SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Targeting Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam

[fa icon="calendar"] October 1, 2012 / by the SimulTrans Team

Companies are increasingly targeting Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese, all languages with fascinating histories and challenging linguistic and engineering requirements.

Many companies are now more aggressively targeting Asia, requesting translations in Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. Companies doing business in Asia have traditionally focused on Japanese (still SimulTrans' most requested language, representing 30% of translation work). In the past few years, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese have also become more popular targets. Now, technology developers are beginning to recognize that other countries in Asia represent worthy financial opportunities.

Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese are all very different languages, offering internationalization, localization, and formatting challenges. Each uses a unique character set and requires great attention to detail with syntax, encoding, and design.


Korean is spoken by about 68 million people in Korea (45 million in South Korea and 23 million in North Korea) and by nearly 1 million others in Japan. The syntax of Korean is similar to that of Chinese, though it does not use tones to make semantic distinctions. Its morphology is more similar to Japanese. In Korean, different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are joined to form one word. A distinctive feature of Korean is the use of a number of different forms to indicate the respective social positions of the speaker, the individual spoken to, and the individual spoken about, making it a particularly challenging language for translation.

The Korean script system is based on characters of the Hangul subscript, devised in 1443. Chinese characters, called Hanja, are often mixed with Hangul, but their use is gradually declining. The Korean Standard Hangul Coding Scheme for Communications (KS5601) defines 2,350 Hangul characters for Korean writing, which form the basic character set of the Korean script system.

Hangul characters are syllabic blocks composed of component elements called Jamo. Jamo can be simple or double consonants and vowels. There are 24 simple Jamo elements and 27 double elements.

The first sound in a Hangul block is a simple or double consonant, the second is a simple or complex vowel, and the third (optional) sound is a simple, double, or complex consonant.


In Thailand, Thai is the official national language. It is spoken by approximately 50 million people, using several dialects.

Most of the words are monosyllables, though some are polysyllabic. Word order is important for showing grammatical relationships because there is no inflection.

The Thai language is tonal, with tones distinguishing meanings of words otherwise pronounced alike. There are five tones: high, middle, low, rising, and falling. Thai has adopted many words from Chinese, Khmer, Pali, Sanskrit, and, more recently, from European languages such as French and English.

The Thai language has its own alphabet, which ultimately goes back to a script of India and which was adopted in the 13th century.


Approximately 85% of the population of Vietnam, approximately 75 million people, speak Vietnamese.

Like Thai, Vietnamese is basically a monosyllabic language, but it has many words of two or more syllables. It is also tonal, with six tones that frequently help to distinguish homonyms. Vietnamese uses particles but has no prefixes and suffixes. Word order is very important for showing grammatical relationships since there is no inflection.

The vocabulary has many words from Chinese. Unlike Thai, however, an alphabet based on Roman letters and adapted for Vietnamese by adding diacriticals, is generally used today in place of the traditional Chinese-type writing of the past.

Topics: International Business Strategy

the SimulTrans Team

Written by the SimulTrans Team

SimulTrans provides software, document, and website localization services, translating text into over 100 languages. Established in 1984, SimulTrans has enabled thousands of businesses to provide high-quality content to their international customers. Management ownership allows an exclusive focus on customers and quality, as exemplified by ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certifications. In addition to its headquarters in Mountain View, California, SimulTrans has offices in Boston, Dublin, London, Paris, Bonn, and Tokyo.