I am starting to learn Korean (A course on Coursera, I have purchased a course on Udemy, and am also listening to podcasts from "Talk to me in Korean".

In the podcasts, they suggest learning the formal first, and I was wondering if this would appear odd to Korean speakers if I talk solely in a formal fashion?

  • When they say formal, do they mean 'Haeyoche' where you basically add 요 onto verbs, or 'Hapsyoche' where you end with e.g. ㅂ니다 / ㅂ니까? – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 30 '18 at 18:11
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    They only addressed anyong haseo, but from reading I gathered anyong hashimnikka was more formal. I wondered if there is a difference in study approach. – JohnP Mar 30 '18 at 19:04

For conversational Korean between adults in informal situations, I would agree with HK Lee that the most useful style to become comfortable with is the haseo / haeyo style. This can be called 해요체 ('Haeyoche'), and is considered a polite but informal style. I guess that means my answer is 'no' - it's not necessarily better to learn a formal style first.

One thing that is definitely worth understanding early on is the use of the (으)시 / (u)shi honorific particle in verbs. In my experience, this is the most important mechanism for showing the necessary politeness to the person you are talking to or about, which is often more important than formality. A related issue is using special polite forms of some verbs and nouns, such as 'tushida'(드시다) instead of 'mokda'(먹다) for eat.

Having said that, being comfortable with switching the endings on verbs to speak in (and listen to) different levels is an important part of the language, so I would hope any good Korean course wouldn't let you go too far without introducing you to different levels - so if you find a good course that happens to start of teaching a formal style, I wouldn't see that as a big negative point.

I was wondering if this would appear odd to Korean speakers if I talk solely in a formal fashion?

It probably will, if you're not in a formal situation - but that doesn't really matter. There will be plenty of other odd things about the way you're speaking, as a beginner!

By the way, you will quite often hear common phrases like 'hello' - 안녕하십니까 (annyeong hashimnikka) or 'thanks' - 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida) spoken in formal language, even in situations that aren't really that formal. In these situations, it is common for the rest of the conversation to carry on using less formal language - so just because you hear 'kamsahamnida' a lot, don't be fooled into thinking people are being formal with each other most of the time.


I think being a non-Korean person, speaking formally is the best way to go, at first. I'm currently a beginner as well, so my info is totally anecdotal, but my Korean SO explained it this way:

It's way better to speak formally in a situation where you might be expected to be speaking informally, than to speak informally in a situation where you're expected to speak formally.

You're a beginner. It's better to err on the side of respect, especially when diving into someone else's culture/language. I'd say learn formal first, get down the formal grammar/syntax, and go from there!


Well, Korean Langauge is very complicated. 존댓말 is not equal to formal style. 존댓말 can be casual style. This is just a way of speaking that shows your respect to the other. So, 존댓말 contains the formal style. On the other hand, there is another style called 반말. This is a very casual style. So, If you use 반말, for example, to older people or strangers, It is a very rude situation that we can't imagine that happens.

Using 존댓말 is a safe way which you can use it to everyone. However, your close friends or younger people can feel your too much respect and may feel a bit uncomfortable. But it's alright.

In conclusion, There are really many ways to express your word in Korean(Even in 존댓말). That makes you confused. So, choosing one style and learning it is a very clear way to study Korean without confusion.

If you want more information, check: https://discord.gg/j9Knkyc

  • Hi - when I tried the link, I didn't seem to find any info relevant to your post... is that definitely the right link? – topo Reinstate Monica Apr 5 '18 at 22:41

The following is order of learning Korean

합쇼체 -> 해요체 -> 반말

(Hapssyoche (most honorific speech) -> Haeyoche (honorific speech) -> plain speech)

@ Korean usually think that almost all english expression is plain speech.

a) Nowadays, when we are talking, it is reasonable that we use 해요체 only (cf article of Robert who is a professor in Korea).

Hence, foreigners in foreign learn 합쇼체 first, and foreigners in Korea learn 해요체 first, because in conversation, 합쇼체 is not effective.

1) 해요체 is simple : Extremely speaking, 해요체 is 반말 + 요 (honorific final ending)

For example, 먹어요 (Please, eat) is union of 먹어 (Eat) + 요

2) Showing intimacy or cuteness

b) 합쇼체 is used for newspaper. Because they must send objectivity rather than intimacy.

  • You realize, that for someone who doesn't read Hangul yet, this means nothing. – JohnP Apr 1 '18 at 5:04
  • There are many styles of speaking and he explained it. 합쇼체 means -하십시오 style. 해요체 means -해요 style. And you can think 반말 is a casual way which can be without any respect. I can't translate 하십시오 or 해요 because they are the endings of the verbs of each style.. – C-an Apr 5 '18 at 18:25
  • @ChanjungKim - I know he explained it. But if you don't read Hangul, even your comment reads "...he explained it. Frimratzlkaup means bangarangle style. Blitzawhjatsis means zingleklunk style" and so on. Without the translation of the characters, it's meaningless. – JohnP Apr 5 '18 at 19:09
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    Well, this is a site for Korean learners, and answers containing the correct terms in Korean will remain more useful to visitors later. – jick Apr 5 '18 at 21:58
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    @jick : I see. I edited. – HK Lee Apr 5 '18 at 22:25

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