Yes and No in Korean

804 Words4 Pages
Yes and No After coming to America, I have suffered from the improper usage of "yes" and "no." I sometimes confuse an affirmative response with a negative one because the usage of "yes" and "no" in Korean is different from English. For example, if I am asked, "Haven't you had dinner yet?" and I have not had dinner yet, then in Korean I usually say, "Yes, I haven't." But in English, I have to say, "No, I haven't." This different usage of "yes" and "no" in Korean and in English sometimes causes misunderstandings or even estrangements between my American friends and me. Because of my misuse of "yes" and "no," I often find that my friends misunderstand me: They perceive the exact opposite meaning from what I intend to give them. The following example will show how the misuse has embarrassed me. One day only a month after I came to the U.S., I happened to have dinner with an American student, Bob, in a dining hall. He was living in the next room in the school dormitory. He asked me several questions about my background, including my family, religion, and my nationality; I answered all the questions as sincerely as I could. Several days later, I found that some dorm residents thought that I came from North Korea. I was a little embarrassed. Even though North Koreans and South Koreans share common ancestors, the two nations have maintained serious competition for 30 years and are different in every respect: North Korea is the most chauvinistic country in the communist block, while South Korea is a leading developing country in the capitalist block. Thus, South Koreans do not like being regarded as North Koreans. I stopped by Bob's room and asked why he was spreading the wrong information on my nationality. Then he said, "Oh, you t... ... middle of paper ... ...hat evening, I had a hard time explaining my difficulty in using "yes" and "no" and apologizing for my impoliteness to Mark. After a short conversation, I found that if I had not realized my mistake and not apologized to him, he would have thought that I was a very rude person. Grammatically, in Korea, people use a "yes" when they agree with the literal meaning of a question regardless of whether the questioner uses a positive sentence or a negative one. In America, however, a "yes" is always followed by a positive sentence. This seemingly slight difference has made me confused and embarrassed more than any monstrous calculus problem has. To cope with this problem, I have set simple rules: First, take a five-second break if I am not sure of the proper word--"yes" or "no." Second, use the phrase "pardon me," so the person asking the question rephrases the sentences.
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