ESL: Writing for a Korean Market

first-birthdaySaturday I had the opportunity to have an early reader critiqued by two of my Missouri SCBWI buddies, Peggy Archer and Stephanie Bearce. As always, their feedback was helpful but then Stephanie hit me with a question I couldn’t answer.

“Are you sure that the power of three works in Korean stories?” Stephanie had recently heard a conference speaker who suggested that The Power of Three is a European/American “thing.”  Other cultures have different magic numbers.  “Just Google it.”

I’ve tried that and I’d love to say that I’ve found the answer.  I have not.  But I have found a lot of other information useful to anyone writing Korean ESL material.

The Korean language does not distinguish between singular and plural in the same way that English does.

The language doesn’t have articles (a or the).

Korean lacks three sounds common in English — th, p and v.

As in European folklore, specific meanings can be assigned to various animals.

Turtle = Long life.  Can tell the future. Fortune tellers predict the future based on cracks in the turtles shell.

Tiger = courage and dignity but also cruelty.  Good luck.  Protection from disease.

Duck = wealth, happiness, loyalty and many children.

Butterfly = love and happiness.

The only reference that I found to numbers was in relation to important birthday.  We have “sweet sixteen.”  Korean culture emphasizes the first birthday at which the baby’s future is told and the sixty-first.

Suffice it to say that I still don’t know if the Power of Three will function in a story for Korean readers but I’m having fun searching for the answer!

If you want to read a bit more about Korean stories and ESL, check out these links.

Korean Myths and Folktales

Language Differences between English and Korean


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