Korean Vacation Part 2: Gangnam!

여행: vacation
대충대충: halfheartedly
강: river
남(쪽): south
하천, 도랑: stream, creek
북쪽: north
동쪽: east
서쪽: west

군중: a crowd
붐벼요: It’s crowded.
빵: bread
빵집: bakery
학원: a private institute

교통 신호: a traffic signal
축구: soccer (football)
응원해요: I’m cheering (for my team)
친구: friend
친구랑 산책해요: I’m taking a walk with my friend.
약: medicine
약국: a pharmacy
식당: a restaurant
사주: astrology, horoscope
궁합: astrological compatibility

버스를 기다리고 있어요: I am / we are / they are waiting for the bus.
골목: an alley
좁은 골목: a narrow alley
금연: no smoking
위반하다: a transgression / to commit an offense
벌금: a fine
부과되다: to be levied

건축: architecture
건물: a building
독특해요: singular, interesting
폭포: a waterfall
~문고: bookstore (only used in proper names of bookstores)
서점: a bookstore
책방: a bookstore
책: a book

놀아요: I’m out (partying, drinking)
놀러 가요: I’m heading out (to drink, club etc)
담배: cigarette
관심사: interests

Categories: All Levels, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Korean Vacation Part 1!

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English in Korean on YouTube

Hi, everyone! I’m finally back!

I’m kicking off a new series called “Korean Vacation,” in which we’ll explore cool places in Korea and learn easy Korean phrases along the way. I’m going to be posting new videos every 10 days from now on, so check back often.

In the premiere episode, we check out a beautiful stream that runs through the heart of Seoul called, Cheonggyecheon (청계천).


Here’s the vocab we covered in this episode.

시위: demonstration
광장: a public square
폭포: waterfall
동전: coin
물: water
물 주세요: Please give me some water.
돌: stone
다리: bridge
다리 건넜어요: I crossed the bridge
친구: friend
산책하다: to take a walk
경찰: police
횡단보도: crosswalk
입구: entrance
출구: exit
화장실: restroom
계단: stairs
쓰레기: trash
쓰레기통: a trashcan
재활용: recycling
물놀이: playing in the water
쉬고 있어요: I’m relaxing
야생동물: wildlife
사진: picture
사진 봐요: I’m looking at the pictures
사진 찍다: to take a picture
벽: wall
학: crane
식물: plant
물고기: fish
풀: grass
나무: tree
하천, 개울, 도랑: brook, creek, stream
일석이조: Killing two birds with one stone
사물놀이: a kind of traditional Korean music performed with four percussion instruments


Categories: All Levels, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

한국어 관용어 사전!


제가 2010년부터 작업해온 ‘한국어 관용어 사전’이 드디어 서점에 나왔어요! 하지만 제가 가본 모든 서점에는 거의 숨겨놓은 것처럼 안 보이는 데 진열되어 있었어요 ㅎㅎ. 원래 한국어 배우는 외국인을 위해서 쓴 것이지만 한국 속담이나 관용 표현들을 영어로 어떻게 말하는지 궁금해하는 한국인한테도 많은 도움이 될 것 같아요.

This is the “Dictionary of Korean Idioms” that I’ve been working on since 2010. I hope it becomes an invaluable resource for students of Korean the world over.

Categories: On Korean | 2 Comments

10 Very Easy Korean Verbs

This set of Korean verbs is for the very elementary learners out there. If you’re taking basic Korean, this could serve as a useful review. If you’re teaching yourself online, these are probably some of the most widely used, most important verbs in Korean.

If you’re encountering these words for the first time, you’ll probably be curious about how to make phrases out of them. I’ve included a set of very rudimentary sentences here.

The following sentences are all in the 어/아요 form. The cool thing about that is that they all do double duty as imperative and a declarative statements. The provided translations are in the declarative form, but bear in mind that they could also be employed as commands as well. Most of the sentences below can even be used to mean “Let’s ____ .” For example, the first sentence could be read, “I’m studying Korean,” “Let’s study Korean,” or “Study Korean!.”

