One of the things that you probably wonder about before traveling to South Korea is whether or not the people you’ll be interacting with speak English or not. I certainly did.
The short answer is that most of the younger-adult generation speaks some English, while most of the older generation speaks very little English if any at all. There are, of course, outliers as well, who speak English very well.
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I personally found that the university students that I met spoke English just fine, enough to have a regular conversation. There were only slight communication difficulties sometimes. Most people from the older generation, however, and many adult employees in stores and restaurants, did not speak much English. Some, none at all.
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Can Korean people speak English?
One of the things that I was wondering about before I traveled to South Korea was whether or not the people spoke any English, so most of you who plan to visit the country probably do too.
From what I experienced, there is quite a big difference between the level of English people speak, unlike in some western countries where most people who have it as a second language seem to have a similar level of English.
Those who were around 40 years old or older spoke very little English if any at all, which meant that many of the employees you’d interact with in stores and restaurants didn’t speak much English.
Most interactions that you have in a store or a restaurant are, however, not very complex usually. This meant that I was just fine going around myself to almost anywhere I wanted and could purchase or order whatever I wanted. Only to places where more conversation was required with employees did I bring someone who spoke Korean.
I could not speak any Korean besides a few words, not even phrases, and I was still able to get by with a bit of pointing and basic English words.
Many people from the younger generation seemed to know quite a bit of English.
During my time in South Korea, I met many people who were university students, and most of them could speak English just fine, which was enough to have a regular conversation.
Having English as a second language myself, there were definitely some who were so fluent in the language that they could have convinced me that a family member of theirs had been speaking English with them ever since they were little.
Only a few times did I experience meeting someone around my age (22 at the time) who spoke very little English.
It also seemed like the farther away you get from major cities like Seoul and Busan, the smaller the chance that someone speaks English.
That’s my experience with how well people in South Korea speak English!
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