[KS] Re: Romanization

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Wed Dec 1 15:45:54 EST 1999

	I'm sorry that my wording was not well considered and misled
Otfried Cheong into thinking that I wanted the Korean schools to teach
Korean phonology to their students--even though, as he says, that wouldn't
be a bad idea.  What I wanted them to teach was what Chinese and Japanese
schools teach, that is, "romanization."  My point was that in the Korean
case it is much more complicated because there is no easy one-to-one 
formula in representing one's own sounds in roman letters, as is
generally the case with Chinese and Japanese, and that because of that
complication Koreans will have special difficulty with romanization and
therefore have an even greater need to have it introduced to them in
school while they are young.  
	Now that I'm thinking of Mr. Cheong's remarks, though, it occurs
to me that the teaching of McCune-Resichauer romanization in schools
could serve more than one purpose.  Not only would "romanization" (as a
subject) introduce the mysteries of foreign spelling to Korean youngsters
and help them devise more transparent roman orthographies for their own
names, but it would serve as a highly practical tool for introducing young
people to the intracacies of their own language.
	As for teaching "Phonology" (not just "Romanization") Mr. Cheong
is right to say that all countries should do this, not making Korea a
special case.  I very much share his wish.  And I can say that I had some
experience of it when I was in the sixth and seventh grade in 1944 and
1945.  We had a subject called "Phonetics," and our teacher would explain
to us, using mirrors and candles and other props, how sounds were made.  
That's when I first heard the word "aspiration": when you pronounced
letters like K, P, and T with a burning candle in front of your mouth, the
flame went out (this certainly would not surprise Koreans!) and it was
"aspirated."  This stuff was a lot of fun. On the playground we would be
looking into each others' mouths to see where the tongue was when we said
"AH" and "EE" (in the quaint "romanization" that we need for our own
language).  Even though it was only a small part of what was called
"English" and only lasted a couple of years, it made a lasting impression
on me.  Sadly, I don't think too many middle schools these days give this
kind of instruction.  It is a terrible loss.
	By the way: I for one do not distinguish the l's in "hill" and
"hilly" in my spoken English.  I articulate both of them far back in the
mouth, almost swallowed.  But I take your point.
Gari Ledyard

On Wed, 1 Dec 1999 otfried at cs.ust.hk wrote: 
> Gari Ledyard wrote:
>  > But one wishes that they would make some effort to understand the
>  > phonological complexities of their own language that are at the root of
>  > these confusions.  Korean is not the same as Chinese or Japanese, which
>  > have relatively simple and transparent phonologies that readily meet
>  > (almost) the ideal of "one sound, one letter."  Yet the Chinese and
>  > Japanese both teach romanization in their schools, while Korea does not.  
>  > If there had been such education and orientation over the years, many of
>  > the confusions that clearly trouble Koreans would not exist or would at
>  > least be less of a problem.
> How I wished I had learned more about the phonology of my mother
> tongue when I was a child.  Learning Korean is far easier when one
> doesn't think about /o/ and /o^/ as allophones...
> Yet isn't the same true for all countries?  For Koreans to distinguish
> the voiced and unvoiced allophones is akin to Americans consciously
> distinguishing the l's in hill and hilly, or the t's in top and stop.
> I suspect that few Americans ever learn to do this.  I'd feel
> embarrassed to tell Koreans that they should teach their children
> phonology if we don't teach our own.
> Otfried


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