Are your Korean studies going well in theory but not in practice?
Perhaps you can understand what you read, but not what people actually say during conversations?
Or maybe you get confused by the sounds of the Korean language and mistake certain words for others when natives speak.
Whatever your case, you’ll definitely benefit tremendously from beefing up your Korean listening practice.
Not too certain how to proceed or which resources to use to get the job done?
Then read up! We’ll guide you effortlessly so you’ll be equipped to succeed!
How to Practice Your Korean Listening Skills
Leverage technology tools
There isn’t a thing you won’t find online to improve your Korean listening studies. From videos to podcasts, and from K-pop songs to YouTube shows, the sky is the limit for the type of resources that you can use to support your sessions.
So with this in mind, it’s really up to you to drill down on what you want to achieve and improve. First, ask yourself what your current pain points are and what would be the ideal resource to address it.
For example, you may have noticed that you can easily understand scripted shows, but not so much when natives speak in real life. In this case, perhaps the best way to go is to find talk shows or YouTube videos, where hosts tend to use more natural language.
Then, try to pinpoint your personal interests, or at least what subjects you’d like to gain more comfort with. This is particularly important for your real-world practice, as it can help you to anticipate the things you’d want to talk about or might encounter.
For example, if you’re passionate about cooking, try to search for dramas about this topic. Drama Wiki is a terrific tool to help you find the right Korean drama based on category and subject matter.
Identify your mistakes and remedy them
It’s important to take a proactive approach during your listening sessions, especially because it will make your next sessions a lot easier and more fun.
Here are some common reasons why you might not be making the progress that you should be making:
- You don’t replay difficult passages. And that’s a problem because you don’t give yourself the time to revisit what you missed to hopefully make sense of what you’ve missed. The trick is to find material that’s at the right level of difficulty for you, but still a bit challenging so you can continue to learn and test your ability to listen.Target content based on the subjects that you’re currently studying so you can hear a lot of the terminology you’ve viewed or read. When replaying segments, try to grab on to sounds that you recognize and go back, again and again, to see if you can identify more sounds. Eventually, this should help you to put these sounds together to form a word or expression.
- You tune out difficult portions of the language. This generally happens because you’re listening to content that incorporates unfamiliar vocabulary. The issue with this is that we tend to be unaware that we’re actually tuning out large portions of and waste precious study time.The key to remedy this is to try to catch yourself as soon as possible and simply replay previous segments, this time by making an effort to listen to every word that’s being said! Concretely, that means stopping the recording every minute or two and trying to summarize, in Korean, what you’ve heard.
- You don’t look up difficult words or expressions. It’s one thing to listen to the Korean language, but unless you take proactive steps to write down new vocabulary and memorize them, you’ll miss a great opportunity to progress and yes, to expand your word database! It may feel tiresome to do, but keep in mind that you need vocabulary to facilitate your Korean listening practice, so don’t neglect this step.If you wish to be more productive during your listening sessions, you may want to consider using a language learning solution that also lets you access transcripts, subtitles or vocabulary flashcards to make audio/video segments more manageable. (We have some recommendations below.)
- You’re not practicing regularly. Lastly, the best way to make dramatic progress with your Korean listening skills is to have frequent listening drills. Do your best to fit it into your daily routine by limiting sessions to 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results; it takes time to get used to the Korean sounds!However, there really is no way around it. Know that you have to spend many, many hours listening to Korean to eventually be comfortable with a variety of conversations and speakers. To make it easy on yourself, a wise strategy is to listen to things that interest you. If you don’t enjoy something, it’ll be difficult for you to continue and practice regularly!
3. Be more proactive during Korean listening practice
Here are some ideas that’ll help you make the most of your time spent practicing listening:
- Transcribe texts in real time. You should pause between sentences and write exactly what you’ve heard, word for word. This powerful exercise will help you to be more disciplined and focused when doing your Korean listening drills. In addition, it will help you to truly grasp proper Korean spelling and verify that the way you write matches what you hear. You can handwrite your text or, better yet, type it using a Hangul keyboard and then paste it on Naver Translate. In addition to translations, the software will automatically reject misspelled or inaccurate words, so you can replay the segment for self-corrections.
- Memorize the dialogue and say it out loud. This is a terrific way to activate both listening and speaking skills during sessions, as well as a smart way to acquire a range of useful expressions and idioms. The key to this exercise is to really listen to the way natives deliver their lines, such as their rhythm or pauses, so you can sound as natural as they do.
- Listen at a slow speed. If you still miss words here and there (or even entire portions of content), select speed on your favorite podcast or video and slow it down. This is generally done through the settings for a video and directly from the podcast page for a podcast.It’s an important step for learning, and that’s because it’s hard to understand everything when you listen at full speed. This helps you to notice the words and sounds that you would normally miss, which is especially helpful if you wish to look up words on your go-to Korean dictionary app.
- Listen at faster speeds. If you’re ready for a challenge, then select “Speed” on your desired podcast or video, only this time select a faster speed. It challenges you to remain focused and pay attention to everything that’s being said.This is also a great preparation that will train you to follow a fast Korean speaker in real life! Bonus? You’ll also make your listening exercises more efficient time-wise!
- Turn down the volume. Want to know what differentiates a native or bilingual speaker from an advanced learner? It’s their ability to distinguish the little nuances that are often ignored by other learners. Why? Because this demonstrates an unparalleled level of comfort and familiarity with the Korean language.Start by finding an interesting video and turn the volume down. This forces you to pay more attention to what’s being said. Additionally, in the real world, you can’t control the volume of speakers. Some Koreans are soft-spoken, so this is great practice. Low volume is a lot more challenging than high volume. This helps you to gain awareness of the subtleties of the sounds of the Korean language.
