We want you to feel comfortable around native speakers right from the start, and a few courteous expressions can go a long way when you’re a beginner. We’ll show you the difference between formal and informal expressions, so you can be sure you’re using the right tone for the situation.
Resources for further reading:
When travelling in Korea, you may notice that some Koreans keep a distance from you, and you may quickly conclude that Koreans dislike foreigners. They don’t! They tend to stay away because they’re often intimidated by English speakers. But if you can speak proper Korean, you’ll be able to start the conversation.
Listen carefully to the audio and practice saying the Korean phrases aloud – you’ll have mastered polite words in Korean in no time! Just as in your native language, speaking to Korean people in a polite manner will win you friends and gain you respect, so it’s worth making the effort!
Small talk usually starts with “저기요/jugiyo." It literally means “that place” or “over there,” and is close to the English phrase “Excuse me.” You use this word to break the ice.
Rocket Record lets you perfect your Korean pronunciation. Just listen to the native speaker audio and then use the microphone icon to record yourself. Once you’re done, you’ll get a score out of 100 on your pronunciation and can listen to your own audio playback. (Use a headset mic for best results.) Problems? Click here!
Here are some more phrases you can use:
Excuse me / Pardon me (formal)
Phrases of gratitude and apology are the most essential phrases in any language. Suppose a stranger picks up and hands over your wallet, which you’ve just dropped. What do you say? Suppose you accidentally step on someone’s foot. How do you say “I’m sorry”?
The easiest phrase of gratitude is Gomawoyo.
You should know that you use Gomawoyo only when speaking to family, friends, or strangers who appear easygoing and younger than you. When thanking a teacher, your boss, a stranger who looks older than you, or someone who looks not so easygoing, use one of the following phrases instead:
Daedanhee gamsa hamnida
Thank you very much
Koreans say “thank you” as often as Westerners, and always reply with “Don’t mention it” or “Never mind.”
Don't mention it / You're welcome
Never mind / It doesn't matter
To apologize for something you have done, or for causing someone pain or inconvenience, say Jwesong hamnida (I apologize.) In an informal context, Mian hamnida (I’m sorry) is just fine.
Use all of the above phrases liberally, and you’ll find that people will treat you better.
That’s it for this lesson.
If you want more lessons on Korean salutations then I recommend that you check out the following:
Anyoung hee gaseyo!
Sujung Lee: Rocket Korean
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!