4 In Korean learning journey (:


I’ve heard comments about how some K-learners find the 습니다 form unfamiliar when they first come across it in their beginner k-study as they are more familiar with the 아/어요 form commonly used in dramas etc. Many are quite eager to skip the more formal form and go straight into what they see as “more relevant”.

To be honest, when I first started to learn Korean 8 years ago, I kept wondering when I’ll go pass the 습니다 stage (which I then perceived as more textbook and rigid style) to the spoken colloquial Korean. 

But now I think it makes a lot of sense to introduce the formal form first, given that the conjugations are less complex and easier to pick up for a beginner. And it IS useful. 

Currently, I use the 습니다 form on a daily basis – both spoken and written. 

And I’m glad that I learnt it properly, instead of wanting to skip it to the more colloquial stuff. 

When it comes to serious language learning, there is no such thing as “less important” stuff. I see knowledge of formal, academic style as important as the informal texting style. Swear words are a good-to-know, same for the latest internet slang words. Great to have knowledge of dialects, or even the archaic sageuk speak. Language learning knows no boundaries and the more you pick up, the more you are able to function in all kinds of situations. 

So personally, I get annoyed when I hear people say something is not important to know and I just “want to learn phrases that appear in dramas”. ?


In any case, coming back to the 습니다 form. It’s so common in business settings! To be honest, I always wonder how often or widely this style is used even in formal situations and I guess the answer is – very common!

I shudder to think of how it would be perceived if I write emails in 아/어요 form. It just seems unthinkable now. 

I’m also getting more comfortable to speak on the phone in Korean. And I’ll be like 네, 맞습니다. .. 확인해 드리겠습니다… 네, 좋은 하루 되십시오. 

For certain sentences where I slip into 요 form, my mind would be like “omgggg do I sound too informal and rude??!” Lol. 

The only minor thing is that I seem to be geared too much to the formal side, I’ll probably feel mad awkward speaking in banmal. ??

Out of the various speech styles, I use banmal the least and I am also least comfortable with that. Some of my friends are very used to 반말 so it’s quite interesting to see how different learning environments will affect your proficiency and styles! 

It’s also expected that I use 높임말. So I’m getting used to saying things like 정리해서 보내드리겠습니다.

Again, shudder to think what will happen if I say 정리해서 보내줄게요. LOL. 

Being more attuned to the culture and actually being in the environment will automatically make you more sensitive to all these little things. It may seem difficult to learn all these “different” ways of saying the same thing but somehow it will become natural to you after awhile.

This blog post talks about a lot of stuff but the main takeaway is: don’t pick and choose what to learn. Just learn everything. 

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  • Reply
    Seoul Crystal (Katharine)
    23 June, 2016 at 10:35 AM

    I totally agree with you on his Shanna 🙂 When I had an interview at the embassy, it was very helpful that I learned the formalities of the Korean Language.

  • Reply
    23 June, 2016 at 11:43 PM

    Thanks for sharing! I had started with this form too, as the beginner level was via textbook at a language centre. Although it was true that the conjugations are much simpler, I had not actually encountered situations where I need to use it. It’s refreshing to read about your experience instead 🙂

  • Reply
    26 June, 2016 at 6:03 AM

    They use 습니다 in dramas too maybe even more than the 요 depending on the setting of the drama. bht anyways people can do whatever they want. If they want to focus on common Korean that comes up in dramas I think that’s great. That’s a great motivation and way to learn a language

  • Reply
    28 June, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    my 높임말 is really bad cos i skipped those lessons due to uni when i was learning korean :/ really regret it but i’m just glad that my bosses and colleagues know that my 높임말 is bad and just let me get away with 요 haha 😡

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