K-Pop Songs to Learn Korean: 14 Memorable Tunes That Capture the Language

BTS. EXO. Twice.

These aren’t just the names of famous K-pop groups. They’re also fantastic resources for you to learn Korean.

By learning Korean through famous K-pop songs, those icons will become your own personal language teachers.

With the help of these 14 Korean songs, you’ll be taking your first steps toward speaking Korean!



1. “DNA” by BTS

“DNA” is the song that helped BTS have a first crack at the Billboard Hot 100. BTS, or the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member boy band with a ridiculously large army of social media followers. 

But you don’t have to be a serious fan to take advantage of the language lessons available in “DNA.” The lyrics are poetic and full of hope. They’re sometimes a bit abstract, so the song is more appropriate for intermediate to advanced language learners.

2. “TT” by Twice

Let’s first put the “TT” music video in perspective. At the time it came out in 2016, “TT” set the record for fastest 10 million views for any K-pop group: 40 hours. Then it set another record for the fastest 20 million views: 114 hours.

“TT” refers to the crying emoticon in which the horizontal line in “T” is the eye, and the vertical line in “T” is the stream of tears. She’s crying from her two eyes, so she’s “just like TT.”

In addition to this short lesson in Korean text-pressions, Korean learners could take away rules about sentence structure and grammar. The material is best suited for intermediate language learners.

3. “Gentleman” by Psy

Of course you know who Psy is. He’s the house-dancing phenomenon behind the mega blockbuster “Gangnam Style.” He released this song with the full knowledge that it would never be bigger than “Gangnam Style.”

But mind you, the video’s visuals are just as striking, if not more so. This is important, because when learning Korean, you need to employ the virtues of visuals and stories in order to scaffold learning and memory.

4. “BBoom, BBoom” by Momoland

The nine-member girl group Momoland debuted in 2016 and found themselves at the top of K-pop charts—in large part due to their hit “BBoom, BBoom.”

The title refers to the sound a heart makes when your crush approaches you. The words make up relatively easy sentences that any novice can learn. For example, if you want context to learn body parts in Korean, then you’ll get a kick out of this song.

5. “Nobody” by Wonder Girls

Released in 2008, Wonder Girls’ “Nobody” is considered a classic, in K-pop terms. It was one of the first K-pop songs to break into the American music scene, proving that Korean content could go toe-to-toe with American music.

The song’s music video is a memorable one with a 50s theme. The song itself has some catchy beats and is ideal for Korean learners who are absolute beginners. 

The song has easy lines throughout, so the learning load is manageable. Even the rap section isn’t overwhelming. You can actually sing along and hone your Korean skills while shaking your butt a little bit.

6. “La La La” by Big Bang

This is another oldie-but-goodie song, released circa 2006 when Big Bang—the five-man force of nature boy group—was taking its position as one of the top acts of the “Korean Wave.”

“La La La” is a slow hip hop song, perfect for beginners and intermediate language learners. The lines are short and simple. It’s also very conversational, so you can certainly pick up a couple slang terms

The rap section of the song isn’t over the top and can be a quick source for enunciation practice for bold students.

7. “For Life” by EXO

Now we come again to a pair of slow ballads that will really tug on your heartstrings. They’re the types of songs you’ll want to play as you walk down the aisle at your wedding.

The first is “For Life” by EXO. “For Life” is a melodramatic song with breezy piano accompaniment. It’s about a man’s promise to be with one woman for life, loving her for life, being by her side for life.

The recording is quite sharp and crisp, so beginners and intermediate language learners can really listen to the lyrics and make out the words. This is a song that’s full of sentiment, and the emotional context will come in handy as you’re learning the lyrics.

8. “Beautiful” by Crush

“Beautiful” by Crush (Shin Hyo-seob) is one of the soundtracks of the South Korean drama series “Goblin,” one of the highest rated dramas on Korean television. “Beautiful” only added to the 2016 cultural phenomenon that was “Goblin.”

“Beautiful” is ideal for beginners and intermediate language learners. The song pace is slow and you’ll probably be able to sing along comfortably after a few listens. 

Once you start singing, you’ll notice that the lines become very easy to memorize because they’re embedded in an otherworldly melody.

9. “I Don’t Care” by 2NE1

Ever been involved with a bad boy or a player who imagines himself at the center of an adoring harem? Ever wanted to teach him a lesson? Just act like you don’t care. Well, at least that’s what this song seems to want to convey.

We’re moving on from love songs and picking up the pace with this one. The melody is quite catchy and you’ll find yourself swaying to the beat.

This is one of those songs that could use some dance moves or some strikingly clever hand gestures. Those would really help you more efficiently absorb the vocabulary contained in this song.

10. “Growl” by EXO

This one is a smash hit by EXO. The song contains mainly informal Korean vocabulary, the type that you can throw around with peers and people of similar status or age.

Remember that Korean makes discernible distinctions between formal and informal communication. The lyrics are on the edgier side and are great for language learners looking to add well-rounded, punchier material to their arsenal.

11. “I Need U” by BTS

Proving Korea to be a prodigious boy band factory, here is another one from BTS. You can look to this song, “I Need U,” for studying the basic structure of Korean sentences.

