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Talk to me in Korean


In my personal experience when you try to speak Korean to a Korean person there are many times when they will answer back in English. As more and more people are learning Korean this will probably be changing in a few years. I think they want to be polite but for someone who is trying to learn their language, this is kind of frustrating. Here are a few examples:
(1) 화장실 어디에 있어요? Answer: Downstairs.
(2) 사진 좀 찍어 주세요. Answer: Sure
(3) 표 두 장 주세요. Answer: Do you want two tickets?
I feel like answering: Wait a minute. English is not even my mother tongue. Why are you answering me in English? I am making a simple question or request so why cannot you answer me in Korean? But I understand they want to be polite so I simply smile.
On the other hand I find funny when they talk naturally in Korean to an eastern looking person even if that person does not speak a single word of Korean. That happens a lot when you are travelling by plane
I think it is rude not to answer to a person in the language you are using. I firmly believe that if you want to learn a language you have to use it as much as you can. Even in very simple situations, you can learn a lot when people answer you in the language you are studying. You can hear Korean in a real context and not just textbook Korean. If I wanted to speak English I will be travelling to an English speaking country or I wouldn’t take the trouble to learn a new language.




Thank you a lot, this is really interesting, and I have noticed that actually. Thank you again, I will take your advice into consideration.

Llevo desde el año pasado asistiendo a clases de coreano en una escuela de idiomas de mi ciudad. Mi profesora es coreana nativa y una persona a la cual le gusta mucho contar anécdotas de vez en cuando de la vida coreana.

Recuerdo que un día nos habló de como los coreanos veían a los extranjeros. Nos explicó que normalmente si un turista pregunta a una persona 저기요,  가장 가까운 슈퍼마켓 어디에 있어요 ? en la mayoría de los casos le responderían en inglés o tal vez nisiquiera contestarían a la pregunta. Simplemente por el hecho de ser extranjero creen que tal vez aún no domines bien la lengua y por lo consiguiente tienden a no contestarte en coreano por el temor a no ser entendidos o ser malinterpretados. Les sabe mal que tal vez por su culpa llegues a perderte (porque hayas entendido mal las instrucciones)^^.

Yeah, this happened to me many times as well. A standars answer to a question "한국사람이에요?" is "Yeah..."

I just try to keep talking to them in Korean and it usually works.

But this actually happened to me with Spanish as well. I was talking to waiter in Spanish and he kept on aswering me in English. And I don't think my Spanish is that bad ;)

So I think not only Koreans to that.

But I think you're right that this is going to change. When I lived in Korea it was better, sometimes even people were approaching me and taking Korean. True, the question was usually "미국?", but I was able to practice my Korean while responding.


Efectivamente si es para preguntar el camino a alguien es mejor evitar de preguntarle a un ajossi. En general trataran de evitar de contestar a tu pregunta porque no se sienten muy cómodos hablándole a un extranjero. Pero también existe el ajossi que te va recitar todas las frases de inglés que él conoce sobre todo cuando quiere impresionar a sus amigos. En cuanto a los jóvenes depende. La mayoría de las veces te van a contestar normalmente sobre si son estudiantes o recién graduados. Pero otros te contestaran en inglés así sea que no lo hablen muy bien que digamos. Lo más divertido que me paso fue en un supermercado donde había una empleada ocupada en arreglar un estante. Cuando le pregunte algo en coreano empezó a contestar normalmente a mi pregunta hasta que se volteó y vio que no era coreano. En los aviones depende. Hay azafatas que te van hablar en coreano cuando le pides algo pero hay otras que van a seguir hablándote en inglés. Para aumentar los chances que la gente me conteste en coreano trato de empezar diciendo 저... o 혹시... o 저기요 Esto es un señal que les indica que voy hablar en coreano. Si esto no funciona, entonces les hago otra pregunta empezando con la frase 또 하나 질문 있는데요 y luego hago mi pregunta.


Well to tell you the truth it also happened to me in the Dominican Republic and in Cuba. And I am a native speaker! But of course I speak with a Colombian accent and not with a Dominican or Cuban accent.

흠... 일반적으로 한국에서 외국인이 한국어로 질문을 하면, 한국어로 대답하는 경우가 더 많습니다. 프란시스코님은 조금 특이한 경험을 하신 것 같네요.


한국어로 질문했는데, 상대방이 영어로 대답했다면, 상대방에게 스페인어로 다시 질문해보세요.

십중팔구, 상대방은 당황할 겁니다.


Well of course this is just my personal experience. Other people might have a completely different experience. But the thing is that it did not happen just once. It is not that they did not understand my question or something like that since they answered it in English. Usually this happens for very short questions (Where is the post office? Can you take my picture? How much is it?...). So once you get an answer there is not point to continue in Korean. And of course it does not happen all the time. There are many times when I got answers in Korean. I guess it really depends on the person. Some Koreans are comfortable speaking to a foreigner in Korean others not. And as I said this is changing rapidly as more and more people are learning Korean.

처음에는 잘 몰랐는데, 방금 프란시스코님의 사진을 자세히 들여다 보니, 아하! 프란시스코님이 두 손으로 '비빔밥'을 들고 서 있으시네요! 혹시, 프란시스코님이 직접 만드신 비빔밥입니까? 꽤 맛있어 보입니다. 음...그러고 보니, 저녁식사 시간이 다 되었네요.

They might be unsure if you will understand their reply, or trying to find a common language both of you can communicate Well In. As my father explains, English is the language of business, when two countries come to discuss they would probably use english. Well, it may also be habit. Many Korean people that I know, in theit families they answer their parents in english though the question was in korean. In this case it could be comfort, habit, not fully able to speak korean, teaching parents, or rebelling against being "different" growing up. Many parents also like their kids to learn English. Maybe they are practicing their English if they are learning it.

Their* families, sorry I typed on my phone.

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