한국어를 공부해요.
I’m studying Korean.

친구를 만나요.
I’m meeting a friend.

동생한테 전화해요.
I’m calling my younger brother (or sister).

버스를 타요.
I’m taking the bus.

영화를 봐요.
I’m watching a movie.

뭔가 먹어요.
I’m eating (something).

책을 사요.
I’m buying a book.

한국어로 말해요.
I’m speaking Korean.

글을 써요.
I’m writing.

여기 앉아요.
I’m taking a seat here.

Categories: Level 1 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Korean Champ Podcast now on iTunes!

I finally got around to submitting our Korean Champ podcast to iTunes.  Now iTunes users can access the broadcast from any iOS device without visiting the site directly.  Downloading the podcast to your iPhone has the added feature of providing the written materials on screen.  When you’re listening to the show, just tap the screen to see the lesson from the site.  At the outset, I plan to provide content that appeals to a broad range of learners and later shift the focus to more difficult lessons.

Here is a link to the show’s iTunes page.

Categories: All Levels | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome to Korean Champ!

There are a lot of sites out there that teach elementary Korean. There is also an abundance of free basic Korean classes around Seoul. But what happens when you’ve finished the highest level that your hakwon offers? What is one to do when you’ve gone as far as you can in the Korean-language educational system?

Chances are that once you’ve gotten to that point, you’ve just realized how much further you have to go. You’ve climbed atop the highest lily pad in your pond only to see the vastness of Korean unfurl before you like an ocean. What do you do now?

You can head over to Yonsei, “the Mecca of Korean-language education” (ahem), to take Level 7, if they have enough students to open it that semester. But what to do when you’re done with that?

This is exactly the dilemma I faced: After finishing Level 6 way back in 2005, I was overflowing with zeal to continue my language studies but advanced Korean is almost impossible to find.

The truth is, you may feel that you are pretty slick if you’ve persevered all the way through Level 6 in your Korean class, but your Korean vocabulary is probably still more limited than the English vocabulary of any Korean you’ll come across.

In other words: Level 6 is the beginning of your Korean education — not the end. But after Level 6, you are on your own. And that can be very discouraging.

Koreans hoping to study advanced English have an almost unlimited variety of fun and innovative methods for studying English: signing up for the American sitcoms class at the local hakwon, attending debate classes, studying advanced essay-writing. But what do we have? Tackling the next dry-as-a-wafer Korean text from the 1970s on our own?

I made this site to share study methods and free Korean-language study materials. I hope it is informative and fun for all. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Good Luck!


Categories: All Levels, On Korean | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Korean to the Nth Degree!

If you’ve been pounding away at Korean for more than for few months now, you’re probably already familiar with the Korean suffix “도.” It is equivalent to “degree” in English and is attached to the end of a number to express the temperature, as in “38도 (38 degrees)” etc. It is also the word used to describe the degrees of an angle, so “180도 달라졌어요,” just as in English, means that something has changed completely, or by 180 degrees.

When this word is used in its broader sense, however, as in, “You didn’t have to take it to that degree” etc., the Chinese character 도 (度) combines with 정 (程) to create the word, 정도. This is the Korean word for “level,” “degree” or “extent.” Bear in mind, though, that this is not the “level” from “I’m in Level 3,” but rather the “level” from “I never imagined you would take it to that level” etc.

It’s a good rule of thumb that whenever you see a word that ends with “도,” you can assume that it has something to do with degrees or levels. A similarly used word is “급 (級),”  but let’s save that for another lesson.

Let’s take a look at some examples that make use of the word, “정도.”

나는 그 사람이 그 정도로 한국말을 잘할 줄 몰랐다.

I never realized he spoke Korean that well.

그 정도는 너무 지나친 것 아니야?

That’s really taking it too far.

우리 사이에서 적어도 그 정도는 해줘야 한다고 생각하지 않아?

At this point in our relationship, don’t you think you owe me at least that much.

These are some of the most commonly used words that contain the “do” suffix for “level”:

빈도: frequency
이 지역은 교통사고 발생 빈도가 높은 곳이다.

