So you are backing your bags to South Korea and you are ready to take on the city of Seoul and all of South Korea.

But then, you realize. The official language in South Korea is Korean. But, you don’t really know how to speak Korean.

And if, in your case as in mine, you already landed in South Korea, you smacked in the face with the reality that Koreans speak Korean and not much English or whichever language spoken in your home country, which means you (yes you) have to learn at least some Korean words and phrases to survive in your home away from home.

I am help you. Really.

So, consider this a mini survival Korean crash course. There are various phrases that can help you blend into the daily lives of Koreans. If you can’t read Korean, no worries. The pronunciation of each Korean phrase is spelled out in English to assist you.


Introducing Yourself

Hello/Goodbye – 안녕하세요 – An-nyeong-ha-se-yo: It’s your hello and goodbye. Although it is really long to pronounce, with practice you’ll become proficient in saying it. You’ll make an impression on anyone you say this to because it is probably the most used word among family, friend, and strangers.

My name is (your name) – 내 이름은 ­­­­( your name) 입니다 – Nae ileum-eun ­­­­(your name) ibnida

I am (your nationality) – 나는 (your nationality)이다 – Naneun (your nationality) -ida

I am a student at (school) university – 나는 (school) 대학교 에서 학생입니다 – Na-neun (school) dae-hagg-yo e-seo hag-saeng-ib-nida

Nice to meet you – 반갑습니다 – Ban-gap-sum-ni-da: There are other courtesy phrases besides “hello” and “nice to meet you” that are beneficial. Here are a few more courtesy phrases and their usage.


Courtesy Phrases

Thank you – 감사합니다 – Kam-sa-ham-ni-da: I know I don’t need to tell you when to use this phrase however this phrase will be your go-to phrase in those moments when you get lost and someone helps you find your way or when some Korean is fascinated by you or when you are make a transaction. The list goes on.

Excuse me – 실례합니다 – Sil-lye-hab-nida: When you need someone or a group of people to clarify something or you just want them to move out of the way so you can catch the next train, this phrase will prevent you from looking obnoxious, ignorant, and indifferent.

Here – 여기요 – Yeo-gi-yo: This is commonly used to grab someone’s attention towards you. Whenever you need to grab the attention of a waiter or a merchant, using this phrase will have them coming your way.

Please (Please give) – 주세요 – Ju-se-yo: This is used for asking for something. For example, if you say “mul ju-seyo” you are saying “water please.”

I’m sorry – 죄송합니다/미안합니다 – Chway-seong-ham-ni-da/Mi-an-ham-ni-da: The former is used when apologizing for a minor offence while the latter is used when apologizing for a major offense.


Now that you know the phrases that will help you be on your best behavior, here are some phrases that should help you when you are dining, shopping, and traveling around South Korea.

Navigation and Questions

Right– 오른– O-reun

Left – 왼 – Wen

Straight – 직진 – Jik-jin

Where is the (noun)? – (noun)은 어디 – (noun)eun eodi

What is this? – 이 은 무엇인가 – I eun mu-e-os-inga

Who is this? – 누구세요 – Nu-gu-seyo

Why? – 왜 – Wae

When? – 언제 – Eonje

How much is it? – 얼마예요 – Ol-ma-ye-yo

Is there a/Do you have – 있어요 – Iss-seo-yo?

Is here –있어요— Iss-seo-yo

Is not here – 없다 – ob- seo-yo These are just a few of the key words. As you are aware, there are many resources that can help you with more information, especially google translate. You should be confident enough to navigate through South Korea with the knowledge of these basic phrases.





Article by Esther from the U.S.A.


  1. This is perfect! I’m a Korean language learner and this is a very handy “cheat sheet”. Thanks for putting it together.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: