When you think of someone who’s fluent in a language, you probably picture someone speaking perfectly, without stops or pauses. In reality, a lot of filler words are used to fill silences.
You already use English fillers without realizing it. When you can’t think of the word you want, you might say “Um…” This gives you a break without an awkward, silent pause.
Filler words don’t add any particular meaning to a sentence, but they allow speakers to keep going while coming up with the next thought. Korean does this, too. You’re allowed to pause and think, be unsure of the best response, or even forget the word you’re looking for. The trick is knowing the appropriate filler to use while you put your thoughts together.
Learning Korean filler words makes you sound like a native speaker in no time at all. I’ve listed the common fillers here.
Note: The filler words used in polite speech (존댓말) are marked with an asterisk *.
|저..||[jeo]||Well..||when thinking, hesitating|
(short form of 마구 [magu])
|similar to the filler word ‘like’|
|자!||[ja]||Ok!||to get listeners’ attention in a speech|
|뭐지..||[mweoji]||What was that..?, You know..||when you can’t think of something|
|뭐더라..||[mweodeora]||What was that..?, You know..||when you can’t think of something|
|뭐랄까..||[mweoralgga]||How can I explain this..?|
|뭐?||[mweo]||What? What did you say?|
|뭐라고?||[mweorago]||What? What did you say?|
|*네?||[ne]||Pardon? What did you say?|
|*예?||[ye]||Pardon? What did you say?|
|그냥||[geunyang]||just, for no reason|
|있잖아||[itjana]||Hey, listen to this||to draw attention|
|*저기요||[jeogiyo]||Excuse me||to draw attention of an unfamiliar person|
|에이~||[ei]||Come on~||when you don’t believe what someone is saying|
|야||[ya]||Hey, Hey you|
|*네~||[ne]||Yes, go on~|
|*예~||[ye]||Yes, go on~|
|좀||[jom]||please, if you wouldn’t mind||to soften requests|
|참!||[cham]||Oh I just remembered!|
|글쎄..||[geulsse]||Well.., I'm not sure.., Let me see..|
|*글쎄요..||[geulsseyo]||Well.., I'm not sure.., Let me see..|
|그래?||[geure]||Is that so?|
|*그래요?||[geureyo]||Is that so?|
|세상에||[sesang-e]||Oh my god|
|그럼||[geureom]||then, in that case|
|어머나!||[eomeona]||Oops!||usually used by women|
|어머!||[eomeo]||Oops!||usually used by women|
|그다지||[geudaji]||not really, not much|
|별로||[byeollo]||not really, not much, not particularly|
- “Filler (Linguistics)”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filler_(linguistics). Accessed 20 Aug 2018.
- “A Linguistic Anthropologist Explains Why, Um, “Filler Words” Are OK To Use”. Quartz, 2018, https://qz.com/921004/lets-stop-demonizing-filler-words/. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.
- “Category:Korean Interjections – Wiktionary”. En.Wiktionary.Org, 2018, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Korean_interjections. Accessed 20 Aug 2018.