I know this is a generalization, but the majority of foreign learners of Korean are teachers or exchange students in Korea. If you don’t fit into one of these categories, it is likely that you are a student somewhere. Of course, there will be some people studying Korean who are neither teachers nor students, but I feel that the majority of Korean learners have some relation with a school. As such – why not begin the Theme Lessons with a lesson about school?
First, let me introduce you to a variety of words that you can use in a school. The word “class” as it relates to schools is very difficult for English speakers. In English, the word “class” refers to many things, and each of these has a different word in Korean. Three common words that could translate to “class” are:
반 = this refers to the group of people.
For example: “There are 30 students in my class”
수업 = this refers to the lesson that you receive.
For example: “We had 5 classes today”
교실 = this refers to the classroom.
For example: “He is in the classroom”
Another word that could be confusing with these words is:
교시 = this refers to the period of time.
This is usually translated as “period” in English
If I was going to write the following sentence:
Our class had PE class in the classroom during second period
Notice where I place each of those Korean words if I substituted them for the English word:
Our 반 had PE수업 in the 교실 during second 교시
Below is a list of other vocabulary you may find useful in a school:
학교 = school
학생 = student
선생님 = teacher
교사 = teacher
담임선생님 = homeroom teacher
교장선생님 = principal
교감선생님 = vice principal
원어민 선생님 = native speaking teacher
과목 = subject
반 = class (group of students)
수업 = class (lesson)
교실 = classroom
교시 = period
1교시 = first period (“일 교시”)
2교시 = second period (“이 교시”)
시간표 = timetable
급식 = the lunch served at school
동아리 = club
시험 = exam
중간고사 = midterm exam
기말고사 = final exam
문제 = problem/question
질문 = question
방학 = vacation
초등학교 = elementary school
중학교 = middle school
고등학교 = high school
국립고등학교 = public high school
사립고등학교 = private high school
학원 = after school private academy
학년 = grade (3학년 “삼학년” = third grade)
학기 = semester (1학기 “일학기” = first semester)
수능 = Korean SAT (short for 대학수학능력시험)
수행평가 = performance assessment
가르치다 = to teach
배우다 = to learn
듣다 = to hear (used when “taking” a class)
이해하다 = understand
이해가 안 되다 = to not understand
설명하다 = to explain
평가하다 = to evaluate
시험을 보다 = to take an exam
채점하다 = to mark or grade an exam
Adverbs and Other Words:
방과 후 수업 = after school class (also refers to a class during the vacation)
학교 끝나고… = after school
수업 전에 = before class
수업 끝나고… = after class
For help memorizing these words, try using our Memrise tool.
Now let’s look at some specific sentences that you may find useful in a school:
Being a teacher
저는 선생님이에요 = I am a teacher
저는 영어회화 선생님이에요 = I am an English conversation teacher
저는 영어 선생님이에요 = I am an English teacher
저는 곧 선생님이 될 것입니다 = I will become a teacher soon
저는 선생님이 되고 싶어요 = I want to be/become a teacher
저는 언젠가 선생님이 되고 싶어요 = I want to become a teacher someday
담임선생님은 누구예요? = Who is your homeroom teacher?
저는 한국에서 영어 회화선생님이에요 = I am an English conversation teacher in Korea
무슨 과목을 가르쳐요? = What subject do you teach?
선생님이 왜 되고 싶었어요? = Why did you want to become a teacher?
이 학교에서 언제부터 일했어요? = Since when have you been at this school?
이 학교 일을 어떻게 구했어요? = How did you find this position (at this school)?
학교에서 몇 시에 퇴근해요? = What time do you leave school?
집에 몇 시에 가요? = What time will you go home?
1주일에 수업을 몇 개 가르쳐요? = How many classes do you teach per week?
하루에 (보통) 수업을 몇 개 가르쳐요? = How many classes do you (usually) teach per day?
