Some Useful Korean Phrases

Several people were interested in learning useful Japanese phrases, so I decided that since I live in Korea and my blog is named, “American in Korea” perhaps I should give you guys some useful Korean phrases too in case you have thought about traveling to Korea or have Korean friends where you are. Koreans are actually all over the place. You could speak it in more places than just Korea. There are many Chinese who speak Korean at home and speak Mandarin or some other Chinese language when they go out of the house. There are Korean communities in Los Angeles, New York, and even in Oklahoma. I can’t tell you where all the Korean communities are around the world, but it can be a useful language at times, so here are some things you will need to know if you are around Koreans:

Many Koreans, like the Japanese sleep in the floor and don’t use much furniture. However, the Koreans don’t use tatami mats like the Japanese. Their floors are concrete with linoleum over them, and there is a heater that runs under the floor and heats the floor up in the winter. The Korean floors are wonderful in the winter. Koreans also take their shoes off at the door like the Japanese.

The best thing you can learn is “anyeong haseyo.” It means “hello,” “good afternoon,” and if you give it a question inflection, it can also mean “How are you?” If you give it the right inflection, it can also mean, “Have a nice day.” If you want to say, “good morning,” it is a bit more complicated, but begins with “anyeong.” It is “anyeong hee chu moo shas-ayo.” If you want to say “good night,” it is easier. “Good night” is “chal chayo.” If you want to say, “good bye,” you also need “anyeong.” “Goodbye” is more complicated in Korean than in English. You can’t just say “Goodbye.” You have to say “good bye to the person staying” which is “anyeong hi geseyo,” or “goodbye to the person going” which is “anyeong hi kaseyo.” If you want, it is less common, but it is correct to say, “Chal chine yo?” for “How are you?” However, it is not literally “How are you?” It is more of an asking if someone is feeling well emotionally. The response can be, “Ne, chal chine yo” meaning you are fine or your mood is good.

If you pick up a phone, whether it is a cell phone or an old style phone, you must say, “Yoboseyo” to say “hello.” If you answer in English, they will hang up on you. If they figure out you are a foreigner, English scares them unless they speak it really well or are looking for someone to practice English with..

If you answer the phone, you will want to say, “yo-bo-seyo” for “hello.” “yo-bo-seyo” can also be used to get someone’s attention. If you walk up to McDonald’s or some other restaurant, and the people are in the back and don’t realize you are there, you need to call them saying, “Yo-bo-seyo!”

If you want to say “thank you,” say “kamsa habnida.” If you want to be less formal and just say, “thanks,” say komo woyo.” If you want to make your “thank you” very formal, say “ko map subnida.” There is no real way to say, “you are welcome,” but you can say “kowenchanayo” which means, “It is okay.” You can also use “kowenchanayo?” with a question inflection in your voice to ask if someone or something is okay.

To say ‘Yes,” you can say “ye” or “ne.” To say “no,” say “ani yo.” If you want to be emphatic about your “no,” say “ande yo!”

Like the Japanese,the Koreans often sit or sleep in the floor. They also use chop sticks. The food they eat is often very spicy. If you look at all the red on that table, it is probably chili spice and so hot it would make you cough. Koreans use both chop sticks and a spoon, not just chopsticks like the Japanese.

If you want to tell someone you are hungry, say, “pe go pa yo” literally meaning that your stomach is empty, but is what is used for “I’m hungry.” If you ask it as a question, you just give it the question intonation, and you are asking if someone is hungry. If you want to tell someone you are thirsty, say, “mok marun” which literally means that your throat is dry, and you can use it for “I’m thirsty.”

If you see an oriental girl in a baseball hat, she is probably Korean. The Korean women love to wear baseball caps. One of these Korean girls is wearing big glasses. Big glasses is something Korean guys love, Some Korean guys wear big glasses without glass in them just because they want to make a fashion statement.

If you want to ask someone to sit down, say, “anjo shipshiyo.” The “shipshiyo” part makes it a polite request form. If you want to request that someone eat, say,” mok seyo.” “mokda” or mokoyo” mean “eat,” and you can use it in any context of think “I, you, he, she, it, we, or they,” but you don’t have to say the pronoun. If you are a teacher and want to tell the students to study, say “kongboo haseyo” meaning “please study.” “konboo” is a noun for “study,” and “haseyo” means please do it.” If you want to say “I study” or put any other pronoun in front of the verb, say, “konboo heyo.”

If you want to tell them to go, say “ka seyo.” I go” is “kada” or “kayo,” and any pronoun could be understood in front of it. The “da” form is for the dictionary or for other books, but if you are speaking, use the “yo” form. If you want to tell them “let’s go,” say “kaja” if you know them well. If you are being respectful, say “Kapshida” for “Let’s go.” If you want to ask if they want to go, just put the question inflection on the sentence to change it from a sentence to a question. The words are the same. If you want to say, “Let’s go together” or “Shall we go together?” , say “Katchi kaja” or “katchi kapshida.”

Koreans love sales. There are all kinds of gimmicks in the stores in Korea. Koreans like to get a store card and collect points by shopping in the same place, and eventually, they are given “money” that can only be spent at that store from the points they earn.

If you want to ask them how much something costs, say “olmayeyo?” If it is to expensive, say “kaps pisay.” If it is cheap say, “kaps san.” “Chon on” means a thousand won. It really isn’t that much money. A thousand won is approximately one dollar, but not exactly because the exchange rate always fluctuates. “Man on” means ten thousand won which is close to ten dollars. They don’t think about money the same way we do, and it can get really confusing if the price gets too high because they add so many zeros and because “bek man on” is one hundred ten thousand won bills, but in English, we would say one thousand dollars. “Ship man on” is ten ten thousand won bills. In English, we would say it is one hundred thousand won. If you are checking out at a grocery store, you will want to say, “punctul jooseyo” meaning, “Please give me a shopping bag.” The lady behind the counter may say, “punctul durilkayo?” which means, “Shall I give you a shopping bag?”

