Lesson 1: Learning How to Say and Use Korean Proverbs
Lesson created by Timmy McCarty
Koreans add color and clarity to their language through the use of the proverbs. By studying them you can gain valuable insight into Korean culture. They will also give you something simple to say in those situations where more complicated language is beyond your ability. The literal translation is in quotation marks followed by an explanation.
"Even Diamond Mountain should be seen after eating."---Keum-gang-san-do-ku-gyeong. (Kume-gang-sahn-doh-kuu-kyong)
This korean proverb means when one is deciding on whether to eat or do something else, eating should take priority.
"While two are eating, one could die and the other wouldn't know."---Tu-ri meok-tta-ga han sa-ram chu-geo-do mo-reun-da. (Too-ree moke-tah-gah han-sah-ram) Tu-ri meok-tta-ga han sa-ram
This korean proverb means when eating a delicious meal, we are not conscious of anything else.
"The other person's rice cake looks bigger."---Nam-eui tteok-i teo kue-ge-po-in-da. (Nam-hwee toke-ee toh kuu-geh-poh-een-dah)
This korean proverb means someone else's situation always looks better.
"Rice cakes in a picture."---Keu-rim-eui tteok-i-da. (Koo-reem-hwee toke-ee-dah)
This korean proverb means to long for something, but be unable to have it.
"Starting is half."---Shi-jak-i pan-i-da. (Shee-jahk-ee Pahn-ee-dah)
This korean proverb means a job begun is half completed.
"Licking the outside of a watermelon."---Su-bak keot hal-kki. (Sew-bahk-kote hal-kee)
This korean proverb means just scratching the surface, not dealing with something in depth.
"There are rewards for hard times."---Ko-saeng-han po-ram it-tta. (Koh-seng-han Poh-ram eet-tah)
This korean proverb means we will be rewarded for enduring hard times.
"No time to open the eyes or the nose."---Nun-ko- tteul-ssae-ga eop-tta. (Noon-koh tule-say-gah ope-tah)
This korean proverb means too much to do, too little time to do it.
"It is dark at the base of a lamp."---Teung-jan mi-chi eo-dup-tta. (Tung-jahn mee-chee ope-doop-tah)
This korean proverb means a lost item is most difficult to find when it is right in front of us. A related meaning is that we tend not to know about the affairs in our own immediate surroundings.
"Fixing a stable door after losing the ox."---So Il-keo woe-yang-kkan ko-chin-da. (Soh eel-koh woh-yang-kahn koh-cheen-dah)
This korean proverb is used to describe a belated effort to overcome a mistake.
"Not only no eye sense, no nose sense."---Nun-chi-ik o-chi-do eop--tta. (Noon-chee-eek oh-chee-do ope-tah)
This korean proverb is used about someone who has no ability to read the feelings or sense the needs of others.
"An empty push cart makes more noise."---Pin- su-re-ga teo yo-ran-ha-da. (Peen-sew-reh-gah toh yo-rahn-hah-dah)
This korean proverb means the most talkitive people are often those who know the least.
"Reading into an ox's ear."---U-i tok-kkyeong-i-da. (Hwee tok-keeyong-ee-dah)
This korean proverb is used to describe the futility of trying to influence someone who is too stubborn or otherwise unable to benefit from effort.
"East question, west answer."---Tong-mun seo-dap. (Tung-moon soh-dap)
This korean proverb means when someone gives an answer which in unrelated to the question.
"A frog in a well."---U-mal-an kae-gu-ri. (Uu-mal-ahn kay-guu-ree)
This korean proverb is used to describe someone who lacks vision or a broad.
"A dragon emerges from a ditch."---Kae-choen-e-seo yong-nan-da. (Kay-chone-eh-soh yong-nahn-dah)
This korean proverb is used to describe a situation where a person from a poor background attains a privileged position. (The dragon symbolizes a person in the highest position, such as a king or ruler)
"Shrimps' backs are broken in a whale fight."---Ko-rae ssa-um-e sae-u-deung teo-jin-da. (Koh-ray sah-oom-eh say-uu-dung-toh-jeen-dah)
This korean proverb means small people are hurt when large people fight. For example, small countries suffer when super powers are at war.
"A small pepper is hot."---Cha-geun ko-chu-ga maep-tta. (Chah-kune Koh-choo-gah-mape-tah)
This korean proverb means small people have the fortitude and toughness to accomplish things.
"A tiger comes when spoken about."---Ho-rang-i-do che-mal-ha-myeon-on-da. (Ho-rang-ee-doh chay-mal-hah-meeyon-awn-dah)
This korean proverb means when someone walks into a room where he/she has just been the topic of conversation.
"Love must come before it can go."---O-neun cheong-i i-sseo-ya ka-neun cheong-i it-tta. (Oh-nune-chong-ee ee-soh-yah kah-nune chong-ee eet-tah)
This korean proverb means before love can be given, it must be recieved.