7 Phrases You’ll Need in South Korea

Chelsea Webb is a student at Indiana State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.

When preparing for traveling abroad to a country that does not speak your native language, it can be a little challenging, especially if you go unprepared. You’re going to need to learn a few phrases when traveling to places like South Korea.

안녕하세요= Hello, Good morning, How are you, etc.

Greeting people is one of the best ways to engage before diving right on into a conversation. One of the basic greetings that carries several meanings in the Korean language is 안녕하세요 (an-neong-ha-se-yo). This word has many different meanings, including hello, good morning, good afternoon, and how are you. It is one of the most common words that you hear among Korean people, and it is best to learn this very basic word when first meeting and interacting with others.

~주세요 = Please give me.

Say you are at a restaurant and asking the waiter/waitress for something in particular the menu or you are out shopping and need something specific. Then the phrase 주세요 (ju-se-yo) comes in handy for that individual to hand you that item.

  • For example: Money

Maybe you want your parents to give you money and you want to impress them by using a new Korean words you have just learned. You now have a way of asking them for cash by putting the word ‘money’ before 주세요 as the item you want. Then you would say:

  • 돈 주세요 (don ju-se-yo) = Please give me some money.

This phrase can be used for anything from water to clothing to something from the grocery store. Simply add the object you want, then tag on 주세요 for that individual to know what it is you are wanting if it is unclear.

얼마예요= How much is it?

This follows along with asking someone to give something to you. There may not be price tags on everything, so you may want to ask someone how much a specific item is. A way to ask that is 얼마예요 (eol-ma-ye-yo).

감사합니다 = Thank you.

No matter where you are, it is always polite to show gratitude towards another. The situations may vary upon the person, however, 감사합니다 (gam-sa-ham-ni-da) is one of those words that is an absolute must know. That way, if you are given something you will not be seen as rude for not showing some appreciation towards the other.

죄송합니다/ 미안해요. = I’m Sorry.

Upon coming to Korea, you may be thrown off by the different lifestyle compared to yours back at home, so you may end up faltering just a little bit. Or you may stumble into someone or drop something. Whatever it may be, 죄송합니다/ 미안해요 (joe-song-ham-ni-da / mi-an-hae-yo) has you covered! These words can help you out in a sticky situation.

영어 할 수 있어요? = Can you speak English?

You are not going to know every Korean word and that is okay. If you are not comfortable with speaking Korean with someone, then you can ask them if they speak English. In order to ask someone if they can speak your native language, just insert the name of the language in front of ~할 수 있어요? (hal su i-sseo-yo).

  • For Example: English
    • 영어 할 수 있어요? (yeong-eo hal su i-sseo-yo)
  • Other Languages
    • 프랑스어 (peu- rang-su-eo) = French
    • 독일어 (Dok-il-eo) = German
    • 일본어 (il-bon-eo)= Japanese
    • 중국어 (Joong-gook-eo) = Chinese

한국말 잘 못해요 = My Korean is not very good.

You may know a few phrases or words in the Korean language but just enough to get by. depending on the situation. By telling someone 한국말 잘 못해요 (han-guk-mal jal mot-hae-yo), you can let them know that you’re still learning. They may slow down or explain as best they can what they are talking about so you can improve your vocabulary and move towards being able to understand more Korean.

Hopefully, you learn a lot more phrases and words if you are studying or even traveling to South Korea, that way you can slowly progress towards fluency! However, I hope some of these phrases seen here can help you out just a little bit.

The world awaits…discover it.

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