Saturday, March 14, 2009


“Konglish is the use of English words (or words derived from English words) in a Korean context. The words, having English words in a Korean context, or are made from a combination of Korean and English words.”

Konglish is one of the things which I really enjoy about Korea. It seems to be an attempt by Koreans to include some English and/or western language and customs into their lives which often goes awry and is amusing - well from our perspective anyway!
Konglish comes in many forms and guises, from English words written in Hangul (Korean script) to English written in English with Korean grammar or even English written in English with Korean sentiment (or craziness :)) added.

Stationery made in Korea boasts many Konglish gems. This is particularly true for the exercise books the students use for English lessons - these are sold specifically as English Notebooks, and usually bear some sort of English paragraph or phrase or sentence on the front. These are usually bordering on nonsensical and amuse me no end, while at the same time endearing the Koreans to me for trying so hard to 'assimilate' English!

Here are some classic examples:

"Children growing, Berds singing, Sun rising, Flowers blooming, and all the things in life..."

"Green. natural colour."

"A glass of milk. milk is the white liquid produced by cows, goats, and some other animals, which people drink and use to make butter, cheese, and yoghurt. Milk is processed on the basis of the maximum content of fat and solid not fat (SNF) it would ultimately possess."

"Oh such a kings weather we should go on picnic"

And of course the photo above "Memory..."

Wikipedia also quotes some other classic examples of Konglish as Apateu (apartment) and Hopeu (draft beer, from the German word ‘Hof’).

Here you can see another funny quirk of Konglish: the addition of the 'eu' sound at the end of most Konglish words/syllables.
We often joke that one could get by without much Korean if one just added 'eu' (pronounced a bit like the 'e' in 'her') to the end of every word e.g. "shampoo-eu chuseyo" (please), "french fries-eu chuseyo", "notebook-eu chuseyo" "juice-eu chuseyo" etc.
Our friend Clint, who's teaching up near Seoul, is called Clint-eu by his co-teachers, and this nickname has caught on amongst his foreign friends in a big way!

I decided to keep the best for last:
My FAVOURITE Konglish or Konglish-error-English phrase is one I came across on a bumper sticker on a car yesterday:

"Let's go Korea! The new demention"

It's a hilarious mistake as I'm sure they meant to write 'dimension' and not 'demention'.

From my perspective as an English speaker in Korea this is double funny: us foreigners are always joking about how Koreans are so incredibly proud of their technological and economic advances, they are very nationalistic and of course they would want to say that Korea is the 'new dimension' – it’s so funny that they ended up unintentionally saying that Korea is the newest place to make you go crazy (=demention)! Because that is quite often how we feel about it, even if it is an unfair judgement but that is nonetheless our experience!

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