Let’s Talk Titles. Addressing Others Properly in Korean | [Grammar of the “Day”] / Foreign Language Tip

안녕하세요!

Today’s topic is an important one. It’s a bit of a grammar lesson as well as a “Foreign Language Tip” specifically for those learning Korean. This is one of those lessons that you should really keep in mind in the event you are visiting Korea in the future and decide to speak in Korean.

Titles are Important

It is really important that you refer to people in the proper manner in Korean. If you don’t, it’s considered rude. There’s no way around that. Unless that person has specifically told you that it’s okay you can just call them something else like, for example, their name or a nickname.

Respect

Unless told otherwise, like stated before, you truly need to be using the proper titles for people. This is a sign of respect and it dignifies the person you’re speaking with.

“But respect is earned not given! And furthermore, what if they aren’t my supervisor or anything like that?”

You still need to properly address others when you speak to them (unless stated otherwise by that person). In America, it’s not a huge deal if you don’t address people properly because to be honest, it’s just not that serious in the states. However, Korea is not the United States. The customs are different and so are the manners so you have to keep that in mind when visiting another country.

Types of Titles: (Examples)

  • 교수님 | Professor
  • 선생님 | Teacher
  • 사장님 | Company President/Boss

No Title? No problem!

  • -씨
    • equal or lower status
    • rude if you’re their junior
    • used after given name when equal
      • i.e., 민정 – 씨 (Min-jeong “shi”)
    • Not used between people of same gender
      • I was told this and I also read this somewhere so I guess this is just one of those unspoken rules or something. I don’t know. 
  • 선배 (seonbae) | senior
    • Not close? Add -님
      • 선배님
  • 후배 (hubae) | junior
    • Not close? Add -님
      • 후배님

And if you are close to this person… try one of the below.

  • 형 (hyeong) | older brother
    • used by men
  • 누나 (nuna) | older sister
    • used by men
  • 언니 (eonni) | older sister
    • used by women
  • 오빠 (oppa) | older brother
    • used by women

Okay so that’s it for this week! Next week we’ll return to more posts on how to start up a conversation involving an activity!

 

 

 

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