Did anybody else go to the Thames Festival the other week? I was tied up during the day, but managed to get to the Scoop not long before the screening of the Good The Bad and The Weird. Luckily before that I managed to catch the last 10 minutes or so of Sorea, where I got scared by the Green monsters, fell in love with the girl in the green skirt, and tried my best to explain what the hell was going on to my friends, even though I didn’t have a clue myself.
But soon after the film started, hunger well and truly set in, and as I’ve seen the film a few times before I made my excuses and headed off to find some food.
Now, every time I’ve been in Korea I’ve had somebody with me pretty much all of the time, so there hasn’t been much need to bring out my own Korean, which is at best a little bit lazy, at worst exceptionally lazy. So here was my chance to practice. Or not as the case was, as the Korean for Chicken just completely escaped me. And because the Korean sentence structure dictates that the object, in this case Chicken, comes at the beginning of the sentence then I was just utterly thrown and reverted to English even though I was OK with the rest of the sentence.
Knowing how to ask for something is a pretty crucial part of any language, be it food, drink, a phone number, or even where the nearest toilet is, so let’s concentrate on that in this post. Remember that there is a formal, and informal way of asking for things, and the general rule is to stick to the formal way unless you are asking somebody you know. We’ll stick to the formal way here just to be on the safe side.
So, let’s start with something really simple, and exceptionally useful, and ask for a Soju:
So-ju ha-na ju-say-yo
The key part to remember in that sentence is ju-say-yo, which is the part where we actually state that we want something. It’s more akin to saying I want, or give me, which doesn’t make it sound to formal, but the addition of ‘yo’ at the end takes care of this. As long as we remember this, and remember to use it at the end of the sentence then we won’t go far wrong.
The other part is the ha-na, which is the equivalent of saying 1, so the sentence reads Soju one give me please.
There are however 2 different numbering systems in use in Korea, the first is the Korean form, the second is the Chinese form, and use depends on what you are describing / counting.
It’s quite easy to remember which to use in which situation though: use the Korean system for ages and also the number of objects up to 99 and the Chinese system for number of objects above 99 and everything else. Easy to remember, but doesn’t really help as it means there are 2 sets of numbers to learn. There is good news though with the Chinese system up to 99, and that’s that you only really need to learn 10 numbers
In English once we get past 10, we need to learn new numbers to continue counting, but in the Chinese system you can just start putting numbers together to keep going. So whereas in English once you get to ten, you need to learn eleven, in the Chinese system you say ten first, then one. And this continues all the way up to 99.
The numbers in the both systems run:
The only break in that is with numbers like 20, 30 etc, where we’d swap the numbers around. 80 for example would be Pal Ship, where as 81 would be Pal Ship Il.
The Korean system works the same up to 19, but then introduces a whole new set of words for 20 onwards, but for the time being we’ll just stick with what we’ve just learnt. Be careful however if you are practicing out loud near any Koreans, especially when you reach 18 in the Chinese system
Let’s put that into practice then and imagine we’re out in Hongdae on a busy Friday night with a few friends in a packed eatery. Rather than just getting the one bottle of soju it makes sense to get a 3 bottles in now, so what would we say?
So-ju set ju-say-yo
Brilliant, that’s the drinks sorted, but what about the food?
At the Thames festival I was after Chicken and rice. The Korean for rice is B-ap, and as I later remembered the Korean for chicken is Dak. The way to link these together is by using and, which in Korean is ha-go, so chicken and rice becomes dak ha-go b-ap. So what I should have said to the lovely young lady serving was:
Dak ha-go b-ap ju-say-yo
OK, so now we know how to ask for something, what about asking where something is?
Again the object is the first part of the sentence, but this time it needs to be followed by o-di iss-o-yo. So if we’d finished our dinner and drinks in Hongdae and felt the urge to head to Dongdaemun for some late night shopping we could ask:
Dong-dae-mun o-di iss-oyo?
And one last quick thing before we finish that might come in handy at Dongdaemun after all that soju is asking how much something is: uhl-my-yo? Simply, how much?