Here are 15 hilarious Korean language mistakes. Some of these are quite embarrassing. This is a compilation of real-life mistakes foreign missionaries made while serving in South Korea.
15+ Funny Korean Language Mistakes
- Instead of saying, “The moon looks beautiful tonight.” another missionary said to his Bishop, “Your daughter looks beautiful tonight.” Be careful. (달 = moon, 딸 = daughter) Also, be careful when you say the word, “eighteen”. (십팔 = eighteen) Learn the difference between these characters (alphabet characters): ㅈ,ㅉ and ㅂ, ㅃ and ㄷ, ㄸ and ㄱ,ㄲ and ㅅ, ㅆ Small difference in pronunciation; big difference in meaning, depending on the word. (Victor, Korean Daejeon Mission)
- In the MTC, during a lesson I tried to say “even if you don’t know that our message is true…” but I actually said “even if our message isn’t true…” hahaha. Oops… (Kyle, Korean Daejeon Mission)
- I tried to say “that was a joke” but actually said “that was a farm.” (Alex, Korea Seoul Mission)
- My companion and I went to a store in a small town that was in our area but outside of where we would normally be on a preparation day. We were asked by the store owner who we were or what we did. We said sunggyosa (sex teacher) instead of sungyosa (missionary). As you can imagine it went downhill from there. They asked if we taught one on one or in groups and we said yes to both….we were asked to leave. Only then did we figure out what had happened. (Aaron, Korea Seoul West Mission)
- I humbly give soy sauce when bearing testimony in Korean. (Kyle, Korea Seoul West Mission)
- We were teaching an investigator and he said he didn’t want to go to church because he didn’t like interacting with people. I was trying to say, “it’s okay we can sit in the back!” but I accidentally said we could sit on his back. (April, Korea Seoul South Mission)
- The Korean words for “forgiveness” and “warrior” are quite similar. I had a companion say once “Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can receive [a] warrior.” Our investigator (who was rather proficient at English) then said, “Wait. A warrior?” with the most skeptical expression on his face. (Daniel, Korea Seoul South Mission)
- I was teaching about the Sabbath Day and I meant to say, “On the 7th day, Jesus rested.” But instead I accidentally said, “On the seventh day, Jesus went to the bathroom.” And everybody burst into laughter! So funny! (Abigail, Korea Busan Mission)
- I mispronounced the word for “sad” and basically said something about “drinking alcohol heavily”. (Tessa, Korea Busan Mission)
- I called an older woman to ask permission to teach her daughter. I said “Pap mogoseyo?” to ask if she’d eaten. She thought I called her an idiot “pabo.” The daughter ended up getting baptized, though, as well as the woman. Testament that the Holy Spirit is the one who converts, not us. (Sherri, Korean Daejeon Mission)
- Got my suit back from the cleaners and it said 성교사, rather than 선교사. That was embarrassing. I think they were messing with us. (David, Korean Daejeon Mission)
- In the MTC we tried to share a verse with our teacher (when we were practicing teaching) about the Holy Ghost (Galatians 5:22-23), but I couldn’t remember what the verse was. I only had my Korean scriptures with me, so I had to try to guess what the verse was. The scripture I ended up showing him was 1 Timothy 5:23. Good thing we weren’t trying to teach him the Word of Wisdom right away! But it worked out ok because afterwards (as he read it, I could tell from his expression it wasn’t the right verse) we just bore our testimony about the Holy Ghost. The Lord makes those things work out! (Brandon, Korea Seoul Mission)
- Saja in Korean means messenger, and lion. A lot of times when a new investigator reads The Book of Mormon introduction, where Joseph Smith talks about seeing a messenger referring to Moroni, they think a lion appears to him. (Mike, Korea Seoul Mission)
- My first house helped me write my first talk for the Branch on Sunday. They tried to make me say ‘I am a pabo’ in my talk. Luckily I didn’t do that. (Kory, Korea Seoul West Mission)
- Well, let’s just say there is a difference between 성교사 (sung gyosa) and 선교사 (sun gyosa) and you shouldn’t mix them up when you are telling people what you are doing in Korea. (Jill, Korea Seoul West Mission)
- I was with a senior companion meeting with one of my contacts who was a Tai Kwan Do instructor. After leaving, he turned to me and said man he cussed a lot. I was clueless and still am. I never learned swear words. (David, Korea Seoul West Mission)
For more resources about serving in South Korea:
3 thoughts on “15 HILARIOUS Korean Language Mistakes”
There was this one time I messed up big time. If you say the word for Covenants incorrectly, “The Doctrine and Covenants” becomes “The Doctrine and Sexuality.” My face was red all day long.
My first day in the field, my trainer took me grocery shopping. I asked the kage lady how much for a bunch of carrots, and she said 네개 천 원. Thinking that was an acceptable price, I asked for four carrots:” 사 개 주세요”. My trainer tried hard not to laugh while the kage lady yelled something to the effect of “Whaddya mean?! That is cheap!” Apparently my 사 개 sounded like 싸게.
The moral of the story is: learn when to use counting (korean) numbers vs. arithmetic (chinese-derived) numbers. And never be afraid to ask for a discount!
A former American missionary / branch president once confessed to admonishing all his branch members to come to church next week without fail (bbajim obshi) only he said baji obshi (without pants).
Legendary gaffs: chimdae mattae (beside bed), chimdae mitae (under bed) – renders “As Joseph prayed the Angel Moroni appeared under his bed”
“One day when Joseph Smith was praying in his father’s (nong-jang – farm) he saw and talked to God and Jesus”. If you mess up and say ‘neng-jang’ then Joseph was praying in his father’s refrigerator.
And, a favorite prank to play on your greenie companion: At the time I served many a house had a sign that said ‘gae-jo-shim’ in Chinese characters – We would say that was the house owner’s name. Imagine the response when the greenie asked if Mr. Gae was at home. (meaning was beware of dog).