Listen to me!
Listen to me when I tell you…
…to listen to Korean.
Are you itching to master Korean conversation? Want to watch a Korean comedy and understand every joke? Dying to nail that perfect accent?
Get some Korean audio in your headphones, and watch your comprehension and speaking skills skyrocket.
In this post we’ll show you why audio content is so helpful for learning Korean, plus some awesome listening resources you can start using right away.
The great thing is that there’s so much to choose, including everything from formal audiobook courses to K-pop on Spotify!
So, listen up and learn Korean with audio resources!
Why Learn Korean with Audio Content?
Have you ever been conversing with a native Korean speaker, and while you’re still trying to figure out the subject of the sentence, they’re already waiting for you to respond?
Why do native speakers have to talk so fast?!
I used to think it would be impossible to ever fully understand spoken Korean. Hearing Korean in speech is so different from reading it!
However, with dedicated listening practice and diverse audio resources, you can practice hearing the language rather than just reading it or memorizing vocabulary flashcards. You can get accustomed to a range of accents, speaking styles and speeds and ultimately prepare to live, work or travel in Korea.
Korean listening practice can also be super convenient. You can carry music, podcasts and audio files around on your phone for practice anytime, anywhere—in the car or on the bus on your way to work, or even while you wait in line at the supermarket.
How to Get the Most Out of Audio Resources
The first mistake that many language learners make when learning with audio is trying to understand and translate every single word and phrase they hear. This may be why so many students think that listening is the hardest (and least interesting) skill in language learning. But it really doesn’t have to be!
Instead, break your listening practice into steps that’ll help you develop the skills you really need to be able to understand spoken Korean effectively:
Step One: Choose Your Audio Resource Wisely
Choose content that interests you and suits your skill level. If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best not to dive right into a three-hour podcast, or a news story about a dense political debate. It might be really interesting, but you’ll probably be disheartened by how much you can’t understand (yet!).
Similarly, if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, you may be tempted to start with easy audio clips to build your confidence, but this can actually leave you bored and unmotivated.
K-pop songs are probably the easiest listening resources, given their universal themes and repetitive lyrics. From there you can work your way through YouTube clips, audio lessons, dramas and movies (perhaps just one scene at a time to start) and then on to podcasts and audiobooks.
Step Two: Listen for the Gist
Once you’ve chosen some appropriate (and interesting) Korean audio, listen to it once through without hitting pause. Don’t try to understand every single thing you hear! For this first listen, you just want to find out two things: who’s speaking and what are they talking about?
When listening to the news or a podcast (or even other people talking in conversation) in your native language, how often do you pay absolute attention and process every single word? More than likely, you listen enough to understand what they’re talking about, and pay a little more attention when they bring up a topic that interests you.
Listening for gist helps us develop a skill in Korean that we already use every day in our native language—it gets us listening like native speakers. Rather than trying to translate everything in order to respond, listening for gist gets your brain thinking in Korean, fast!
Step Three: Listen for Detail
Once you think you recognize all the speakers in your audio resource and have a basic idea of what they’re talking about, write down a list of questions that you have from what you know so far.
You can repeat this step as many times as you like, but once again remember that you’re not trying to understand every single word. You just want to find the answers to your questions by listening for details, until you feel that you understand the text as well as you can.
Listening for detail challenges you to explore unfamiliar words or phrases and piece together what you can from context. These are the listening skills you actually need in the real world to be an effective Korean speaker.
Unless you’re training to be an interpreter, it probably isn’t going to be very helpful for you to try to translate every single word. That’ll just slow you down and disrupt the flow when you’re listening to a Korean speaker in conversation.
You can also practice your listening for detail by writing dictations from short audio files (that’s one way to improve your writing, too!) or making gap-fills.
I particularly like making gap-fills with song lyrics. Print out or write out the lyrics to your favorite K-pop songs with a missing word or phrase in each line. Try to have a combination of verbs and nouns, plus a few familiar grammatical phrases blanked out. For the biggest challenge, you can have a native speaker or language buddy do this for you.
Then listen to the song and fill in as many of the blanks as you can without hitting pause!
Listen Up! Learn Korean Fast with 7 Awesome Audio Resources
MyLanguages is a remarkably expansive free site devoted to language learning. Lessons are available on many aspects of Korean, including a large folder of MP3 audio lessons. You can download these for free and take them anywhere you go!
This site gives you access to 100 audio files that are primarily focused on basic vocabulary. The program aims to get you prepared for common real-life situations in Korean and mastering essential short sentences.
(Unfortunately, you can’t browse through the files to pick and choose before downloading—they’re offered in one big file.)
This site also has a dictionary, quizzes, games, long reading texts and more.