고도: elevation
고도가 높은 산에 오를 때는 정상에서 기온이 갑자기 떨어질 수 있으므로 주의해야 한다.

각도: angle
어떤 각도에서 찍느냐에 따라 얼굴이 달라 보인다.

밀도: density
서울은 인구 밀도가 매우 높은 도시이다.

인지도: level of recognition
제품의 인지도를 높이기 위해서는 TV 광고가 필수적이다.

온도: temperature
에너지 절약을 위해 겨울철 실내 난방 온도를 20℃ 이하로 제한해야 한다.

강도: strength
지난 달부터 체력을 기르기 위해 강도 높은 운동을 시작했다.

난이도: level of difficulty
이번 시험에서는 언어 영역의 난이도가 높았다.

해상도: resolution (of a screen etc.)
이번에 출시한 스마트폰은 뛰어난 해상도를 자랑한다.

과도하다: excessive, to much (adj.)
그는 많은 유산을 받았지만 과도한 지출로 결국 파산하고 말았다.

Categories: Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Korean Hat Slang!

If you’re living in Korea, you’ve probably noticed the hats with clever bits of Korean written on them that started showing up in the major party districts about two years ago.  Since it’s never a good idea to wear a hat emblazoned with a phrase you can’t understand, I thought I’d take this opportunity to translate the witticisms found on this headwear.  All of the phrases here are in common usage and important to know.Row 1

  • 달인: Master (as in “master of a certain field” etc.  Similar to hats that say, “Boss” or “Ace” etc.)
  • 내일 입대: I enlist tomorrow (Means — jokingly — that the wearer is joining the army tomorrow.)
  • 오늘 생일: Today’s my birthday (This would probably be written, “Birthday Boy,” on similar hats in the US)
  • 곧미남: Future hottie.  Lit. “Soon-to-be beautiful man.”  This phrase is likely a play on the phrase in row 3, “꽃미남,” which is similar to “pretty boy.”
  • 싸가지: Bitch or jerk, depending on the gender of the wearer.


Row 2

  • 서민: Common folk (“Everyday guy” would probably also work.)
  • 품절남: A taken man (Lit. “sold-out man.”  Read: a guy that’s married or in a serious relationship.  Similar to “I’m called for.” etc.)
  • 품절녀: A taken woman
  • 꽃미녀: Beauty (Lit. a flower-like beauty)
  • 지존: Tops (as in the best or greatest)


Row 3

  • 숫총각: Virgin
  • 꽃미남: Pretty boy (Lit. flower-like male beauty)


Categories: All Levels, Korean Slang!, Level 5, Level 6 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m an Extrovert!

KChamp Podcast 11: ‘I’m an Extrovert!’ in Korean

When describing oneself in English, the traditional fallback terms are “extrovert” and “introvert” or their cousins, “sociable” and “antisocial.” Today we are going to take a look at how you can express those ideas in Korean.

Extrovert: 외향적인 사람
Extroverted: 외향적


  • A: 새 직원을 뽑는다고 들었어요. 어떤 사람을 구하세요?
  • B: 사람을 많이 상대하는 일이니까 외향적인 사람이면 좋겠어요.

I would seem like the antonym of “외향적” would be “내향적,” but alas, the much more commonly used word is “내성적.”
“내향적” is however used in more clinical contexts.

Introvert: 내성적인 사람
Introverted: 내성적

Personality: 성격

  • A: 이수진 씨는 마음에 드는 사람에게 먼저 다가가는 편이에요?
  • B: 제가 좀 내성적인 성격이어서 다른 사람에게 먼저 적극적으로 다가가지 못하는 편이에요.

Another good word to know is “사교적” or “sociable.”

It’s the perfect way to describe a person who makes friends easily and is a polished social butterfly.


  • A: 주희가 전학한 학교에서 친구들하고 잘 지낼 수 있을까요?
  • B: 걱정 말아요. 주희는 사교적인 성격이니까 금방 잘 적응할 거예요.

And last but not least is the category for the rest of us, “antisocial.”

