Many languages have a dialect, depending on who is speaking and where that person is from. The difference between American and England English is one example of this. The language spoken in these two countries sounds very different even though they both use the English language. This is the same for the Korean language. Even for North and South Korean natives, who share a language, it can be hard to decipher between the two different dialects. When traveling it is important to know this distinction so that you won’t be confused if you can’t completely understand someone because of this fact.
A dialect can sometimes be confused with an accent however they are not the same. A dialect is when there is a difference in vocabulary and/or grammar. An accent is when there is a difference in pronunciation not necessarily in vocabulary or grammar.
According to an article by CBC news the two Korea’s have been separated for so long that they have adopted different things into their languages that set them apart from one another. One example of this is the fact that South Koreans use a lot of English words, called Konglish, that they’ve converted to Korean in their everyday language such as orenji juseu, meaning orange juice, while North Koreans still use the actual Korean word danmul which translates to sweet water in English.
Another difference between the two languages is that the two countries have different intonations in their languages even when saying the same thing. This can be very confusing in the Korean language where intonation is very important to understand what someone means. So when North Korean defectors come to South Korea they have a hard time understanding and communicating with native South Koreans because of these facts.
However, it is not only between North and South Koreans where there is a difference in dialect. In the country of South Korea itself there are different dialects. If you are not fluent in the language then it may be hard to even hear these differences. However, once you start to understand more Korean you will start to hear the differences in words and grammar between the different dialects.
There are six major dialects spoken in South Korea. The main one which is spoken in Seoul and that almost all Koreans can understand is Gyeonggi or the Seoul dialect. This is the dialect that most foreigners learn, and that textbooks teach. Another dialect that is spoken is the Jeju dialect which is sometimes considered a completely different language compared to the rest of the Korean language, because it is so different from the typical Korean language and sometimes cannot be understood by other Koreans.
Though the different dialects in Korean most likely will not hinder your journey to learning Korean, it can come up when talking to people in different parts of Korea or people from older generations that may have grown up speaking in a slightly different way than their younger counterparts. This is just something to keep in mind if you go to Korea and visit different parts of the country and people are saying things that you don’t understand even though you know a good amount of Korean, this might be the reason why. Just be prepared and do your research on what part of Korea you are going to beforehand so you can brush up on your dialect.
Extra video, for you guys to see some of the dialects in action by native speakers: