Games that translate part 1: Peek-a-boo


There are things that come naturally when we play with babies, like games that were played with us as babies. Sometimes in using a second language with my daughter, I feel like I cannot have the same bond as I might in my native tongue.

To be honest I think our bond goes far beyond what we can and can’t express with words; but as I find my feet using Korean with her, games that are universal to both our cultures have helped to make our interactions more relaxed and natural. Language wise, these games are simple enough that my mother (who is not studying and has little knowledge of Korean) has easily memorised the words and also plays them in Korean with Alice!

A simple game to start with is 까꿍!

I think this game is common in many cultures. It involes covering your face, or baby’s face, with hands or a blanket or behind a curtain, etc.

When I cover my face I might say: “엄마 없다~ 없다~”

Or Alice covers her face and I’ll say: “엘리스 없다~”

or ask a question like: “엘리스 어디서?”

It’s a nice opportunity to practice different grammar forms of “where are you?” and “where is mum?” type questions 😉

Then ofcourse you suddenly reveal your face and call out “까-꿍!”

I’m yet to meet a baby who doesn’t find this game endlessly hilarious.

Alice has been practicing saying “없다~” and “까꿍!” using this game since about 14 months. Her pronounciation is something like “어따~ 따~ 까꾸~~!”

She uses the word “까꿍” to express any time something is revealed and often does so with a very cute sense of humour.

Related vocabulary/expressions:

눈을 가리다  to cover one’s eyes



Practising Korean with Grandmothers on the subway!

priority seats

If you ride the Seoul subway with a baby, chances are you might find yourself sitting in the priority seats where elderly ladies and gentlemen will frequently show interest in, and ask about your baby. This is a really great opportunity to practise speaking Korean, but you might encounter some baby related questions that are unfamiliar. Before travelling to Korea when Alice was 5 months old, I asked my husband to help me prepare some questions and answers to help me with this kind of situation.

NOTE: Elderly people are much more likely to speak in dialect. You’ll find there are often many ways to ask the same thing, so I’ll list some examples here but the list is obviously not comprehensive!

First of all, you can say 여기 앉으세요 if you want to offer your seat to someone .

You might hear 앉아, when an older person would like to offer you a seat.

If you don’t hear a question clearly, you can ask ? (in a kind of higher pitch that rises slightly) to hear it again.

If you really don’t understand, hopefully you can remember this sentence- 무슨 말씀이신지 잘 모르겠어요 (I don’t really understand what you are saying)

There are lots of words for baby. eg.아가 /애기/아기

Basic Questions

몇 개월이에요?/몇 살이에요? How many months?/How many years old?

몇 킬로? How many kilos (kg)?

건강해? (is the baby) healthy?

잘 자라? (is the baby) growing well?


밤에 잘 자? (does the baby) sleep well at night?

밤에 자주 깨? (does the baby) wake up a lot at night?

밤에 자주 일어나? (another way of asking if the baby wakes up a lot)


젖 잘 먹어? (does the baby) breastfeed well?

모유 잘 나와? Does your milk flow well? (I know it seems like an odd question.. you might be surprised what some people ask, but it’s usually intended kindly!!)

모유 수유해? Do you breastfeed (the baby)?

모유 먹여? (another way of asking if you are breastfeeding the baby)

(Related vocabulary- 모유 breast milk, 분유 formula milk. Seeing I didn’t feed formula milk, I’m afraid I didn’t think up much about this. Also, baby bottle is  우유병)


자주 울어? (does the baby) cry alot?

잘 울어? (does the baby) cry well? (I guess this implies that the baby is in good health if it can cry well, so if the baby is healthy, answer , 잘 울어요)

왜 울어? Why (is the baby) crying?


애기 기니? Is the baby crawling (yet)?

기어? (does the baby) crawl?

길 수 있어? Can (the baby) crawl?

기기 시작했어? (has the baby) started crawling?

