10.11.2010

Asia Tour 2010 Day 3: Korea Start-o (Language)

Tackling the Korean language barrier was a much easier task than I anticipated.



I spent an hour on YouTube learning Korean, and I practiced with the hotel staff on arrival. They helped me work out the kinks in my pronunciation, so I felt confident enough to give it go. I didn't learn any numbers, but almost every cashier was good with english numbers (or had a calculator), so paying for anything was hassle free.

These are the phrases I ended up using the most:

Annyong haseyo (hello; polite greeting)
Gamsa hamnida (thanks; G's = K's)
Sil-lye hamnida (excuse me; to get people's attention)
Ye (yes), No (Ani-yo)
Bap (rice, because rice doesn't come with the soups all the time)
Gurego (and)
Mianhamnida (sorry; when people mistook me for Korean, I would respond with this and an X)
I practiced the phrase, Hangunmai chanhio moteoyo (I don't speak Korean), but Mianhamnida was just as good. This happened often enough that I thought about saying hangunmai ani-yo (Korean No), but didn't want to try.

I found this very useful, as I was able to order food and get directions using only this formula:
Eego (this), Jeogo (that) plus one of these:
X Mulsul (What is X)
X Oh-di-ay iseoyo (Where is X)
X Jom Juseo (Please give me X)

Between my broken Korean, and whatever english I could get out of the locals, I lost almost no time getting what I wanted. Maybe I got lucky, but I also had no problem getting help in english in some areas. Surprisingly, 40-50 year old business looking people were most adept. One guy pointed me to my hotel after I exited the subway. Some folks at local restaurants were quite happy to oblige when I asked what food they had in front of them; one guy told me his soup was spicy, yet soothing haha. One mall information booth dialed a hotline and got me english assistance. Another information booth person wrote down instructions for me in Korean for the bus drivers, since unlike subways, buses are almost 100% in Korean.

A lot of people there mistook me for Japanese too and asked me Nihon-jin desu ka? I don't know what would happen if I replied yes, but I think the Japanese are very common tourists there. I first responded with ee-yay (ilya - no in japanese), but that only confused them (why would a non-Japanese speaker respond in Japanese, and with a 'no' too), then I tried ane-yo, which only rewarded me with a barrage of Korean. I finally just started saying no in english, and that sorta helped.

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