Computer crutches for Korean language

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, 12:00am

I am very interested in learning Korean, but I know nothing about how to do this on a computer. Do I need a Mac, or will Windows be all right? Can I do this on Linux? How do I enter hangul and what is hanja? Is there a way for me to practice on the computer? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Taikoo Shing

I have always been interested in the Korean language, but never had enough time to study it. But a friend recently gave me a Korean course with book and CDs and I have transferred the discs to my iPod. It's a great way to learn.

As far as your first question is concerned, things have changed in recent years. I remember turning to the Mac nearly 20 years ago because Windows was dreadful at handling multiple languages. Today it would be difficult to say which operating system is best, because all of them - Windows, Mac OS X and Linux - have worked hard to support most of the world's languages.

Both Microsoft and Apple include, or allow you to add, Korean and many other languages. You will need two things: the right fonts and some kind of input method.

Usually, when you wish to add a language, it is fairly straightforward. With Windows, you may have to be a little careful, depending on the version. Recent versions - especially Windows XP - are much easier to use than older ones. The Microsoft website is useful here.

For the Mac, go to the control panel, click on 'international' and then 'edit' the languages.

When you have set it all up, you will, no doubt, need some practice. There are quite a few websites that allow you to do this. Some have keyboards displayed on the screen so you can try it out.

Like Japanese, Korean uses its own alphabet - the elegantly designed hangul - as well as Chinese characters. Hanja, in fact, means Chinese characters and is equivalent to the Japanese kanji. Both refer to the Chinese hanzi, or Chinese character.

Despite my enthusiasm for all things digital, I would strongly suggest getting a pen and lots of paper. If you want to learn a language, nothing beats writing the characters out by hand.

The computer is terrific if you already know a character, or at least recognise it when you see it. A beginner, in my opinion, should always put in his dues with the pen.

Monash University in Melbourne, Australia has a great reputation for teaching Asian languages and its website ( is useful.

Be careful if you do a search though: Monash recently redesigned its Web pages and many of the hits you get from Google will take you to 404 sites.

The following site is useful because it shows you how to input Korean if you have not yet set up your machine to handle it: kbdhow2.htm