When your friend is ordering pizza over the phone, hearing them say the word handjob tends to stick out – especially when they are ordering pizza in Korean. After briefly considering the possibility of Korean pizza parlours with happy endings, I shook my head and assumed my crass mind had mangled some Korean words into this bizarre result. But then I heard her say handjob again on the phone. What follows is the resulting conversation…
“Did you say handjob on the phone?”
“Yes, handjob pizza.”
“It means tasty pizza.”
“Wait, are you saying the words hand and job?”
“No, I’m saying hands up!” (Friend does the thumbs up sign)
“That’s thumbs up, not hands up. Besides it sounds like you are saying handjob.”
“What does handjob mean?”
My miming skills were sufficient to clear up the difference between handjob and thumbs up/hands up, to which I received a loud ewwww from my friend. In the end, the pizza wasn’t very good – neither thumbs up good nor hands up good and definitely not handjob good.
Other Konglish (Korean-English) words:
Fighting – in a good way
Fighting, usually written 화이팅 or 파이팅, does not involve throwing punches but means to support someone or something. During World Cup 2014, there were many posters for Korea! Fighting! to show support for the Korean football team. You can also message someone 화이팅~! to say you support them – these are words of encouragement! Koreans can’t say the letter F, so it sounds more like pighting than fighting.
Lemonade was logically separated into its 2 main constituents: Lemons and Ade – the latter I assume is the ice and sugar. You can get all kinds of Ade: Grapefruit Ade (자몽에이드), Blueberry Ade (블루 베리 에이드), and of course the original Lemon Ade (레몬에이드). I suppose it makes sense since Gator Ade and Power Ade exist. Also Ade in Korea are usually carbonated.
Somehow Service just means that something is free. When a waitress refills your bibimbap and says service, it means what she’s giving you is free. A counter marked as service in a restaurant is where you can load up on more side dishes (반찬).
물티슈 Mool Tissue
Mool means water in Korean and a tissue is a tissue so a mool tissue is a moist toilette. Pretty much every restaurant gives you a moist toilette before you eat.
셀카 Sel Ka
Walk into any cafe in Korea (90% of stores in Korea are mobile phone stores or cafes), and you’re likely to see a girl in her 20s spending about 20 continuous minutes doing Sel Ka. Sel Ka is short for Self Camera and just means #selfie. I imagine Koreans say SelKa because they can’t say the letter f and selpi might sound stupid.
한드폰 Hand Pon
A handeuppon (Hand Phone) is the Korean word for mobile phone. It reminds me of the German word for mobile phone, Handy. Mein Handy ist Kaputt!
If you’re interested in more Konglish terms check out http://koreanselfstudyisntlame.blogspot.kr/2010/02/ultimate-konglish-list.html.
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You won’t spend 15 minutes in Korea without hearing KaTak KaTak coming from someone’s mobile phone. This is the sound of the ubiquitous Korean texting app, KakaoTalk, or as it’s abbreviated in Korean, 카톡.
The KaTak KaTak sound:
KakaoTalk is a really useful tool for learning Korean. Besides having the most cute emoticons of any messaging app, it is actually helpful for learning Korean for several reasons.
First, pretty much all Koreans use KakaoTalk. According to a survey, 93% of smart phone users in Korea use KakaoTalk – I guarantee you the remaining 7% are people you don’t want to talk to anyways. I don’t think any other messaging app has this much market penetration. With basically all Koreans using KakaoTalk, you have about 50 million potential friends to chat with. While people are sometimes hesitant to give out their phone number, in my experience, Koreans are generally happy to give out their KakaoTalk ID. Many people I’ve met through conversationexchange.com include their ID on their profile page and are content to exchange languages via text without ever meeting face to face.
Second, learning to use the Korean keyboard on your smart phone is easier than learning to write Hangul by hand. Simply put, pushing a button is easier than learning to draw a Hangul character. When learning anything, it’s helpful to avoid delays. Eventually you will be able to write by hand, but since you can learn to text more easily, you will get to the interesting part of actually expressing yourself more quickly, and that will keep you motivated to continue learning. This brings us to the 3rd point.
