Saturday, June 14, 2008

What is the opposite of 낙제 (落第)?

The Korean word 낙제 (落第) means "to fail an exam." The Chinese character 落 (낙) means "to fall," and the character 제 (第) means "order" or "exam." It seems a little strange that a word that means "order" could also mean "exam," but maybe it is based on the fact that an exam helps determine your ranking or "order" among a group of people?

The opposite of 낙제 (落第) is 급제 (及第), which means "to pass an exam." The Chinese character 及(급) means "to reach" or "to attain."

I am interested in the Chinese character 及 (급) and how it combines with other characters to make certain words. For example, the Korean word 가급적 (可及的) means "as ... as possible" or "as much as possible." The character 可 (가) means "possible," and 及 (급) means "to reach" or "to attain," so it literally means "the quality of being able to reach or attain as much (of something) as possible."

The following are some other words that include the character 及 (급):
  • 미급 (未及) - unattainable
  • 역불급 (力不及) - beyond one's power or ability
  • 소급 (遡及) - retroaction; retroactivity (遡 means "to oppose" or "to go against")
  • 불소급 (不遡及) - not retroactive
  • 과불급 (過不及) - excess or deficiency
  • 추급 (追及) - overtake; catch up with
  • 파급 (波及) - extend or spead (like a wave)
  • 논급 (論及) - reference; mention
  • 보급 (普及) - diffusion; spread (普 means "wide")
  • 언급 (言及) - reference; mention

By the way, do not confuse the character 第 (제) with 弟 (제), which means "younger brother."


  1. Dear Gerry,

    I read your blog with interest and I can see that you are quite well advanced in the Korean language. I was just wondering about a few questions, like

    How did you manage to learn the language?

    What sources do you use to learn the hanja aspects of the language?

    Lastly, seeing as you may know something about this, do you know of any books where I can learn more about Korean causatives? Especially derived causatives.

    Thank you for your answers and a blog well done. :)

  2. Hi Jim,

    I am still learning the language, and I have been studying it off and on for about 30 years. The US navy got me started and then I went to the University of Hawaii to study, but where I really started learning the language was at the Yonsei Korean Language Institute in Seoul, where I studied for about one year.

    I have pretty much told myself what little hanja I know. A friend in Hawaii explained the stroke order to me and showed me how to use a Chinese character dictionary. After that I studied from two Chinese Character books from Myongdo Language Institute, which, I think, no longer exists.

    The Chinese character books were somewhat crude, since they showed no stroke order, and were simple, but they were still effective. I just went through them reading and writing all the characters over and over again. At the time, I probably knew about 1200 characters.

    The idea behind the book was to begin with simple characters and to build from there. For example, Book 1 started with Chinese character numbers and then introduced 人(인), 力(력), 口(구), 食(식), 大(대), 小(소), 門(문), 馬(마), 車(차), etc. With each character, example sentences in Korean were also given. As you progressed, the Korean in the sentences were replaced with the Chinese characters you had already stuidied, which helped to reinforce them.

    After learning the characters from 1 to 10, here is what followed:

    사람: 인 man...三人(삼인) three men
    박선생님, 김선생, 이선생 三人이 있습니다.

    힘: 력 strength, power 人力(인력) human power
    우리 나라에는 人力이 많아요.

    입: 구 mouth 人口(인구) population
    서울의 人口는 9,000,000이다.

    밥: 식 food 食口(식구) a family
    우리집 식구는 五人이다.

    클: 대 big, great 大人(대인) adult
    大人은 300원이다.

    작을: 소 small 小人(소인) child
    大人은 300원, 小人은 150원이다.

    문: 문 gate 大門(대문) the front gate
    우리집 大門은 큽니다.

    말: 마 horse 馬車(마차) coach, carriage
    馬車가 大門을 지나갔다.

    수레: 차 motor car, cart 人力車(인력거) rickshaw
    옛날엔 馬車와 人力車가 많았습니앋.

    The rest of the book continued in the same way.

    Anyway, notice how the book built on the Chinese characters you had learned. By the middle of the book, almost all the words in the example sentences were made up of characters, so it was constant review, which is important when learning Chinese characters. The book "Speaking Korean Book III" is based on a similar concept.

    Wow! I just noticed that they are now charging $44 for the "Speaking Korean III" book. I am pretty sure I paid less than $20 for mine, which has a 1989 copyright.

    These days I study Chinese characters with the following books:

    1. "어휘력 100배 높이기"

    2. 알기 쉬운 한문 해석법"

    3. "살아있는 한자 교과서 Books 1 & 2"

    I also recommend Francis Y. T. Park's "Speaking Korea IV," but it is expensive now.

    The three books I listed above are Chinese character study books for Koreans, so I think they would be too difficult for beginning and maybe intermediate foreign learners. So, if I were going to recommend Chinese Character textbooks for foreign learners, I would recommend "Speaking Korean III & IV." Of course, there my be some new books out there that I do not know about.

    No, I cannot recommend a book for learning Korean causatives, but I have a very good (and expensive) dictionary of Korean grammar that I would recommend to people who are intermediate or advanced learners: "외국인을 위한 한국어문법 2."

    The above is a 2-book set that you can buy separately. Book 1 is essentially just a boring grammar book, but Book 2 is like a grammar dictionary with all the grammar patterns in 가나다 order and all of them with plenty of examples sentences and explanations.

    Well, I guess that is all for now.

  3. Thank you for your advice, I'll be sure to look through them carefully.

  4. hello,

    i am also interested in studying the Korean language. is it also necessary to learn 한자? thanks

  5. I'm in the middle of studying hanja intensively after many years of desultory efforts. If one's got the requisite Korean skills, I recommend 박원길's 한자 박사 만들기 three-volume series. I can't heap enough praise on it. I reckon the three books cover around 3,00 characters.It makes understanding and remembering hanja much easier by breaking down each character into its constituent parts. In addition, it groups characters that share common parts into easy-to-handle groups.It's much easier than using rote, brute force memorization. The layout is also pleasing and casual. The same author has brought out a long line of books - variations on the same theme - but the initial series mentioned above is the easiest to use if one's not studying for the one of the many hanja proficiency exams. For sample views, visit the publisher's site:

  6. Matt@occidentalism.orgOctober 8, 2008 at 8:08:00 PM CDT

    Gerry, I would have gone with 합격 合格, because of my background in the Japanese language。 However, 及第 is also a valid construction in Japanese. Japanese people usually mention that they 合格 the 試験, so 合格 isn't directly about passing a test。

  7. I was also thinking of the word 합격 合格 when I first read your post. I don't think we use 及第 anymore unless you're writing about the past (like 조선시대). Seeing Matt's response I guess it could be a Japanese influence. Or, we just say "붙다."


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