Handjob pizza and other hilarious Konglish words


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.

에이드 Ade

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.

서비스 Service

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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Learn Korean by Texting with KakaoTalk!


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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K-Pop as Heard on the Streets of Busan

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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Learn to read Korean in 1 hour.


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.

  • oh!” the notch is on top.
  • ah!” the notch is pointing right at me!
  • aw!” the notch is pointing away!
  • ew!” the notch fell down. Oops! Ewps!
  • eee!” There’s no notch to be seen?
  • and both 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
  • p looks like the symbol for pi π
  • ㅈ 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.
  • h 
  • ㄷ d looks like a d with the bar missing
  • t looks like rotated T

Doubled consonants

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.


A syllable is just a 2 or 3 of these letters put together. mama is 마마 (1st syllable is ma 마 and 2nd syllable is also ma 마). bambam is 밤밤. kimchi is 김치. bibimbap is 비빔밥.


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.

Other vowels

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 button for an audio sample.

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Learn how to speak Korean at talktomeinkorean.com.

Introduction to Busan Dialect 부산 사투리

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.


The Korean language’s logical structure makes it easy to learn


As I continue to work my way through learning Korean, I’m continually amazed at how logical and practical the Korean language is. If the world had to get together and pick just one language to use, it definitely shouldn’t be English. It’s possible that it is easy to learn the basics of English, but English is difficult to master. English is extremely irregular and doesn’t have consistent pronunciation (take for example the word “recipe” that ESLers often pronounce as it is written instead of “recip-eee”).

When considering the strengths of a language, two attributes are immediately obvious: how easy it is to learn and how nice it sounds. Thus far I’ve studied French, Italian, German, and Japanese.

French has fewer irregularities than English (but still enough to necessitate bescherelle) and a certain je ne sais quoi sound that is a mix of sexy and malaise. Italian is even more regular than French (no bescherelle required) and sounds fantastic even when reading the recip-ee for bolognese. But while there is sometimes a beautiful and concise sentence like non c’è (meaning what you want isn’t here so why are you bothering me with such questions), it has the common ailment of all romance languages: verbosity. The this of the that of the these… seriously, check the back of a Canadian bilingual cereal box. The same stuff is written in both English and French, and French is always longer.

That bring us to German which fails on both ease of learning and how nice it sounds. It’s difficult to learn: I spent 6 weeks learning which of der, die, das, den, and dem to use depending on the gender and case of the noun. These all mean “THE” in English. And while Bavarians have a soft accent, any language that is that difficult to learn should sound nicer.

Japanese is pretty easy to learn and sounds nice. It’s definitely easy to pronounce as every syllable ends in a vowel – think Ka, Ki, Ku, Ke, Ko. The major drawback of Japanese is that it uses 3 different writing systems. Most words are represented with Chinese characters, of which there are roughly 2000 to learn, for parts of speech and foreign words, either hiragana or katakana is used, respectively. Kanji (the Chinese characters) are interesting, but memorizing 2000 characters is a huge barrier to learning Japanese. Furthermore each character has at least two pronunciations, a Chinese one and a Japanese one. I still have no idea how you are supposed to pronounce a word you have never seen before.

If I were judging Korean 100 years ago, it would have the same strike against it as Japanese, the use of Chinese characters. However, Korean has been using Hangul for the last hundred years, and, now, any use of Chinese characters is rare. Hangul is a simple writing system that creates a vowel-only, consonant-vowel, or consonant-vowel-consonant syllable using 2 to 4 symbols squished into a little block. For example, the syllables a, ha, and han are 아, 하, 한 – you can see the symbol for ‘a’ is ㅏ. It’s easier to learn than a, b, c. All the symbols for vowels are based on a vertical or horizontal line: ㅗ, ㅓ, ㅏ, ㅜ; consonants look different.

In Korean, all that is needed for a complete sentence is a verb (or an adjective which is treated similarly to a verb in Korean). The consistency in how verbs are modified for different expressions is amazing. Also, all verbs in their plain form end in 다 (da) so they are easily recognized, eg. 가다, 오다, and 하다.

Korean gets a ton of mileage out of the 하다 (to do) verb. The verb to study is literally study-do 공부하다, to workout is workout-do 운동하다, and to have sex is sex-do 섹스하다. There are many, many verbs like this. Even to like something is good-do 좋아하다. Great, isn’t it?!

