Before I came to Korea to teach English for Chungdahm, a common question from my friends and family was always, “Have you learned any Korean yet?”
After some nervous laughter, I would respond with the same retort, “uhhh, I know how to say 'Kimchi'!”
Despite there being plenty of foreigners living in Korea and despite most of the signs being written in English as well as Hangul, it is best to learn a few basic phrases before you arrive.
When I first arrived to teach in Korea, I had an epiphany- I was functionally illiterate. This affected me the most when I would be sitting a restaurant picking randomly at a menu that I could not read (a lot of restaurants use pictures or have an English version if you ask for one). Thankfully, Korean is an extremely easy language to read. In fact, I learned how to read Hangul during the course of a lunch with a fellow teacher. Another teacher I know loves to brag how he learned to read Hangul while administering a test simply by reading Wikipedia. Either way, it shouldn’t take you more than a day of work and will really help you during your stay in Korea. As an added bonus, Korea becomes a lot more funny when you read an English word written in Hangul (Kanglish).
One of the many funny warning signs that I have found in Korea.
After learning Hangul, I would recommend that you learn a few everyday phrases. The most common ones that I tend to use are:
Hello, good morning, good evening - Annyong Haseyo (안녕하세요)
Yes- Ne (네)
No- Aniyo (아니요)
Thank you- Kamsahamnida (감사합니다)
Finally, I would recommend that you learn a few basic taxi cab phrases. While Korea has great public transportation system, taxi cabs are also frequently used. Here are a few basics to learn:
Straight- Chichin (직진)
Right- Oenjjok (왼쪽)
Want to learn more? Check out more Korean words and phrases!
Nash Brodsky grew up in Denver, Colorado and is currently teaching for CDI in Gwangju, Korea. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with degrees in Psychology and Music, he decided to embark on first year living abroad by taking on the challenges of teaching in a foreign country. With the excitement of teaching children and the adventures of living in another country, Nash is enjoying every minute of what Korea has to offer. Follow Nash during his first year abroad!