Take the Time to Learn Hanja

Hello! Because I’ve been studying Hanja, I want to explain why everyone should take the time to learn Hanja.

Disclaimer: Hanja (한자) is hardly used in South and North Korean contemporary text. It’s mainly used in things like legal and medical documents although it can be seen in the news from time to time. I still suggest Korean learners to at least look at Hanja.

Hanja is the Korean pronunciations for Chinese characters. Sino-Korean (Korean words derived from Hanja) is around 60-70% of Korean’s vocabulary. So while you can learn Sino-Korean words like you would learn Native Korean words, taking the time to go over common Hanja makes learning Sino-Korean much easier.

If you want to think of it in English or western equivalents, think of it as etymology. You can go about your life barely touching Latin roots, but once you take the time to learn some, it makes discerning the definition of new words easier. That is exactly what Hanja is like.

Let’s make a list of the benefits of learning Hanja.

  • It will be easier to discern the meaning behind Sino-Korean words.
  • If you are interested in learning Japanese or Chinese, this will give you an edge as the vast majority of Hanja is traditional Chinese.
  • If you plan to work in Korea (like in law or medicine), Hanja is a necessity.
  • If you are studying for the TOPIK, Hanja will help you as it’s not uncommon to see obscure words.

If you are interested in learning Hanja, there are many resources available. I personally use Memrise for a general list and How to Study Korean for more explanation. I highly recommend anyone new to Hanja start with How to Study Korean.

In my opinion, I would not study Hanja if you are a complete beginner as it will most likely confuse and frustrate you. I would wait until you know basic sentence structure and some words before learning common Hanja. If you are a beginner-intermediate, I go for it.

If you have any comments regarding Hanja, feel free to comment below!




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