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.
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t!
Why Are Famous K-pop Songs Good for Learning Korean?
K-pop songs are rapidly taking over the world and, when it comes to learning the language, they may just be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Need proof? Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, there’s nothing more authentic than K-pop songs. 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.
The lyrics may seem too fast at first, but with more exposure, you’ll attune your ears to the natural flow of Korean songs.
Stories are naturally embedded in K-pop lyrics. Songs contain plotlines that provide a powerful context. Maybe the song is about that first second when two souls meet, or the heartbreak of losing a loved one, or the exhilaration of coming home.
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.
The visual component of a song is crucial for making it stand out. That’s where K-pop music videos come in. And the K-pop genre is famous for its music videos!
There are lines about loss, love or joy, but the music videos feature lovers looking into each other’s eyes, innocent kids playing at the beach or the mess of shots from the alleyway. Videos take K-pop to a whole new level.
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. Images are good for the memory. They help anchor the lines in songs.
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. Thanks to melody, we still remember the correct sequence of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, even though there really isn’t any rational explanation for why they’re arranged that way. If we forget what comes before “U,” we merely have to sing the ABCs to arrive at the correct answer. (Pop quiz! Can you remember what it is without humming the tune?) Melody is that potent.
Authenticity, story, imagery and melody—put them together and you have material with nuclear language teaching potential.
That said, let’s look at some of the most famous K-pop songs that make Korean language learners want to get their freak on!
Sing Along! 7 Famous K-pop Songs for Learning Korean
“BBoom, BBoom” by Momoland
The nine-member girl group Momoland debuted in 2016, and in just two shorts years, they 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 dance song is perfect for Korean beginners hoping to quickly build a vocabulary base. 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.
The song’s melody sucks you in, and you won’t mind spending hours studying the lyrics. If you’re not already pumped about learning Korean, you will be after watching this music video.
“DNA” by BTS
Have you ever had that feeling when looking into another person’s eyes… the feeling that the two of you are destined to be with each other, as if it’s in your DNA to be with them? Cosmic, unstoppable connection—that’s what this song is all about.
Cue dance music and spotless choreography and you get “DNA,” 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. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized them as the musical group with the most Twitter engagements for 2018.
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. However, they’re sometimes a bit abstract, making the song more appropriate for intermediate to advanced language learners.
If you want to take language learning to another level, you’ll be happy to know that BTS actually has a book to help you learn the language. “Learn Korean With BTS” is a collection of the lyrics of their greatest hits, with translations and copious notes. If you want to dive even deeper into their songs, this book will take you there.
“TT” by Twice
Let’s first put the “TT” music video in perspective. At the time it came out (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.
As I write this, “TT” has almost has half a billion views on YouTube.
The song is about a young girl who’s falling in love for the first time. She doesn’t know how to handle her feelings, doesn’t know how to tell the boy about them and doesn’t know how to act around him. She’s flustered and hopeless. All this heart-wrenching despair gives full meaning to the lines in the chorus: “I’m like TT. Just like TT.”
“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.
Oh, and the imagery on this one is top-notch. It’s super memorable—the colors are punchy, and the sets and props are excellent anchors for the contextual learning of new vocabulary.
“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.
“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 composed of G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri—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.
The music video is relatively clean, easy on the eyes and not too overly produced. And if you’re a fan who wants to see a young G-Dragon shake his bom bom, then this is the music video for you.
“For Life” by EXO
As we round up the last two of our K-pop songs, we come 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. EXO is one of South Korea’s most successful boy groups. (You know you’ve made it in the K-pop world when you’ve posed for pictures with two of South Korea’s presidents.)
“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.
“Beautiful” by Crush
Speaking of songs you’d love to have at your wedding, there’s “Beautiful” by Crush (Shin Hyo-seob). Its melody is hauntingly beautiful—combine that with the cool, untouchable voice of Crush and you have a K-pop song that will be stuck in your head long after you finish studying.
“Beautiful” is one of the soundtracks of the South Korean drama series “Goblin,” one of the highest rated dramas on Korean television. “Goblin” is a supernatural story of eternal love and eternal creatures. (The series itself is critically acclaimed and merits its own discussion.)
“Beautiful” only added to the 2016 cultural phenomenon that was “Goblin.”
Language learners can study the song not only for its melodramatic notes, but for the beautiful language contained. “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.
These famous K-pop songs will have you belting out in Korean in no time!
Don’t worry if you sing out of tune. To sing out of tune in two languages is still something to be proud of.