이 사람은 우리 학교(의) 영어 원어민 선생님이에요 = This person is our school’s native English teacher
교장선생님은 선생님들에게 존경 받아요 = The principal is respected by the teachers
학생들은 수업 시간 동안 자고 있었어요 = The students were sleeping during class
그 사람이 선생님인 지 아닌 지 몰라요 = I don’t know if that person is a teacher or not
내가 선생님이면 학생들을 잘 가르칠 거야 = If/When I am a teacher, I would teach students well
만약 제가 선생님이라면 학생들에게 존경을 받고 싶을 거에요 = If I were a teacher, I would want to be respected by students
이렇게 많은 내용을 학생들에게 가르치려고 고생을 많이 했어요 = I worked hard/suffered in order to teach that much content to the students
Being a student
몇 반이에요? = What class are you in?
몇 학년이에요? = What grade are you in?
저는 1-2이에요 (“일학년-이반) = I am in class 1-2
저는 3학년이에요 = I’m in third grade
저는 내년에 수능을 봐 야 돼요 = I need to write 수능 next year
저는 심심해요 = I’m bored
오늘 수업 시간 동안 뭐 할 거에요? = What are we going to do during class today?
그 학생은 수업에 집중을 못 해요 = That student can’t concentrate during class
제일 좋아하는 선생님이 누구예요? = Who is your favorite teacher?
제일 좋아하는 과목이 뭐예요? = What is your favorite subject?
다음 수업은 뭐에요? = What is the next class?
저는 학교에 친구가 없어요 = I have no friends at school
저는 학교에 친구가 많아요 = I have a lot of friends at school
선생님, 어디 가세요? = Teacher, where are you going?
저는 그 학생이 어느 대학교를 다니는 지 기억 안 나요 = I don’t remember which university that student attends
그 학생이 학교에서 왕따인 것 같아 = That student is probably an outcast at school
너는 고등학생 같이 보여 = You look like a high school student
초등학생과 같아요 = You’re like an elementary school student
열심히 공부해요! = Study hard!
저는 교감선생님에게서 한국어를 배웠어요 = I learned Korean from my vice principal
선생님, 저는 이 것이 이해가 안 돼요 = Teacher, I don’t understand this
저는 선생님이 그 것을 언제 가르친 지 기억 안 나요 = I don’t remember when the teacher taught
선생님은 우리를 너무 잘 가르치셨어 = Our teacher taught us really well
수업이 4시쯤에 시작될 예정이에요 = The class is scheduled to start at about 4:00
제가 공부했을 때 문법만 공부했어요 = When I studied, I only studied grammar
제가 공부를 하면 엄마는 TV를 꺼요 = When I study, my mother turns off the TV
(만약) 공부한다면 성공할 거야 = If you study, you will succeed
대학교에 가고 싶다면 열심히 공부해 야 해요 = If you want to go to university, you have to study hard
내일 공부하러 독서실에 갈래요? = Shall we go to the library tomorrow to study?
나는 선생님에게 열심히 공부했다고 말했어 = I told the teacher that I studied hard
그는 공부하지 않았다고 했어요 = He said that he didn’t study
선생님은 학생들에게 열심히 공부하라고 했어요 = The teacher told the students to study hard
학생들이 너무 시끄러워서 저는 교수님의 말을 못 들었어요 = The students were too loud, so I couldn’t hear the professor
지금 공부를 하고 있기 때문에 너랑 통화하고 싶지 않아 = I don’t want to talk with you on the phone because I’m studying now
저는 내년에 대학교에 갈 것이기 때문에 지금 열심히 공부하고 있어요 = Because I will be going to university next year, I am studying hard now
요즘에 한국어를 열심히 공부하고 있지만 아직도 잘 말할 수 없어요 = Even though I am studying Korean hard these days, I still can’t speak well
이 학교는 우리 학교와 같아요 = This school and our school are (exactly) the same
저는3일 동안 학교에 안 갔어요 = I didn’t go to school for 3 days
고등학교는 한국에서 어려워요 = High school is difficult in Korea
저는 학교에서 멀리 살고 있어요 = I live far from school
저는 3시부터 학교에 있을 거에요 = I will be at school from 3:00
저는 작년부터 한국어를 배웠어요 = I have been learning Korean since last year
밥은 학교에 제공되었어요 = food is provided by the school
우리학교에서 식당까지 10분 걸려요 = It takes 10 minutes to get from our school to the restaurant
저는 학교에 가서 공부할 거에요 = I will go to school and then study
오늘 수업이 몇 개 있어요? = How many classes do you have today?
