What is it about being smart? Everyone wants to be smart, and more than a few of us are jealous when someone else seems smarter than us. That's normal, maybe, but no one can really hate a person who's smart enough to save them time and energy. And as you know, Korean society is driven to distraction with "빨리빨리" ("Faster, faster") culture.
With that being said, efficient language is without a doubt a new kind of intelligence in South Korea — it’s deft, exacting point, and attractive. And not just in a business context; in casual meet-ups it goes a long way too.
But hey, having spent so much time trying to master a foreign language, the temptation to be wordy and pedantic is strong. We’ve all been there. But invariably our minds are blown when we hear native speakers cover the same breadth of ideas and substance with only a fraction of the words.
So here I am to cut through the noise, make you a little smarter, and make others think you're even more smarter than that.
The examples below will help you get to the point in every occasion and with everyone you talk to in Korea. I'll keep it brief and skip to the point — I know all you want are those 10 phrases...
But please note the following:
1. 요점은... (The point is...)
I met several foreigners who say "중요한 것은..." ("The important thing is..."), but "요점은..." sounds far more adept and sharp. "요(要)" means "handy/useful", and "점(點)" means "point".
* Literal pronunciation: [요쩌믄]
ex) 요점은 너가 내일 오전 10시까지 여기 무조건 와야 한다는 거야. (The point is, you must be here at 10am sharp tomorrow morning, no matter what.)
(Incidentally, were you aware that half of standard Korean vocabulary has Chinese roots? You can usually trace word meanings back to ancient Chinese characters called hanja. This can really help you cut to the chase if you're eager to expand your vocabulary ASAP.)
2. 그렇죠 (That’s right./ You’re right.)
Technically speaking, you can be also say, "맞아요," but its nuance is a bit different from "그렇죠."
"맞아요" is like "That is correct," but "그렇죠" is more like "Yes, you are also right." Your opinions and philosophies are valid, I concur.
* Literal pronunciation: [그러쵸]
* Informal speech: 그렇지 [그러치]
ex) 그렇죠. 이런 식으로 계획이 틀어지면 안 돼죠. (You’re right. This plan obviously shouldn’t go wrong like this.)
3. 정리하면... (To sum it up...)
Don't you just love endless meetings? Well... Probably not. But who doesn't love a succinct summary? After a marathon meeting, with everyone's patience and attention worn to pieces, "정리하면" will give everyone a jolt of new energy to carry them across the finish line. Be the hero — be the one who goes right for the conclusion.
* Literal pronunciation: [정니하면...]
ex) 정리하면, 내일 정오까지 보고서 끝내시고, 저희는 모레 오후 3시에 만날게요. (To sum it up, please get your report done by noon tomorrow, and we will meet at 3pm the day after tomorrow.)
4. 반면에... (On the other hand...)
You’ve got a broader view than others, and you want to give them more information and variables to weigh. "반면에..." has a good sound and can focus others, so give it a try. It will make your ideas less direct and less aggressive, and your thoughts will reach for a more comprehensive grasp than if you just use "그치만" or "근데" (which both mean just "but").
* Literal pronunciation: [밤면에...]
ex) 반면에, 그 뉴스는 완전히 다른 사실을 보도하더라고요. 뭐가 진짜죠? (On the other hand, the news reported completely different facts. What is the truth?)
5. 간단히 말하면... (To make a long story short...)
This seems somewhat similar from "정리하면..." (#3), but it’s quite different. "정리하면..." is appropriate for the end of a summary, while "간단히 말하면..." is generally used to shorten a larger body of information.
However, I’ve seen many pals who drone on and on even after saying this... But let’s not waste anyone's time. Use this when you have a truly apt way to sum things up. Brevity is the soul of wit!
* Literal pronunciation: [간따니 마라면]
If you need to be strictly polite with someone, instead say, "간단히 말씀드리면..."
ex) 간단히 말하면, 서로 가치관이 안 맞아서 팀을 해체했어요. (To make a long story short, we had a conflict of values, so we disbanded the team.)
6. 왜냐하면... (Because...)
