Writing an introductory article in Korean

Since last Friday, I have been writing an introductory article about my research area: orbital current and its electrical generation. While most of scientific articles are written in English nowadays, this time I am writing in my mother tongue, Korean. It is to be publised in “Physics and Modern Technology”, a magazine issued by Korean Physical Society.

In the beginning, I felt a bit awakward in Korean, struggling to find a proper vocabulary. I found myself a bit pitty that I am not good at scientiifc writing in Korean. Sometimes I often complained that Korean is not really good for scientific discussion. We have so many ambiguous expressions which depends a lot on circumstances, and a lot of redundencies for expresssing a single meaning. There’s a historical reason. Most of the scientific terminologies in Korean stem from Japanees words. Korean and Japanes are similar in some sense but Japanese use far more Chinese characters in general. Anwyay, historically Japan opened the habor earlier than Korean so that they came to know science earlier than Korean (probably during Meiji restoration in 19th century?). So, a problem came from “double translation” – from European langugae to Japnese to Korean, and as a result of this for some words it is really hard to guess the meaning from the word itself (a famous example is 축퇴, which means degeneracy in Korean).

But now I look at this problem from a different angle. It might be because not so many people use the languge in scientific activity. It’s like a feedback effect. If more and more people use the langugae, the language develps into a direction that is more suitable for science. On the other hand, if less and less people use the language, it will lose its ability that is required for science. Assuming that science in Korea started to grow after the Korean war (1950-1953) – probably after one or two decades after because the country was so poor as a result of the war – it has been already at least 50-60 years. Although I am not so sure, I believe this is amount of time that the language changes and develops.

After all, I find this kind of opportunity became a nice opportunity to myself not only to use my mother tongue but also to think about the relation between language and science. I’ll make sure I use Koeran whenever there is a chance in science. By the way, when the article is published, I will post it here too. I hope it’s going to be useful for students and researchers who want to know more about this area. But you have to learn Korean to read this article!

Note added (14 October 2020): A colleague of mine today told me that I was wrong again in expressing “degeneracy” in Korean. I thought it was 축적, but it is 축퇴. We both agreed that Korean physics vocabularies are not easy! 😉

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