저는 오늘 1교시 수업이 있어요 = I have a class first period today
저는 오늘 2교시에 영어회화 수업이 있어요 = I have an English conversation class today at 2nd period
오늘 수업 시간 동안 뭐 할까요? = What should we do during class today?
오늘 수업 시간 동안 뭐 하고 싶어요? = What do you want to do during class today?
제일 좋아하는 수업은 뭐예요? = What is your favorite class?
제일 재미있는 수업은 뭐예요? = What is the most fun class?
각 수업은 50분이에요 = Each class is 50 minutes
저는 10분 후에 1학년3반 수업이 있어요 = I have a class (lesson) with class 1-3 in 10 minutes
이 것은 저의 마지막 수업이에요 = This is my last class
저는 처음에 체육 수업을 싫어했어요 = At first I didn’t like PE class
저는 지난 수업을 안 들었어요 = I didn’t go to/attend the last class
저는 3일에 수업을 들었어요 = I went to class on the 3rd (day of the month)
저는 3일 동안 수업을 들었어요 = I went to class for three days
저는 2달 동안 한국어 수업을 들었어요 = I took a Korean class for 2 months
저는 2개월 동안 한국어 수업을 들었어요 = I took a Korean class for 2 months
수업은 2 분 후에 끝날 거에요 = Class will finish 2 minutes from now
학생들은 다음 주에 중간고사를 볼 거에요 = Students will write the midterm next week
학생들은 다음 주에 기말고사를 볼 거에요 = Students will write the final exam next week
영어 시험이 너무 어려웠어요 = The English exam was so difficult
저는 시험문제를 만들고 있어요 = I am making exam questions
저는 시험문제를 만들어야 돼요 = I need to make exam questions
우리는 시험 문제를 언제까지 내야 돼요? = When do we need to submit the exam questions by?
저는 시험을 채점하고 있어요 = I am marking the exams
시험을 잘 봤어요? = Did you do well on the exam?
시험을 잘 봤어요 = I did well on the exam
시험을 망했어요! = I messed up the exam!
저는 이번 시험에 벼락치기를 했어요 = I crammed for this exam
저는 지금 시험 감독을 해 야 돼요 = I need to proctor an exam now
학생들을 평가하려고 내일 시험을 볼 거에요 = In order to evaluate the students, they will do an exam tomorrow
저는 공부하지 않아서 시험을 못 봤어요 = I didn’t study, therefore, I didn’t do well on the exam
제가 공부했더라면 시험을 합격했을 거에요 = If I studied, I would have passed the test
저는 6월 20일에 시험을 봐 야 되어서 지금 열심히 공부해 야 돼요 = Because I have to write an exam on June 20th, I need to study really hard now
저는 과학동아리에 가입했어요 = I entered the science club
저는 동아리 친구들이랑 같이 봉사를 했어요 = I volunteered with my friends in my club
In order to say “What club are you in?” there are a few ways that don’t seem like they would be natural. Some of the ways you could say this are:
저는 과학동아리에 있어요 = I am in the science club
저는 과학동아리를 하고 있어요 = I am in the science club
저는 과학동아리이에요 = I am in the science club
The first one seems like it would be most correct but that is probably used least often in Korean. The second and third sentences are probably best, even if the grammar looks strange.
After school and Vacation
방학식은 언제예요? = When is the last day of school?
개학식은 언제예요? = When is the first day of school?
졸업식은 언제예요? = When is the graduation ceremony?
방학 언제 해요? = When is your vacation?
방학 동안 뭐 할 거에요? = What are you going to do during the vacation?
여름 방학 동안 뭐 할 거에요? = What are you going to do during summer vacation?
