Korean is a tricky language. It is probably the easiest language on the planet to read and write in, especially for geeks.
It takes literally hours to learn: if you have any background in breaking codes as a hobby, you will be able to learn to read and write Korean fully, within the day. Now you can read signs, read most of the newspaper and decipher the airplane safety card on Korean Airlines.
But reading is not understanding, and this is where the trap springs. While its writing is possibly the easiest of all languages, the vocabulary/grammar part is one of the hardest that exist. Forget hash functions: identical Korean sentences can look totally different just because you’re speaking to your father instead of your son; Ask a few native Koreans how to say “the Apple is red”. I have 3 different answers so far (with no resemblance whatsoever to one another). The real code here is the semantics. It’s like doing a simple XOR cypher to a book cipher. What a clever trick.
But by the time I hit the brick wall with the honorifics, Subject-Object-Verb and impossible pronunciation I was already too deep in to stop. Plus, I never let security by obscurity stop me. Though in this case, I have to mention they’ve perfected their obscurity to impressive levels.
So I was very excited when I was asked to speak at Codegate 2011 in Seoul. It looks like a really fun conference. If you are in Seoul or the area, I recommend it.
I will be speaking on April 5th, and don’t expect too much: the Korean part of my lecture won’t go beyond Annyeong haseyo and je ireum eun Abiram imnida. And even that will be with incomprehensible pronunciation so bad they might have to subtitle that part.
In any case, if you are in the conference, come say hello and test my Korean. Just don’t be offended if I get my honorifics completely wrong.
Update: The correct date is April 5th and not as I originally wrote.