The lines are simple and will prove advantageous for beginners: You can learn how to build Korean declarative statements as well as interrogatives (questions) just by modeling from the lyrics on this one.

12. “Loser” by Big Bang

Not only does this song by Big Bang contain more material to be mined by the language learner, but the rap sections will give your Korean skills a thorough polishing. The rapping is not so fast as to be indiscernible or inaudible, so any foreign ear listening intently will be able to learn from it.

“Loser” will both gauge and grow your listening skills as well as your comprehension ability. If you begin to understand the lyrics of this one, then you can honestly say that you’ve been acclimatized to the distinct sounds of Korean.

13. “Hello, Goodbye” by Hyorin

“Hello, Goodbye” is a theme song from “My Love from the Star,” one of the most popular Korean TV series of 2014.

It tells the story of a Korean mega actress who hopelessly falls for someone from another planet. (That should clue you in that the “goodbye” in the title involves some sort of nebulous interstellar travel.)

You’ll pick up a lot of Korean from plainly worded and simply structured lines. Watch out especially for phrases that you can readily use when talking with native speakers. There are plenty of these in the song—phrases that can really beef up your casual Korean conversations.

14. “Because I’m a Girl” by KISS

This is the ultimate tearjerker, if ever there was one. The song’s about a young woman who met a dashing photographer, fell in love with him and ended up blind and with a broken heart.

Actually, the song is so much more than that, but I would deprive you of the full experience if I revealed the agonizing twist.

“Because I’m a Girl” readily lends itself to study by language learners. It’s a moderately paced ballad that hooks you with a wonderful story and setting for learning a good deal of Korean words and phrases. It’s perfect for the beginner. The melody, though simple and subtle, can actually grab you by the collar.

Why Learn Korean with Songs?

  • Authenticity. With K-pop, you’re getting the exact same content that South Koreans are getting. The best thing about authentic material like K-pop? Songs aren’t altered to be easier for language learners to understand. You’re getting the real deal: real-world practice for real-world experience. 
  • Story. K-pop songs contain plotlines that provide a powerful context. You’ll be able to hear Korean words as they’re used in real life to express thoughts and emotions. And because there’s a story behind the lyrics, language comes alive for Korean language learners, making it easier to remember.
  • Imagery. The visual component of a song is crucial for making it stand out. That’s where K-pop music videos come in. And don’t even get me started on those dance moves! Sequences of K-pop icons singing and dancing to the song brings it all together for the language learner. 
  • Melody. Last but not the least, there’s the music to the song—that catchy tune you can’t get out of your head. Melody is what makes the song, well, a song. Otherwise, you’d just have a poem that repeats stanzas. Like story and imagery, melody is another element that makes lyrics memorable to Korean language learners. 

How to Learn Korean with Songs

  • Start by getting the big picture first. As you start learning a song, don’t dive immediately into details of vocabulary, verb forms or even pronunciation. Learn the context of the song first. Find out what it’s all about. What’s the story behind the lyrics? This will give you a jumping-off point for all the linguistic lessons that are to follow.
  • Love songs are slower—start with them. Listening to Korean rap as a beginner would put you in a headspin. It would all sound Greek to you, so to speak. So start your studies the right way with some easy love songs to acclimatize yourself to the starts, stops and general flow of Korean.
  • Sing along even when you miss a lot of the words. After listening to a song two to three times, start singing along. Don’t worry if you’re out of tune, or if you haven’t mastered the lines or their pronunciation. By singing along, you’ll get both the tune and the lines. (If you’re not having much luck with the tune, well, that makes two of us.)
  • Try translating songs. Nowadays, many Korean songs have already been translated. But why don’t you do a translation of your own? It may not be perfect or as good as the official one, but there’s something about working with the language that makes you learn more. If you like, you can share your translations online and other language learners might even help you polish up your translations.
  • Add the element of dance. Add a kinesthetic element to your language learning by not only dancing to the beat, but also gesturing in a way that expresses the words of the song. This will make the words easier to remember and it’s fun. Try it!
  • Make use of music videos. Look for music videos of songs or any accompanying great Korean movies and shows that make the songs’ stories come alive. Watching them can make the lyrics more vivid and meaningful, and it’s a great way of getting in some online Korean study
  • Listen on the go. This is another way of saying, “Listen to a song as much as you can.” Listen to it on your commute to work or school, before you sleep, when you’re in line for anything. A song will not give up all of its linguistic gems if you only listen to it once or twice.
  • Deconstruct the lyrics, one line at a time. Speaking of linguistic lessons, if you want to really mine a song for all it’s worth, you have to do a line-by-line study of it. Look closely into how all the different words relate to each other in a given line. Check out their English translations and work out the structure and grammar rule differences between English and Korean.
  • Use FluentU. With FluentU, you’re not just watching Korean music and other authentic videos. You get to turn each song into a powerful lesson! FluentU’s interactive subtitles and video-enhanced flashcards make it possible to find new vocabulary in Korean music (and other types of videos!), see these words in different contexts and test yourself on them with adaptive quizzes.


So what are you waiting for?

You won’t believe the insight into the language an unassuming K-pop song can give you.

If you open your eyes as well as your ears, these songs can provide a whole new way of looking at learning Korean.


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