Sound Like a Native With 8 Korean Slang Expressions

8 Korean Slang Expressions That Will Make You Sound Like a Native

You may have all of the resources to learn Korean, but can you speak like a native yet? If you can’t, we’ll help with that! In this article, guest blogger Anum Yoon from Current on Currency will teach you eight Korean slang words to make your speech sound more natural…


By now, you should be aware of the fact that Koreans love incorporating slang into casual conversations. In any given Korean drama or reality show, there are a variety of different slang terms being thrown around.

Slang expressions in Korea aren’t just used by the younger generations either; a lot of working professionals and parents use them as well since they’re so commonplace. Knowing slang, on top of other useful Korean phrases, will help you assimilate to the language even better.

Let’s take a look at the slang expressions you’ll be learning today.


Note: The following phrases are all in the informal Korean form.


1) 대박

The English equivalent to this expression would be “jackpot,” but you can use this phrase to describe anything from a delicious meal to a great movie. It can also be substituted for “wow” when expressing shock. It’s not uncommon to hear people exclaim “대박” upon hearing shockingly bad news or even shockingly good news.


Person A:   영화 어땠어?
How was the movie?

Person B:   대박이였어.
It was great!

Person A:   뭐가 그렇게 좋았는데?
What was so great about it?

Person B:   마지막에 반전이 있는데, 주인공이 죽거든.
There’s a plot twist at the end where the main character dies.

Person A:  대박, 진짜?
Wow, really?

2) 멘붕

This is a shortened form of멘탈붕괴,which is a combination of the English world “mental” and the word붕괴,” which means “to destroy.” The word “mental” is often used to refer to the mental state of a person, so멘붕means to experience mental breakdown or to feel severe stress.


내일 시험 2 있는데 아직 공부 시작도 안해서 멘붕이야.
I have 2 exams tomorrow but I haven’t started studying yet so I’m in a state of mental breakdown.

3) 불금

불금” is short for “불타는 금요일,” which literally translates to “burning Friday.” This basically means TGIF, except it includes the connotation of drinking or partying.


오늘 불금이니까 제대로 즐겨야지.
Today is burning Friday so we have to enjoy ourselves properly.

4) 볼매

볼매” is the shortened form of “볼수록 매력있어,” which means “the more you look, the more charmed you become.” So it basically means that something is “growing on you.” This expression is often used to describe someone’s looks, or even clothing and accessories.


청바지 처음에 봤을땐 별로 였는데, 근데 은근 볼매야.
I thought these jeans weren’t great when I first saw them, but it’s growing on me.

5) 빵터져

This is basically the same expression as “LOL.” The phrase literally translates as “to explode” or “to pop with a bang.”


어제 뮤직비디오 보다가 빵터졌어.
I LOL-ed so hard while watching that music video yesterday.

6) 썸 타다

This phrase is a compound word derived from the English word “something,” and the Korean word “다,”  which means “to feel” or “to ride.” This means there’s something special between two people and they’re both riding this feeling. This expression appropriately describes the awkward phase before a couple becomes official.


요즘 누구랑 썸타냐? 왜그렇게 기분이 좋아보여?
Are you seeing someone these days? Why do you look so happy?

7) 똥차

The literal translation of this word would mean, “honeywagon.” But if you break down the word, you’d have “” and “차,” which means “excretion” and “car.” Koreans tend to add the word “” when describing something as less than desirable. For example, if you have an old, cheap, or broken phone, you’d call it a “똥폰.” You’d likewise call a cheap or broken down car a “똥차.” More interestingly, this phrase is also used among women to describe men who aren’t good enough for them.


저런 똥차한테 시간 낭비 하지마.
Don’t waste your time on a bad guy like him.

8) 웃프다

This is another compound word that combines the words “웃다” and “슬프다.” The equivalent in English would be “laughring.” Okay, maybe that doesn’t work as well, but it basically means to “laugh-cry.” It’s perfect for describing your feelings in situations where you don’t know if you should laugh or cry.


어제 너무 많이 먹어서 체했어. 웃프다.
I got sick after eating too much yesterday. I want to cry and laugh at the same time.

I hope this article was another fun way for you to practice speaking Korean! Be sure to take private Korean lessons to stay sharp and learn everything you want to know about the language. Happy learning!


Post Author: Anum Yoon
Anum Yoon is an English/Korean teacher. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA and is focused on her writing. You can learn more about her on her personal finance blog, Current on Currency.

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language learning tips for adults

5 Important Language Learning Tips for Adults

University Life 104

Do you remember learning a language back in high school or college? If it’s been several years (or decades), it’s normal to feel a bit lost when you’re ready to get back at it.