Want an authentic Korean listening experience? Immerse yourself in the language with real-world Korean videos on FluentU.
The FluentU Korean program offers authentic content such as movie trailers, music videos, news and more, transformed into interactive learning tools. The videos come with clickable captions allowing you to see in-context definitions of any unfamiliar words, as well as example sentences and other videos a given word appears in.
In this way, FluentU supercharges your listening practice, making sure that you’re retaining what you learn while getting exposure to real Korean videos and culture.
FluentU makes it possible to learn with K-pop videos, funny commercials, entertaining web series and more. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of FluentU videos on offer:
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you (which are organized by level and topic), so you simply choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
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.
You can use FluentU’s unique Quiz Mode to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU keeps track of what you’re learning, and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you 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!
Looking for structured Korean audio courses you can take with you wherever you go? Head straight to Audible.
If you’re the type of person who benefits from structured, step-by-step learning, but don’t have the time for a formal Korean classroom course or tutor, Korean learner audiobooks are a fantastic option. I know people who’ve become proficient speakers of new languages primarily by listening to language learner audiobooks in the car!
Audible is a great resource for finding tons of Korean learner audio material all in one place. This makes it easier to find content that matches your learning level so you’re not wasting time on audio that’s too easy or too difficult.
You’ll find lots of courses for all levels, including many diverse options from the popular Korean audio learning tool KoreanClass101. From comprehensive courses, to instruction on everyday language, to essential vocabulary drills, any level of Korean learner will find something valuable to download.
Ah, good old YouTube! The possibilities are endless! This is one of the best resources for finding content that keeps you entertained, engaged and motivated to continue practicing your listening skills.
With YouTube, you can also usually turn on subtitles in either Korean or English, which can help you catch new words or get accustomed to an unfamiliar accent.
Browse for Korean movie trailers that pique your interest, or K-pop music videos to watch while you complete your lyric gap-fills. The more studious among you can also find some fantastic Korean audio lessons, like this one from Loecsen.
What about some vloggers to look for?
JUNGSAEMMOOL is a makeup artist to the stars in Korea who creates super-professional makeup tutorial videos. As a Korean learner you’ll appreciate that her speaking style is extremely clear.
YouTube is also a great way to practice listening while learning about Korean culture and trends, including some of the more… out-of-the-box crazes.
Does listening to Koreans talk while they devour enormous plates of food sound like your idea of thrilling entertainment? You should check out mukbang! This Korean vlogging trend is exactly that: YouTubers film themselves eating food (sometimes insane amounts) while interacting with their audience in real time.
Iyagi (Talk to Me in Korean)
The popular language learning site Talk to Me in Korean produces a fantastic podcast resource for Korean learners called Iyagi.
On Iyagi, you’ll find audio recordings of natural Korean conversations between two speakers. The conversations cover a range of topics, from TV shows to diets to superstitions. There are about 150 episodes so you have plenty to listen to!
While Iyagi is labeled as an intermediate resource, it’s also great for beginners looking for a challenge to bring their listening skills up to the next level.
If you enjoy Iyagi and are looking for even more podcasts, iTunes has got you covered.
You probably associate iTunes with music, and it’s true that there are some great Korean jams you can find by browsing the Hot Tracks and Radio sections on iTunes. Just hit “Change Country” at the bottom of iTunes to access the Korean version of the app. However, these are typically saturated with English-language hits—the Podcasts section is where you’ll have easier access to Korean audio content.
Podcasts are awesome because they’re often educational, but also entertaining and informal. It’s like sitting in on an authentic Korean conversation—and what could be better than that for your language skills? Once you’ve put iTunes in Korean-mode, you can browse the popular podcasts, or better yet, search for keywords relating to your interests. This is a great way to find Korean audio that’ll grab your attention.
Spotify is arguably the best of all worlds for Korean audio content.
First, there’s tons of music to explore. Spotify offers K-pop as a genre available to browse, with many different playlists and artists available. Through Spotify I’ve expanded my Korean music knowledge from K-pop to lesser-known K-Hip Hop and Indie artists, as well as older music that I’d never heard of before.
You can check out playlists like K-pop Daebak for frequently updated hits, Evening K-acoustics for softer, slower music (the slower the better for your gap-fills!) or K-hip hop Beats and K-indie Picks for something completely new!
But Spotify also has several Korean learner audiobooks available to listen to on-the-go, such as Learn Korean the Easy Way by Language Superstar. Or if you haven’t quite fed that podcast habit, you can find those on Spotify too!
Don’t be afraid of listening practice! Developing listening skills to understand spoken Korean can be challenging, and is often overlooked by learners. But with a little creativity and the right audio tools, it can actually be a really fun and rewarding way to improve your Korean.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.