In this article, you’ll learn about Korean conversation. So, how much Korean do you think you need to know in order to have a conversation with a native speaker? Perhaps less than you’d think!
Whether you are making friends locally with Koreans, intending to live in South Korea, or doing business with Koreans, you may want to know some basic Korean conversation phrases, examples, and starters, even if you’re otherwise not diving into the deep end of learning Korean.
Of course, learning some example conversations is equally useful to anyone who wants to learn Korean. In this case, you’ll likely want to also learn particular grammar concepts and actively expand your vocabulary. But who’s to say you can’t memorize and use a few key phrases even before you’re fluent in Korean?
- 1 How do you start a Korean conversation?
- 2 Different conversation starters in Korean
- 3 Wrap Up
How do you start a Korean conversation?
“Hello” (안녕하세요 | annyeonghaseyo) in Korean – is always the best place to start from. However, you do want to keep the conversation going on after that, too, right? Then couple your hellos with one or more of these conversation starters to bond with Koreans and other Korean speakers!
Different conversation starters in Korean
If you ever find yourself in social situations with Koreans, the examples of conversations, phrases, and conversation starters below may offer easy access to speaking with native speakers of Korean.
These may be sample dialogues, but they might come in handy in real life! They’ll be useful even if you’re a beginner Korean learner or have different learning motivations. You just need to put some effort into memorizing the phrases, along with the possible responses to them.
#1. “Do you speak English?” in Korean
If your Korean language skills are rather limited, you can say 영어를 할 수 있습니까? (yeongeoreul hal su isseumnikka?). This is a great way to start a conversation. If the conversation partner can speak English, it will be convenient to switch to a language you are more comfortable communicating in.
By asking whether a Korean person can speak English, using a Korean phrase will also give an impression of you as a respectful person and someone who is making an effort, as opposed to simply assuming that communicating in English is the way to go.
However, if you can communicate in Korean to some extent, you may wish to hold off on using this conversation starter. Instead, you can leave it until later in the conversation, when you’ve used up all the Korean you know.
A: 죄송하지만, 영어를 할 수 있습니까? (joesonghajiman, yeongeoreul hal su itseumnikka?)
B: 네, 좀 합니다. (ne, jom hamnida.)
A: 다행이에요! 한국어를 못해서 물어보셨어요. (dahaengieyo! hangugeoreul mothaeseo mureobosyeosseoyo.)
B: 걱정마세요. 영어로 이야기를 합시다. (geokjeongmaseyo. yeongeoro iyagireul hapsida.)
A: I’m sorry, but can you speak English?
B: Yes, I can speak it a little.
A: Thank goodness! I cannot speak Korean, so I asked.
B: Don’t worry, let’s converse in English.
#2. “Do you speak Korean?” in Korean
In contrast, you can also say 한국어를 할 수 있습니까? (hangugeoreul hal su isseumnikka?). Asking someone whether they speak Korean may also be an excellent way to start a Korean conversation.
It may be silly to ask someone you can confirm is Korean, but there are also plenty of foreigners living in South Korea who may not be as confident in communicating in English as you are.
For example, Chinese and Japanese people may have a far easier time picking up the Korean language in comparison to English. Therefore, especially in a language school environment, this may be a perfectly appropriate and timely question to strike up a Korean conversation with.
A: 한국어를 할 수 있습니까? (hangugeoreul hal su isseumnikka?)
B: 네, 한국어를 할 수 있어요. (ne, hangugeoreul hal su isseoyo.)
A: 와, 한국어 정말 잘하시네요! 한국어를 배운지 얼마나 됐어요? (wa, hangugeo jeongmal jalhasineyo! hangugeoreul baeunji eolmana dwaesseoyo?)
B: 거의 1년 됐어요. 당신도 한국어 정말 잘하시네요. (geoui ilnyeon dwaesseoyo. dangsindo hangugeo jeongmal jalhasineyo.)
A: Do you speak Korean?
B: Yes, I can speak Korean.
A: Wow, your Korean is so good! How long have you been learning Korean?
B: Almost one year. Your Korean is very good, too.
#3. “What’s your name?” in Korean
You can ask someone’s name in Korean by saying 이름이 뭐세요? (ireumi mwoseyo?). Of course, one of the most basic questions to include in a conversation with someone new to you is to ask what their name is!
Alongside it, it’s also good to introduce yourself. Knowing how to introduce yourself should be the basic point to start language learning. It’s such a useful and respectful thing to learn, even in situations where you may not learn much of the language besides those simple phrases.
A: 안녕하세요! 저는 마이크입니다. 당신의 이름이 뭐세요? (annyeonghaseyo! jeoneun maikeuimnida. dangsinui ireumi mwoseyo?)
B: 저는 김 예연입니다. 만나서 반갑습니다! 한국말 잘 하시네요. 어디서 오셨어요? (jeoneun gim yeyeonimnida. mannaseo bangapseumnida! hangungmal jal hasineyo. eodiseo osyeosseoyo?