Yes, here i s “Sy,:the guy who sings “Gangnam Style!” Gangnam is where all the rich people live. After that song, his next his was “Gentlemen.” Young Koreans are changing the culture. They are becoming more and more western.They want to figure out how to be gentlemen even though many don’t know. It is normal for the younger ones to prefer hamburgers and pizzas. They are also slowly trying to learn to date the way people in the west date. Just one generation before, it was all arranged marriages, but the young generation now is figuring out how to go on dates. However, they still have a lot of blind dates. If they date, it is called “so getting.” If someone says to you, “I want a girlfriend” or “I want a boyfriend,” they may be hinting that they want you to set them up with one of your friends

If you try to order at McDonald’s or Burger King, they don’t call a meal a meal, but a set. If you try to change the “set,” you will confuse them, and they will probably get it wrong. If you want to modify your order, unless you speak Korean well, it is almost impossible. I know an old American man married to a Korean who has been in Korean longer than I have been alive, and he was under the impression that you just had to take whatever they give you, and for many people, that is what you have to do. If you don’t want onions, you may have to take them off yourself, However, if you are brave, you can ask them to hold the onions by saying “yanpa pe juseyo.” If you want them to hold the pickles, say “pickle pe juseyo.” It is also easy to say, “mustard pe juseyo,” but even though they use the same word in Korean as English, they still may not understand you because of your English pronunciation. They are great at messing up orders at these kinds of places.

If you are a teacher, you will have to learn “hajima” which means “don’t do that.” If you want to be more polite, say “hajimaseyo,” but if you are the teacher of younger kids, you will have to establish yourself as the boss, so it is better to say “hajima” if the do something wrong.

The buildings are tall in Korea, and if you look out of your window at night, you can look over the city and see lots of crosses all lit up. Many foreigners find this a very comforting sight in Korea.//Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another good phrase you might need is,” to-wa-juseyo” meaning “please help me.” Koreans are basically kind people, and they will help you. If you want to ask where the bathroom is, say “wha jong shil ee oh dee eesoyo?” meaning “Where is the bathroom?” “Wha jong shil” is actually a polite word like “powder room.”

Try speaking English to a Korean. English is extremely popular in Korea, and many of them speak English. However, if you speak it to the wrong one, you will scare them because they didn’t study like they should have, and they could run. There is more English on TV in Korea than any other country I have lived in who don’t have English as a first language.

A really good thing to know how to say is, “Do you speak English?” because many Koreans do. Say “yong-oh lool halsoo ees soyo?” If you get in a taxi, tell them the name of the place if you can. However, you can say, “shee cheen” meaning “straight,” “wenchokoro” meaning ” to the left,” and “orenchokoro” meaning “to the right.” If you want the taxi cab driver to stop, say ” yoghee so mom choo seyo” which means, “Stop right here.”

A really good thing to know in Korea is “meh-wo-yo?” meaning “Is it spicy?” A lot of their food is very spicy. One thing you have to realize even if you ask this question is that to a Korean, “spicy” is different than to someone from another country because they overdo on the chili spice, and some of them become immune to the spicy feel of the food. If the food is too spicy for you say, “no moo meh wo yo” meaning, “It is too spicy.”

If you want to say “excuse me” or “I am sorry,” say, “mee an heyo” or “mee yong habnida.” The second one is more polite. If you want to tell someone you don’t understand, say “ee hey hajee an ayo” meaning “I don’t understand.” You could also say, “mo rah yo” which means “I don’t know.”

These girls are wearing hankboks, the Korean traditional dress.

They may ask, or perhaps you want to ask, “irum ee moye yo?” meaning “What is your name?” “Eerum” means “name.” You will also sometimes hear or see “seong myong” written. It also means “name.” That is what is usually on a form you are asked to fill out. If you want to introduce yourself, say, “Ne eerum ee ____________ eet subneeda” putting your name in the blank. It is a formal way of saying it, but that is what they expect when you first introduce yourself. When you first meet someone, they may also ask how old you are. They are not being impolite. They may say, “meoyot sal eeyeyo?” meaning “How old are you?” I was also asked “Meh sal eeyeyo?” meaning “How old are you?” which is a dialect. When they ask how old you are, it is not being impolite. Korea has a society based on age. If they know your age, they know how to talk to you. In their way of thinking, they are actually being very polite by asking your age.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Lastly, I will give you some nice expressions. “sarang heyo” means “I love you.” “hana neem ool sarang heyo” means “I love God.” “Cho-ah-heyo” means “I like it.” “Cho-ah-yo” means “It is good.” “keedo heyo” means “I pray,” and “keedo hapshida” or “keedo haja” mean, “Let’s pray. ” The first one is more polite. “Nah nun keekokyoeen eeyeyo” means, “I am a Christian,” and this is very important in Korea because there is a church building on every street corner. The word for “Bible” in Korean is “song gyeong.” The word for God is “hana neem,” and the word for Jesus is “Yesoo neem.” The way to say Lord is “joo neem.” A song is “nore,” and a place to sing karaoke is a “nore bang.”

These are just a few things that may help you. However, if you need more, you can always ask me in the comments section. If I don’t know, I have a Korean son in law in my house who likes to help me with my blog and is fluent in English. I hope these things help you with your Korean friends or to make Korean friends.


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