Third, learning is about getting motivated and staying motivated. Once you start texting with people, you are motivated to learn how to introduce yourself, to express your interests, and to ask your friend about their interests. With texting, you have as much time as you want to form your sentences, so you can double check a grammar rule or look up a word if you want.
In the 3 months I’ve been living in Korea I have added 40 people to KakaoTalk. Most of these people I have never met in person, but the practice I received, especially while just starting to learn, was invaluable. I have introduced myself 40 times, said how old I am 40 times, ask someone what they are up to 40 thousand times, …. It’s really a good way to practice forming sentences.
Of course, texting won’t directly help you to learn to have a conversation. It will help you practice making sentences, but it won’t help with speaking and listening skills. There is also the usual drawback to texting which is that the other person is usually doing something else so they might respond slowly. You can always ask the other person if they are busy, 시간 있어요?
However, I really recommend texting as a language learning tool in addition to having actual conversations. If you’re waiting for the bus or riding the subway, message someone hi, 안녕?, and ask someone what they are up to, 뭐해요?, or how they are feeling, 기분이 어때요?
If you don’t believe me, the popular Korean Englishman, 영국남자, cites texting as a way that he learned, and now he’s texting on TV commercials!
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These K-pop songs entered my consciousness with their catchy choruses whether I wanted them to or not. If you go for a stroll in any commercial district, every single mobile phone store, which is pretty much every other store, blasts music into the street with their outdoor speakers. This is a sample of what they’re playing. While arguably lacking any “soul” or “authenticity”, these songs make up for their lack of “street cred” with good production and catchiness.
Girls’ Generation 소녀시대_’Mr.Mr.’_Music Video (Electronic Dance Pop)
까탈레나 (Catallena) – 오렌지캬라멜 (Orange Caramel) (Super sugary pop with a sushi-themed MV)
Overdose – EXO-M (Boy band pop)
감아 – 로꼬 (Loco) Feat. Crush (Hip Hop)
나의 옛날이야기 by 아이유 (IU) (Pop ballad)
200% – Akdong Musician (Light Pop with Hip Hop-influence – the sibling artists are 15 and 17 years old)
썸 – 소유 & 정기고 Feat. 릴보이 Of 긱스 (Funky Pop RnB)
2NE1 – COME BACK HOME (Reggae with Dub Step chorus)
If you’re interested in understanding the lyrics and learning Korean, check out TalkToMeInKorean’s page on learning Korean with K-pop.
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If you can read to the end of this post, you can learn to read Korean. Learning the basics of the Korean alphabet, Hangul, only takes about an hour. After that you can improve and practice by reading signs at H-mart or walking around your local Korea Town neighbourhood (Robson street in the West End of Vancouver has lots of Korean signs).
The vowels are all based on a horizontal or vertical bar with a notch.
- ㅗ “oh!” the notch is on top.
- ㅏ“ah!” the notch is pointing right at me!
- ㅓ“aw!” the notch is pointing away!
- ㅜ “ew!” the notch fell down. Oops! Ewps!
- ㅣ“eee!” There’s no notch to be seen?
- ㅔ and ㅐboth sound like eh? Two bars eh?
- ㅡ the bar fell over – same as the e sound in over.
The consonants, well, look different:
- ㅂ it even looks like a b
- ㅍp looks like the symbol for pi π
- ㅈ j looks like Zorro’s mark. Zorro always jumps onto his horse.
- ㅅ somebody tell Zorro the top part is missing.
- ㅊ ch Zorro changed his mark with a dot on top.
- ㄴ n when you say n, your tongue goes up just like how this symbol is bent upwards.
- ㄱ g when you say g, your tongue goes down just like how this symbol is bent downwards.
- ㅋ k same as ㄱ with a burst of air from your mouth (aspirated!)
- ㅁ mouth (well, a square mouth!)
- ㅇ looks like a big zero because it’s not pronounced!
- ㄹ l looks like an electric eel.