And while receiving a formal education is wonderful for daily language practice, it isn’t always practical. Amid all of your responsibilities as an adult, finding the time to re-learn a language is undoubtedly a challenge!

Working with a language tutor, along with taking advantage of the many language-learning resources online, can be a great way to learn — but you also may need to approach it with a different mindset than you had in high school.

If you find yourself in this scenario, the language-learning blog Games for Language has some great ideas for you. Here’s an excerpt from their article, featuring five language learning tips for easing yourself back in:

1. Develop a new mindset
– Rather than being anxious about grades and not making a fool of yourself in front of your classmates, you can direct your attention to acquiring practical language skills.

2. Find something that makes re-entry into the language fun
– It can be anything you like: listening to music, scanning news headlines on your tablet, watching a tv soap, reading an easy ebook, playing language games, etc.

3. Start putting together your resource list
– While many of your resources will probably be online, a well-rounded resource list also contains some hands-on paper grammar books, phrase books, dictionaries, novels, stories, magazines, etc.

4. Do something in your foreign language (almost) every day
– The amount of time you spend is less important than the daily routine. Try to apply the 20-minute rule — doing something for 20 minutes is manageable for almost everyone.

5. Find a native speaker to talk with
– Find a language-exchange partner in an online community or a tutor on Skype. It could even be someone in your own neighborhood who is eager to speak his or her own language with you.

Seems pretty doable, right? Putting these five tips into practice is what will get you started on re-learning your language of choice. As with any skill, consistent practice is the main ingredient for achieving success. Don’t be discouraged by the workload — instead, organize your work and chip at it little by little every day.

For a more in-depth look at these tips, check out the full article here.

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Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

Ultimate Resource Guide for Korean-Language Students

When you’re taking Korean lessons, some reliable, thorough online resources can help you brush up on your skills between sessions with your Korean teacher. From Korean-language websites to fun YouTube videos, here are the best online resources to help you learn Korean.


How to Study Korean

Learning any new language isn’t just about memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary, mastery of a language requires the ability to apply it in real-life situations. How to Study Korean understand this and is designed to help you learn to actually speak and apply the Korean language. The website is divided into units and lessons with tests at the end of each unit to make sure you understand the material.

According to the website, by the time you’re done with the lessons, you will know “nine thousand of the most common Korean words and 99.9 percent of the grammar that is used in Korean conversations.”

Start with the basics of the Hangul alphabet and work your way up to sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary. This website takes a gradual approach, so you wont feel intimidated, and you can study at your own pace.

If you get stuck on a specific topic, check the website’s community forum for support from their Korean teachers.

Remember, you can also go over anything that confuses you with your Korean tutor.

Sogang Korean Program

This website is provided by the Korean Language Education Center at Sogang University, and its mission is to promote education, culture, and language.

The lessons will give you a great overview of Korean grammar and pronunication, and there are interactive practice exercises to reinforce the lessons. is a fun, interactive website to help you learn Korean. The website uses lots of different types of media like audio and video lessons featuring Korean hosts, downloadable PDF guides, and smart phone apps to help you learn on the go.

Learn Korean Language

One of the best parts of studying a language is learning about the history, culture, and traditions. This will broaden your knowledge and enrich your learning experience.

The Learn Korean Language website offers Korean-language lesson, a Korean blog, Korean news, and information on Korean history and culture.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the Korean language and information about traveling to Korea, bookmark this website, now!


KOSNET offers e-Books and video lectures for Korean-language students. No matter your level, you can find the right resource to expand your knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the Korean language through reading, listening, and speaking.

In addition to Korean-language textbooks, you can also find educational materials on Korean history and culture.


Omniglot is an extensive online encyclopedia of languages, writing systems, and alphabets. Omniglot has educational materials for many different languages, but you can find some excellent resources to learn the Korean writing system, and learn about Korean vowels, consonants, phrases, and more.

Life in Korea

Life in Korea is an excellent resource for Korean-language students and travelers. The site is broken into sections which group different real-life situations so you can learn useful, applicable Korean phrases.

If you’re planning to visit Korea, Life in Korea is a fantastic place to find accommodations and information for your trip.

Korean Learning for Correct Pronunciation

If you don’t have native Korean speakers you can practice with, then this website is great to perfect your pronunciation.

The audio files will help you learn the correct pronunciation for Korean words. There is also a character glossary for a quick reference for Korean characters.


Study Stack

Memorize Korean vocabulary with these digital flashcards. Choose from the pre-made sets or create your own.


LearnWithOliver offers audio flashcards, learning exercises, and tests to help you memorize Korean words and phrases.

You can also compete with other users with fun, interactive online games.

Anki Korean Deck Flashcards

Study online or sync these digital flashcards across multiple mobile devices.


