How to Say “Can You Speak Korean?” in Korean

Welcome to this guide on how to ask “Can you speak Korean?” in the Korean language. Whether you’re planning to visit Korea or simply want to communicate with a Korean friend, knowing this phrase will be quite handy. In this guide, we’ll cover both the formal and informal ways of asking this question, along with some useful tips, examples, and even regional variations if necessary.

Formal Way: Can You Speak Korean?

If you wish to ask this question formally, for example, in a professional setting or when speaking to someone you should show respect to, you can use the following phrase:

한국어를 말씀하실 수 있으신가요? (Hangugeo-reul malsseumhasil su issseunkayo?)

To break it down:

  • 한국어를 (Hangugeo-reul) – This part means “Korean language.” The particle “를” (reul) indicates the object of the sentence.
  • 말씀하실 (malsseumhasil) – Derived from the honorific form of the verb “to speak.” The honorific form adds politeness and respect.
  • 수 있으신가요? (su issseunkayo?) – This phrase is a polite way to ask if someone has the ability to do something. Therefore, “can you speak” is translated as “말씀하실 수 있으신가요?” (malsseumhasil su issseunkayo?).

By asking this question formally, you are showing politeness and respect to the person you are addressing.

Informal Way: Can You Speak Korean?

On the other hand, if you are asking a friend or someone younger than you, you can use a more casual and informal way of asking the same question:

한국어 할 수 있어? (Hangugeo hal su isseo?)

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 한국어 (Hangugeo) – Refers to the Korean language, just like in the formal version.
  • 할 수 (hal su) – This phrase means the ability to do something, so “can” is translated as “할 수” (hal su).
  • 있어? (isseo?) – The verb “있다” (itta) means “to have” or “to exist.” In this case, it is used to ask if someone has the ability to speak Korean.

Asking this way reflects a more friendly and casual tone, suitable for conversations with friends, peers, or younger individuals.

Tips for Using the Phrase

Here are some additional tips that can enhance your understanding and usage of the phrase “Can you speak Korean?” in Korean:

1. Politeness Matters

Korean culture highly values politeness and respecting others, especially those older or in higher positions. Therefore, if you are speaking to someone you do not know well, it’s generally better to use the formal version to show respect. However, when talking to close friends or peers, you can opt for the informal version.

2. Tone and Context

Like any language, intonation and context can greatly impact meaning. Ensure your tone matches the situation you are in, whether formal or casual. Non-verbal cues and body language also play a part in conveying meaning, so pay attention to those as well.

3. Practice Pronunciation

Korean pronunciation can be different from other languages, so take some time to practice the phrase. Pay attention to the correct pronunciation of each syllable, stressing the right parts of the words. Listening to native Korean speakers or using language learning resources can be beneficial for improving your pronunciation.


Now let’s see some examples that demonstrate how to use the phrase “Can you speak Korean?” in different situations:

Formal Examples:

  • A: 한국어를 말씀하실 수 있으신가요? (Can you speak Korean?)
  • B: 네, 조금 할 수 있어요. (Yes, I can speak a little.)
  • A: 정말 대단하시네요! (You’re really impressive!)

Informal Examples:

  • A: 한국어 할 수 있어? (Can you speak Korean?)
  • B: 응, 좀 할 수 있어. (Yeah, I can speak a bit.)
  • A: 진짜 멋있다! (You’re so cool!)

Remember to adapt your speech to the appropriate level of formality based on the person you are conversing with.


Congratulations on reaching the end of this guide on asking “Can you speak Korean?” in Korean! You have learned both the formal and informal ways to pose this question, along with some essential tips and examples. Remember to match the level of politeness to the person and situation, and always be mindful of your tone and pronunciation. With practice and exposure to the language, you will soon become more proficient in speaking Korean and engaging in meaningful conversations. Good luck!

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