- ㄷ d looks like a d with the bar missing
- ㅌt looks like rotated T
Some of the consonants can be written in a doubled form, like ㅉ, ㅆ, ㅃ, ㄸ, and ㄲ. These sound roughly the same as the normal single consonants.
The batchim means floor. It is the bottom consonant that the other 2 letters are sitting on. In 밤밤, the batchim is ㅁ for both syllables. In 비빔밥, the first syllable, 비, doesn’t have a batchim; in the second syllable, 빔, the batchim is ㅁ, and in the last syllable, 밥, the batchim is ㅂ. Some of the letters change their sound when they are the batchim. ㅈ, ㅅ, ㅊ, ㄷ and ㅌ all sound like t when they are batchim. For example, 밪만, 밧만, 밫만, 받만, and 밭만 are all batman. When ㅇ is batchim, it sounds like ng in song. So 방 is pronounced like bang. Try saying 방 and 반 back and forth repeatedly.
The vowels can have a second notch added to make them have a “y” sound at the start.
- ㅑ(y + ㅏ) is pronounced yeah.
- ㅛ (y + ㅗ) is pronounced yo.
- ㅕ(y + ㅓ) is pronounced yaw.
- ㅠ (y + ㅜ) is pronounced yew.
The vowels can also be combine to make them have a “w” sound at the start.
- ㅘ (ㅗ + ㅏ) is pronounced wah.
- ㅟ (ㅜ + ㅣ) is pronounced wee.
- ㅝ (ㅜ + ㅓ) is pronounced waw.
- ㅚ, ㅙ, and ㅞ all sound like whey.
Try practicing with these English words used in Korean. Follow the link for the answer on Naver dictionary. On the Naver site, click the button for an audio sample.
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Learn how to speak Korean at talktomeinkorean.com.
There is a reason why the people of Korea mix soju 소주, a 15% alcohol Korean spirit, with beer mekju 맥주 to make the semi-sweet, semi-vile combination known as somek 소맥. They drink this concoction for two reasons. First, Koreans, like any civilized and over-worked people, like to drink. And second, because Korean beer is so terrible that if you are going to drink it, it better be effective. Hence the reason for fortifying their tasteless, mass-produced lagers into what is essentially a beer cocktail that ranges anywhere from 5 to 14% alcohol depending on the mix. Interestingly the expression for tastes bad in Korean is without taste, so it’s ambiguous to me if Korean beer is tasteless or tastes bad; however, either interpretation is accurate.
Last night, I carried out a blind taste test of the main Korean beers as well as a few Japanese beers and Budweiser. Besides becoming fairly drunk and getting really, really, really sick of tasting beer, the results were surprising.
Beers used (all 355 mL cans):
- Hite 하이트 ₩1350 4.3%
- Cass 카스 ₩1350 4.5%
- Dry Finish 드라이피니쉬 ₩1390 4.8%
- OB Lager 오비 ₩1350 4.8%
- Cafri 카프리 ₩1850 4.2%
- Budweiser 버드와이저 ₩2950 5.0%
- Suntory The Premium Malts 산토리 ₩3200 5.5%
- Sapporo 삿포로 ₩2850 5.0%
- Asahi 아사히 ₩2950 5%
- Of the 5 Korean beers, which is most and least preferred?
- Is Korean beer worse than the Japanese beer available in Korea?
- Is Korean beer worse than Budweiser?
- 5 cups labelled with numbers 1 through 5.
- For each sip test, pour sample amount of beer into cup. Cup is chosen with random number generator.
- Participant doesn’t know which beer is in the cup, ie single-blind test.
- Participant tastes beer and arranges cups in order of best to worst.
- Ranks are recorded as scores from 1 to 5.
I am incredibly embarrassed to say that according to this sip test, I prefer Cafri, the lightest and weakest Korean beer available. I also equally prefer Budweiser, a beer I’ve long considered to be the king of shitty beer.
The sip test was repeated 3 times with only the Korean beers. Cafri scored the best at 2.3 (highest is 1; lowest is 5); whereas the other beers all scored between 3 and 3.3 which is probably statistically insignificant. This suggests that I can’t distinguish between Cass, Dry Finish, Hite, and OB.
