If you listen closely to a conversation in Korean, you may be able to pick out some English words. Koreans use many loans words, the majority of which come from English, for example, 커피 (coffee), 골프 (golf) and 샤워 (shower). There are no native Korean words to describe these, so they have just been adopted from English and are pronounced as close as possible to the original word the Korean alphabet allows. But Koreans sometimes use some or a combination of these English words to mean something totally different from what we would have expected in English. This is Konglish!
Here are my top 10 Konglish words you should know!
1. 핸드폰 (hand-pon)
This one is easy, right? Well Korean doesn’t have an f or ph sound, but if there was and pon was in fact phon… does that make it clearer? You are certainly going to need one of these when you arrive in Korea. Looking for a mobile? In Korea you’ll be needing a hand-phone!
2. 셀카 (sel-ca)
Selca is another combination of two English words put together. Can you guess where it comes from? It is a shortened form of 셀프 카메라 (self camera). No, this isn’t another name for the front-facing camera on your 핸드폰. We know this better as a selfie. Koreans were well ahead of us in the selfie game.
3. 미팅 (meeting)
Appearances are important in Korea for making a good first impression, so if you are going to a meeting, you may want to make sure to scrub up nicely. However this meeting may not be as formal or business-like as you may have expected. In fact, a meeting is a group blind date. This is when a group of 3 or more guys go on a date with the same number of girls at a restaurant or café. Then by the end of it, those who feel they have made a connection with each other can end up becoming a couple. This is just one of many popular Korean ways of finding a girlfriend or boyfriend.
4. 컨닝 (cunning)
Have you ever cheated on an exam at school? Come on, I’m sure you must have sneaked a look at the person’s page next to you before. In Korean, cheating is called 컨닝. How cunning… well done!
5. 헬스 (health)
In Korean, you will see a lot of signs with 헬스 written on them. Health? What could that possibly be? Maybe it’s some sort of health shop or a chemist, perhaps? Nope. However, it is still along the lines of trying to be healthy, because it is in fact a gym! 헬스 is where all your treadmills and dumbbells are at.
6. 포켓볼 (pocketball)
I am biased in that this is one of my favourite things to do when I’m in Korea. Other than the obvious ball games like football, basketball and baseball… what the heck is pocketball? Well you have a set of balls and pockets. Not your coat or trouser pockets… I’m talking about pool tables! Fancy a game of pool in Korea, head down to your local pocketball club.
7. 매직 (magic)
I love a bit of magic. Unfortunately, the ‘magic’ Harry Potter does is not called 매직, but is actually 마술. So what exactly then is 매직?? Well this has two meanings! First of all, it can be a pen. A magic pen! We know this better as a permanent marker. In Korean you can just say 매직 or 매직 펜. Secondly, 매직 can refer to the act of straightening one’s hair. Think twice before asking someone to show you some magic in Korea!
8. 콘센트 (consent)
I’m just going to tell you this one. In Korean, 콘센트 is a plug socket. Yes, you have my consent to use that consent. Just plug your handphone into the consent. Confused much? I still am.
9. SNS (에스엔에스)
No, it’s not a misspelling of SNSD. Koreans use a lot of acronyms such as SNS. Maybe you’ve heard of others like UCC (User Created Content) or an AS (After Service) Center. Well, SNS stands for Social Network Service. We are more familiar with it as social media. Interesting, huh?
10. 화이팅 (fighting)
Last but not least, we have 화이팅. Again, because of the lack of an f sound in Korean, you may often also see this spelt as 파이팅. You will often see people shouting this out, at the same time also thrusting a clenched fist into the air. However this exclamation has nothing to do with getting into a fight with someone. Instead, it is used as a cheer for good luck, I suppose to show ‘fighting spirit’. You can use this to show encouragement to somebody and you will often see idols and actors saying this for wishing someone well or even for their own success.
That’s it for today! I hope you liked this short list of Konglish words. If you want to find out more about Konglish, check out a video I made with Talk To Me In Korean and keep studying hard! 화이팅!!!