Have you heard of 사투리~Satoori?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

As you learn a language, one of the things you come across especially with a language that is being spoken throughout a country is 'dialect'. We even see this with the English language where British English differs in a way from American English both in tonation and vocabulary. This is also the case with 한국어~ Hangugeo ~Korean Language.  

Dialect in Korean is referred to as 사투리 ~ Satoori. The standard South Korean dialect and the most widely used is 서울말~ Seoulmal ~ Seoul speach. The chart below shows the different classification of the Korean dialect according to regions




Northwestern P'yŏng'an



Gyeonggi ~ Seoul, Incheon, Gyeonggi


Chungcheong ~ Chungcheong, Daejon

Southeastern Gyeongsang ~ Busan, Daegu, Ulsan, Jinju, Pohang,Changwon

Southwestern Jeolla ~ Jeollabuk-do, Gwangju, Jeollanam-do

Insular Jeju

 Source: Wikepedia. A chart showing the classification of dialect in the Korean Peninsula

The northeastern and Northwestern as well as Yeongdong dialects are used in parts of North Korea and Northeastern China. The rest are all part of the South Korean dialect and is widely spread between the eight regions. Just like the English language, the most noticeable difference between these dialects is tonation. There is also a major distinction in some of the vocabulary where some words are completely different. The Korean grammar has what is referred to as word endings, this can be used to identify the distinctions in these dialects. An example

  • The phrase 'What did you just say?'
뭐라고 ~ Mworago ~ Seoul dialect
뭐라카노 ~ Mworakano?~ Gyeongsang dialect
  • The word  'Really' / 'Is that so?'
쿠래 ~ Kurae? ~ Seoul dialect 
맞나 ~ Manna? ~ Gyeongsang dialect
Generally the differences in the dialects allow for comprehensible conversations except for Jeju dialect, which is sometimes considered as a separate language because it is often incomparable to the Korean language. UNESCO and the locals consider it as a distinct language.

Map of South Korea showing the different provinces and it's cities

I cannot remember the first time I heard Satoori, mostly because when I first started watching K-Dramas, I didn't pay much attention to the Korean language. Frankly, at that time everything sounded the same to me and I hadn't the slightest clue what was being said (Thank you subtitles). But along the line, as I began to learn more about the Korean language and familiarize with the sounds, I started noticing the contrast in their manner of speaking and pronouncing words and also how some words differ. 

The first time I remember hearing Satoori was in the drama 응답하라 1997 ~ Reply Me 1997, a nostalgic drama that takes us back to the 90's depicting the growing pains of six Busan teenagers. Set in Busan, it gives us not only an insight on how Korea was in the 90s but specifically Busan, and a full-on Korean dialect 101. Avid K-Drama watchers will be intrigued by the differences in colloquialism between the language used in this drama and the average K-Drama language. If you're not careful you'll also fall in love with the sound of Satoori!

Reply 1997 Cast

Korean dialect started to gain worldwide popularity as a result of these types of dramas and the increasing presence of Satoori fad in Korean Variety shows. The distinctness became more apparent and a new form of korean wave was established. A lot of Korean drama fans­—  including myself ­— gained affection for Busan.  I have grown fond of what I later found out to be the 경상도~ Gyeongsang dialect especially the Busan Dialect aka 부산말~Busan speech

Some fun facts about Busan
  • It is known for having the largest port, second largest Metropolis after Seoul, largest beach and longest river in Korea
  • It is home to the world's largest shopping centre, Shinsegae Centum City (Shopaholics, time to get pleased!!)
  • Hometown to some well-known celebrities such as YongHwa of C.N.Blue, Sandara of 2ne1, Coffee Prince's Gong Yoo, Jung Eun-Ji, B.A.P's Daehyun, 2PM's Taecyoon etc.
  • Good tourist destination not just for shopping but a lot of sightseeing from visiting the Jagalchi Fish Market, Beach and Island hopping and so much more.
Watch the video below of YongHwa, Wooyoung and Taecyeon to listen to what Busan satoori sounds like....

My foreigner perspective of Satoori was solely based on how the language sounded. I was always gushing about how much I loved it. With my love for Korea came many encounters with Korean people, for some reason I met a lot of people from Busan - Now I'm not sure if it was just coincidence or if Busan people love London - but as you can Imagine I was very pleased. There is always the initial reaction of shock when I tell them about my not-so-secret love for their hometown, which is then followed by me trying to speak Korean in what little Busan dialect I can. Total fail BTW. Bless them though, they find it funny and endearing. 

This post was inspired by the song 팔도강산 ~  which translates to 'the scenery of the eight provinces of Korea' but in English the song is known as 'Satoori Rap'. It is by the hip-hop group 방탄소년 ~ Bangtan Boys.

The song was what sparked my curiosity on Satoori which led me to the realization that there are so many types of Korean dialects. I had no idea. I discovered that there are certain stereotypes associated with the different dialects. Also how people try to lose their accents because it is sometimes deemed as "Uncool". I was surprised by this, as a foreigner I had an unbiased first impression of Satoori and I liked it. I don't know if I would think of it as being "uncool" if I had known about this preconceptions beforehand, although I highly doubt it would have made a difference. 

The message behind the Satoori Rap song is in a way challenging these types of regional prejudices. With the use of friendly banter, they showcase some dialects in korea focusing more on how they all form The Korean Language, the boys are fundamentally pointing out that it doesn't matter which dialect you use, you can still 'to quote the song',  "communicate from Moonsan to Marado" - Places in korea.

Do you like Satoori as well? Did you know all this prior to reading this article? Let me know in the comments section.


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