저는 오늘 학교 끝나고 친구를 만날 거에요 = I’m going to meet a friend after school
저는 방학 동안 방과 후 수업을 들을 거에요 = I’m going to take a class during the vacation
방학 동안 저는 학교에 있고 싶지 않아요 = I don’t want to be at school during vacation
The following are the common subjects you would find at a Korean school:
외국어 = Foreign Languages
영어 = English
영어회화 = English Conversation
중국어 = Chinese
일본어 = Japanese
독일어 = German
스페인어 = Spanish
프랑스어 = French
국어 = Korean
문학 = Literature
과학 = Science
생물 = Biology
화학 = Chemistry
물리 = Physics
지구과학 = Earth Sciences
사회 = Social Studies
지리 = Geography
역사 = History
윤리 = Ethics
정치 = Politics
경제 = Economics
예체능 = Arts and Physical Education
미술 = Art
체육 = Physical Education
수학 = Mathematics
미적분 = Calculus
If you have never been to Korea before, you might not be aware of many of the differences between a Korean school and the school that you are used to in your home country. The school year starts at the beginning of March, and is divided into two semesters (학기). The first semester usually ends sometime in July, at which time there is about a one month summer vacation (여름방학). School starts up again sometime in August and runs until the end of December, right before the start of a two month winter vacation (겨울방학).
Korean students attend elementary school from ages 8 to 13 and elementary school is from grade 1 – 6. You also might not be aware that the age system in Korea is different from the rest of the world, but I don’t want to get into that here. After elementary school, students move to middle school, which consists of grades 1 – 3. In Canada (and I’m sure most other western countries), we continue counting up from elementary school to high school. However, in Korea, when students enter their first year of middle school, they are now a 1st grade middle school (중학교 1학년) student. Likewise, a student who has been in middle school for three years is a 3rd grade middle school (중학교 3학년) student. After three years of middle school, students attend three years of high school, which again are referred to as 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade.
Competition to get into the best schools, especially for university and to a lesser extent high school is incredibly fierce. Korean students study all the time in order to improve their grades so that they can get into the best schools. This often comes at the expense of over-studying, lots of pressure and a system that measures students’ abilities using only exams.
The competitiveness and pressure is more apparent when students enter high school, but it is getting more and more common amongst middle school students and even elementary school students. The school day usually runs from around 8:00am to around 4:00pm, and the majority of students continue their studies after school by attending a Hagwon (학원). 학원 usually translates to “private school” in English, but this is not exactly what it is. A private school to me is a school – like a high school/middle school/elementary school – that is not funded by the government. This is true of Hagwons, but Hagwons are not an actual school. They are typically small companies run in offices that teach students after school. As businesses, most decisions are based on money or what makes the Hagwon look good on the outside (especially to parents).
During the day, at their actual school, students usually sit through lessons with very little activity or hands-on learning. This of course depends on the school, but most schools focus on exams – and any teaching that is not specifically related to solving exam questions is often seen as a waste of time by both students and teachers. A typical semester at school for any given class might have one or two evaluations outside of the final and midterm exams which are called 수행평가, which normally translates to “performance assessment.” The performance assessment usually consists of about 30% of a final grade, and the rest is made up from the midterm (중간고사) and final (기말고사) exams.
The scores that students receive for a class or on an exam do not determine if they fail or not. It is very rare for a student in Korea to have to re-do a grade at school. Rather, students are ranked with their peers in the same class and grade. If you ask a student about the score he/she received on an exam, he/she would more likely respond by telling you the rank he/she fell in instead of telling you an actual score or percentage.
This sometimes creates a dilemma for students when selecting a high school. If a slightly-above-average student chooses to enter (and is accepted) to one of the top high schools, his grades may rank him at the bottom of pack when compared to other students in the same grade. However, if that same student enters a regular high school, his scores might be near the top of the pack in the same grade.
The three years of studying in high school ends when students write the Korean version of the SAT, 대학수학능력시험 (commonly referred to as 수능) sometime in mid-November each year. Most of the basis for getting into University is based on a student’s score on this test – and there is only one test per year. As such, students are under an extreme amount of pressure to do well. If you do poorly on the test you can re-write it, but you have to wait another year. Writing the test again is colloquially called “재수” (재 (再) is the Hanja which means “re-do” or “re-..”). A student who writes the test again is called a “재수생.”
All of this pressure and the desire to do well – whether good or bad – causes Korean students do study hard. Korean students are one of the brightest in the world, and are incredibly diligent in their studies.
That’s it for this lesson. Click here to check out our next Theme Lesson.