Are you learning Korean the hard way?
Maybe your study strategy is intense, but not delivering results fast enough.
Or maybe you know “how Korean works,” but have trouble communicating your thoughts effectively in real-life situations.
What if I told you there were a better, more fun way to learn Korean?
Watching authentic TV shows is a fantastic strategy to immerse yourself in the Korean language and culture.
So, are you ready to get started?
In this post, we’re going to kick off your TV learning with five wonderful Korean TV shows.
But first, here’s everything you need to know about learning Korean with TV shows.
How to Learn Korean with TV Shows
- Prepare your viewing sessions. Do this by reading the program description on the TV channel’s site. This will give you an overview of the plot if watching a drama, or editorial direction if watching a talk show, so you can follow the program more easily. Don’t hesitate to look up any unknown words within this blurb and, if necessary, to listen to their pronunciation. These keywords will help you to follow along. Then, try to ask yourself what words and expressions you may encounter while watching your show. This is easier to achieve if the show has a strong, obvious theme and the characters are likely to use certain terminology.
- Watch fiction and non-fiction. It’s important to mix up scripted and non-scripted TV shows. The former incorporate elaborate language. Dialogues are rich and include diverse vocabulary, and the actors make a real effort in enunciating properly. However, non-fiction shows are the closest to the conversations you’ll have in real life. Hosts and guests use natural language, speak at a fast pace and use plenty of mannerisms. Keep in mind that both of these formats are necessary and beneficial to your learning when selecting a Korean TV show.
- Take notes! It may be painstaking, but it’ll help you to progress and make your next viewings a lot more entertaining and easier. However, if you find that writing vocabulary discourages you from watching your shows, simply write down the most frequent words and the expressions that you find most essential and useful. Lastly, make sure to review past vocabulary prior to beginning a new episode.
- Participate in fan forums. This is a fantastic way to practice your writing and to be a part of a community of like-minded viewers. Don’t be bashful! Introduce yourself and ask fellow Korean TV watchers for feedback on your language if you’d like to be corrected.
- Enjoy the show. Don’t feel bad for liking what you’re watching: It’s the whole point. Watching a TV show that you like is the best way to keep yourself engaged in the long-term and develop a regular viewing routine. The key to making real progress is to be diligent in your studies and to activate your learning in real life. When selecting a program, aim for shows that discuss topics that you’re interested in and that address what you would want to talk about in conversations.
Get Pumped to Learn Korean with 5 Electrifying TV Shows
Romance: “공항가는 길” (On the Way to the Airport)
This drama follows the adventures of Choi Soo-ah, a flight attendant, and Seo Doo-woo, a handsome architecture professor. All would be well except that this is no normal relationship: Both of them are married to different people and have children of their own. Life is becoming more and more difficult for the pair as they grow conflicted about their intense feelings for one another.
This is a fantastic drama for acquiring the unique terminology of architectural design, construction and flying thanks to authentic, rich dialogues about the main characters’ respective professions. You’ll also be able to learn plenty of words and expressions to describe a range of feelings and emotions along with structures to convey negation.
Family: “별난가족” (Unusual Family)
This endearing family TV show is about Kang Dan-yi and her niece Kang Sam-wol, who leave their family home in the countryside to move to Seoul for different reasons—the former to sell the family’s farm products, the latter to enjoy herself. They eventually manage to find success through a home shopping company with Dan-yi as a supplier, and Sam-wol as the show’s TV host, which leads to hilarious situations.
You’ll learn a lot about Korean family structures and hierarchy, including proper terminology to name each family member, address them and talk about one’s clan and genealogy. In addition to the language, this is a fantastic opportunity to study the dynamics of a Korean family that abides by ancestral traditions, including their lifestyle, living arrangements and etiquette. Pay special attention to the level of speech and how it changes depending on seniority and status within the family—and the consequences for not addressing the right person properly!
History: “대박” (Jackpot)
This is an absolutely superb TV show, replete with an exciting storyline, stunning cinematography and fantastic actors. It’s about Baek Dae-gil, a “blue blood” and talented swindler who grew up resenting King Yeong-jo, the 21st king of the Joseon Dynasty who was known for his efforts to reconcile fighting factions within the region. After being forced to grow up among commoners, Dae-gil eventually is able to join the royal circle to face the cool-headed king in a high-stakes gambling game.
This is a fantastic program for learning the vocabulary of gambling along with plenty of action verbs. Make no mistake: Watching a historical drama is a must for getting closer to your fluency goals in Korean, as you’ll learn a lot about the Korean language and history with this show. It’s filled with complex, sophisticated expressions and poetic 속담 (proverbs), which are all conveniently subtitled in Korean. This is because the Korean language has evolved significantly from what it was during Joseon. The political system and society are different, and Korean natives themselves view historical shows as an opportunity to educate themselves.
Humor/Reality TV: “나와 일곱 남자들의 이야기 미.칠.남” (Me & 7 Men)
This hilarious reality TV show shows what happens when an average girl finds herself transported to an apartment with seven handsome men who dream of becoming entertainers. The boys are very outspoken, loud and energetic, and she tries to fit in.
This is a fantastic show for learning reported speech thanks to a very precise female narrator. You’ll also be exposed to 반말 (informal speech), along with plenty of expressions about dancing and the entertainment world. Better yet? The show includes lots of witty speech bubbles and text boxes to help you follow dialogues more easily.
Variety and Music: “너의 목소리가 보여” (I Can See Your Voice)
This popular singing contest and variety show is the Korean equivalent of “The Voice.” It follows the dreams of real people who aspire to become professional singers and the next Korean stars. The beginnings of the show are generally comical, as some guests lack talent, and the show is always high in emotions thanks to some incredible performances by passionate entertainers.
This is a terrific program for learning everyday speech, especially exclamatory sentences. The show also features a diversity of well-known Korean songs, from trot to K-pop to ballads, from which you’ll acquire a large range of vocabulary and plenty of descriptive adjectives and verbs.
Now that you know how to learn Korean with TV shows, all you need to do is to get started.
And don’t forget to have fun along the way!
And One More Thing…
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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.
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