A: 저도 만나서 반갑습니다. 저는 캐나다사람입니다. 한국사람이세요? (jeodo mannaseo bangapseumnida. jeoneun kaenadasaramimnida. hanguksaramiseyo?)
B: 네, 맞아요. 좀 더 편하게 이야기할까요? (ne, majayo. jom deo pyeonhage iyagihalkkayo?)
A: Hello! I am Mike. What is your name?
B: I am Kim Yeyeon. Nice to meet you! You speak Korean so well. Where are you from?
A: It’s nice to meet you, too. I am Canadian. Are you Korean?
B: Yes, that’s correct. Shall we speak a little more comfortably?
#4. “How are you” in Korean
Next, is by asking how someone is by saying 어떻게 지내세요? (Eotteoke jinaeseyo?). In the most formal and professional situations, you’ll want to opt out of using this question. However, in other cases, most people would be delighted to be presented with this question.
It may not work as a Korean conversation starter per se, but you can usually find space for it, no matter how short or long the conversation is. Of course, you can always strip it down to a more casual 어떻게 지내요? (eotteoke jinaeyo?) if the person is someone you know.
A: 어떻게 지내세요? (Eotteoke jinaeseyo?)
B: 저는 잘 지내요. 당신은요? (jeoneun jal jinaeyo. dangsineunyo?)
A: 저도 괜찮아요. (jeodo gwaenchanayo.)
A: How are you?
B: I’m good. How about you?
A: I’m OK, too.
#5. “What do you like to do in your free time?” in Korean
A great way to keep a conversation going is to ask someone about their likes and habits, such as what they like to do when they aren’t busy. You can ask this by saying 자유시간 있을 때 뭘 하는것 좋아하세요? (jayusigan isseul ttae mwol haneungeot joahaseyo?).
It gets the person talking about themselves, something most of us like to do. And it also may prove as an opportunity to bond over mutual interests! However, as there are so many unique responses you could get to this question, you may want to have at least some related Korean words.
Otherwise, you may sadly not understand what you’re being told. But, in case you do know some Korean, it can be one of the most fun Korean conversation starters to lay out on the table.
A: 자유시간 있을 때 뭘 하는것 좋아하세요? (jayusigan isseul ttae mwol haneungeot joahaseyo?)
B: 시간 있으면 요리하는것과 볼링을 치는것을 좋아해요. (sigan isseumyeon yorihaneungeotgwa bollingeul chineungeoseul joahaeyo.)
A: 저도 특히 요리하는것을 좋아해요. 어떤 음식을 재일 잘 만들어요? (jeodo teuki yorihaneungeoseul joahaeyo. eotteon eumsigeul jaeil jal mandeureoyo?)
B: 대부분 파스타를 만들어요. 그쪽은요? (daebubun paseutareul mandeureoyo. geujjogeunyo?)
A: 맛있겠어요! 저는 볶음밥이나 스테이크를 같은것을 잘 만들어요. (masitgesseoyo! jeoneun bokkeumbabina seuteikeureul gateungeoseul jal mandeureoyo.)
A: What do you like to do in your free time?
B: If I have time, I like to cook and go bowling.
A: I also especially like to cook. What kind of food do you make the best?
B: I most often make pasta. What about you?
A: Sounds delicious! I make foods like fried rice or steak well.
#6. “What are your plans for the weekend?” in Korean
Another great question that has numerous different response options and can take a Korean conversation to so many different places is to ask about plans. You can ask someone about their weekend plans by saying 주말에 뭐 할 계획이에요? (jumare mwo hal gyehoegieyo?).
However, it doesn’t even have to be for the weekend. It can be for the same evening, an upcoming holiday, or whatever else you deem appropriate. A question like this can both serve as small talk and as an opportunity to make plans together with your conversation partner.
A: 예연 씨, 이번 주말에 뭐 할 계획이에요? (yeyeon ssi, ibeon jumare mwo hal gyehoegieyo?)
B: 아직 계획이 없어요. 마이크 씨는 뭐 할 거에요? (ajik gyehoegi eopseoyo. maikeu ssineun mwo hal geoeyo?)
A: 아쉽네요. 저는 친구들과 콘서트에 갈 거에요. 우리와 함께 같이 갈래요? (aswimneyo. jeoneun chingudeulgwa konseoteue gal geoeyo. uriwa hamkke gachi gallaeyo?)
B: 좋아요! 같이 갑시다! (joayo! gachi gapsida!)
A: Yeyeon, what are your plans for the weekend?
B: I don’t have any plans yet. What will you do, Mike?
A: That’s a shame. I’m going to a concert with my friends. Would you like to come with us?
B: I’d love to! Let’s go together!
Have you tried learning a foreign language like Korean? Have you had a chance to use any of these phrases for basic Korean conversation practice when communicating in Korean? Let us know below in the comments!