Videos are a fun and entertaining way to learn Korean. Here is a list of some of our favorite videos to help you learn Korean:

The Best YouTube Korean Videos for Beginners


Whether you’re looking for textbooks, workbooks, or eBooks, here are the best, most resourceful books to help you learn Korean.

The Best Korean Books for Language Students

5 More Fantastic Books for Language Students

What other Korean-language resources do you love? We want to hear from you, let us know in the comments below!

While these resources are all very helpful, remember, the best way to learn Korean is through private lessons with a Korean tutor. Find a Korean teacher near you and start learning Korean today!

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4 Popular K-Pop Songs to Help You Learn Korean

4 Popular K-Pop Songs to Help You Learn Korean

4 Popular K-Pop Songs to Help You Learn Korean

Listening to music, especially the internationally popular K-Pop (Korean pop music) or Korean Wave can be a fun way to learn vocabulary and conversational Korean.

It’s easy to learn the lyrics to songs as you sing along, and this is the first step to learning proper pronunciation. It’s also helpful to learn how to speak Korean with K-Pop because you will pick up  common Korean phrases, as well as metaphors and slang.

To begin, find your favorite K-Pop songs and look up lyrics that are transcribed in both Hangul and English. You can listen to the song and follow along with the translation. Write down or highlight any words you don’t understand.

An easy way to find the lyrics is to do a Google search with the band name, song title, and “hangul” at the end of your search.

Here are four songs that will help you learn Korean with K-Pop.

 1. Roy Kim “Bom Bom Bom”

Roy Kim’s song “Bom Bom Bom” is great for beginners because the lyrics are easy to follow.

If you listen to the song with the lyrics and translation, it will be easier to find each phrase and highlight the words that you want to look up later.

2. BigBang “Fantastic Baby”

BigBang uses several easy Korean phrases in their hit “Fantastic Baby.”

Translated literally; ha-na (one) bu-teo (from) yeol (10) kka-ji (until) means “from one to 10,” but translated from slang to English it means “from start to finish.”

Kpop songs are great to learn these types of everyday phrases.

3. Super Junior “This is Love”

Super Junior is one of the more popular KPop groups, and a lot of their songs can be found on YouTube with accompanying translations.

4. Psy “Gangnam Style”

No list of K-Pop songs would be complete without Psy’s international hit “Gangnam Style.” with over one billion YouTube views, the viral video brought worldwide attention to Korean pop music.

Many non-Korean speaking people wonder what the title and lyrics mean. “Gangnam” refers to an area in the southern region of Seoul, Korea. The area is known for being fancy, so “Gangnam style” means a kind of swag or fanciness that the people from the region exude.

Other phrases you’ll find throughout the song include nom or “dude,” an informal term that you should use cautiously, because it can be offensive, nal-da which means “to fly,” and ttwi-da which means “to run,” which explains many of the dance moves in Psy’s video!

Make sure to write down any words in the songs that you don’t understand so you can go over them with a Korean tutor. The internet makes it simple for you to learn Korean with K-Pop, with a combination of YouTube videos and translations, you’ll be able to sing along and understand the lyrics in no time!

Want to learn more about K-Pop? Here’s everything you need to know about the biggest K-Pop stars

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Korean Speech Levels

A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Speech Levels

Korean Speech Levels

When you’re learning Korean, you will be introduced to different Korean speech levels. Each level is used to express a certain amount of respect or courtesy to the person or group you’re addressing. Learn the different levels of speech with Korean teacher Bryce J….

Fundamentally, parts of Korean speech are formed by stringing together smaller units to create words and phrases. This idea is seen in many languages, including English.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the word needlessly. The core competent of the word is need. This part of the word can be used independently, as in I need something to eat. The second part of the word, less, can be used independently; less work, more play, but it can also used to enhance the meaning of core words, like helpless, homeless, and needless. Finally, the end of the word, ly, cannot be used independently. This piece is attached to the end of a verb to create an adverb as in sadly, truthfully, and excitedly.

The most basic parts of the Korean language usually consist of at least one word that, when found in a dictionary, ends in -다 . Both verbs and adjectives end in -다 in Korean, and for our current purpose, they behave similarly. To correctly form a Korean statement, we need to remove the -다 and add another unit of meaning.

For example, look at the statement  좋았겠네요. The core of the word structure is which appears in the dictionary as 좋다, and means good, fine, nice, better, superior. The next unit is , which signifies past tense or a completed action or state. means the statement is an assumption. indicates an immediate reaction to something, often admiration, wonder, awe, or surprise. The final piece is , which as you’ll see below, signifies raised, informal speech.

The combination of these units creates a statement that best translates to “that must have been nice!” The tone implies admiration or envy. The addition, subtraction, or substitution of any of the units in the string would create a significantly different meaning.