(Related vocabulary- 뒤집다 roll over , 기다/기어 다니다 crawl/crawl about, 배 밀이하다commando crawl, 혼자 앉다 sit by herself, 혼자 서다 stand by herself, 걷다 walk)


머리 밀었어? Did you shave (the baby’s) head?

삭발 했어? Did you shave (the baby’s) head?

(*Culture point- Koreans, like many Asian cultures, usually shave a baby’s head in the belief their hair will grow back thicker and more beautiful. We didn’t do this to Alice.)

Other expressions you might hear

아이구! 이뻐라! Oh how pretty!

엄마 닮았네~! (She) looks like (her) mum!

졸린가봐 (the baby) looks tired

잠이 왔나봐 (the baby) looks like (she’s) falling asleep

얼굴에 잠이 왔네 (the baby’s) face looks sleepy

배 고픈가보다 (the baby) looks hungry

애기 춥겠다! (the baby) looks cold

(*Tip: put socks on your baby or you will get asked this excessively!!!!)

애기 안아 줄까? Shall I hold the baby? (lit. give a cuddle)

BUT WAIT! How old IS my baby?

Since Koreans calculate age a little differently than we do in the west, you might be wondering how to tell someone the correct age of your baby. Fear not! For babies under two years old, you can describe the baby’s age in months.. that should give you a little time to figure out if she’ll be turning two or three at 24 months!

Using the bald patch to predict the next baby’s gender?

predicting gender

The first time she met Alice, when she was only a few months old, an older Korean lady we knew remarked to us “Oh, your next baby will be a boy!”

When I asked her why she thought so, she explained to me that the shape of the bald patch, where Alice’s hair had been rubbed away from laying down a lot,  indicated a son next. It was a long narrow patch across the back of Alice’s head. The lady kindly explained that a future girl would be predicted if the bald patch was round.

I don’t know if this is Korean thinking, if it is traditional, or if it is just this lady’s method, but she has predicted we’ll have a son next, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see if she is right.

Have you ever heard such a method? Have you heard of any other unusual ways to predict a baby’s gender?

Planning Alice’s 100th day (백일잔치)

Alice's 100th day

Though I’ve heard it’s becoming less common, Koreans traditionally celebrated their baby’s 백일, the hundredth day after birth.
There are a couple of reasons behind this tradition, but the one which I found most charming is because the hundredth day is about one year after conception. In Korea, you are a member of the family from the time you are conceived, and so your hundredth day is your first birthday. (This is probably at least part of the reason why they count their birthdays differently to how we do in Australia)

Alice started life in Korea, but was born in Australia and will most likely be raised here for most of her childhood, I want to do as much as I can to help her experience and know both her cultures and so, despite knowing very little about what goes on at a 백일, I set out to prepare one for her.

My mother inlaw told me that these days Koreans usually just set up a pretty table with fruit and rice cake and take some photos, I wanted to have some friends around and a small event.
Han read about various traditions and ideas online. Apparently, once upon a time, Han’s sister would have secretly cut Alice’s hair and then presented the cut hair to me to bring good luck. Since I hate the thought of cutting her hair, I suddenly felt quite relieved that Han has no siblings, however we did cut a few strands to save and give to her when she turns 21.
Usually parents give out a type of white rice cake called 백설기. They believe if they give it to at least 100 people, the baby will live a long life. In return, recipients would give skeins of silk thread, symbolising longevity; or rice, gold or money, symbolising wealth.
For the 백일상 (table) we planned to set three colours of fruit (we chose grapefruit, watermelon and pear) and 미역국 (seaweed soup, which is traditionally eaten post birth by the mother, and subsequently by the child on their birthdays), cooked rice, three types of 나물 (vegetable side dish) – 고사리 (bracken), 시금치 (spinach) and 콩나물 (bean sprout); and three types of rice cake, 백설기, 수수팥떡 and my personal favourite, 두텁떡. We also ordered a 백설기 cake (rice cake cake!) to share the centre stage with our baby.