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Project launched to monitor use of foreign languages in public spacesBy Park Ga-young
Published : May 11, 2023 - 10:51
Incorrect English signs have been a bugbear for public offices for a long time, but a language center in the Southeast of the country is taking aim at signs in foreign languages and characters that are difficult for the general public to understand.
For example, in a public parking lot at a traditional market in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, information is provided in English in large black letters while the Korean is provided as a supplement, printed on paper and posted on the wall.
To raise awareness of the issue and tackle the problem, the Center for Korean Language and Culture of Gyeongsang National University in South Gyeongsang Province launched a public language monitoring project on May 3, which will run until November.
Back Soo-jin, a senior researcher at the center told The Korea Herald on Wednesday that, according to the Framework Act on Korean Language, public institutions should use Hangeul “in accordance with language norms, using terms and sentences which ordinary citizens easily understand.”
Foreign-language examples may be entered in parentheses.
Although failure to meet this requirement is not punishable by law, the National Institute of Korean Language and other organizations are conducting campaigns and projects as over-use of foreign languages -- English, in particular -- is prevalent in the public domain.
Even the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which governs the Framework Act on Korean Language, used "yakja-friendly," combining Korean word yakja, meaning underprivileged, and "friendly," in introducing the ministry's policy goals for this year.
The use of foreign languages can present a barrier for some people, such as the elderly or those who are not familiar with those languages, she added.
"These individuals may face difficulties understanding certain policies and may be unable to apply for the services they are eligible for," said Back.
"While there are many loanwords like Bluetooth we cannot avoid using, we have to try our best to make public language easy to understand for the public and promote using our national language when and where we can."
Residents in South Gyeongsang Province can report cases of difficult foreign languages or foreign characters being used in public institutions or public places by submitting a report online.
The center will assess the collected information and make suggestions to the relevant public organizations within the province.
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