Learning Korean for your travel #1.Basic

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Learning Korean for your travel #1.Basic

Beautiful Hangeul, language of my homeland

.Learning Korean for your travel #1.Basic

Beautiful Hangeul, language of my homeland


Many of us travellers have learned foreign language for travel. If you learned and tried to say it then you would know even one word ‘hello’ in their language can bring a whole lot different outcome.

Few weeks ago I saw one website graded many languages by Difficulty, Popularity and Transparency. Guess what? Korean gets most difficult and least popular. They said “Very interesting language and a great country but one of the most difficult languages to speak fluently.”

You can check it from this website;

Well, everyone has differenct perspective. Korean is hard mainly because not many people are using it. Many of my friends who studied Korean just little bit always say Korean characters are the easiest among foreign languages. Well, like I said, everyone has different perspective.

Besides all that, many of travellers come to Korea for many reasons. Now I present you simple Korean just for you! Who traveling or preparing travel to Korea.

Let’s get to the point, shall we?

(I used English-Korean for translate. )

King Sejong, Founder of Hangeul


It called ‘Han-guel’. King Se-jong created it in Choson dynasty. He is the king whos statue is in Gwanghwamun square.

Korean characters are one of the most scientific languages of all. King Sejong made characters modeled after the shape of mouth and tongue when you pronounce it. This unique design is the reason why Korean is the hardest and easiest language to learn.


*Significantly different pronounciation

– F or P : Nothing sounds like ‘f’ in Korean. Both sounds like more similar to P

– V or B : both pronounce as B

– R or L : Korean doesn’t have both. Little more similar to L

*Formal and friendly expression

We are influenced by the Conflucian culture, so that effects in language also. Many of formal expressions are a significant character of Korean. I use soft-formal expresstion here.

1. The basic – Greetings

We have very formal and friendly expressions to stranger, elderly or friends.

Formal Friendly
Hello An nyung ha sea yo An nyung
Thank you Gam sa hap ni da Go ma war
Nice to meet you Man na sea ban gap seop ni da Man na sea ban ga war
I’m sorry Mi an hap ni da Mi an hae yo / Mi an hae
Bon appetit

(Compliment the shef)Jal muk get sep ni da ByeAn nyung hi gae se yoAn hyung

2. Special occasion


Happy New Year! Sae hae bok mani bodu sea yo
Happy birthday! Sang il chook ha hap ni da

3. Phrases  (U as [ʌ])



Extra Direction

I’m sorry Mi an hae yo / Mi an hae
Cheers! (for drinks) Gun bae!
“Make it less spicy” (food) An map gae
I don’t know Mol la yo
Excuse me Si lae hap ni da

(simpler) Ju gi yo I’m from ****** e se what u yoAmerica : Mi guk


England : Young guk

Germany : Dok il

Japan : Il bon.

China : Jung guk

Austrailia : Ho ju

*Same as English : Finland, Malaysia, France, Netherland, Singapore, Hong kong, Russia, Canada, New Zealand

# You can add ‘saram’ after your country, for example “Mi guk saram”, that means “I’m American”

If you are fron Finland, “Finland saram”. Don’t say “Finish” 🙂   *Buying something  How much?Ul mae yo? [ʌl mae yo] Can you do a little chipper?Ggak a ju se yoYou can use it in flee market or traditional market. When you buy clothes on the street, they usually but a price little if you ask.So expensive!Numu bi ssa yoAlso, use it for bargain.Give me ***, please*** Ju sae yoRestaurant, store, etc.

Can use this expression pretty much anywhere.

.BeerMaek ju

.“Maek ju Ju sae yo!” (Beer, please)*Location  Where am I?Ji gum udieyo? How can I get there?U tucke ga yo? Where is *** ?*** Udie it seo yo?

(Simpler) Udie?Also can use it in Taxi and Bus.

Use this mixing with appropriate amount of finger pointing and facial expression is more effective.   Yes / NoNe / Ani yo

4. Simple words



Hospital Byung won
Pharmacy Yak guk
Hotel Hotel
Bus Bus
Taxi Taxi
Bus station Bus jung gu jang
Cash Hyeon gem
Water Mul
Restaurant Sik dang
Pork Duegi gogi
Beef So gogi
Hot / cold (weather) dup da / chup da

(food) dde gup da / cha gap daHot (spicy)Map da / Mae war yo“Make it less spicy”An map gae  WhereUdiHowUdutkeWhenUn jaeWhatMu ut  INaYouNu [nʌ]goGa daneedPil yo ha daFavorBu tak  1, 2, 3, 4(number) il, e, sam, sa

(Count) hana, dul, set, net

This is right amount I want to show biginners. Next time, I will post Learning Korean with actual Korean character.

My personal experience, when I was traveling Taiwan during Chinese New Year. I didn’t and still don’t know Chinese but I picked up some phrases like thank you and Excuse me. Still Chinese is not like any language I know so very hard to learn in few days. But near Chinese New Year, I learn “happy new year” in Chinese from a crew worked at the hostel. And first I tried to a clerk at Seven eleven, I was not sure I say it right, but right after I say “Happy new year” in chinese, she smiled really big and said it back to me. So I said it to everyone I met on the road or in a shop. They were just very happy!

It was almost just simply right thing to do. Learn local language while you were there. I realize everytime I go somewhere, and this memory in Taipei realizes me again.

