I often feel that my Korean skills develop rather asymmetrically. For instance, I feel my listening comprehension has increased quite a bit recently, while I still feel that my writing skills are lacking. A while ago I started feeling more confident when talking, while I felt that my ability to give feedback in a Korean conversation lacked significantly. In fact, my repertoire of Korean feedback vocabulary oftentimes seemed confined to a 네 with varying intonations. Therefore, I set out to become a better conversation partner by making a list of interesting answers one might give, when the other party is sharing a story.
First of all, I’d like to clarify what I mean by feedback. When I’m speaking to someone in English, and they tell me things of varying degrees of significance, I usually respond with a variety of words like “Right”, “Oh, really”, “I can imagine”, “I totally understand”, or “I know what you mean”. Basically words or sentences that make my conversation partner feel that I am indeed listening to what they say. So, how to do the same in Korean? I’ve compiled a short list of useful expressions you can use to become a more interesting and attentive Korean conversationalist:
정말요?/ 진짜요?/그래요? (all said with rising intonation – equivalent to the English “Really?”)
네, 맞아요 (Yes, that’s right)
이해가 가요/돼요 (I understand)
상상이 가요 (I can imagine)
그렇군요 (Oh, I see)
안타갑네요 (What a shame)
처음 알았어요 (I never knew this)
네, 바로 그거죠 (That’s exactly right)
대단해요, 신기해요, 이상해요 (That’s great, amazing, strange – you may want to substitute 해요 with 하네요 to convey a nuance of surprise)
저도 마찬가지예요/저도요 (I think or feel the same way / Me too)
Another great way to show your partner that you are in fact paying close attention to what they are saying is repeating parts of their speech to show interest. Sample dialogue:
가: 오늘은 전심에 피자를 먹었어요.
나: 아, 피자를 먹었어요/드셨어요?
A: Today I had pizza for lunch.
B: Oh, you had pizza?
I should probably start practicing these principles in other languages as well. This weekend I was reading a book in Korean, when my husband started talking to me. Here’s a scene from our happy marriage to illustrate my husband’s plight of being married to an avid Korean learner:
남편: So, what should we make for dinner tonight?
Me:…Hmm, What? … Hmm, I don’t know. Whatever you feel like…
남편: I’m thinking about making hamburgers…
남편: Did I mention that I’m going out with a friend next week?
남편: Did I also tell you about the time I rescued a stranded whale on the shore?
남편: Got you! I know, you never listen to anything I say, when you’re studying Korean.
Me: … Huh?