When Cafri, the winner of the Korean beers, was tested against Budweiser and the Japanese beers, the results were equally shameful. Cafri and Budweiser tied for 1st place with an average of 1.6 (again the test was repeated 3 times) while the Japanese beers scored between 3.6 and 4.
Again, as someone who considers themselves to prefer heavy and dark beers, like ales and stouts, these results were an equal mix of shock and embarrassment.
I can choose to interpret these results in one of two ways. Either, I actually prefer really light beer; or, the results are misleading. Perhaps, it’s simply the case that light beer is favourable in a sip test and the other Korean beers are indistinguishably bad. It’s well known that Pepsi usually wins in its taste test (it is distinguishably sweeter than Coke), but does anyone actually prefer Pepsi? Ergo, I will go with the latter interpretation.
So which Korean beer sucks the most? They all suck!
The Busan dialect has an interesting fundamental difference from the dialect spoken in Seoul. When questions are asked in Busan dialect, the question changes depending on if it’s a yes/no question or a question using a question word like where, who, or what. For example, where are you going? uses a different form than are you going to school?, which is a yes/no question. However, in Seoul, which is considered to be standard Korean, the question is the same in both cases, and this distinction is lost.
In the two months I’ve been living in Busan, I have come up against a few obstacles while studying Korean. First, all the materials I have for learning Korean focus on a type of polite speech called 존댓말. This type of speech is used with people you don’t know like shopkeepers or older people. However, when I meet people in cafes for language exchange, they usually speak using intimate language called 반말. It’s pretty simple to go from polite speech to intimate speech once you learn how, but it was just a bit of a mystery until I progressed far enough to learn.
The second issue is that people in Busan, of course, speak Busan dialect. Both the accent and the words used are different from the standard language spoken in Seoul. I haven’t been able to find much material on the Busan dialect, so I took notes whenever I met people for language exchange.
Eventually, I asked my friend, 정언 (Jeongeon) to explain the grammar to me and help me produce this post and the audio recording above. Many thanks for her patience. The notes below will be helpful for the audio recording above. Please leave comments.
Questions in Busan dialect can end in 노 when a question word is used or in 나 for yes/no questions.
Questions using 뭐, 어디, 언제, …
Present: verb stem + 노? Past: verb stem + 었/았노?
어디 가노? Where are you going? 어디 갔노? Where did you go?
뭐 하노? What are you doing? 뭐 했노? What did you do?
뭐 마시노? What are you drinking? 뭐 마싰노? What did you drink?
뭐 먹노? What are you eating? 뭐 먹었노? What did you eat?
Note: ㅆ is pronounced as ㄴ.
Note: 마시다 would normally conjugate to 마셨노 but is pronounced 마싰노.
Questions with yes/no answer:
Present: verb stem + 나? Past: verb stem + 었/았나?
집에 가나? Are you going home? 집에 갔나? Did you go home?
공부 하나? Are you studying? 공부 했나? Did you study?
맥주 마시나? Are you drinking beer? 맥주 마싰나? Did you drink beer?
김밥 먹나? Are you eating kimbap? 김밥 먹었나? Did you eat kimbap?
Statements are formed with the verb stem plus 는다, after consonant, or ㄴ다, after vowel. In past tense, add 었다 or 았다.
집에 간다. I’m going home. 집에 갔다. I went home.
공부한다. I’m studying. 공부했다. I studied.
맥주 마신다. I’m drinking beer. 맥주 마싰다. I drank beer.
김밥 먹는다. I’m eating kimbap. 김밥 먹었다. I ate kimbap.
Note: here ㅆ is pronounced like normal batchim sound.
These forms work with the “want to” form V+고 싶다 as well.
뭐 하고 싶노? What do you want to do?
공부 하고 싶나? Do you want to study?
공부하고 싶다. I want to study.
The future form can be written as verb stem + (으)ㄹ거다.
내일 김밥 먹을거다. Tomorrow I will eat kimbap.
내일 맥주 마실거다. Tomorrow I will drink beer.
내일 공부할거다. Tomorrow I will study.