Korean as Is mentions several very interesting points in his last article. I was going to respond in a comment, but as my comment was looking more and more like a post I decided to leave it here instead.

James wishes that Koreans would replace the expression ‘우리말’ with some other term. For myself I like the sound of ‘우리말’ much more than ‘한국어’ and use it quite regularly in conversations with people. At school when I use it with children they are never confused and often I can use it with adults in normal conversations and not get challenged. Im very curious though how many other foreigners learning Korean use ‘우리말’ for Korean in their speech.

I have several reasons for using it myself. . . one is that although technically ‘우리말’ means ‘our language’ it’s only every used by Koreans to mean the Korean language. . . and thus it’s really just a synonym that means (regardless of the speaker) 한국어. I also feel that if I’m speaking Korean with another Korean it is “our” language, our common language.

Lastly I feel that no word that Koreans use should be off limits to foreigners just because they are a foreigner. I have had people tell me several times that I shouldn’t use this or that common hip phrase because it sounded strange for them to hear a foreigner talk normal colloquial Korean. In Korean I want the whole package, and speak everywhere appropriatly and understand any situation.

To me it seems that using ‘우리말’ or ‘우리나라’ though do betray a certain amount of identification with the language and culture. . . but that identification is immensely important if we want to really to speak and use the language as well as a native.

Perhaps the phenomena found in things like Korea’s ‘우리나라’ are also in English but we don’t realize it as much. It sometimes feels a bit funny for me if I hear a non-American call America ‘the States’, but it is a very common way to refer to America by Americans. If someone really identifies with Americans and want to speak American english well they should definitely use that word (and others) like an American.