I’ve heard my share of rumours that the Korean language is exactly the same as the Japanese in terms of its syntax, but until recently wasn’t sure how true that was. The reason I had my suspicion was because the people who tell me Korean syntax is exactly the same as Japanese are the same people who tell me English and Chinese have the exact same syntax.
It might be confusing to Singaporeans who didn’t learn either as a foreign language and it actual sounds ridiculous just thinking about it. But when they raised the S-V-O (subject-verb-object) structure as an example, I realised they were right… to some extent. The simple English clause of “I eat apples” is, in the exact same order, in Chinese (Mandarin) “我吃苹果.”
This provided fresh insight into my little linguistics knowledge in that, the basic structure does not determine the entire syntax. If you understand both languages, you would realise that as sentences get longer and more complex, the English syntax begins to differ. And if you understand Singlish, you would realise, a lot of it stems from speaking English in Chinese syntax.
“你吃了吗?” becomes “You eat already?”
“他没有去上班” becomes “He didn’t go work,” or “He never go work.”
“你等一下会去参加他们的婚礼吗？” becomes “You later will go join their wedding or not?”
These make me doubt the extent to which the Korean language is similar to Japanese. But for the past couple of months I’ve been attending the Korean classes, I noticed that they are so similar, it’s like a one-to-one translation. Probably something even machine translations could render perfectly. Of course I can’t say much since it’s only been 2 months but because of the similarity, the progress of the textbook is really quick. I don’t remember learning this much of other languages ever in just a couple of months at 2 hours a week. I think I can even speak more Korean than the Spanish class I took for 6 months in Singapore at 4 hours a week. I must say, learning Korean in Japanese makes it so much easier to understand. I’m glad I’m taking the class in Japan.