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Do Korean people use honorific and informal languages?


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Do Korean people use honorific and informal languages?

If you're an English speaker, you don't need to worry about whether you should use honorifics or talk roughly. (Of course, English speakers use the words; sir, ma'am.) It’s very important to know whether you should use honorifics or talk roughly in Korea.

The honorific language is to show respect or honor to someone (e.g. to speak with modesty to your elders and betters.) On the contrary, informal language is to talk roughly (e.g. to talk to your friends or younger people)

Therefore, when you say "I" in Korean language, you will worry about whether you should say "나(Na)" or "저(Jur)". If you are with a person who is very close to you, you should call yourself "나(Na)". It sounds much more familiar than "저(Jur)". Conversely, you should call yourself "저(Jur)" if you meet a person at first time or you're with elders or you have a conference with people. "저(Jur)" sounds more polite than "나(Na)" in those situations.

We can think about the word "We" in Korean language. When you tell a person who you don't know well about you and someone else, you should say "저희(Jur Hee)". However, you should say "우리(Woo Ri)" when you talk to younger people, friends or close people about you and someone else.

For example, there is a person who is two years older than you. If you are not very close with the person, you must use honorifics. Of course, you can talk to your siblings and familiar people in the  informal language even though they are older than you. However, be careful about talking roughly to young kids, too. Some kids think that you disregard them if you talk roughly at first time. It will be great if you greet them in the honorific language, and then talk roughly.

I highly recommend you to make not only Korean friends, but also meet Korean elders. It will be very helpful for you to learn Korean language in detail if you meet them.

Let's practice together!

There are some questions below. After reading the questions and choosing your own answers, you can check the right answers on the bottom of this page! I wish you good luck!

Question 1) choose a right answer


(calling your grandfather...) 오랜만이네! 어떻게 지냈어? (long time no see! How are you?)

1. 나는 잘 지냈지, 넌 어땠어?

2. 저는 잘 지냈어요, 어떻게 지내셨어요?

Question 2) change the English sentence to a Korean sentence.


English sentence: (talking to their friends) We are going to an amusement park!  :party: :clown:

1. 저희는 놀이공원에 가고 있어요.

2. 우리는 놀이공원 가고 있어!

Answer:2, 2

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So when talking to elders you always use "저(Jur)", even when it is your grandfather? Because the grandfather is usually a person who is very close to you AND he is an elder, so the answer for me here was not very easy at first. However, I have seen that the answer to Question 1 is 2, therefore I guess I will have to call him "저(Jur)"  :grin:

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  • 2 years later...

Korean is very confusing with it's honorifics because there isn't really an English equivalent to it.  It's confusing because you don't know if you're close to someone, need to have the conversation to find out if you are, make them uncomfortable, and ultimately find out you're still a stranger.  Then you have to consider the older people that you're close to and always wonder if you will ever feel close enough to use informal language with them.  The constant awareness of where you are in terms of everyone you deal with makes it hard to get close to people.

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