Monthly Archives: July 2014

Collectivistic culture in Korea

Korea is a place where low individualism prevails but collectivism predominates. Korean people believe in the will of the group rather than that of the individual, and the society emphasises on harmony and group decision-making. Therefore, while you are studying Korean, you will be able to find unique cultural fact and expressions that have traditionally been handed down.

The adjective of ‘our’ is often used when referring to Korea; the country, own home or family members instead of using ‘my’ such as our country and our home. It does not necessarily mean there was a joint ownership involved. ‘Our’ emphasizes community over individuality, which expressing their affiliations that they are belong to. By using this term, Koreans consciously or unconsciously strengthen a sense of harmony. However, when it is necessary to specify one’s possession, ‘my’ is used. ‘Our’ could sound odd in this case.

The other interesting Korean culture fact is calling people as a family member. For instance, a ripe of old age of 80 is normally called as a grandfather or grandmother from other people regardless of family relationship. Brothers and sisters are also frequently used to call rather than their names. Since Koreans historically observe a custom of Confucian ideology that considers the society as a big family in the same vein as collectivism. This unique culture gives Korean people a sense of intimacy to each other.

In addition, when you are willing to call someone only by names, you should make sure if the other person is the same age otherwise the other person might feel uncomfortable to be called since the appropriate title is particularly commonly used rather than names. If someone looks obviously older than you, it may be a good idea to call him or her as a familial title. If it happened in a work place, you should call someone by his or her title (check out the last blog: ‘A word on culture: you’). The term ‘friend’ in Korean is only used to refer to someone the same age as you. Names without any title can be used after you are quite close to someone.

Phone Conversation in Korean

Dialogue 1: How to call your friend!

A: 여보세요? Jenny집인가요?

   (yeoboseyo? Jenny jip ingayo? /

Hello? Is this Jennys residence?)

B: , 누구세요?  (ne, nuguseyo?/  Yes. Who is calling?)

A: 저는 Jenny 친구 Mike예요.    

    (jeoneun jenny chingu Mike yeyo. / Im Mike, Jennys friend.

   Jenny 있어요?     (Jenny isseoyo? / Is there Jenny?)

B: , 잠시만요.     (ne, jamsimanyo/ Yes. Hold on, please.)

A: 감사합니다.  (gamsahamnida/ Thank you.)


Jenny: 여보세요? (yeoboseyo? / Hello?)

Mike: , 나야. Mike.   (eung/naya/ Yep, Its me, Mike.)


Dialogue 2: How to call in Korean formally!

A: 여보세요? Jenny씨 댁인가요?

   (yeoboseyo? Jenny ssi daekingayo? / Hello? Is this Jennys residence?)

B: , 누구세요?  (ne, nuguseyo?/  Yes. Who is calling?)

A: 저는 Jenny씨 회사 동료 Mike예요.    

    (jeoneun jenny ssi hoesa dongryo Mike yeyo. /

Im Mike, Jennys colleague.)

   Jenny씨 계신가요?     (Jenny gyesingayo? / Is there Jenny?)

B: , 잠시만요.     (ne, jamsimanyo/ Yes. Hold on, please.)

A: 감사합니다.  (gamsahamnida/ Thank you.)


Jenny: 여보세요? (yeoboseyo? / Hello?)

Mike: 제니씨, 저예요. (Jenny ssi jeoyeyo/ Yep, Its me, Mike.)


When you call to your friend casually or call to someone formally, you need to use somewhat different level of politeness in Korean.

Firstly, “Hello?” on the phone is “여보세요?”

When you pick up the phone, just say “여보세요?”

Koreans normally ask the question “Who is calling?” to the caller.

“누구세요?”(Who is calling?”) or “실례지만, 누구세요?” (Excuse me but who is calling?) can be used in Korean.

When you want to confirm whether or not you called to the right place or number, you can ask the question “~인가요?”

Like the examples, casually “제니 집인가요?” or formally “제니씨 댁인가요?” is used depending on the situation.

Two expressions ‘제니 집’ and ‘제니씨 댁’ mean the same “Jenny’s residence (house)” But depending on the situation, we need to choose the proper the level of politeness. ‘댁’ is an honorific word of ‘집’

         제니 집 (Jenny’s residence)      교수님 댁 (professor’s residence)


Just combine with a noun with ~인가요?

제니 집 인가요?”               “교수님 댁 인가요?”

(Is this Jenny’s residence?)       (Is this the Professor’s residence?)

When you ask the telephonee to put you through to your friend, you can say “~있어요?” Like the example on the first dialogue, you can ask the question “제니 있어요?” It means “Is Jenny there?” or “Is Jenny in?” The expression is informal. When you ask the question formally, you can say “제니씨 계신가요?”

