Easy and Useful Korean Phrases
Despite being quite a K-drama fanatic, I can barely manage an an-nyeong ha-se-yo (안녕하세요 Hello) and jamkkanman (??? Hold on a minute). I also know the phrase ppalli ga (?? ? Faster, go) but lets be real, when will I ever use it to ask for lifesaving medicine like Song Hwa from Hospital Playlist?
With my not-so-useful grasp of the language, I did not expect to converse fluently in Korean, but little did I know that even ordering food was a struggle. Thankfully, after 8 days touring the best local food joints in Jeollanam-do, I managed to pick up 10 essential phrases for any non-Korean speaker to order, dine and eat well in Korea.
1. Excuse me / Over here! (Yeogiyo)
In Hangeul: 여기요 | How it sounds: Yeo-Gi-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Whether youre in a crowded Korean bar or a peaceful mom-and-pop shop, yeogiyo is a safe option to get the attention of a waiter or the cute oppa in the corner. Pair this with a gentle or unhinged hand wave (depending on how hungry you are), and youre all set to say the next phrase.
??????, In the past, Geum Jandi Speciality Barley Rice Set Course
2. May I have the menu, please? (Menyu juseyo)
In Hangeul: ?? ??? | How it sounds: Meh-New Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Honestly, most Korean eateries either have their signature dishes written on their walls or a secret telepathic menu that local customers somehow get. So, be warned asking politely for the menu works, but is a key giveaway that youre not from the area. But hey, practise this and they might just be impressed. Who knows what doors that would open for your adventure!
???????, Gapado Grilled Fish
3. I would like to order (Jumunhalgeyo)
In Hangeul: ????? | How it sounds: Choo-Moon Hal-Geh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Now that you have the menu, hopefully, there are pictures to guide your dining experience! Or you could always use Papagos image-to-text translator. When youre ready, use the trusty yeogiyo! to get you the attention of someone working, followed by this simple phrase to cover your grumbling tummy.
?????, Mokpo Haeoreum Hanjeongsik Korean Full Course Meal
4. Give me this, please (Igeo juseyo)
In Hangeul: ?? ??? | How it sounds: Ee-Gaw Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
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From here, the easiest way to navigate ordering is to point to the dish you want and say igeo juseyo and ha-na (one) with tu-geh (two), seh-geh (three) or neh-geh (four). Or, just use your fingers you cant go wrong there.
5. Thank you for the food / I will enjoy this food (Jal Meokkessumnida)
In Hangeul: ? ????? | How it sounds: Chal-Mok-Ke-Sem-Ni-Da | Practice pronouncing here
Congratulations, the most intimidating part is over. After crossing your fingers, hoping the waiter heard you right, he returns with your dish and its exactly what you wanted! Heres where you can express your gratitude and relief by saying jal meokkessumnida. Its very similar to jiak, makan, makan and itadakimasu.
Gangjin FUSO Farmstay
6. Its delicious! (Mas-Iss-Eoyo)
In Hangeul: ???? | How it sounds: Ma-Shi-So-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
I cannot count the number of times Ive said this throughout of our trip to the birthplace of Korean food across the Jeollanam-do region. It is undoubtedly my most-used phrase of the trip. Saying mas-iss-eoyo loud and proud in any restaurant might help get you extra-large portions of refill, which brings us to the next handy phrase.
P.S. Some extra phrases. Say the meal is so good, you need more words to express how shiok it is:
I like it! (Joh-Ayo)
In Hangeul: ??? | How it sounds: Cho-Ai-A-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Thats awesome / Wow! (Daebak)
In Hangeul: ?? | How it sounds: De-A-Bak | Practice pronouncing here
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7. More, please! (Deo Juseyo)
In Hangeul: ? ??? | How it sounds: Taw-Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
This may be my favourite phrase and can be used in almost any context more ban chan, more mul (water), more soju. Most restaurants do refill the ban chan and mul or cha (tea) for free and all you need to say is ban chan deo juseyo! or replace ban chan with anything you want more of.
Luxury Abalone Palace Abalone Porridge (Hansang)
8. Thank you for the food / I had a great meal! (Jal Meogeotseumnida)
In Hangeul: ? ????? | How it sounds: Chal-Mo-Got-Sem-Ni-Da | Practice pronouncing here
Now that youve had your fill, you can thank the waiters / owners for the wonderful meal. Its the extra polite way to show that you were fed well and you enjoyed eating, and also a good segue into the next phrase.
Nanulteo Acorn Restaurant
9. May I get the bill, please? (Gyesanseo Juseyo)
In Hangeul: ??? ??? | How it sounds: Keh-San-Soh Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
For most Korean restaurants, payment is made at the counters. Stretch your legs and gather your courage for the last burst of Korean. Throw in some terms of endearment such as ee-mo (auntie; for middle-aged women), sanchon (uncle; for middle-aged man) and sa-jang-nim (boss; for restaurant owners). Ee-mo, gyesanseo juseyo! No discount guaranteed, but it might earn you some extra brownie points.
10. This one youll hear and heres how to respond
Youve brought the best Korean to dinner and all is going so well until the ee-mo at the counter goes Hyeongeum-yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo? (????? ??????) or Yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo? (??? ?????).
Gwaenchanh-a! Its okay, I know its hard to but dont panic. Heres what they mean:
Do you need a tax refund receipt? (Hyeongeum-yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?)
In Hangeul: ????? ?????? | How it sounds: He-Yum-Goon-Yong-Su-Chim Pi-Lu-Ah-Seh-Yo | Hear it here
The answer to this should be aniyo (no). If you refer to Google Translate, it actually translates to cash receipt. Its similar to a tax refund for locals so if youre reading this article, Im guessing thats not you.
Do you need a receipt? (Yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?)
In Hangeul: ??? ?????? | How it sounds: Yong-Su-Chim Pi-Lu-Ah-Seh-Yo | Hear it here
The answer to this should be ye (yes) if you need a receipt.
Bonus: The difference in goodbyes whos staying and whos going
Goodbye Im going (Annyeonghee Geseyo)
In Hangeul: ??? ??? | How it sounds: An-Nyeong-Hi-Kye-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Goodbye Im staying while youre going (Annyeonghi Gaseyo)
In Hangeul: ??? ??? | How it sounds: An-Nyeong-Hi-Kah-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here
Level up your Korean game by knowing the difference between these two and any ee-mo will be impressed! Weve partnered with the cool kids at middleclass.sg to share some other important phrases youll need to survive in Korea. They also have great articles on the must-trys and must-visits in Korea.
Essential Korean Phrases For Food
Whether youve been to Korea a million times or if its your first trip over, these 10 phrases are basics to not just surviving, but winning hearts in Korean restaurants. Similar to how were appreciative when travellers learn a little bit of Singlish, you can see Koreans light up when you try your best at speaking the language. Though barely scratching the surface with these phrases, you might just earn yourself another round of ban chan as seobiseu.
This article is brought to you by Korean Tourism Organisation.
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