Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!

Korean Words You Should Know While Teaching in Korea

Posted on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 @ 11:05 AM

One of my biggest regrets when coming to Korea was that I didn’t begin to learn the language until my second year of teaching. If I had learned the language, I firmly believe that my first year here would have been even more amazing than what it was.  While knowing Korean isn't required to teach for ChungDahm, you will find it is very beneficial to at least of have a general understanding of the language for things like using public transportation, reading a menu and understanding your students, especially if they are younger.  Learning the Korean alphabet (Hangeul) only takes a few hours as King Sejong, the writer of Hangeul, made it so that that each letter represents movements made with the mouth and tongue.  Below I have provided a list of common words that you should know when dealing with Korean students as well as Korean staff members during your time teaching in Korea.


teaching in Korea


School Supplies:

  1. Pencil - 연필 (yeon-pil)
  2. Eraser - 지우개 (ji-oo-gae)
  3. Mechanical Pencil - 샤프 펜슬 (shya-pu-yeon-pil)
  4. Lead (for Mechanical Pencil) - 샤프 (shya-pu)
  5. Paper - 종이 (jong-ee)
  6. Charger (for phones or tablets) - 충전기 (chung-jeon-gi)
  7. Scantron = OMR Card (you will use these for level-up tests)

 teaching in Korea

For the most part, these are the most common school supplies students will ask for while they are in your classroom. Also, as a friendly reminder, even though this doesn't have to do with Korean phrases or words you should know, when writing a student’s name you should not write it in red as it is viewed as death/bad luck. Younger students do get offended if they see their name in red.

I really do believe that the majority of our students mean to do well and are generally good kids. However, there are always the exceptions and many of these kids are hitting puberty. The following words are common words that you will hear in the hallways and in the classroom.


Phrases/Words Students Say:

  1. Bathroom - 화장실 (hwa-jang-shil)
  2. Water - 물 (mool)
  3. Teacher - 선생 님(seon-saeng-nim)
  4. Older brother - boy to boy (형 hyung); girl to boy (오빠 o-ppa)
  5. Older sister - sister to sister (언니 un-nie); boy to girl (누나 nu-na)
  6. Younger brother/sister (동생 dong-saeng)
  7. How old are you? - 몇 살이세요 (myeot sal-ee-sey-yo)
  8. Do you have a boyfriend (girlfriend)? - 남자 (여자) 친구 있어요? (nam-ja/yeo-ja chin-gu iss-eo-yo?
  9. Awesome! (literally jackpot) - 대박 (dae-bak)
  10. It’s not fun - 노잼 (no-jaem)
  11. Can’t answer because one is stupid - 노잼 (no-dap)

*Number 4-6 are respectful ways students address each other even if they are not blood related.


Words that Are Deemed Inappropriate:

  1. Crazy (as in you are crazy or are you crazy?) - 미친 (mi-chin)
  2. Shut Up - 닥쳐 (dak-chyo)
  3. Pervert - 변태 (byun-tae)
  4. Suicide - 자살 (ja-sal)


As a reminder, many students have been exposed to Western culture. Do not be surprised if they start cursing in English. Remember to be firm in saying that this is not allowed and if it escalates, use your Korean staff as leverage.

The following words are typical words that the Korean staff will use on the attendance sheet to explain when students are away:


Absent Students:

  1. Vacation - 휴가 (hyu-ga)
  2. Personal Reason - 개인적인 이유 (gae-in-jok-in ee-yu)
  3. Sickness (literal meaning -it hurts) - 아파 (ah-ppa)

So these are the most common words that you will read or hear while in the classroom. Hopefully these words will help you manage your classroom better to make an overall better working environment. Good luck with your classes!

 Start Your Application!

Marc Gonzaleshas been living in Seoul working at the ChungDahm's Gangdong Branch for 6 years now. During those 6 years, he worked his way up from being a teacher and is now a faculty manager for that location. He majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas while working as a manager for a national bank. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking the numerous mountains around Seoul and biking along the massive Han River. To know more about him and his adventures living in Korea, follow Marc on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku.


Tags: student management, Students, English in Korea, Korean students, class management, learning management, school supplies

Chat with a Teacher!

Fill out this form and one of our current teachers will get in touch with you via email for a chat about teaching English abroad!

Follow Aclipse:

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all