This too, if translated directly would be “반사회적,” but that is used to describe actual political movements and policies. The word you need here is “비사교적.”


  • A: 민수 씨는 처음 보는 사람하고도 참 잘 어울리는 것 같아요.
  • B: 제가 원래는 비사교적인 성격이었는데 직장에 다니면서 성격이 많이 바뀌었어요.
Categories: All Levels, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Saying “It Depends” in Korean

If you’ve been working at Korean for more than a few weeks, I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to find an appropriate translation for a particular word or phrase. Sometimes it’s a Korean phrase that no one seems to be able to translate into English for you, and sometimes it’s an English phrase that you can’t seem to express in Korean. There are many phrases that people seem keen to pronounce “untranslatable” for whatever reason.

Maybe it’s because I’m a translator by trade, but my take is that everything can be translated. People tend to think the same thoughts the world over, and given enough time, you can always find the perfect translation for any verbal expression. It’s just that sometimes it takes a really, really long time to come up with the right word. In a few instances, I’ve spent more than a year trying to find the perfect analogue to some idiom or proverb. But in the end, there always is an answer.

Anyhow, I thought I’d start a series on phrases that often get the “Untranslatable!” treatment. Today’s phrase is “It depends on ____ .” I asked my Korean friends how to express this for years and never got a satisfactory answer until I finally just figured it out myself.

Today we’ll be taking a look at a few ways of saying “It depends” in Korean.


  • __에 달려 있어요.

This phrase is literally translated as, “It hangs on ___ ,” but the usage is almost identical to “It depends on ___ .”

A: 한국말을 잘 하려면 얼마나 공부해야 돼요?

B: 그건 정확히 말하기 어려워요. 얼마나 노력하느냐에 달려 있으니까요.

A: 내일 면접 시험에서 합격하면 거기서 일할 거야?

B: 글쎄. 아직 잘 모르겠어. 월급을 얼마나 주느냐에 달려 있어.


  • __ 나름이에요

This is probably what you’ll find when you look up “depend” in the English-Korean dictionary, but this phrase is rarely used. It was my solution to the “depends on” dilemma for a few years, and people always seemed to understand, but I never saw a Korean use that phrase in all that time.

A: 한국 사람은 다 노래방에 가는 걸 좋아하는 줄 알았는데 지원 씨는 별로 안 좋아하나 봐요.

B: 성격 나름이죠. 저는 노래방보다는 조용한 데서 대화하는 게 더 좋아요.

A: 아니, 저게 누구야? 홍민경 씨 저렇게 입으니까 정말 못 알아볼 정도네.

B: 그러게 말이에요. 역시 여자는 꾸미기 나름인가 봐요.


  • __에 따라 달라요

This phrase literally means “It differs commensurately to ___ ,” but is used very similarly to “It depends on ___ .” Just put the factor that things depends in in the first blank and you’ll be all set.

A: 지난번에 왔을 때는 김치볶음밥이 있었는데 오늘은 없어요?

B: 네, 점심 메뉴는 요일에 따라 달라요. 오늘 점심 메뉴는 생선찌개예요.

A: 이 휴대폰을 쓰면 한 달에 요금이 얼마나 나와요?

B: 어떤 요금제를 사용하느냐에 따라 달라요.


  • It depends

When it comes to the stand-alone phrase, “It depends,” your best bet is probably “그때 그때 달라요.” The phrase’s meaning is slightly different, but it plays almost exactly the same role as “It depends” in English.

For a bonus phrase, let’s take a look at “(누구)의 마음이다.” This phrase is probably closest to “It’s up to (someone)” or “It’s (someone’s) decision.”



Categories: All Levels, Level 4, Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Korean Study Tip: Comic Books

Breaker and Bakuman


If you’re looking to incorporate Korean study into your daily pop culture consumption routine but have a hard time stomaching Korean soap operas, comic books might just be the answer. Because the story is told through dialogue, comics provide the perfect opportunity to observe Korean phrases in action. Also, the written medium always you to see precisely what is being said — something that is not possible when studying by watching Korean TV.

