My Favorite Korean Words {제 제일 좋아하는 한국말들}

After becoming a NSLI-Y alumni representative, I had to answer some questions that would possibly be put on the website under the tab for the NSLI-Y Alumni Association. The very last question that was asked was very interesting to me: What is your favorite word in your target language? I thought about the answer to this question for awhile; however, it was very difficult to come up with a single word. Throughout the summer program, I grew attached to so many words said by several different people. I had to pick just one word for the answer to that question for the NSLI-Y website; however, I have all the space to write about all my favorite Korean words for this blog post.

(1. 모범생 (Model Student – mo-beom-saeng)

  • I first learned of the word 모범생 after my host mother used it during the first few days of my time in Korea. My Korean skills were one of the lowest in my “intermediate” class; therefore, I had to study for many hours the first week in order to catch up. My host mom was really impressed by how diligently I was studying (She said she wish her sons would do the same XD) and told me I was a 모범생. I then taught my friends the word and we often used it in class; we would tell our teachers that we would try to be 모범생들! It even became an inside joke where my friends and I would say things like “넌 진짜 모범생아니야!” when someone would make a funny mistake. (Obviously, the statement above is really informal, but we are friends and that is how we said it!) last-18My supporter 수진언니 would also use the word to encourage me when things were getting tough. I just really love this word because it is attached to so many good memories and I truly strive to be a model student. (This was the word I chose for my alumni profile! View it here.)

(2. 그렇군요 (I see/is that so – geu-reo-kun-yo)

  • I learned this word/phrase from one of our textbook dialogues during Korean class. The recorded voice said it so funny (to me) and I immediately liked it. My partners (usually Sofia, Yves, or Anna-Kate) and I would always over enunciate this word for fun.korean-class-2 I also used it often during supporter meetings. I would always say it at the right time to lead to some laughs. Not only is this word fun to say, but it is also a word I definitely use a lot.



(3. 얘들아 (Hey guys/Kids – yae-deul-a)

  • This word brings back such fond memories of one of my Resident Directors JT쌤. Whenever JT had to get our attention (Reminder: we were a group of 49 American teenagers. Yelling was needed…), he would yell things like “얘들아! 들어봐!” It was also extremely fun to imitate because JT has this very interesting British/Korean English accent. Whenever I think of this word, I will always think of JT XD

(4. 다시 한번 말해 주세요 (Please repeat it once more- da-shi han-bon mal-hae joo-seh-yo)

  • It might be obvious, but I used this phrase sooo much in Korea! Listening to Korean was never really my strong suit (I blame my incompetence to fully watch Korean dramas) and so I usually had to have things repeated before I understood some things. One person who became so tired of hearing this phrase, that it became funny, was my supporter 수진. grad-6I would say that phrase so often during our supporter meetings that she would start saying things twice because she knew what would be coming. And sometimes she would even start laughing after I said it because it was my go-to phrase. 수진 was so patient with me and that is why I love this phrase! It reminds me of how great of a friend she was and how great of a Korean teacher she was.



(5. 배불러요 (I’m full – bae-bool-leo-yo)

  • This word was a must know with my host family! They always fed me so much delicious food, but there was always more than I could actually eat. Especially for breakfast, my family never really had light breakfasts or any “American style” items so I usually used this word a lot during breakfast time because I can not stomach much right after I wake up. I just really like the way this phrase rolls off the tongue and it used to be really hard for me to accurately pronounce. I also love how this word never fails to remind me of my loving host family.

더 완벽한 김밥 식당

(6. 빙수 (Korean shaved ice dessert – bing-soo)

  • Obviously, my favorite Korean dessert had to make it on my list! If you read any of my blog posts detailing my days in Korea, half of them probably included mouth-watering pictures of 빙수. This dessert was always the perfect thing to eat during the hot summer days. I could never get enough! (These pictures are only a small snapshot of all the Bingsu I ate!)

(7. 신나요 (I am excited – shin-na-yo)

  • Honestly, the origins of this word are quite foggy in my memory. Whenever I think about it, it just seems that it was always my beloved word/inside joke with Sofia. We would always say this and it would make us laugh so much. (Even though we were always excited XD) It is something we still constantly use in our Skype calls and Kakao messages but I do not know when it began as a thing for us. I guess some of the best things in life are mysteries huh? haha


(8. 농담 (Joke – nong-dam)

  • Korean humor and American humor can be quite different at times. Sarcasm does not always go over well in Korean; therefore the phrase “농담이에요” (Just Kidding/It is a joke) came in handy many times. I mean my jokes were never really bad but this was always just a precaution that a majority of NSLIYians would use whenever making jokes. Plus, I say this a lot in English too so it became one of my favorite phrases.



Laughing at a 농담 Tucker said! XD

(9. 별로 (Not much/Not particularly – byul-lo)

  • I hate having to turn things down or having to say I do not like something. I never want to be too harsh. So when I learned this word, I was pretty much ecstatic. I felt relieved that I could share more of what I wanted to. It was amazing to know how just one word could add more opportunities for me to express myself more freely and how I would in English. I used this word so often to say that I did not particularly like something. It was mostly used with my host mom. For example, it took me a long time to finally tell her I did not like tomatoes XD (“저는 별로 토마토를 안 좋아해요.”)

(10. 안녕히가세요/안녕히계세요 (Goodbye – ahn-nyeong-he-ka-se-yo/ahn-nyeong-he-kye-se-yo)

  • This is one of the most basic Korean words right? I would agree. The reason this word is on my list because It is attached to a really fun memory of mine as well as really great reactions from Korean. Let me explain. On my second day with my host family, my host mom taught me how to use the subway to get to my school. (This was a godsend because I did not understand the “how to use a Korean subway” segment at in-country orientation at all.) Before heading home, we went to a convenience store to buy some cold drinks. Before leaving the shop, I told the cashier (who was an old man) “안녕히가세요.” And he laughed at me! My host mom told me on our walk home that I used the wrong version of goodbye. She explained everything to me and I decided that I would not leave Korea without telling him goodbye correctly. For the next two weeks, I went to that very same convenience store about three to four times a week in order to see that man. Due to my luck, it always ended up being this same teenage boy. I stopped going cause I felt defeated. However, on the day before I had to leave my host family’s house for the hostel, I went to buy some candy for my host brothers’ gift and HE WAS THERE! I proudly paid for my stuff and told him “안녕히계세요!” He gave me the biggest eye smile and we even had a short conversation before I left with my gifts. Also, I assume that many foreigners do not say goodbye very much if they say anything and so during a lot of occasions when I would say it, the cashiers would automatically smile. It made me feel good. That is why I like this word so much!


Well, I hope this post was somewhat entertaining and maybe even informative if you use this to learn some new Korean words/phrases! I thought this post was fun to write so I hope it was just as fun to read. If you would like to subscribe to my blog, plug in your email to the subscriber box to the right of this post. Thanks for reading! 다음에 봐요 친구들!~

P.S. NSLI-Y APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2018 SUMMER PROGRAMS AND THE 2018-2019 YEAR PROGRAMS ARE NOW OUT! They were just released yesterday and the deadline will be Nov 2nd, 2017! Here is the link to the NSLI-Y website if you are interested to apply:

  • Emma (엠마)





Startalk: First Week Learning Chinese {June 26th – June 30th, 2017}

你好!我的中文名字是吳敏娜。我的英文名字是Emma。我喜歡學中文和韓文。我喜歡看電影和自拍。我住在伊利諾州。伊利諾州很漂亮。 我是美國人。我會說英文和西班牙文。我會說一點點韓文和中文。我十七歲。再見!~

The sentences above are my attempt at an introduction in Chinese/me trying to use the Chinese I learned in class. We have not really learned Chinese characters in class yet, but I have been learning the characters for our vocab words on my own, so that is why I was able to type up this short introduction. (Are their mistakes? Please comment what I can do to fix/improve my Chinese! 謝謝~)Actually, I officially used the Chinese keyboard on my laptop for the first time for this blog post. (It took me a good five minutes to remember how to add a keyboard to my laptop.)

