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"알았어" can be used to express understanding of what another person is saying. Could this be interpreted as rude? Or can it be a phrase to express "gotcha," or "I got it."

Are there other phrases in Korean that can be used to express understanding (translation of "gotcha," "I got it," etc)?

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In a conversational setting, probably 80% of my responding to the other person starts with "아~" in a very specific tone tailored to the situation.

"아~ 네 알겠어요"/"아~ 알았어" - usually when the other person has asked me to carry out some instructions

"아!"/"아~!" - when the other person was explaining a difficult concept and then it finally clicks for you, "I get it!"

As you mentioned "알았어" just by itself has the potential to be interpreted as rude in a certain tone so I would always add a short or long 아~ at the beginning just to make it clear that I'm saying "I see, I understand now" instead of "I get it, stop talking to me"

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  • 고마워요! I appreciate your explanation. I do say "아~" even in English so that makes sense.
    – Amacelia
    Mar 9 '17 at 21:27
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It would only be rude if speaking to someone older or a stranger or otherwise deserving of respect, since it is "반말 ban-mal" (literally: "half-speech")...if you add 요 to the end you'd be safer in more general situations.

알아(요) and 알겠어(요) are used pretty much the same way, which may seem weird but it is normal.

Of course there are other ways to say this, but these are usual.

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