), 波濤 (Hatou: billow), 地下 (Chika: underground), 家族 (Kazoku: family), 都市 (Toshi: city), and 土地 (Tochi: land) in Japanese are nearly identical in meanings and pronunciation in Korean: Riyu (Iyu), Kagu, Pado, Chiha, Kajoku, Toshi, and Toji, respectively. In addition, the Korean and Japanese languages have many similar expressions and grammar rules, so the more Japanese students learn Korean, the more interested they become.
Tohoku University offers the Korean Language classes “Introduction to Korean I/II,” “Korean in Practice I/II” and “Korean in Practice III/IV”. “Introduction to Korean I/II” are courses for beginners and are designed to make it possible to write and speak Korean by the end of the course. The classes aim to get students accustomed to Hangul as much as possible. “Korean in Practice I/II” are designed for students to learn Korean patterns from those at the starting level to those that are frequently used in daily life. “Korean in Practice III/IV” are courses for students who are preparing for the Test of Proficiency in Korean, and are designed for students to learn actual Korean writing and conversation.
In the Korean language classes described above, various aspects related to the culture and society of Korea are introduced along with the language. It is said that South Korea is the nearest country to Japan, but that it is significantly different from Japan. The Korean language is beneficial as a basic tool for attaining a deeper understanding of the different values or thoughts of people living in our time.