Living in Korea? It pays to learn Korean numbers! (Language Vine)

A version of this blog can be found on Language Vine

Living in Korea? It pays to learn Korean numbers!

My feet are big by Korean standards. I’m an 11.5 at home in the US. That’s 295 in Korean shoe size. Good luck finding anything over 285, and the selection at that size is pretty limited. Because of this, I was discouraged from shoe hunting my first year in Korea.

When my girlfriend grew tired of hiking in her running shoes, she went to a specialty hiking store and picked up a sweet pair of hiking shoes. I wanted some new kicks too. But, convinced I couldn’t find what I needed in Korea, I continued to climb mountains in my Nikes, complaining the whole time. After her big purchase however, my girlfriend suggested I lose the bad attitude and start trying on some shoes myself.

We entered the Millet hiking store and confidently walked to the shoe section. As the store employee approached us, I dusted off my Korean number knowledge. “Ee-behk pahl-sheep oh? You have 285? Let me try those on!”

To my surprise, the shoes fit. On the label, 285 is equivalent to 10.5 in the US. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they fit, but they do. And I was able to communicate without busting out the pen and pad because I could speak basic Korean numbers.

There are several ways to count in Korean, but the following is helpful because it’s how you count years, months, days, and most important… money. It pays to learn Korean numbers!

1 = eel

2 = ee

3 = sahm

4 = sah

5 = oh

6 = yook

7 = cheel

8 = pahl

9 = goo

10 = sheep

11 = sheep-eel

12 = sheep-ee

20 = ee-sheep

21 = ee-sheep-eel

100 = behk

101 = behk-eel

200 = ee-behk

1,000 = chuhn

10,000 = mahn

A bag of chips at the convenience store is typically chuhn won (1,000). Some tteokbokki from a street food stand is ee-chuhn won (2,000). Chom-chey kimbap is usually ee-chun oh-behk won (2,500). When I get off the elevator at my girlfriend’s officetel, the soothing voice says “sheep-sah” (14th floor). Instead of asking a friend to borrow 500 won or 10,000, it’s now normal to say, “oh behk won joo-say-yo!” or “mahn won joo-say-yo!”

And my new hiking shoes that have amazing traction and toe protection, all but putting a halt to my slipping and sliding all over the mountain, those shoes are size ee-behk pahl-sheep oh.


~ by ripcitytoseoul on August 2, 2010.

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