One caveat though: comic books are not as easy as you might expect. Perhaps because of its image as a favorite pastime of the youth, comic-book reading seems like a very accessible, elementary-level foray into the realm of the written word. You will soon realize, however, that Korean comic books are no joke indeed. One can find all manner of phrases in the pages of a comic book: everything from Chinese-derived proverbs to street Korean. The good thing about comics though, is that the amount of dialogue per page is limited. That means that you can still indulge in a satisfying page turn every few minutes. Literature or newspaper articles on the other hand, can easily turn into a super slog-fest that sees you turning a page every half hour or even worse, depending on the content.

My recommendation with reading-comprehension work in general would be to try to adhere to a rule of only looking up one word every two pages. If you let yourself run wild with the dictionary, you’ll end up looking up so many words per page that you never make it through a book and you’ll soon lose interest. The important thing with any study method is continuing on, even when the going gets tough. Do yourself a favor and keep your feet to the fire. You can always come back and re-read the book in a few months anyway.

I always jot down every new word or phrase I come across. In the beginning stages of Korean, however, every phrase I encountered was new to me. I often got bogged down trying to make a record of every verbal curiosity. To arrest your slip into the morass of insatiable vocabulary avarice, triage your note-taking. Impose limits on how much you take down. The-more-the-better logic doesn’t pan out when you’re drowning in a vocabulary flood of your own making. You can only memorize a max of 20 or so new words per day, so make ‘em count. Just highlight the words you don’t know, and come back for them later.

Here are a few comic books I recommend:

The story of two high-schoolers trying to make it as professional comic book writers.

A homegrown martial-arts series.

미스터 초밥왕
The story of a boy on a quest to become Japan’s greatest sushi chef.


Categories: All Levels, On Korean | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

It’s useless!

-어/아 보았자(봤자): Even if you _____ it’s not going to _____ / It’s no use to ____

This is the perfect pattern to use when you want to tell someone that the suggested course of action is unlikely to yield any positive results and they’d be better off not doing it at all. It suggests that a certain action would be in vain.

어떤 행동을 시도해본다는 뜻을 지닌 ‘어/아 보다’에 ‘-자’가 결합된 형태입니다. 앞에 나오는 어떤 행동을 해본다고 해도 결과가 기대한 대로 나오지 않을 거라는 의미를 나타냅니다.

Dialogue 1

  • A: 여보, 경수가 요즘 숙제도 안 하고 매일 비디오 게임만 해요.
  • B: 뭐라고 좀 혼내요.
  • A: 내가 말해 봤자 소용도 없어요. 당신이 한마디 해줘요.
  • A: Sweetie, Gyeongsu hasn’t been doing his homework recently and just plays video games all the time.
  • B: Well, you’d better give him a talking-to.
  • A: Me saying something won’t make any difference. Please just talk to him a bit.
Dialogue 2
  • A: 진수가 오늘 모임에는 나온다고 했는데 왜 여태 안 오지? 전화도 안 받고.
  • B: 기다려봤자 안 올 거예요. 온다고 하고 안 나온 게 어디 한두 번이에요?
  • A: Jinsu said he would be at the meeting today. Why isn’t he here yet? And he’s not answering the phone either.
  • B: Waiting is no use. He’s not going to show up. It’s not like this is the first time he’s pulled this.
Dialogue 3
  • A: 김대리가 자꾸 뒤에서 내 험담을 하고 다니는 것 같아. 아무래도 가만히 두면 안 되겠어. 오늘은 좀 따져 봐야지.
  • B: 그냥 둬. 그 사람 상대해 봤자 자네만 손해야. 또 어떤 말을 꾸며댈지 몰라.
  • A: I think Mr. Kim is talking trash about me behind my back. I don’t think I can just let this one slide. Today’s the day for us to have a little talk.
  • B: Just leave it alone. You stand nothing to gain from dealing with that guy. And you never know what other ridiculous stories he might end up telling about you.
Categories: Level 5, Level 6, Undisputed Champion! | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment