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)