Mistakes in Korean: And with one word, I changed my gender

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If you know a little bit about Korean culture and how Koreans generally refer to each other with titles based on their relationship and gender, you’ll probably be very disappointed in this failure of mine. It’s a mistake on something so elementary (and you know I just wanted to use that word instead of basic—makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes—don’t judge me) that I cringe every time I remember reading the comment on my italki post.

A while ago, I wrote an italki post about how my sister and her husband just bought their first house. I was extremely excited as I began to type.

“오늘은 우리…”

And with the third word, I already made a mistake and essentially changed my gender.


오, 오, 오오오오오~!!!! 이거 봐?!


Nuna? Nuna?

What is nuna, you ask. Allow me to explain. Nuna is the name given to a close older sister or female friend of a guy.

Just so you know, my friend, I am female. In Korean, I should call my older sister eonni. 언니.

Perhaps you don’t think this isn’t that bad of a mistake but I was extremely embarrassed.

(Not to mention I used the wrong version of irang/rang to link my sister and my brother-in-laws titles, and his title was also wrong because it should’ve been 형부 for a girl calling her brother-in-law. But you don’t need to know that I did that. It’s just my personal insult to injury. Oh thanks, brain. You da best.)

Have you made any mistakes while language learning?



13 thoughts on “Mistakes in Korean: And with one word, I changed my gender

  1. Pingback: Anyways…who are you? – familial titles in Korean | my {seoul} dream

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  3. It’s hard to learn family titles, I still struggle with the uncles and the aunts since for mothers and fathers side they are different as well. same for cousins and such, maybe I should make some sort of family tree to have it all nicely put together…


    • 그죠? It can feel really confusing to try to sort it all out, let alone remember it when you need to. It’d almost be nice if I could convince everybody to wear name tags in Korean…”안녕하세요, 너의 삼촌 입니다…”


  4. Pingback: How to NOT tell someone you’re excited – mistakes in Korean | my {seoul} dream

  5. Pingback: Want to be my 친구? (how to say ‘friend’ in Korean) | my {seoul} dream

  6. I once made a spelling mistake. I meant 우리 but I wrote 오리 not knowing that’s it’s duck at that time. I said 오리 친구 and a Korean friend just won’t stop laughing. He said he can imagine I have ducks as friends. O.o


    • ㅎㅎㅎㅎ I like that! Duck friend…I had a friend accidentally say potato friend (감자친구) instead of boy friend (남자친구). I think there are a lot of different kinds of 친구 hanging around in language mistakes ㅋㅋ


  7. Once on accident I was trying to talk to a little girl at my friend’s church (which is a Korean church) and I said 안녕하세요 which of course made everyone giggle because she was much much younger than I was. It was embarrassing but it helped me remember to remember age when talking


    • Age is definitely an interesting thing to consider when talking! I find it fascinating how different people approach talking to children – native speakers that is. Some are very cutesy and speak very informally and some speak formally but also in a cutesy way that takes away from the seriousness of their language…No wonder it’s easy for learners to make mistakes ㅠ.ㅠ Thanks for sharing!! ^^


  8. I’m confused with romanization. When I find one spelling of a word, when I go to another website, it’s spelled like how you used in this article or with a little difference i.g. instead of nuna I’ve seen it spelled Noona, and with eonni I’ve seen it spelled unnie. Does it mean the same thing just spelled differently or…? I don’t want to sound like an idiot. (haha sorry. I just haven’t had anyone explain this to me)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry about whether your question seems silly! You wouldn’t know unless someone told you, and luckily I’ve been studying Korean language and culture for several years now so I can easily answer 🙂 Just to recap what I said in my other response to you, there are several ways of romanizing Korean words and unfortunately different groups say different romanizations are the “right” one – i.e. South Korean road signs, etc. use the Revised version, K-pop fans often create their own version based on writing out what sounds they think they hear (i.e. those “easy Korean lyrics videos” all over Youtube), and academia utilizes yet another form of romanization. The more you read/study, the more you’ll become familiar with the different forms, but just learning and sticking with hangeul/hangul is the best way to go 🙂 Among language learners, usually romanization is just done by preference (i.e. I romanize per my own discretion in my blog posts but when I write research papers for Korean Studies, I use formalized romanization structures). Thanks for asking!


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