A skill which truly indicates that one is fluent in a foreign language is the ability to debate in that language. When I was studying at Sogang university, the top levels 5 and 6 dedicated quite a significant amount of time to debate practice. Even though it’s been four years since I was enrolled in a formal Korean class – and I’ve done plenty of studying in the meantime – I never truly felt that I mastered debating. Conversation – sure. Monologues – no problem. Arguments – fine. But actual debating that involves defining concepts, expressing opinions, listening to one’s opponent and reacting to their statements while forming coherent counterarguments… Not so much.

I obviously understood when I listened to debates in Korean but I felt I lacked the skills to engage in debates myself, so I made arrangements with my Italki teacher to debate a new topic for an hour every week. So far, we have covered feminism, American (lack of) democracy, single women choosing motherhood, and Korea’s test culture. Even though we agree on most topics, she does a great job playing my opponent and forcing me to logically present my arguments and background for my opinions.

If you should be interested in practicing debating in Korean, I thought I’d share with you a few useful phrases you may need when putting forward your argument or opinion and reacting to your opponent:

Expressing your opinion:

제가 보기에는/제 생각에는…, 제 입장에서는…, In my opinion…, From my point of view…

저는 …. 다고 생각합니다/봅니다. I think that…

저는 …에 찬성합니다/반대합니다. I’m for/against…

제 경험에 비추어 보면 / 제 경험에 따르면 / 제 경험상… In (according to) my experience…

Acknowledging your opponent’s viewpoint while disagreeing

ㅇㅇㅇ 의 말씀도 일리가 있습니다. 하지만… I can see what you mean, however…

그 점은 저도 인정합니다. 하지만… I acknowledge that. However…

무슨 말씀이신지 알겠습니다. 그런데… I hear what you’re saying. On the other hand…

Politely interrupting (if that’s even a thing)

말씀하시는데 죄송합니다. I’m sorry – I know you’re speaking…

그것에 대해서 제가 답변하고 싶은데요. I would like to respond to that statement

제가 먼저 이야기해도 되겠습니까? Could I please say something first?

Asking your opponent for clarification

구체적으로 말씀해 주시겠습니까? Could you please explain in more detail?

예를 좀 들어 주시겠습니까? Could you please provide an example?

Expressing strong agreement/disagreement

저도 ㅇㅇㅇ의 의견에 (전적으로) 동의합니다. I also agree (fully) with what you said.

저는 ㅇㅇㅇ의 의견에 동의하지 않습니다. I do not agree with what you said.


제 생각이 잘 전달되었는지 모르겠는데요. I’m not sure if I’ve expressed myself clearly.

그러니까 …-다는 말씀이시군요. So what you’re saying is…

Obviously there are many more expressions that may be useful but these are the one’s I’ve found myself using over the past few weeks. Debating in your native language can be tricky enough, so be kind on yourself when it comes to Korean. I was debating the current threat to American democracy this morning and while my debate skills have improved, I lacked vocabulary that I actually do know but don’t use frequently enough for it to be in my active vocabulary. Here are some of the words I was fumbling for in case some of you want to try having a discussion on this topic as well:

음모설 conspiracy theory, 어조 tone of voice (written or spoken), 의석수 number of seats in parlament, 분열된 여론 divided public opinion, 정치 이념 political ideology, 비판적인 사고 critical thinking, 언론의 자유 freedom of speech, 가짜 뉴스로 사람들을 선동하다 incite the people through fake news.

I hope you all found this useful. Happy debating!

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