You can't go wrong with this. Unless you’re repeating what everyone knows, adding some proper reasons to support your perspective can really help out. Your view isn’t rational and obvious enough to remain unexpressed, so let people know more about where you're coming from. Let’s adore "왜냐하면..." in every language we speak.
* Literal pronunciation: [왜냐(아)면]
ex) 죄송하지만, 저 이어폰 하나 사 주실 수 있을까요? 왜냐하면 음악 없이 제가 집중을 잘 못 하거든요. 그리고 지갑을 잃어버렸어요. (I’m sorry, but could you help me get some earphones? Because I can’t focus well without music, and I’ve lost my wallet.)
7. 잘 짚으셨어요. 그치만... (Good point, but...)
It’s always a good idea to show some respect for another person's perspective, and it definitely makes work easier. But everyone has a different take on things. "짚다" means "to point out", and with "그치만...", overall it balances a willingness to be open to someone's ideas with a desire to weigh other options. Essentially, let's agree to disagree.
* Literal pronunciation: [잘 지프셔써요. 그치만...]
* Informal speech: 잘 짚었어. 근데... [잘 지퍼써. 근데...]
ex) 잘 짚으셨어요. 그치만 먼저 그 쪽에 확실하게 물어보는 게 좋지 않을까요? (Good point, but wouldn’t it be better if we ask them, just to be sure?)
8. 그거 좋네요. (That sounds great.)
Some people say Koreans are the kings of reaction (and overreaction). They nod, saying clearly, "아..." ("Ah...") and "오..." ("Oh...") when they are responding positively. Try mimicking them. And if you are getting what you wanted, you might exclaim, "좋아요!" ("Good!") But dial it down a bit. Restrain yourself and say, "그거 좋네요." It feels a little more confident, like you've given the situation some thought and objectively determined that, yes, this is great.
* Literal pronunciation: [그거 존네요.]
* Informal speech: 그거 좋네. [그거 존네.]
ex) 그거 좋네요. 제가 딱 그 생각하고 있었어요. (That sounds great. That’s exactly what I was thinking.)
9. 제 생각에는... (From my view...)
Okay, it’s time to initiate yourself: Start off with "제 생각은..." or "제 생각에는..." and then say what you want to say. If you're more inclined to disagree, say "제 생각은 달라요." ("I'm thinking something different.") But if you're on the same page as the other person, go with "제 생각도 같아요." ("I'm thinking the same.") The latter sounds more organized and measured than "저도요." ("Me too.")
* Literal pronunciation: [제 생가게는...]
* Informal speech: 내 생각에는... [내 생가게는...]
ex) 제 생각에는, 더 이상 이 방법은 안 통할 것 같아요. (From my point of view, this way won't work anymore.)
10. 어떻게 보세요/ 어떻게 생각하세요? (What’s your take on it?/What are your thoughts?)
Remember, we're talking about how to communicate more constructively. Be careful not to transliterate "what" into "뭐" every time, as sometimes it can actually sound a bit rude. Try "어떻게" ("how") to strike a more neutral and open-minded tone. That will give you more opportunities to engage in productive conversations in Korean. Simply put, "어떠세요?" ("What do you say?")
* Literal pronunciation: [어떠케 보세요/생가카세요?]
* Informal speech: 어떻게 봐/어떻게 생각해? [어떠케 봐/어떠케 생가캐?]
ex) 저 카페에서 먼저 쉬는 게 좋을 것 같은데, 어떻게 생각하세요? (I think it’s better to rest at that cafe first. What do you think?)
And that’s it for today.
I'm not going to tell you that if you say those 10 phrases you'll look like a super-smooth genius with people hanging on your every word. Not even close.
But listen: Intelligence is about more than polishing hand-picked fragments. It has almost everything to do with your raw ideas and the way you electrify people and persuade them to listen to more. I want to help you link those dots and put your ideas to more effective use. Find opportunities to use those 10 phrases and make your speech more captivating.
Also, don’t forget to vary the tempo and emphasis of your speaking. Mixing things up like that will draw in more listeners and give you a more professional tone. Avoid a monotone at all costs!
Cebin Jeong | Content Curator
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