계시다 is an honorific expression of 있다.

     친구가 있어요(There is a friend).  어머니가 계세요(There is my mother).


Compare two sentences.




Is Jenny’s residence? 제니 집인가요? 제니씨 댁인가요?
Is there Jenny? 제니 있어요? 제니씨 계신가요?
It’s me. 나야. 저예요.


Just try to call your friends in Korean. Start from the easiest “여보세요?” J

Sarah Yong (Korean Teacher)

Korean Convention: Using Familial Titles

In Korea, you must never call someone who is older than you by his or her name. Rather, use familial titles!

Calling the elder’s name directly should be rude in Korea. Rather, you must call him or her by an appropriate familial title. It would be much better. Of course, it is not for the working place but for the casual social life.

Interestingly, family titles can be used to call someone who is not your family member in Korea. Family titles are very often used to non-family members to express friendly feeling or intimacy. The situation can be seen easily in other Asian countries such as China or India.

However, there is something that we need to be careful about. Depending on your gender and the gender of opposite person, you should use different familial titles.

As seen in the above pictures, older sister can be called with 누나or언니 and older brother can be titled with or오빠.

When you call old women between 40~50-year-olds, 아주머니(ajumeoni) can be used. 아저씨(ajeossi) are used to old men around 40~50-year-olds. You may call 70~80-years-old men and women as 할아버지 (harabeoji) and 할머니(halmeoni) respectively.

When you call a young looking woman, you need to carefully choose one of two titles, 언니 (누나) or 아주머니. Korean woman doesn’t like to be called as 아줌마 or 아주머니. Especially, the title 아줌마 is not preferred too much. Many western people may be not sure of Asian women’s age with their looking. You can avoid using the direct titles until you can be sure of the person’s age or social status. 🙂

Sarah Yong (Korean Teacher)

Hi everyone, 皆さん、こんにちは。


My Japanese classes/lessons included practices to develop skills of speaking/talking, reading, listening, writing, interacting, and constructing/performing students’ own dialogues by pairs/groups. My Pre-Intermediate 1 has recently began Unit 4, Genki Book 1 apart from Kanji learning with use of the Kanji learning pages located at the back of the above textbook. We had a Japanese visitor to the class a few weeks ago. The Japanese young gentleman was staying at the home of one of the students of that class. We had great time with him while speaking in English and some Japanese.  Also, in the above class, we practiced reading the names of many different Australian wine, “gooshuu-wain”, of which the names are written in Katakana. In addition, that exercise included how to express the prices of each bottle, name of colours and the Australian regional names that are famous for winery and sources of production of those kinds of wine.  I used a Japanese advertisement for the above activity, which is from “Jenta”.

As for singing a Japanese song, the above class sang, “My Fingers” in Japanese over a few weeks. It is a cute and funny song. The words of the song include onomatopea written in Katakana, such as “wahahahaha” for a father’s laughing voice; “ohohohoho” of the mother’s laughing voice; “abubububu” for a baby’s voice.

Other student who I weekly tutor the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, N1 read and comprehend an article of Jenta, Sydney, “Aruki-sumaho: kiken desu.” (Use of smartphone while walking on a street is dangerous”). It is based on a scholar’s research. The article included many useful words and grammar for the above JLPT N1. Also, I used a Japanese article of a Japanese magazine “AERA” (31.3.2014, p.36-38). The title of the article is “Shigotoba –ga Toyota –ni Natta.” (My workplace became like one of Toyota.) Toyota is famous with its through way of use of office and equipment, i.e. resources. Any space, time to reach a certain equipment or place in the office/room, place to keep daily used equipment in a right and convenient place, training its new staff to know all of such so that staff’s energy, time, efficiency of the workplace etc will be the maximum. – A few years ago I read a book which talked about similar things, in Japanese. The book was written by a former Toyota executive. The book talked about many more things apart from the above technique of use of a workplace of Toyota. What was said in the book was just amazing.

This above magazine article of AERA was written by an executive trainer of QJT Solutions, who worked in Toyota for 40 years and he is “preaching” Toyota methods in many cities around Japan as an executive trainer. The article is fascinating, inspiring, able to apply the contexts to people’s any rooms, and so smart!

Also, I talked about the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Australia this month. The article, “Japan’s most powerful due to visit”, The Australian (2.7.2014, p. 22) reports that he will bring with him a business delegation whose companies market capitalization is almost equal to the gross domestic product of Denmark. The P.M. Abe will address in the Australian Parliament, Canberra for the first time in the history of the two nations, as the Japanese Prime Minister.

Japanese Teacher, Toshiko Jackson


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