Thursday, March 31, 2011

3.31.11 Survival Korean

안녕하세요! (Ahnyong hasseyo!) [Hello!]

Learning Korean is made easier by the fact that unlike Japanese or Mandarin, Korean uses a phonetic alphabet called hangul (한글). It has 14 consonants and 10 vowels (there are also double consonants and some compound letters) that are combined into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least one vowel and one consonant, but may have as many as 4 letters. The blocks are then grouped to form words. For example, ㅎ + ㅏ + ㄴ= 한 (han) and  ㄱ + ㅡ + ㄹ = 글 (gul) come together as 한 + 글 = 한글 (hangul). It took me about 3 or 4 sessions of study to get a basic understanding of hangul.

Armed with this tenuous grasp of the alphabet, a stack of books, and the internet I have pieced together a few survival phrases that will help us get by until we can start a proper language class. I won't bore you with the hangul, just the Romanizations.

These will help us get food and water:
silley hamnida - excuse me (to get someone's attention)
mian hamnida - I'm sorry
gamsa hamnida - thank you
pyeonuijeomi eodie iseoyo? - where is the convenience store?
igo/jogo eolmayeyo? - how much is this/that?
mul jom jusseyo - give me water, please
bulgogi jom do jusseyo - give me more bulgogi, please (Bulgogi is amazingly tasty barbecued beef.)

These will probably not be needed, since it's pretty obvious from looking at us that we aren't locals. Never the less, I feel the need to know how to apologize for my lack of language skills:
jal moreugessoyo - I don't understand
cheocheoni malsseumhae - Please speak slowly
dashi hanbeon malsseumhae juseyo? - Could you say that once again?
hangungmal jal motaeyo - I can't speak Korean very well
hangungmal jeonhyeo motaeyo - I can't speak Korean at all

I have selected the folowing phrases especially for Becky's use:
po tong mani anmashoyo - I don't usually drink much
chongmal tagindeyo - This is hitting the spot
chochi wihangot katayo - I'm feeling drunk
tohalgot katayo - I think I'm going to throw up

And, of course, the most important phrase any traveler can know:
hwajangshiri odiyeyo? - Where is the bathroom?


  1. Hope I never have to use "tohalgot katayo"...

  2. I hope so too... but it could come in handy. ;)