If you want to say “I’m eating” (plain form of to eat is 먹다), you say 먹어, or, if you want to make a point that you’re in the middle of eating, you can say 먹고 있어. If you finished eating, you say 먹었어, or if you will eat, you say 먹을 거야, or if you want to ask someone to eat with you, you say 먹자? While it might not be obvious if you are not familiar with Korean, the main part of the verb 먹 is common to all forms – compare this to eat, ate, am eating, will eat… 

Once you learn the rule for a form (like present or past or suggestion), it is applied consistently to any verb or adjective. There just aren’t any exceptions – this makes it easy and fun to learn.

So, here I am, officially casting my vote for Korean to be the Earth’s common tongue: 한국어 제일 좋아!

If you’re interested in learning, the best resource I’ve been using is talk to me in korean (http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/about/) and about 700 home-made flash cards.

Module III: Korean!


Now that I’m completely fluent barely conversational in German and Japanese, it’s time for the third language: Korean!

Although Korean is unrelated to Japanese, it does have a lot of similarities. The word order is the same (Subject-Object-Verb), there are particles to mark the different parts of speech, adjectives and verbs are conjugated, and there are different rules based on the level of politeness and formalness required. This is all similar to Japanese.

A major difference is that Korean doesn’t have Chinese characters. As much as I enjoyed learning kanji in Japanese, I’m very thankful for the ultra-compact and logical Korean hangul alphabet which is easily memorized in 1 day. In the early 1900s, the language switched from Chinese characters to hangul and by the 1950s the use of Chinese characters was more or less phased-out. The hangul alphabet, which was designed in the 15th century, is extremely interesting. The shapes of the letters actually relate to the shape your mouth makes when saying them (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangul#Consonant_design).

That being said, Korean is supposed to be a difficult language to learn. The US Foreign Service puts Korean in category 3 (along with Japanese, Arabic, and Chinese) which ends up being about 4 times as many hours of study than category 1 languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. Keep in mind this is from the perspective of native-English speakers only — maybe Korean is easy if you speak Japanese natively!?

What did I learn from Module II: Japanese?

  • It’s great to have someone to work with one-on-one. Really it’s a must-have. In Japan, I was able to do language exchange with Sachiko for about an hour every day and also spoke with Yuka and Pon at the izakaya in the evenings. It was really a great situation for learning. That coupled with studying for a couple hours per day was sufficient to make decent progress.
  • Avoid foreigners. Even though there were a fair number of foreign visitors, Myoko Kogen is still very very Japanese i.e., it’s hard to find espresso. In Hakuba, it was easy to find espresso, i.e. not very Japanese. Go somewhere with less foreign influence and bring along a tin of Illy coffee.
  • Making flashcards is great fun. Daiso sells blanks.
  • Don’t spend a week reading reviews about ski gear instead of studying.
  • You won’t have 6-pack abs if you drink a litre of beer everyday no matter how much tofu and daikon salad you eat (see getdrunknotfat.com).

Goals for Module III: Korean:

  • Find a place with a nice beach but few foreigners. Right now I’m in Busan which has nice beaches but too many foreigners.
  • Get myself into a situation where I can speak Korean for at least a couple hours per day.
  • Learn how to surf or go sea kayaking or do some other fun water sport.
  • Koreans love to hike! When in Rome…
  • Make as many KakaoTalk friends as possible and text them in Korean! Plus send them hilarious emoticons like these.
  • Drink less beer! As the name of the popular Korean beer, Cass, would imply, Korean beer sucks. Stick with soju!
  • Drive around in a baller Hyundai with my tinted windows rolled down while I talk on my giant waffle-sized Samsung phablet.
  • I will be hard pressed to have as an amazing experience as I did Japan, but I will try my best. がんばります!



5 languages in 5 cities for 6 weeks each….

Well that’s the plan thus far….

  • German in Berlin
  • French in Marseille
  • Arabic in Jordan or Turkish in, well, Turkey (somewhere)
  • Japanese in Japan
  • And Korean in Korea

List of doubts…

  • Is this a stupid plan?
  • What can you really learn in 6 weeks?
  • Why put all this effort into learning languages anyways?!
  • 5 cities and 6 weeks ends up being roughly 8 months
  • I could visit a lot more than 5 cities in 8 months.

The plan roughly was inspired by all the great things I got out of taking Italian classes in Rome during 2010.

Comments are welcome of course!