Korean Questions: What Are the 2 Types of Korean Language?

Did you know that Korean has two different types of language?

That’s right; when you learn the Korean language, you’ll actually learn two different ways of speaking. There’s a formal language, or jondaemal (존댓말). Then, there’s an informal one, or banmal (반말). Knowing when to use each one requires knowledge of Korea’s culture and age-related customs.

But what are the differences between the two types of Korean?

We’ll get into them below! Keep reading to start speaking Korean with more ease today!

Using Formal and Informal Language

As soon as you learn Korean language, you need to know when to use formal vs. informal language.

Korean culture prizes respect for other people. It pays special respect to older people and people who have a higher business rank. This comes across in the South Korean language. Native Korean speakers use jondaemal when speaking to people older than themselves. They will also use it when talking to a boss.

Even when talking to strangers, it is appropriate to use jondaemal unless they are obviously younger than you.

Because age is such a crucial factor in communication, it isn’t at all offensive in Korea to ask someone’s age when you first meet them. There are many different ways to ask someone’s age in Korean. “Myeot sa-ri-e-yo?” (몇 살이에요?) is a common phrase that can be used in most situations.

How to Use Jondaemal

It will take some time to fully master using jondaemal and banmal. Still, most non-native speakers can begin using these two forms of the Korean language right away.

The main difference between jondaemal and banmal is conjugation. Speakers make sentences formal by adding certain endings to verbs. One of the most common verb endings is yo (요).

To demonstrate, let’s take the phrase “I love you.” In the Korean dictionary, “to love” is “sarangha-da” (사랑하다). When speaking, you drop the “da” and add an “e” to the end. So, sarangha becomes saranghae. To make it formal, add the “yo.”

The full, formal phrase would be saranghaeyo (사랑해요).

How to Use Banmal

When using banmal, you just need to drop the honorifics!

So, you could say “saranghae” to someone if you can use banmal with them. Some words require a bit more knowledge about how Korean conjugates before you sound fluent, though.

Unless the person is much younger than you, you should not use informal language until you’ve been given permission. Most Koreans will actually have a short conversation about this! They’ll say something like “You can address me in banmal now.”

Many Korean teachers recommend mastering jondaemal before concerning yourself with banmal. Korean speakers might take offense if you use banmal in an improper situation. Using jondaemal when you can use banmal is not as offensive, though.

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Going Beyond Speaking the Korean Language

Korean is a dynamic way of speaking that reflects a person’s station in life and age. It reminds us all to respect one another and reflects a sense of intimacy in ways that English does not.

For native English speakers, it’s also one of the easier Asian languages to learn! It isn’t tonal like Chinese, and it doesn’t require you to pay attention to how long you hold your vowels like Japanese. It also features many English loan words.

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