Happy journey in amazing Korea!

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .


  1. ciki says:

    excellent to know a new language babe, but if i come to visit, i prefer to DRAG u along like my personal guide!! (and friend ! haha)

  2. Lilian says:

    Hey Juno! I can finally read the post now. Dunno what went wrong earlier. Great tips. Will keep it in mind =)

  3. sunny says:

    Thanks for your good post. When I visit foreign country everytime, I study 2 words of “hello” and “thank you” at least. If I say that in that country, the person of there will give me a smile! It’s as same as your experience of “Happy new year” in Taipei. It’s good way to first contact to the foreigners at their home town. Anyway I will refer here when I visit Korea, thanks!

    • Juno says:


      Thanks Sunny. 🙂 Sometimes Hello and thank you are the miminum amount and neccessary! 🙂 Visit this article again before you come Korea someday! 🙂


  4. cna training says:

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  5. JH says:

    Thanks for the basic conversational Korean language !

    Hope to use it when I can plan a trip there ! Would love to visit there in autumn 🙂

    Looking fwd to read more of yr travel writing !


  6. Camber says:

    So many interesting things here. I LOVE studying languages. The most difficult thing for me in Cantonese are the nine tones. Is Korean a tonal language?
    Also, I’m reading a book by a Korean-American author, Annie Choi. She wrote a whole chapter about language. Fascinating stuff!
    Take care–see you in Korea someday, yeah? I like to eat Map Da food!! 🙂

    • Juno says:


      Thanks Camber! I’ve heard you are quite a master of learning languages! 🙂 I will be very suprised you speak Korean really well after spending 2 days here. Korean is not quite tonal language. What is title of the book? It will be very interesting to me. I love study language too. Hope to see you here soon Camber! That would be so nice 🙂 or see you in Hongkong! I might visit HK late May. Hold your breath! See you soon


  7. Camber says:

    Ooh…late May in HK? I have time off from May 20-24 and I’m thinking I’d like to travel somewhere close—Philippines or Vietnam maybe. Join me? 🙂 Or come to HK after that, yeah?
    The name of the book is “Happy Birthday or Whatever” by Annie Choi
    You might like it!

    • Juno says:

      I work at really tight-ass company so i just have 3 days off. May 21-23. just in your time off period! haha well, we’ll talk before that for sure. 🙂


  8. 에이미 says:

    Great post! I lived in Korea for 1.5 years and found Korean really difficult to learn – I even went to classes twice a week! Normally I find languages quite easy, but Korean is much harder to speak.
    You’re right though, learning to read and write Korean is very easy, especially compared to Japanese or Chinese!
    I download Korean TV shows to try and help me learn the language. IRIS and 꽃 보다 남자 are my favorites!

    I love Korea and it’s people… I really miss it ㅠ.ㅠ

    • Juno says:


      Annyoung Amy! 🙂 I’m so glad you liked here! Korea is beautiful, isnt it? where did you stay?
      Twice a week. what an effort. you have just right mind 🙂
      I don’t really watch Korean dramas but that really helps you right? IRIS is so famous here to. Nice to meet you fellow-Korean lover! 🙂 Thanks Amy! 고마워요!


  9. Mary says:

    I’m really surprised to hear that they rated Korean as the most difficult language to learn. I lived in South Korea for two years (and absolutely LOVED it) and while I did find the language difficult to learn (mostly because I didn’t study enough), I thought most of the language was logical and easy to pick up.

    Great post. I miss Korea so much.

    • Juno says:


      So nice to hear that you like Korea too Mary! MY language is definately hard but it’s just matter of time like every other language i think. and it’s so beautiful 🙂 Where did you live? 2 years. that’s enough time to know Korea, hu? 🙂 Thanks for the great words Mary.


  10. Great post! Always looking for quick and easy ways to improve my “survival” Korean.

  11. LLydia says:

    will be going to korea this june. great post. can’t wait to use those simple korean words there. Gam sa hap ni da 🙂

    • Juno says:


      Comming to Korea? what’s the occasion? 🙂 and you are welcome. you can see Korean is easy to learn once you found some rules there. hope you find interesting places in my blog! 🙂 Thanks!


  12. Excellent Guide! But will probably prefer to take you along as a guide. Wonder what you call India in Korean, probably doesn’t have a word!

    • Juno says:


      Haha you said just like my friend Mei!! 🙂 Yes Korean can be a bit hard. And Yes Amy is right. India is just we call ‘Indo’. 🙂 Sure we do have! India is close!! 🙂

  13. Amy says:

    Nishant, India is ‘Indo’ in Korean (인도)
    Most countries names in Korean are similar to their names in English with a few exceptions (anyone help if you know more of these!);
    Australia – Ho-ju
    America – Miguk
    China – Chung-guk
    England – Yeong-guk
    Germany -Dok-il
    Japan- Il-bon

  14. William - @williamlara08 says:

    Great! I’d like to learn new languages … And Korea is one!
    Hope to use it when I can plan a trip there. Would love to visit your country.
    Tks for the basic korean words!

  15. yu hea says:

    excellent i love it….

  16. Iron Man says:

    definitely an interesting read. i usually dont comment. signed Iron Man

  17. Tom says:

    Great phrases, Juno! I live here in Daegu and have used all of them, except 안 맵게 – I like my food spicy! Thanks for posting this 🙂

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