A How-To Guide for Korean Texting

Girl with sunglasses and hat in a dress typing while sitting on a couch

Have you received a text from a friend in Korean, and you understand nearly nothing of what they’ve said? You’re not alone, and we’ve all had to deal with the same thing.

Today we’ll give you some words and phrases that you’ll definitely run into from time to time when texting your Korean friends.

We’ll also show you a couple of tips for how to understand things you’ve never run into before.

Let’s get to Korean texting!

Girl with sunglasses and hat in a dress typing while sitting on a couch

For starters, the most popular texting app in South Korea is called “KakaoTalk” (and you can score easy points if you know a lot about it). Downloading and installing Kakao is a great place to start!

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

For texting, we’ll start with some of the Korean texting short hand that you’ll run into on a daily basis, and make you look more native as well. The biggest tip we can give when trying to read Korean text messages, if you don’t understand the word by itself, is to read the message out loud. You’ll very often find that a lot of Korean texting slang is, in fact, a word that you do know, just written faster or shorter to speed up texting.

If you want to really become a texting pro, you can try practicing typing Korean on your computer. Then you’ll have a better feel for how words are constructed in Hangeul.

Korean Text Examples Explained

Here are some common examples in context.

“일욜에 만나~”

Looking at the ‘에 만나’ after ‘일욜’ you can guess that this is either a place or time. Say it aloud. What’s it sound like? Hint: it’s a day of the week.

Koreans will often shorten all days of the week by changing the ‘요일’ into ‘욜’. So above, we’re meeting our friend on Sunday.

가: 일욜에 만나~
나: 조아~ 늦게 만남 밥 먹자^^

And in response to our friend above a simple: “조아” will get the point across. This is only missing the ‘ㅎ,’ and the pronunciation doesn’t change at all so is the most obvious one we’ll do today (좋아).

We’ll also add “늦게 만남 밥 먹자” – here the new short part is the ‘만남.’ I’m sure you’ve already figured it out in context, but to explain, Koreans will often shorten the ‘-면’ grammar point to simply adding the ‘ㅁ’ onto the final syllable.

만남 = 만나면

But maybe we’re busy Sunday, and we’d rather meet sooner. We can use almost exactly the same shortening rule as above and instead ask: “낼 어때?” (낼 = 내일).  So how does tomorrow work for you?

가: 일욜에 만나~

나: 낼 어때?

가: 안돼.. 난 낼에 시험 있잖아 OTL

나: 알써~ 홧팅!

Unfortunately, our friend can’t meet tomorrow: “안돼.. 난 낼에 시험 있잖아 OTL”. They’ve got a test tomorrow, but what’s with the ‘OTL?’ In this case, we aren’t shortening anything, but are getting creative with the shapes of the letters. OTL looks like a person on their hands and knees hanging their head in defeat.

OTL

OTL!

Finally, to finish this off, let’s tell our friend that we understand and that they’ll do fine by saying “알써~ 홧팅!”

What’s a common way to say ‘ok’ or ‘I got it?’ Again, say it aloud and ‘알았어’ suddenly becomes quite clear. And the same goes for ‘홧팅,’ just shorting a syllable from ‘화이팅,’ or ‘you can do it!’

가: 일욜에 만나~

나: 낼 어때?

가: 안돼.. 난 낼에 시험 있잖아 OTL

나: 알써~ 홧팅!

Cute Korean Texting

There are other times where Koreans will simply misspell words in their text messages to sound cute or playful. It’s just one aspect of Korean aegyo. This isn’t shortening it at all, but the same general rule will apply where you should just be able to read it aloud to figure out the meaning.

Here we have changes like :

이쁘다 -> 이뿌다

먹어야지 -> 먹어야쥐

미안 -> 미얀

Or the most common, adding the ‘ㅇ’ (‘ng’), or ‘ㅁ’ (‘m’) sound to the end of the ‘요’ ending.

지금 갈게요 -> 지금 갈게용

집에 왔어요 -> 집에 왔어욤

Korean Texting Abbreviations

Next, sometimes in texts you’ll just see a few letters thrown together with seemingly no meaning. These are the toughest to figure out without context, but hopefully, in your text messages you’ll be able to piece the puzzles together.

These random looking letters are generally just the first letter from each syllable in the word you or your friend is trying to say and is usually used as the full message (i.e. not often combined in longer sentences). Here are a few of the most common, with the shortened form, the real word, and what it means.

Shortened FormReal WordWhat It Means
ㅇㅇ반말 ‘yes’
ㅇㅋ오케이OK
ㄳ / ㄱ ㅅ감사Shortened ‘thank you’
ㄱ ㅊ괜찮아(요)It’s ok
ㅊ ㅋ축하해요Congratulations
ㄴ ㄴ노노No No
ㅇ ㄷ어디Where is it/are you?

Finally, the toughest part you’ll often run into with texting your Korean friends is that they often do not use any spaces in between their words. Meaning you’ll get a huge clump of text to decipher. Just take it slow and you should be able to find where each word and the next begins.

Keep practicing, keep texting, and keep learning about the intricacies of Korean culture. You’ll be texting like a native in no time!

이거다이해함존학생이영~ ㅅㄹㅎ

Have some favorite texts you often use in Korean? Share it with us in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Bigstock.com

    3 replies to "A How-To Guide for Korean Texting"

    • Shikigo-Star

      Is there a short version of saranghae(yo) ?

      • Lebo Bedet

        ㅅㄹㅎ

        • 90 Day Korean

          That’s right! Or you could just send a heart emoticon. ^^

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