For this edition of WOTW we’re looking at lyrics from 2NE1’s ‘I Am The Best’. Looking at Korean in use through song lyrics is a great way to practise reading and understanding!
내가 제일 잘 나가
(nae-ga je-il jal-la-ga)
Nope – that’s not a mistake in the pronunciation! Take note of this pronunciation rule; when ㄹ is followed by ㄴ in Korean, the resulting sound is an L sound. Instead of saying, “jal naga,” here, we say, “jallaga.”
This phrase, unsurprisingly, means ‘I am the best’, but that isn’t quite the exact translation. The better translation is, “I am the best, me.” Let’s break it down!
내가 – This is made up from 나의 and 가. 나 means ‘me’ and the particle 의 denotes possession. This is abbreviated to 내. 가 is a subject marking particle that follows subjects ending with a vowel. When the subject of a sentence ends with a consonant, use 이 (ee) instead of 가.
제일 – This means ‘most’. A similar word is 가장 (ga-jang) with you can interchange with 제일 because the meaning is the same.
잘 – This means ‘well’, and can loosely be translated as ‘good’ sometimes. Here ‘제일 잘‘ means ‘most well’ and translates as ‘best’.
내가 제일 잘 나가 appears in this song a lot. But another similar phrase appears within the song, and this time it’s a question..!
누가 제일 잘? 나가
(nu-ga je-il jal la-ga)
누가 – This comes from the word ‘누구‘ (nu-gu) which means ‘who’. When the particle 가 is added, the word is condensed and becomes 누가. So this phrase means, “Who is the best? I am/Me.”
Listen to the song to listen out for the phrases and hear the pronunciation!