When teaching and living abroad in Korea, you’ll want to have some helpful tools available to make life a bit easier. The below 10 Essential Korean phrases can help make communication a little bit easier both inside the classroom and in your everyday personal life.
How to say “yes” and “no”: ne (네) and aniyo (아니요). Learning how to say yes and no in Korean can serve you well both in the classroom and in your everyday life.
How to say “thank you”: kamsahamnida (감사합니다). I personally use this multiple times a day, trying to show that I’m thankful and appreciate any help that I get.
How to say “It’s nice to meet you”: Bangapsamnida (반갑습니다). You’ll meet many people while living and teaching in South Korea. I like to use this phrase when meeting someone for the first time, even if I only know how to speak English the rest of the conversation — to show that I really am trying!
How to say “Don’t do that!”: Hajima! (하지마). This is a great way to get students to stop doing something specific — if they are rough housing, talking loudly during class, etc. This can be used to stay stop doing that or quit it! This particular phrase works really well for me in elementary school.
How to say “Please”: Juseyo (주세요). I try to use please and thank you a lot in my everyday life, to have good manners and show that I appreciate someone’s help. You can follow up a request with the word juseyo to be polite. For example, “Mul, juseyo!” Water, please!
How to say “I’m sorry”: Mianhamnida (미안합니다). This is the very polite way to say I’m sorry. I say mianhamnida if I do something wrong or if I’m having trouble communicating.
How to say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t get it”: Jalmoreu gesseoyo ( 잘 모르겠어요). Sometimes you may come into contact with someone who is asking you a series of questions in Korean and you have no idea what they’re asking! This phrase can be used to explain that you don’t understand or don’t know what they’re asking.
How to say “That’s okay” or “It’s alright”: gwenchanayo (괜찮아요). You can use this phrase in different situations. If someone keeps offering you food and or drink after you say no thank you, they will usually stop when you use this phrase. You can also use this in the classroom if a student does something minor (drops a pile of papers, etc.). You can reassure them that it’s okay and there’s nothing to worry about. Note: when using this phrase with students, don’t say the last part (yo) as this is generally used to show respect and should be used when speaking with elders. Instead, you can say gwenchana.
How to say “I don’t know”: Moolayo (몰라요). This is another great expression to know. If you’re unsure of the answer to something or don’t quite understand something, you can use this expression.
How to say “1, 2, 3…”: Hana, Dul, Set (하나 둘셋). It’s a great idea to learn numbers while in Korea, but it can be confusing because when counting numbers, telling time, and talking about money, you need to use the right number system. Being able to say 1, 2, 3 in the classroom is beneficial if you’re getting students to read a sentence at a particular time or to repeat after you.
These are some words that may help make life a bit easier when living and teaching abroad. While we know how to read the Korean alphabet, we’re still learning new words and phrases as we go about out life here. We hope the above phrases help you get started, whether you plan to visit or live and teach in South Korea.