Do you know how to say “freaking awesome” in Korean? Do you know other ways of expressing your love besides saranghae or joahae? Do you understand this sentence: 나 요즘 썸 타는 남자 있어?


This article is for Korean learners of all levels out there, as long as you are music lovers. There is a large portion of Korean learners who begin learning the Korean language because they’re motivated by South Korean culture. What’s more, an increase in the popularity of South Korean culture (represented by K-pop music and K-dramas) makes it easier for Korean learners to get relevant resources.


I firmly believe that foreign language learners should not only “learn” their target language, but they should also immerse themselves in that culture and foster a new cultural sensitivity. As a culture vulture, I’ve been learning English through cultural means such as movies and music over the past years. My personal experience tells me that compared to active learning, extra passive language exposure can be even more effective in improving your language and getting it to the next level.


This technique will be extremely helpful if you:


  • have reached a certain level of vocabulary.
  • are eager to improve your listening skills.
  • are a multi-tasker.


Stop being “Korean learners” and start being active users of Korean without much effort.


Music as a tool in language learning has significant advantages:  


  • It can test your listening comprehension to some extent, helping to improve your listening comprehension skills through regular practice.
  • Lexical development: it boosts your vocabulary, including phrasal verbs, idiomatic expressions, slang, and neologism.
  • Handwriting skills: because you have the chance to do dictations.
  • You can gain Korean language and cultural sensitivity as a bonus. It will be a piece of cake for you to get the hang of a whole new text without using dictionaries-- time will tell.
  • No limits: unlimited learning resources and an unlimited learning environment/time.


If you still have no idea how this technique works specifically, please continue to read. Here are a few steps for you.


  1. Listen to a song in the target language first. This is the easiest step. You might have already heard loads of Korean pop songs and have your own tastes. Just be sure you like it and you find it quite catchy to follow. Come on! It’s music, shut up and enjoy!
  2. When the “wow, this is the song!” moment comes, re-listen to it to get a general understanding. How about starting with a slow ballad song? Personally, I started practicing English with songs by Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz, definitely not with Eminem’s rap songs (I will give you a list of music later).
  3. DICTATION! Now take out a sheet of paper and listen carefully! Pay attention to the lexical chunk, try to understand, write down every chunk you’ve heard from the song, and move on. Do not waste time on figuring out some “weird” words you are struggling with. You can pause from time to time, maybe every twenty seconds or thirty seconds. Ultimately it depends on your level and personal preference.
  4. POLISH your script! Please don’t leave it blank unless you don’t believe what you heard. The Korean language is a phonetic language in terms of writing system. As a matter of fact, you can write down certain words you hear, even if you don’t know their exact meaning. Odds are you might be right! Just give it a shot!
  5. Find the true lyrics and check your mistakes, including misspelling, grammatical mistakes, or words and expressions you didn’t know. Underline these with a red pen and correct them.
  6. Make a summary. Use your tools, such as an online dictionary. Sometimes you will find it hard to find suitable answers from a dictionary as there are some culturally loaded words and phrases. Please feel free to ask for explanations from a native Korean speaker around you or from italki. I am sure we’d love to help you.


As time goes by, you can challenge yourself to much higher levels. I suggest you create a Korean music learning notebook that covers lyrics and notes. As I’ve mentioned before, the fact that it’s “unlimited” makes you use tiny pieces of time to listen/dictate/rewrite.


Now that you’ve completed all the above-mentioned steps, it will be a different experience when you listen to the song again. You will find you can really “enjoy” it because you not only like the melody, but you can also understand it now. And, sometimes later, you will use these new words unconsciously when they’re extracted from your memory. You will be so amazed at how sweet a love song can be and how witty rap lyrics can be in Korean. Plus, you can try to translate it into your native language as well. That will be fun! I used to try to translate Coldplay’s lyrics into Mandarin.


Note: Please note that this technique is intended to train your listening skills as well as textual comprehension skills. New words and phrases are a bonus. Therefore, you should not expect to learn a bunch of new vocabulary from this exercise. If you do, then the material is not an appropriate level for you.


