Everyday Life in Direct Translation

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A little look at linguistic and cultural differences via three everyday situations in London vs Korea.

Some quick notes:

Korean syntax (the order in which words and phrases are put together, basically) is pretty much the opposite of most European languages. This is very tricksy, as is the rule that you have to specify the topic, object and subject of your sentence by putting a particle after them. Except sometimes you don’t say the subject at all, especially if it’s a person. Like ‘I’, for example, or 'you’. Yeah.

Verbs are conjugated not only by tense but by honorific level. Honorific particles are added to certain titles and whole different nouns or verbs are used for seemingly innocuous things like 'sleep’, 'meal’ or 'house’ if the person you are talking to is higher up the hierarchy than you. Aside from making it terrifyingly easy to offend people, this means that even a short Korean phrase can be packed with meaning and indicators far beyond the literal.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

1. Taking a taxi


Hiya, can you go to St Pancras please?


Thanks. Here is the cost of five hours’ miserable minimum wage labour.


Honourable driver, Foreign Language High School towards kindly go (I honour you a middling kind of amount).

In the location of here one year have been located.

No, American am not.

Yes, in the location of Korea four seasons there are.

Korean food, which is the topic of this sentence, many-lots delicious is.

Korean language, which is the topic of this sentence, difficult but interesting-and-or-fun is.

Honourable driver, gratitude and honour to a higher-than-usual degree. Here is the price of a can of coke. You have worked hard, most honourably.

2. Ordering a meal


Oh, excuse me sorry? Could we possibly order now? Thanks ever so much.

Could I just have the risotto, please? With salad. No thanks. No thanks. Yes please. Just tap water please. Oh, really? Um, yeah mineral water then please. Still, please. Thank you!

15 minutes later

Thank you - oh, sorry I actually said salad? Thanks, thank you.

30 minutes later

Excuse me sorry, could we get the bill please?

Here is the exact change for my meal only plus contribution for tip which leaves me with a fiver and a Pot Noodle til payday. My friends will add theirs.

Thank you so much, bye!


[Hey you] over there, I honour you middlingly!

Massive pot of hot spicy tofu, one; bottles of beer, 4; bottles of soju, 2: give with middling honour.

Three minutes later:

*unceremonious plonking down of meal along with 28 side dishes and rice*

Wah, delicious. Gratitude with some honour.

One hour later

[hey you] over there, price (which is the object of my sentence) pay would like with honour. Here is the price of a Boots Meal Deal, which as  I am hosting this dinner I shall pay in full. Quite honourably goodbye.

3. Talking to the boss


Morning Karen! How are you? Good weekend? Yeah, I did thanks. Not too busy today actually, how about you? Great, yeah, see you later!


*Bow* Honoured Head Teacher, hello in the most honourable way it can possibly be articulated. At the time of this weekend Korean language, (which is the object of my sentence) studied, I honour you. Yes, many-lots busy but happy am. Today, which is the main topic of the sentence I am about to say, biscuits which are the object of my sentence brought. Many-lots honourably eat please most honourably. Honoured Head Teacher goodbye most honourably *bow*.

Wanderings and Ramblings of an ESL teacher currently based in a tiny mountain town near the North Korean border.


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