In their most simple form, Korean verbs and adjectives must be stuck together with one of seven mutually exclusive styles of speech. Each style also indicates a variation of politeness and formality. The seven styles are categorized as follows:
높임말 (raised speech) 낮춤말 (lowered speech)
(Formal style] 하소서체 합쇼체 하오체 하게체 해라체
(Informal style) 해요체 해체

Five of these Korean speech levels (하소서체, 합쇼체, 하오체, 하게체, and 해라체) are categorized as formal speech (격식체). This is the type of language that’s used in newspapers or essays in school.

Two of these levels (해요체 and 해체) are categorized as informal speech (비격식체). Think of this as the type of language that’s used in storybooks.

Within the two categories, formal and informal speech, there are different speech levels to reflect various degrees of reverence or respect. In modern-day Korea, the three most frequently used speech levels are 합쇼체, 해요체, and 해체. All seven levels are used in  사극 (historical dramas), and the five levels in the formal speech category are used more frequently than the two in the informal speech category.

Korean Speech Levels


하소서체 is formal speech that’s used to show the utmost respect for the person you are addressing. In the past, this type of speech was used to address a king, queen, or other member of the royal family.

In modern times, you can find it in religious writing, like the Bible, when referring to a deity. For example, “성은이 망극하옵니다” means your grace is immeasurable, and “통촉하여 주시옵소서” means I beg your majesty to take heed.

You can easily spot 하소서체 because phrases typically end with “옵니다” (returns/arrives) or “옵소서” (deliver/deliver us). But even in a 사극, characters frequently use the lower speech level, 합쇼체, when speaking to the king in private.

The following is a breakdown of the current usage of the other six Korean speech levels :


합쇼체 is a very respectful, polite form of formal speech. In contemporary Korea, it’s used to speak to strangers or to elders. It’s used in the service industry to speak to customers, and in business settings for presentations, or to speak to people like the CEO of a company or president of a nation. It’s also used by anchormen during a newscast.

In a 사극, 합쇼체 is used to address elders (including one’s own parents), professors, or anyone higher in social rank. It can also be used to speak to people of lower rank, when you want to show them respect. This is often referred to as deferential speech. Deference means a respectful submission or yielding to another. In Korean, 합쇼체 is used to show a deferential attitude.


하오체 is an outdated style of formal speech that can also be heard in historical Korean drama. It’s used to address people that are the same rank or lower (rank may be based on social standing or age), and still maintains a moderate degree of respect. (It should NOT be used when speaking to those ranked above you.)

Due to the recent rise in popularity of 사극, people occasionally use 하오체 to refer each other while chatting online.


하게체 is a style of formal speech that is also relatively outdated. It’s used to speak to people who are the same rank or lower. It’s used in place of 해라체 by middle-aged adults speaking to other adults with whom they are close to, but consider to be ranked lower socially.

In contemporary Korea, someone in a higher-ranking position may speak to someone lower (like a boss speaking to employees) in the 하게체 speech level (i.e., a director of a company to a lower-ranking employee).


해라체 is formal speech used with those who are the same rank or lower, but with no added degree of respect. Even though there’s no added respect, it wouldn’t be considered disrespectful to use 해라체 as long as it’s used appropriately.

Though not as common as 합쇼체, 해요체, or 해체, it’s still used frequently in modern-day Korea. It’s absolutely necessary, however, to master 해라체 because it’s used to quote other people. In other words, any time you want to say that someone else (including yourself) said something, it’s expected that the speech within the quotes is in 해라체. This is known as plain form in some Korean textbooks.


해요체 is informal, but polite speech. It’s the style of choice in most normal, everyday situations where politeness is expected. Common Korean phrases like “안녕하세요?” (how are you?) and “고마워요” (thank you) belong in this category. Regardless of the relative rank (higher, lower, or the same level) of the addressee, 해요체 can be used when speaking respectfully or politely.


해체 is informal, casual speech with no added degree of respect or politeness. It’s the speech level people refer to by “반말” (low form) and what Korean people use when they speak casually to each other. It’s used between close friends and family, by adults to speak to children or minors, between children, and also by adults to speak to old friends (regardless of how close they were in childhood or now as adults). For example, whether they were friends or not, high school classmates typically speak use 해체, and when they reunite 10, 20, or 30 years later, they typically continue to use 해체.

Here is how to conjugate 사랑하다  (to love) in each style:

To Love

Here’s how to conjugate 먹다 (to eat) in each style:

to eat

Although it may seem daunting, it’s fun and interesting to learn about sentence structure and Korean speech levels. Want to learn more? Find a Korean teacher, and have fun learning!

Bryce JBryce J. teaches college-level Korean and ESL classes in Minneapolis, MN. He has his MA in teaching from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Learn more about Bryce here!



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