ABSTRACT

This study investigates Korean language learners' understanding of the honorifics system based on 223 responses collected from learners studying in Korea. Due to its complexity, this system has posed many challenges not only for leaners to master it but also for teachers to effectively instruct it. Three factors—native language, length of residence, and proficiency level—that might affect learning of this system are examined to better understand where learners experience difficulty. The results of descriptive statistics show that first, the higher level the respondents were at, the higher level of understanding of the system they demonstrated; second, native speakers of Japanese performed better than native speakers of English and other languages, but only by a narrow margin in each case; third, learners who had been residing in Korea for more than six months performed better than those for less than six months, indicating that six months of residence was a borderline factor. In particular, learners' length of residence in Korea turned out to be a strong indicator for achieving a high level of comprehending the system as it was found to be statistically significant and this was the case especially in the context of “addressee honorifics.”

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