Whose pyun are you on, anyway?

How’s everyone been?
This is my first new post in two years!
Gonna try a little harder from now on.

Stay tuned!


There are a few ways of expressing the idea of “direction” in Korean: 방향, 방면, 쪽 etc., but the focus of today’s class will be words and phrases derived from the Chinese character 편 (便), which is more akin to the word “side” in English.

This word is used idiomatically as well as in its more concrete sense. For example, as we might, in English, say that a certain building is located “on the other side of the street,” but we could just as easily entreat someone to “Please take my side on this,” so too can “편” be used for the concrete physical “side” or a thing and the more abstract “on my side” style of usage.

Without further ado, here is a list of must-know phrases stemming from this word:


Idiomatic Usage

1. Who’s side are you on, anyway?

도대체 누구 편이야? (“도대체” is a phrase intensifier akin to “what on earth” or “where in the world” etc., but in this case is more naturally translated to “anyway”)

2. I thought you were on my side.

네가 내 편인 줄 알았는데…

3. I’m always on your side.

난 항상 네 편이야! (This sentences functions with our without “이다” attached to the end.)

4. You know I’m always on your side, right?

나는 항상 네 편인 거 알지?

5. I’m always on Dad’s side!

나는 항상 아빠 편!


Standard Usage

1. The opposite side (of the road, lake, river etc.)
건너편, 맞은 편

2. It’s on the opposite side of the road.
길 건너편에 있다.

3. The coffee shop is just across from Shinchon Station.

그 커피숍은 신촌역 건너편에 있다.


The character “편” also frequently pops up in other commonly used words, such as “편애하다 (to favor a certain child or student, to practice favoritism),” “편식하다 (to be a picky eater or to eat a lopsided diet)” and “편 들다 (to take a side).” Here are some examples with those words.

1. 우리 선생님은 항상 걔를 편애하시는 것 같아.
Our teacher is always playing favorites. (Lit. Our teacher always seems to favor that kid.)

2. Favoritism has no place in the classroom!
학교에서 편애가 있어서는 안 된다.

3. I’m not a picky eater. I’ll eat anything!
나는 편식 안 하고 뭐든지 잘 먹어.

4. You always take his side!
항상 걔 편 들잖아!

5. I’m not going to take anyone’s side.
누구 편도 안 들 거예요.

6. 이 논쟁에서 네가 누군가의 편을 드는 게 옳지 않을 것 같다.
I don’t think it’s right for you to take sides in this argument.

Categories: All Levels, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4 | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

New Korean Video: Ordering Coffee in Korean!

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 6.01.07 PM

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New YouTube Channel!

Hi, everyone!

Since I began making my videos on the Korean language, I’ve been posting them on my main YouTube channel, English in Korean. To make it easier for everyone to find the videos they’re looking for, I decided to make a new channel just for the Korean-learning videos.

Here’s the link!


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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: , , , , , , , , | 4 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 | 4 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: , , , , , | 2 Comments