Sunday, December 04, 2005

What does 일반상식(一般常識) mean?

Today, I was reading through the online version of "The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy" and thinking how great it would be if there were an online "Dictionary of Korean Cultural Literacy." Yes, there are good Korean language encyclopedias online, but those are encyclopedias, which means they cover way too much. The idea of a dictionary of cultural literary is that it focuses only on the general things that a culturally literate person should know, excluding the things that only experts in a particular field would know. In other words, a dictionary of cultural literacy is meant to give us the background information we need to function successfully as educated members of a society.

One of the reasons that Korean is so difficult for non-Koreans is that non-Koreans do not have the Korean cultural background information that Koreans do. A non-Korean might know just as much Korean vocabulary as a Korean fourth-grader, but the Korean forth-grader would probably have higher reading comprehension because he or she would have cultural background information the non-Korean does not have. For example, the non-Korean may know that "Chusok" is a Korean holiday, but the Korean forth-grader would know about the food, the games, and the rituals that occur on the holiday because he or she would have already experienced them. Therefore, if the non-Korean and the Korean forth-grader were reading a story about "Chusok," or even a story that refers to a Chusok ritual, the forth-grader would probably have higher reading comprehension than the non-Korean.

Koreans understand the concept of "cultural literacy" because they teach a subject in school called 일반상식(一般常識), which I usually translate as "general knowledge." Anyway, today I decided to search on the word, 일반상식, to see it there might possibly be a Korean Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I found a couple of sites that are kind of interesting, but they are incomplete, kind of rough, and not really what I was hoping for; nevertheless, I am glad I found them.

How would you score on these tests?

  1. Test 1
  2. Test 2
  3. Test 3
  4. Test 4
  5. Test 5
  6. Test 6
  7. Test 7
  8. Test 8

By the way, you would know the answer to the first question on Test 3 if you had paid attention to my blog entry here.


  1. Good point. This is one of the things I've found that I thought made learning Japanese infinitely easier than learning Korean--cultural information is much more readily available. And there is a much larger general body of work about the Japanese language that is widely informed by cultural differences between the US and Japan.

    Many companies in Japan also have an 一般常識 test as a requirement for entering the company. Consequently there are plethoric works out there detailing supposedly what all educated people in Japan should know.

    On a related know, one other thing I found immensely useful while studying Japanese was an extremely complete usage dictionary detailing the minute differences between similar words. I'm still hoping to come across one for Korean, but I haven't found any comprehensive resources yet. You haven't happen to come across any good/complete usage dictionaries have you? I'm looking for something entirely written in Korean.

  2. Hi Sub8hr,

    So far I have not come across any good usage dictionaries, but I plan to visit a book store later this week. I will check the dictionary section for usage dictionaries and let you know what I find.

    I do have a book entitled "논리 논술 바른말 사전," that talks about the usage of words that Koreans [Korean children] easily confuse. It has some useful information, but I do not think it is what you are looking.