We proudly present our first creation: Hanja, a dictionary for iOS platforms of Chinese characters occurring in Korean language. Now available worldwide in iTunes.
Q: What is a hanja?
A: Hanja is written 한자 in hangeul (for those who do not also know hangeul please check Wikipedia about it) and 漢字 in Chinese characters, it actually means Chinese characters. All Korean texts used to be written in Chinese characters since the introduction of the script in the Korean peninsula since ancient times until the invention of hangeul in 1443 and its promulgation in 1446. This geographic proximity of China and its cultural prestige at the time led to a considerable influence of the Chinese script over the Korean language.
Q: What is the influence of hanjas over the Korean language?
A: Despite the existence of indigenous words, many scientific, technical, political, religious or simply literate words can be written in hanja. Actually, it is estimated that around 60% to 70% of all Korean vocabulary stems from hanja words. Chinese characters are the equivalent of Latin and French in the English language due to heavy borrowing for historical reasons.
Q: Are hanjas still used today?
A: They are, though their use is declining. They can be seen in place names, business cards, newspapers headlines (e.g. 韓美, meaning Korea and America) and some academical material or sometimes in novels for disambiguation due to the existence of a great number of homophones in the Korean language (please refer to Wikipedia for some examples of homophones).
Q: Why should I learn hanjas then?
A: If you are serious about learning Korean, then you should learn hanjas for several reasons:
- Hanja knowledge will enable one to master the core of educated Korean language. Indigenous words account for the basics, but almost all higher-level expressions stem from hanjas. Compare the use of 나라 “country”, with the use of 국가 “nation”, 한국 “Korea”, 애국 “patriotism”. The first word is indigenous, while the three latter words all can be written in hanja, hence 國家, 韓國, 愛國. Notice the character 國 meaning country and actually defined as meaning 나라 in Korean in the dictionary.
- Hanja knowledge allows disambiguation. Referring to the preceding example, 국가 can mean either 國家 “nation” or 國歌 “national song”. Only context or the use of hanja will help knowing what is meant when using this word in Korean.
- Learning hanjas is made by learning derived words or expressions that make use of this hanja, thus dramatically enriching one’s vocabulary. Thus, learning the character 電 (전, electricity) is done through learning 電氣 (전기 electricity), 電機 (전기 electrical machinery), 電子 (전자 electronics), 電話 (전화 telephone), etc.
Q: Will there be an Android version of the app?
A: Android development is under consideration at the time. Meanwhile, the app runs on iPod Touch,iPhone and iPad.
Q: Do you intend to translate the app into other languages?
A: Depending on the audience, we might translate the app into other languages.
Q: I found a bug or an inaccurate translation, where can I report it?
A: We are constantly improving our products and appreciate your feedback. You can report any issue here.
Q: Will you add a hanja drawing functionality?
A: We are considering adding this functionality, depending on the interest our app can raise from the public.
Q: What will the next updates include?
A: Version 2.0 will see the release of the English translation. Subsequent versions will see adding flash cards enhancements.