Korea has a fascinating language and culture, full of wonderful sights, sounds and tastes. Whether you want to pick up some Korean to help you while travelling or just to help you better understand your favourite K-Pop song or Korean TV drama, we have you covered.
Below is our list of the most useful day-to-day phrases to learn in Korean.
Greetings and Basic Interactions in Korean
One of the simplest and most useful things to learn in most languages is how to greet someone and respond to simple questions.
This shows you're trying to learn the language and comes across as polite in a culture that places high value on manners.
The below phrases will be useful for travelling in Korea or simply introducing yourselves to other Korean language students.
The perfect phrase for breaking the ice in Korean. You can use this to greet anyone you meet there and show them you have some knowledge of the Korean language.
My name is _____
"nae ileum-eun _____"
To continue the conversation you can introduce yourself. If you're really serious about learning Korean you can even give yourself a Korean name.
Nice to meet you
Much like in English, this phrase offers a way to express respect to people you meet.
Used to express agreement. Be careful using it when asked if you want something spicy.
One of the most common phrases in Korean. You will hear it a lot if you visit and should endeavour to use it as much as possible. It is an easy way to express respect and show you have good manners.
This is a polite way to turn down things people offer you. It roughly translates to "no, its OK" and is more polite than simply saying no. A good one for when walking through street markets or food courts.
The 죄송합니다 version of sorry can be used to apologise for minor errors such as bumping into someone or standing on their foot. It's not to be used for significant transgressions like forgetting to do your homework or standing somebody up.
Travelling and Shopping in Korean
If you visit Korea, we highly recommend you travel around to take in the sights, buy local produce and interact with the locals to improve your Korean level.
The below phrases will help you with some common questions and situations you may encounter while exploring or trying to buy things.
Where is the _____?
Finding things can be difficult in a foreign country so it can help to learn how to ask directions. This phrase can be combined with all number of nouns to help you get where you're going.
Most Korean cities have extensive subway networks that are clean, safe and easy to use. If you wish to travel on the subway, you can locate the stations by searching for buildings labelled 지하철역.
This one doesn't need much explaining. To ask where the nearest toilet is, you can combine 화장실 with 어디예요 to get 어디예요화장실? or "eo-di-ye-yo hwa-jang-sil?".
How much is it?
When shopping in Korea it is important to be able to ask how much things cost as products aren't always labelled clearly. If you visit the night markets you can also use this phrase to begin haggling with the sellers.
Do you take credit card?
If you prefer to travel without cash and want to pay by card, you can ask your shop keeper, waiter or hotel receptionist whether they take credit cards by using this phrase.
Explaining Your Korean Language Level
Something that often happens when learning a language is that people hear you speak a few words and assume you're fluent.
In these situations, their natural responses may not match what you read in textbooks and can be difficult to interpret.
To help you explain your level and continue the conversation at a more comfortable pace, you can always use the below phrases.
I don't understand
Explaining that you don't understand what someone has said can be an awkward thing to do in any language but this is the first step in building your vocabulary and ensuring your language partner can speak with you comfortably.
I don't speak Korean well
한국말 잘 못해요
Explaining that you don't speak Korean well can show you do have some knowledge of Korean and would like to continue talking using simple language. We recommend using this instead of switching to English.
Please speak slowly
천천히 말씀해 주세요
Asking you conversation partner to speak more slowly can prepare them to treat you as a learner and not a fluent local. Speaking slowly at first helps you speak quickly later on.
Eating in Korean
One of the best reasons to learn Korean in the first place is so you can order amazing food like a pro.
Anyone familiar with Korean culture will know there is a vast range of dishes to choose from, from fried chicken to kim-chi the below phrases will help you in Korean speaking restaurants and street markets wherever you may find them.
It is unlikely that you have an interest in learning Korean and will never visit a Korean restaurant. This noun can be combined with all number of phrases to express different emotions: favourite, horrible, delicious etc.
Korean restaurants often offer their menu items to takeaway. To request your order to go simply choose what you want and say "ssa ju-seh-yo", literally meaning "please wrap".
When eating in Korean restaurants you often have to ask for the menu. The pronunciation is actually very similar to English and you can combine with the previous phrase to request one from a waiter.
Have a great meal
Food culture in Korean is very important. To show friendship to your host or dining partner it's nice to wish them a nice meal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this phrase is spoken directly before eating.
≈That was delicious
Similarly, you may wish to express gratitude to your host or chef by telling them the food they gave you was delicious. Eating in Korea you will say and/or hear this A LOT.
I will eat well
Another way of expressing thanks is to remark on how good a meal looks. Saying jal meok-ge-sseum-ni-da is a way of showing how excited you are to eat their food and will undoubtedly impress any Korean you say it to.
Please may I have_____?
A crucial Korean phrase for ordering food, drinks or anything else you can think of. To do so simply speak the noun you want and add ju-se-yo on the end. Easy.
As with English, use this phrase when you have finished eating and want to pay. Here we would also recommend familiarising yourself with Korean numbers as the system is a little different from in English.
Korea has a number of famous meat and seafood dishes but also caters the the vegetarians amongst us with an array of delicious vegetable options. If you want to try them then this is an important phrase to learn.
Switching to English
Speaking Korean can be daunting, especially for beginners and those with little practise but in order to improve your Korean language skills quickly, we recommend taking every chance you get to speak in Korean.
Most Koreans are extremely friendly and willing to help you as long as you are respectful and polite.
You now know most of the key phrases you need to to this. However, there may be some situations where your Korean is not sufficient. In that case you can use the below phrase (but try not to!).
Do you speak English?
영어 할 수 있어요?
Most Koreans do speak English to some level and will be able to help you if you're lost or have an emergency situation. Try not to use it if you can help it as your Korean will improve much faster if you immerse yourself in the language.
Now you have learned some essential Korean phrases, why not check out some of LingoClass' Korean courses and practise using them with like-minded people?