S1 Ep2: 정말 감사합니다 Learn and Practice: Honorific levels 반갑습니다, 감사합니다/고맙습니다, and 죄송합니다/미안합니다

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Vanessa: 2화: 정말 감사합니다.

Chris: Episode #2: Thank you very much

Vanessa: Hi Chris, How have you been?

Chris: Hi Vanessa, I have been well. What about you?

Vanessa: 수업하면서 바쁘게 지냈어요. I have been pretty busy with teaching Korean classes

Chris: Oh, I see. By the way, I tuned into our last podcast recording and your voice sounded amazing.

Vanessa:아, 정말요? 감사합니다. 크리스 씨도요.

Chris: Oh, I was always curious about that. Why is that when speaking Korean, people use ending in -요 as honorific form yet suddenly expressions such as “감사합니다” the honorific expressions that end in “다 나 까”?

Vanessa: Wow, that’s a really good question. Yes. Most Korean conversations are used in the second level of honorific -ending, 요, but some expressions such as thank you often use the highest level of honorific.

Chris: Wait, What? Levels of honorific forms?

Vanessa: First of all, in order to explain, I think I need to briefly introduce honorific forms in Korean. There are 6 levels of honorific forms in Korean.

Chris: Six levels? Wow, I heard there were some levels, but did not expect six levels of honorific forms

Vanessa: Yes, Most likely others may think that way.  However, three levels are mainly used in everyday life. The other three usages are rarely used in daily life in South Korea, but I think they tend to use them a little more in North Korea.  Anyway, in the case of South Korea, the social ranks have eased a lot as they enter modern society, so usage has been simplified quite a bit.  Before the division of South & North Korea, even if you are in a high social position, if the person you are talking to is older and experienced, instead of using informal language, mid-level honorific forms were used.

Anyway, the important factors that still determine the method of honorific form in Korean are 1) rank/social position, 2) degree of Acquaintance, and 3) etiquette in the situation where the conversation takes place. Generally speaking, “rank” refers to the difference between the age or position of the speaker and listener.

Chris: Wow. That’s interesting. So different from English…

Vanessa: The ending 다 나 까 is the highest level of honorific which are used in formal meetings, events, or to high-ranking executives in professional settings, and in the military with a strong hierarchy system. In this case, most of the sentences end in 다 나 까. And there’s One level below ends in 요, where it is used by the speaker who is younger than the listener or to treat the other party with respect even if they are not older themselves.  In this case, all sentences end with a -요.

Lastly, there is an informal, called 반말 in Korean. 반 means half and 말 mean language/word. In other words, it means to say use half of the word to emphasize the intimacy between speaker and listener.  In this case, just take out the -요 from the sentence that ends with -요. That’s why it’s called 반말. Haha

Chris: To wrap it up, the highest honorific form ends in 다 나 까, then 2nd highest honorific form ends in -요, which is also most common and lowest level, 반말, is ending the sentence without -요. Is that correct?

Vanessa: 네, 맞아요. Yes, that is correct. However, some of the expressions like “Thank you 감사합니다”, which we said earlier, are one of the expressions we use to convey our sincerity to others. For example, 죄송합니다/미안합니다, or 반갑습니다.  To express since’rity even if we are talking with -yo ending, its’ preferred to use the highest level of honorific form.

Chris: Then expression like 죄송합니다, 반갑습니다 is better to use the highest level of honorific form?

Vanessa: 네, 맞아요. Yes, that is correct. Unless the speaker is clearly older, they usually use the highest level of honorific form.

Chris: Then what is the difference between 감사합니다 vs 고맙습니다, and 미안합니다 vs 죄송합니다?

Vanessa: Actually, there no difference between the meaning of 감사합니다(감사해요) and 고맙습니다(고마워요). You can use either of the two. However, there is a difference between 미안합니다 (미안해요) and 죄송합니다 (죄송해요). In fact, the word “죄송” itself is a formal word.  So, no matter how much you use the highest level of honorific form, 미안합니다 feels less formal than 죄송합니다 to say I’m sorry.  That’s why it’s more natural for older people to say 미안합니다 when they apologize to younger people, but to say sorry for the opposite case or very first time to each other then 죄송합니다 should be used.

Chris: Oh, it’s complicated… Are there more expressions like this?

Vanessa: Yes, there are a few words that have the same meaning for words that are used frequently in everyday life but some are more formal than others. I’ll cover this part in one episode in the future.

Chris: Okay, Well, today we touched on the honorific levels and some expression such as 감사합니다/고맙습니다, 죄송합니다/미안합니다, 반갑습니다are better to use highest honorifics form. Now shall we practice some examples?

Vanessa: All right! Let’s practice!

Situation #1

Vanessa: 선생님, 안녕하세요? Hello teacher

Chris: 안녕하세요? 여러분~ 반갑습니다. Hello Everyone, Nice to meet you all.

Situation #2

Vanessa: 이거 크리스 씨 선물이에요. This is a gift for you, Chris.

Chris: 오! 정말요? 정말 감사합니다! Oh really, thank you so much!

Situation #3

Vanessa: 왜 어제 숙제 안했어요? Why didn’t you do your homework?

Chris: 어제 너무 바빴어요. 죄송합니다. 선생님. I was too busy yesterday. I’m sorry, Teacher.

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