Korean Words and Phrases for Beginners

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Filipinos are great at adapting. Instead of imposing our own ways to those who visit our country, we make the adjustments, especially with the language we used in conversing with foreigners. Some tourists who want to experience the country like locals do choose to learn our language to converse with us. But some don’t even bother because they know we can speak and understand their language.

But if we go to other countries such as Japan or Korea, we will find it a bit hard to find some locals who can speak English. They prefer that foreigners learn their language instead.

Since Korea has been so hyped, what with all the KPOP and K-Drama events here and there, of course, we’d want to visit the country. But if you haven’t learned the language yet, here are some basic words and phrases that you can pack to make your stay in Korea a lot easier.

Annyeonghaseyo (An-yong-ha-se-yo) – As foreigners, this is probably the first word we learn in Korean. Annyeong means ‘well-being’ while haseyo is the verb hada which means “to do”. The combined words could be translated to “Are you doing well?” and is usually used as semi-informal. Annyeonghasimnikka being the formal version. However, if you are close to someone, you can just use annyeong as greeting



Example: Annyeonghaseyo. Nae ileum-eun Kang Daniel imnida. (Hello. My name is Kang Daniel.)

Yeong-eo hal su isseoyo? (Yongo hal su i-so-yo) – Of course, learning a language in a rush is risky, especially with the cultural difference and language barrier. What if you said something offensive? However unintentional, some people don’t forget the mistakes that easily. So, if you don’t want to risk it, you can use this sentence. It means “Can you speak English?” If they are, then good for you. If they shake their head, just thank them and move on to the next person you see.


Ye, Ne, Eo (uh), Eong (Ong) These words only mean one thing – YES. But don’t think you can use whichever you like whenever you feel like it. In our country, we have OO and OPO. In Korea, it’s the same thing. Imagine using the word equivalent to OO towards an elderly. That sounds a bit disrespectful, doesn’t it? Politeness can get you a long way, so if you are speaking to an ahjumma or ahjussi, make sure to use Ne or Ye and save the Eo, Eong, and Uh for when you are speaking to a close friend.


Aniyo (A-nee-yo), Ani (A-nee), and Anieyo (A-nee-e-yo)No, they don’t all mean no. Aniyo means no, but when spoken formally. Ani is a more informal “no”. However, anieyo is slightly different from the two because instead of meaning no, it means ‘not’ instead. Bonus: Eopseoyo (Op-so-yo) also means no, but a specific kind of no. It means something does not exist.


Bonus Word:

 Juseyo (Joo-se-yo), Jebal – both words mean “please” but they are used in different situations. Juseyo is like your more common kind of please or if you are asking for something. For example, if you are eating at a restaurant and want more kimchi, you say, “Jogiyo (Excuse me), kimchi juseyo”. It’s not properly constructed, but at least you have delivered your message in the simplest way possible. Jebal has a more desperate tone to it.




Igeot (I-go – silent T), Geugeo (Gu-go)This and that. Igeot is ‘this’ while geugeo is ‘that’. You can use this when you’re roaming the streets of Myeongdong or simply wanting to eat a street food, especially when you want a larger piece of food, you can point to it and say “Geugeo juseyo, ahjumma.”


Korean Numbers – Okay, we can’t give you all the numbers but at least you can count from one to ten. You probably know the first three, if you watch Korean dramas and variety shows: ha-na, dul, set, net, da-seot, yeo-seot, il-gop, yeo-deol, a-hop, yeol.



Shillaehapnida (Shi-le-hap-ni-da), Jogiyo (Cho-gyo)they both mean “excuse me”, but shillaehapnida sounds more polite. It’s equivalent to “pardon me” while jogiyo is more like calling someone’s attention. A soft ‘hey’, if you will. If you have other things to say besides “excuse me” or “pardon me”, like you called someone’s attention because you want to ask something, you say, Shillaejiman, which translates to “excuse me, but”.


Hwajangshil odiyeyo (Wa-jang-shil o-di-ye-yo) “Where is the bathroom?” Don’t ever forget this phrase when you’re out exploring the streets of Korea, especially on the countryside. Odiyeyo means “where is the” so you can use this if you’re lost too, just remember to say it after the place you’re asking for.


Example: Jogiyo. Train station odiyeyo? (Excuse me. Where is the train station?)

Olmayeyo – When shopping, this comes in handy, especially if the store you went in doesn’t have price tags on their products. It means “how much is it?”


Oppa, Hyung, Noona, Eonnie (On-nee), Ahjussi (Ah-joo-shi), Ahjeomma (Ah-joo-ma)Seniority is a big thing in Korea. If you already know someone’s age and had to call their ‘rank’, it’s best to learn how to address them. Oppa and hyung both mean “older brother”. Here in the Philippines, we call our older brothers (or those we treat as such) as “kuya”. In Korea, oppa can only be used by a younger girl while hyung is used by a younger guy. It’s the same with addressing an older sister. Here, we call them “ate”, regardless of our gender. In Korea, only girls are allowed to call their big sister eonnie. Guys call their big sister noona. Ahjeomma is equivalent to “manang”, an old woman. Ahjussi is similar to “manong”, the male counterpart.


 Joesonghamnida (Tswe-song-ham-ni-da), Mianhe – Both words mean sorry.


Kamsahamnida – Like we’ve said before, politeness goes a long way. And what better way to express politeness than to say thank you? Kamsahamnida is the polite way of saying thank you. You can say kamsa if you are talking to a close friend. But it’s best to just say the whole word if you are speaking to a stranger. Better be safe than to be deemed rude.


Kamsahamnida! See you on our next blog!


 Author: Jhing Bautista

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