- Mix recorded listening with interactive listening. This is to ensure that you’re equally comfortable with real-world conversations, which are typically unscripted, and scripted Korean TV, radio and movies, which you’ll encounter a lot in Korea.While it’s easy to find recorded dialogues online, interactive listening practice requires a bit more planning on your end. The best way to achieve this is to put yourself in situations where you’ll meet Korean native speakers in your area. Your local Korean grocery store or restaurant is a great start, but so are Meetups, so don’t hesitate to scout out the next gathering of Korean natives or learners near you.
8 Bright Resources for Korean Listening Practice
Videos and Movies
Ever wished you could binge on Korean dramas and movies to improve your Korean listening skills? Well, that’s all possible on Viki, a terrific streaming site that lets you watch classic and fresh content.
Beyond the fact that there are nearly 500 dramas and 60 films to pick from, what makes Viki so awesome for your Korean studies are the numerous subtitle options to facilitate your learning. Each content is different, but you should be able to enable (or disable!) subtitles in English and a dozen other languages, including Korean. Another helpful feature is the simultaneous display of user comments, which often makes it easier to catch difficult portions of dialogue.
If you’re enjoying this article so far, odds are you’ll love FluentU! FluentU is a fun way of learning Korean and other languages.
Here's a quick look at the variety of video choices available to you:
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
Don't stop there, though. You can use FluentU’s unique quizzes to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU even tracks your progress and remembers all the words you've learned, making for a 100% personalized experience.
Review sessions use video context to help embed the words in your memory. The best part? You can access the full FluentU video library with a free trial!
Start using FluentU Korean on the website or download the app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
코리아 갓 탤런트 (Korea’s Got Talent)
Are you a fan of the famed singing contest “America’s Got Talent”? Then, you’re in for a treat: South Korea has got its own local show, and it’s available on YouTube! This is a great way to expose yourself to spoken language and to learn plenty of expressions related to singing, cheers and sadly, criticisms.
What also makes this a superb way to improve your Korean listening skills is the variety of songs that are introduced during each show. That’s because in addition to being a great way to quickly learn a unique facet of the Korean culture, the rhythm and repetitions of songs make them a truly effective tool for listening practice. The best way to leverage the show for your learning is to search for the song’s lyrics by typing its name on Naver Music or on Color Coded lyrics and follow along!
SNL코리아 (SNL Korea)
This is another exciting show that was adapted from a beloved American show, and odds are high that you watch it too. Saturday Night Live Korea is a South Korean late-night live TV sketch, humor and variety program. The show keeps you on your toes with a wide range of funny segments, all of which generally have a root in Korean news.
Unscripted and spontaneous, this is the perfect way to test your listening skills and replicate the real-life experience. To maximize your listening sessions, the best strategy is to make good use of the YouTube “Speed” feature. Simply locate the pinwheel in the bottom right-hand corner. From “Settings,” click on “Speed” and choose the proper pace for the video. Slow it down (anything under 1) or even accelerate it (any number above 1) for a great challenge!
If you appreciate pranks or grew up playing jokes on your beloved siblings, you’ll enjoy watching the SisterVSBrother YouTube channel. It’s filled with videos of unpredictable and hilarious pranks played on YouTube vlogger Stimboy by her little sister. In the videos, she generally plays a joke on him without his knowing, such as putting makeup on him while recovering from drinking too much soju or taping his entire body to the floor while sleeping.
Not too sure you can handle spoken Korean yet? Well, this is the right choice for you. You have the option to display either Korean or English subtitles by clicking on the pinwheel in the bottom right-hand corner of the video and select your preferred “Language” option by choosing the language you wish to display in captioning.
나는 호갱이었다 (I Was a Stupid Customer)
With a plethora of actionable money tips in Korean, this will quickly become your go-to business podcast. This authentic Korean show is the perfect mix of economics theory and practice, with examples taken from Korean markets and companies illustrating the host’s point. Needless to say, you’ll learn a lot about consumer strategy and marketing by listening to this brainy Korean podcast.
You’ll learn a lot of essential business jargon and make real progress along the way. That’s because the host speaks very slowly and clearly. If you feel that this is a bit too advanced for you, don’t panic. Simply hit the rewind button, then select “Speed” and slow it down so you can pay a closer attention to what’s being said.
두시탈출 컬투쇼 (Two O’Clock Escape)
If you prefer to focus on content that’s a bit less intense for your listening practice, then this comedy program will make your day. This show features natural dialogue about a variety of topics such as health, romance, career, food or travel, allowing you to quickly build your Korean vocabulary and make your listening routine more aligned with what you’d encounter in real life.
And because there’s more than one speaker, this is a great way to test your ears and prepare yourself to follow along conversation in group-like settings. This show is on the long side, which is terrific if you’re looking to really see how you’d perform if you were in a fully immersive environment and build your listening endurance.
이동진의 빨간책방 (Dong-jin Lee’s Red Bookstore)
Are you a lover of the arts and literature? If so, the chances are high that you’ll appreciate the discussions in this podcast. Created by bookworms, for bookworms, this is the place to turn to for insightful recommendations, critiques and comments on the latest Korean novels, essays, poetry and, yes, classics.
Make your listening even more productive by doing a Naver search for the book in question. This will give you an overview of the book and allow you to identify important words on paper, perfect if you’ve missed them during your listening practice. And of course, don’t forget to read the podcast’s description to identify the keywords that will be introduced in the episode you’re listening to!
Now that Korean listening practice has no secrets from you, there’s no stopping you from conquering the Korean language! Have fun!
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