First Day {June 26th, 2017}

  • As nerdy as it sounds, I could not sleep the night before the first day of Startalk classes. I was so excited to learn Chinese! I woke up and hour earlier than I was supposed to because the stupid birds outside my window woke me up, and I was too excited knowing what was to come that day. Therefore, I could not fall back asleep. My friend from my high school, Becca, drove us to Lewis University and we ended up being early by an entire 30 minutes. When we got to the correct parking lot, we met up with one of the college students who showed us the way to our Chinese classes. Becca and I were in different classes, so we dispersed once we got into the building. (I was in Section 1 and she was in Section 2.) I walked into the class and my teacher and TA immediately exclaimed: “你好!” It hit me at that moment that I was going to be in this classroom for the next four weeks learning Chinese.
ST 20

Driving to Chinese Class!~

We spent the beginning of the day at an orientation learning all about the program, its expectations, and how the grading/college credit will work. We also were taught basic classroom directions and gestures to go along with them (these gestures would be associated with these phrases to help us learn them) such as “please raise your hand” and “repeat after me.” We watched some introductory videos of our Chinese teachers and Teacher Assistants. My teacher and TA seemed really nice. My teacher is American, but he has lived in China for long periods of time, so his Chinese is definitely close to if not fluent. My TA was a student at Lewis University (not anymore because he was transferring), and he was born in Hong Kong. I hope to learn a lot from the both of them!

After orientation, we began learning Chinese! We learned greetings and basic classroom expressions (only pinyin though) in order to not be completely clueless during our class. My teacher did not speak English the entire day until the very end. Whenever we did not understand, we would look at our TA and he would translate the teachers Chinese to English. I think that was the right way to start the class. In Korea, English was rarely ever used and that honestly does help with language immersion.

We had lunch at the university, and then afterward, we were given a tour of the campus by one of the students helping out the Foreign language department. (It was not too in depth which was quite alright because Becca and I are going to arrive early every single day to just walk around before class starts.)

ST Lunch 1.jpg

Lunch at the Cafeteria

And that was my first day at Startalk Chinese Classes! It was a lot of fun and I am hyped for the rest of the program. I know learning Chinese will be difficult but I will put in lots of hard work in order to make the best of this program!~

Second & Third Day (6/27 – 6/28/17)

  • We listened to a lecture from the director on the four different types of tones in Chinese and learned how to ask and give names, polite expressions, numbers, phone numbers, and more greetings and class commands.

Fourth & Fifth Day (6/29 – 6/30/17)

  • Becca and I were in such a good mood these days, therefore we were having a lot of fun walking around campus, taking photos, and practicing our Chinese together before the class started.
  • We picked up speed with Chinese learning these couple of days because we would be having a long four-day break over the fourth of July weekend. We learned about hobbies, age, how to answer the question “Where do you live?”, descriptive words for places, nationalities, and languages. We did a lot of group activities that involved getting up and talking with everyone in order to practice everything we were taught. We also played lots of group games and individual games (my competitive self definitely enjoyed these games for sure) and we were given Chinese snacks if we won!

    One of the best things we have done during this program was Calligraphy on Thursday! Now, I have realized that I will NEVER be a calligraphy master XD but nonetheless, calligraphy was really fun as I had never done it before! We learned how to hold the pen and one of the most common strokes. I tried my best!

    And that was my first-week taking Chinese classes with Startalk!~ I am excited about the four-day break because I have done so much homework this past week. But… I honestly can not wait to get back and learn more Chinese. I hope we start learning characters next week ( though I kinda already started on that XD ) Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed. Do not forget to subscribe to my blog. 謝謝!~

P.S In case, anyone is wondering. The name of my program is “A trip to Taipei” therefore we are learning a lot about Taiwan through documentaries and we even practice culturally appropriate classroom rules such as how we start and end our classes (with a classroom monitor, bowing, etc) We are learning Traditional Chinese. This Chinese is used in countries like Taiwan and Singapore while Simplified is used in mainland China. That is all for this Authors note~ 再見!!

- Emma 엠마 敏娜 (Now I have three names… haha)