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Korean portmanteau words: Delving into their popularity and difficulties for Korean languages learners Updated: 2022-05-25 17:09:07 KST

The demand for learning Korean is booming across the world.
The number of King Sejong Institute branches globally, where Korean is taught, jumped 18-fold from 13 in 2007 to 2-hundred-34 in 2021.
But to really pick up a language, it's crucial to learn words used in casual conversations.
And in Korean, portmanteaus are an example of such words.
Portmanteaus blend two words into one to create a new word such as 'brunch' which combines 'breakfast' and 'lunch'.

"I use a lot of portmanteau words when I speak with my friends at school.
We usually learn them from social media, YouTube, or celebrities."

An example of a Korean portmanteau is 'chimaek', which refers to having fried chicken and beer.
It's a combination of the words 'chicken' and "maekju", meaning beer.
Another is 'mukbang' or livestreamed eating show, which blends 'mukneun' for eating and 'bangsong' for broadcast.

So why have these words become so popular in Korea?

"Koreans are all about efficiency and speed, so they started shortening and combining words for efficiency.
Then, the emergence of social media and messenger apps spread these words quickly to the public."

"Portmanteaus have become a key part of the Korean language.
So what's an easy way for foreigners to learn and understand these words?"

For those who are new to Korean, learning and understanding portmanteaus can be challenging.

"I think if you're learning in a formal environment, they're mainly teaching grammar from I guess textbooks which didn't get updated that frequently.
And I think there's no parts of the course which covers slang and things like that.
And I guess you just have to wait until you come across those words in your life and then find out what it is and get someone to explain to you."

Experts say the way the language is taught, with a focus on formal, standard words, needs to change.

"I kind of wish that there's some sort of book or website that people can use for these shortened words.
Sometimes even Koreans you know, I am Korean but I go back to Korea and sometimes I find these words that I just have no clues.
So I think it would be quite useful for those shortened words, there's some sort of resources for non-Koreans and Koreans both to go to find out those meanings."

And through these efforts, the Korean language could become more widely spoken in the future.

Song Yoo-jin, Arirang News.
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