Today I met one of my language partners for a super efficient study session. First we practiced Danish, then Korean. Today our main focus was to work on fluency. For our Korean practice, my LP used the 이화 book for inspiration and read aloud from some of the dialogues without me being able to see the text. When it was my turn to speak in the dialogue, I had free reins for more general lines, but she would provide me with the English version for some specific lines and ask me to translate into Korean. The point was to 1) mobilise vocabulary in “free” speech 2) practice different formality levels.
Here are my notes for some of the things we discussed:
Telling people to speak comfortably:
Speaking to someone significantly older or higher status: 말씀 낮추십시오 (only the other person can switch to 반말)
Speaking to someone your age or a little younger that you didn’t know while growing up: 우리 그냥 편하게 반말 하죠? (both switch to 반말)
Speaking to someone much younger than yourself: 우리 그냥 반말 하자 (both can speak 반말)
Tell people to speak more politely:
This one is tricky and stems from me once finding myself in a situation where I asked someone indirectly to speak more politely. Some people I don’t mind speaking/writing to me in 반말, others… well… All of my LPs have made an effort to help me try to learn proper etiquette to limit the number of people I end up offending in the future so I’m not used to 반말-freebies and I appreciate that they try to hold me to a certain standard. However, that has also made me acutely aware of the choises others make when addressing me.
One time I met a guy who seemingly got a personality transplant once switching from English to Korean. Since he would under no circumstances have used 반말 with me if I had been Korean, my first reaction was to think “that’s an awfully short sentence, isn’t it?”. Next sentence was equally short. And then the third one. For a moment I even wondered if I had seriously underestimated his age. Instead of asking since when we agreed on skipping the endings or ask outright why he was speaking in 반말, I opted for sticking to my -요 endings when answering his question and then ask “by the way, how old are you?”. Order restored, he replied with -요 endings.
Here is a suggestion for how to ask: 참, 그런데 ~ 나이가 어떻게 되세요?
Adding “참, 그런데 ~” before the question makes it seem a little less accusatory although the meaning should be pretty clear.
Suggestions for how to avoid referring directly to people who are older than you (but not old enough to be your parents), and you’re just not sure what to call them:
“저 ~”: to be used with caution especially if young, female, and in a work environment or similar because of the risk of coming across as indecisive and inconfident.
저기요: Be careful with the intonation. If said too forcefully it sounds like you’re trying to get the attention of a waiter in a restaurant.
What to say when people thank you for doing them a favour and you are still on polite tems?
Politely replying “don’t mention it” to people who thank you for doing them a favour: 아닙니다 / 무슨 말씀을… / 무슨 말씀을요 / 천만예요 (can be used for biiig favors or it sounds a little stiff and textbook-like)
What’s your name?
이름이 뭐야/뭐니?(-니 is Seoul dialect): only said to children
이름이 뭐예요?: Polite way to ask someone younger than you, but mostly children.
성함이 어떻게 되세요?: Polite, but not going “all in”. Notice the honorific word for “name”.
성함이 어떻게 되십니까?: All in.
Random expression: 007 가방 (litterally read 공-공-칠 가방). Today it’s probably better known as a briefcase or 서류가방. I had never heard this before today, but since I find it hilarious, it just had to be included.