In Korean culture, it is of vital importance to honour your elders, and one way of doing that is addressing them appropriately.
There are many different honorifics for different genders and age groups and backgrounds. Today we’ll look at two basic ones.
오빠 – Oppa
누나 – Nuna
No doubt you’re superbly familiar with the first one, but perhaps not so much with the second. They’re basically the same, except for the gender of the person you’re addressing.
If you are in a relationship with someone older than you, it’s respectful to use the correct title (“오빠” or “누나”). If they are younger (or your peer), then you can use their name directly when addressing them. In Korean it all depends on your level of closeness.
Below is a table I borrowed to show how and when to use which title:
I’m curious what happens if you meet someone for the first time and you’re not sure if they’re older or younger than you. I suppose that would be why in Asia it’s typical to ask a person’s age, whereas it might be seen as impertinent in Western culture.
Anyway, pair it up with yesterday’s compliment and give it a shot!
Welcome to another Bunni Learns Korean (BLK) session!
Always wanted to show your admiration for that Korean friend of yours? Well now you can!
Tell them they look great with this simple phrase:
멋 – Meot (kind of like that little powdery flying insect)
지 – Ji (gee, what was I going to say again?)
네 – Ne
요 – Yo
This means “you look great!”
Koreans tend not to use second person pronouns very often. Instead they just state their point and it is assumed that they are addressing the listener. Or due to their communal nature, they refer to things in the third person, like “we” or “our”.
So a lot of these phrases don’t have a “you” part in it. If literally translated, this phrase just means “great” or “awesome”. And as always, the 요 bit is a politeness suffix like “khap” or “kha” in Thai; if you’re conversing with a friend or someone close you could easily drop the 요’s.
Today we’ll attempt something slightly longer, and something useful for when it’s time to leave the eatery.
계 – Gye
산 – San
해 – Hae
주세요 – Juseyo
Now if you remember from a previous lesson we learned the phrase “juseyo”, which means please in a giving context. In this case, we are requesting the bill or check, so it is appropriate to use “juseyo” because we are asking for something to be given or done for us. Politely, of course.
So this phrase as you may have gleaned means “check please”, or literally “please calculate for me”.
Now if you secretly want to treat your non-Korean friends at a Korean restaurant, you know what to say. You’re welcome.