Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's So Hard About Spelling

Watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee tonight and Michelle asked me, "what's so hard about spelling? All of the kids are American, they should know how to spell."

She had a hard time grasping the concept of 12 and 13 year olds not knowing words, which is understandable if you are familiar with the Korean language.

Hangul, the Korean language, was developed to be easy enough for everybody to learn. Hangul came about from the fourth king of the Joeson Dynasty, King Sejong, completed around 1444. Sejong wanted a language exclusive to the Korean people. At the time Korea used the Chinese writen language, which was too difficult to write for common people and only male aristocrates could normally read and write it. The majority of Koreans were mainly illiterate prior to hangul. The language consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Documents from the time explain the design of the consonant letters according to articulatory phonetics and the vowel letters according to the principles of yin and yang and vowel harmony.

After facing opposition hangul flourished, and was first adopted for official documents in 1894 (mainly because the Japanese wanted to seperate China's influence from Korea.) Later, Japanese was the official language and hangul was banned from schools in 1938 as part of the Japanese cultural assimilation. (Japan on several occasions has tried to eliminate Korean culture and history).

All hangul letters follow the rules of Chinese calligraphy but in simplistic form. Each group is one sylabell. Which brings us back to spelling. If you pronounce a word clearly, seperating each sylabell, it is very easy for each and every person who knows hangul to spell that word.

No comments: