The UOS Times
Opinion
Courteous Expressions in English
Choi Yeon-kyung Senior Reporter  |  dingguldinggul@uos.ac.kr
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[0호] 승인 2006.06.23  
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Learning a foreign language is challenging in various ways. Surely, understanding the meanings of words over the cultural differences is not easy. Before you understand the culture of the language, people may make mistakes in communicating with the people using it. It is not exceptional to Koreans who learn and use English for communication. Usage of courteous expressions is one of the most difficult things to Korean learners of English.

They sometimes make a grave blunder and raise a misunderstanding with native speakers of English when they use inaccurate expressions of courtesy.

Here are some examples. Koreans think there are no expressions of courtesy in English, for English doesn’t have honorific expressions that the Korean language has. However, there are other kinds of expressions such as “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I m sorry.” Korean speakers of English do not use these kinds of courteous expressions as often as native speakers. These expressions, however, are very important to Americans.

Without saying these words, you may be regarded as rude. When greeting, Koreans generally bow down sometimes without saying a word. However, it is not enough for American. They do not use such gestures that Koreans use; for example unless English speakers hear ‘Sorry,’ they may feel offended. They might feel bad and get angry at you. At a restaurant Koreans are not used to putting “please” when they order a menu.

It will not bring any big trouble, but it might make a serving person feel not good, especially when one says, “I want ~” without “please.” It maybe an impolite expression, and with using a verb ‘want’, it sounds even rude.

The word ‘want’ may be used when a robber intrudes into a bank and asks for money, “I want money!” When you place an order, you can say, “I’d like to have ~, please” or “~, please” instead of “I want ~.” Also, when you ask for somebody on the phone, you have to say “Hello. Is ~ in, please?” and if you have a wrong number or somebody calls a wrong number, you’re supposed to: “oh, sorry. I’ve got the wrong number” or “sorry but there’s not ~ here.” Here is another example; in Korea, when a shopper pays, it is the cashier that says “thank you” to the customer, and the customer takes it for granted.

In the States, customers also say “thank you” as they hand the money to a cashier because they think that they have been served. If you do not say “thank you” because you think you pay for something, you are wrong in American sense.

You are given a product of the values of the money, but you have been still courteously served. There are many other mistakes that Koreans make in speaking English. It is because they are trying to speak English in a way of speaking Korean.

They just translate Korean to English. Rather, assume that you are a baby who has just started learning English, and accept a whole atmosphere without adding or extracting.

Just try to follow everything that a baby does in learning a language, then you will soon see how good and fluent you are. Since you learn a totally new language, just accept it as a new thing and enjoy learning English. And find more people to speak English with. Three Courteous Expressions

1. Say I’m sorry’ when you made a mistake.

2. Add please’ when you place an order.

3. Say thank you’ for any service or favor you receive
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