Suggested Genres and Artists





Advanced/ Proficient

Music Genre



Hip Hop/Rap



  • Lee Seung Chul
  • Sung Si Kyung
  • Eddy Kim
  • IU
  • Acoustic collabo
  • J rabbit
  • Nell
  • Loveholics
  • Standing egg
  • CherryFilter
  • BoA
  • K pop girl groups (girls generation etc.)
  • Bigbang
  • G-dragon
  • Beenzino
  • 10 cm
  • Dynamic duo
  • Epik high





Song #1:


언젠가부터 너를 원했고/내 맘은 널 향해 움직인거야~

Don’t know since when I began to want you and my heart is running to you~


“Double Jack” by BoA / Eddy Kim

  • Lexical ratings: 2 stars   
  • Tempo ratings: 2 stars


Double Jack is a sweet love song, and the combination of BoA and Eddy Kim made this song more delightful.


  • 원하다 - want / need / long for
  • 마음이 움직이다 - heart is moving / running


More options for you…


  • ( 첫눈에 ) 반하다 - have a crush on (at first sight)
    • 그녀에게 완전 반했어 - I totally have a crush on her.
  • 설레다 - goes pit-a-pat / flipped / have a crush on
    • 널 보면 설레 - I flipped when I look into you.


Song #2:


내꺼인 듯 내꺼 아닌 내꺼 같은 너/니꺼인 듯 니꺼 아닌 니꺼 같은 나/연인인 듯 연인 아닌 연인 같은 너~

You, like mine, or not; I, like yours, or not; we, like a couple, or not~


“Some” by Soyoo / Jung Gigo

  • Lexical ratings: 2 stars   
  • Tempo ratings: 2 stars  


This was the biggest hit song in 2014. “Some” between male and female refers to a state of almost lover, commonly collocated with 타다.


  • 썸타다 -- 남자친구는 없어도 썸 타는 남자 있어 - I don’t have a boyfriend but I have someone special.


Song #3:


찹쌀떡~ 궁합이 / 우리 둘이 궁합이

We are perfect for each other~


“Bae Bae” by Bigbang

  • Lexical ratings: 3 stars   
  • Tempo ratings: 3 stars


  • 궁합 - marital compatibility
  • 찹쌀떡궁합 - perfect match / well-matched


Chapssaltteok originally refers to glutinous rice cakes. It implies an excellent combination. For example:


  • 치킨에 맥주 ( 치맥 ) 찹쌀떡궁합이죠! The combination of chicken and beer (chimaek) is perfect!


Song #4:


이 노래 쩔어 내 랩 쩔어 내 스타일 쩔어 내가 좀 쩔어~

This song, awesome, my rap, awesome, my style, awesome. I am kind of awesome.


쩔어(Zutter)” by GD & T.O.P

  • Lexical ratings: 4 stars
  • Tempo ratings: 3 stars


If you know K pop well, you may know the rap scene in Korea. This is a duet rap song by GD and T.O.P from Bigbang. The lyrics are very witty, but a bit hard to understand. I highly recommend it for those fans of hip hop. Basically, 쩔어 / 쩐다 is equal to 짱! / 대단해~ and can be translated to “freaking awesome / rock / ace.”


  • 너 완전 쩐다! You totally rock!


Song #5:


바람났어 / 나 오랜만에 물 만났어 물고긴줄 알았어~

I am going crazy, haven’t met water for a long time, I think I am a fish now~


“바람났어” by GD / Park Myung Soo

  • Lexical ratings: 3 stars   
  • Tempo ratings: 4 stars


  • 바람나다 - Having an affair (originally), this song is about two guys (GD and a married man Park Myungsoo in this case) going out for a party to have some fun on a Saturday night.
  • 물 만난 물고기 - GD depicts himself as a fish in the water going crazy at the party.
    • 그녀는 술마실 때 정말 물 만난 물고기다 - She’s really in her element when drinking.


Song #6:


오늘도 잔인한 세상은 너를 ( 비웃고 )

거울앞에서도 ( 기죽고 )

또 홀로 술잔을 ( 비우고 )

This world still mocks you today;

In front of the mirror, feeling depressed;

Again I drink alone~


“Fly” by Epik High

  • Lexical ratings: 4 stars   
  • Tempo ratings: 4 stars


  • 비웃다 - make fun of / mock
  • 기죽다 / 기가 죽다 - lose heart / depressed   
  • 비우다 - empty / vacate
  • 술잔을 비우다 - drink off the glass


Do it yourself now!


Song #7:


눈을 뜨며 맞는 아침 / 똑같은 방향뿐인 ( 삶의 나침반 )

( 만만한 ) 세상에 /쉽게 ( 무릎꿇고 ) / 쉴새없이 ( 신세타령 )


“Fly” by Epik High


Thanks for reading!


Image Sources

Hero Image by Philippe Put (CC BY-ND 2.0)