“Stop watching TV, it’s not good for you!”
Who hasn’t heard of that one from mom?
Well, no worries, there’ll be none of that nonsense in this post.
Quite the opposite in fact.
The Benefits of Learning Korean Through Videos
Videos are cheaper than a plane ticket
Immersion was how you learned your first language.
As a kid, you were surrounded by people who spoke it and scolded you with it. Every day, you’d hear mommy tell you this, daddy tell you that. And you’d hear mommy and daddy talking about what grandma did during the night again.
When it comes to language learning, immersion is the name of the game.
As a language learner, you should always be on the lookout for the most immersive learning experiences. And while there’s really nothing like jumping on a plane and going to South Korea, moving to Korea is not a practical option for everybody.
Luckily, we have the next best thing: videos. They have the immersive properties of actually being there, often at no cost!
The first benefit of using videos to learn Korean is that you can actually afford it, shattering that grandmother of excuses of not having enough dough to learn a new language.
Videos are memory-friendly
Whether you’re watching an instructional video about Korean verbs or salivating to a Korean cooking show, the multisensory nature of videos ensures that they are easier to recall than any mono-sensory learning material.
With videos, you’ve got the visual elements (movement, color and shape) and the auditory stimulation compounding on each other so that your memory is left with plenty of material to anchor the lesson. More pathways to recall are created, making the lesson memorable.
And if it’s a Korean drama series you’re watching, you’ve got the story providing the needed context for the vocabulary. So you meet the Korean words, phrases and expressions not in static and sterile laboratory-like conditions. You observe them being used in engaging situations, weaving and insinuating themselves into the dialogues of the drama. You see the faces of actors and actresses acting and reacting. This image association drives and drills ever stronger the meaning into your head.
Now, compare that to a list of Korean words on a piece of white paper.
Videos are ubiquitous and unlimited
Well, maybe not “unlimited,” but imagine all of the authentic Korean content put on the Internet each day—the music videos, the interviews, the documentaries, the movies, not to mention the Korean language lessons sitting online.
Quite simply, when it comes to videos, there are no printing shortages, shipping mishaps or material decay. And with a smartphone, you can watch them to learn anywhere—in the middle of Times Square, sitting on the toilet or lining up at a One Direction concert.
This means you can be learning Korean and not put your life on hold. You can integrate learning into the everyday routines of your life. And in fact, I highly encourage you to do just that.
Incredibly Simple Secrets for Learning Korean Effectively with Videos
You’ve probably heard this before, but what does it mean to watch actively and how does it differ from passive watching?
I think this is best explained by a metaphor, and the example I always give is that of watching a horse race when you’ve just bet $10,000 on a horse. Say you just sunk $10,000 on a horse named Baxter. You’re there at the stands, holding your ticket, waiting for the gunshot. Odds are, you’d be observing Baxter very closely. You’d know what lane he’s slotted in, the color of his jockey’s jacket/helmet and the colored cloth on his saddle. You’d also be on the lookout for other strong contenders in the race.
When the gun fires, your eye is transfixed on the whole race. You’ll notice who gets the best galloping start, how the horses are jockeying for position in the middle of the race and who’s leading at the final turn. You’ll also be watching Baxter with a critical eye—every single stride. You’ll be cheering and screaming your heart out for him. You are in a world all your own, up until the first three horses cross the finish line and you either slump in defeat or jump rapturous with victory.
Now, compare that to somebody who’s in the stands only for the refreshments or as a social obligation, accompanying their significant other or friend in their pastime.
In the same manner, actively watching a video means noticing the vocabulary, grammar, sentence construction employed in the video. (Sure, maybe not all at the same time.) But active watching is motivated watching. Trying to peel the obvious and look into the details.
If you’re watching a video lesson, you’d be listening closely to the teacher’s pronunciations or their explanations of usage and styles. If you’re watching an authentic video, like a cooking show, you’d be listening closely to the twist and turns, the dips and rises of the speaker’s pronunciations as they’re making kimchi.
Active watching is watching with a purpose. And the purpose is language.
Repetition is key
If you’re going to be learning Korean with videos, be prepared to watch the same video over and over again. I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve only watched a video once or twice, you’ve left a lot untouched in terms of language learning.
You need to watch it as many times as possible. You need to watch it so that, in a Korean language video lesson, you already know what the teacher will write on the board next, and you know the explanation that will follow. But even then, this doesn’t mean you’re done, you really need to grossly overlearn the topic.
In language learning, you need a bit of overlearning to offset the tendency of forgetting. This especially happens when there are very few opportunities to practice the language in daily routines. Yeah, you already understand the video lesson, but the lack practice will beget forgetfulness overtime. So you need to keep on repeating the video until it’s solidly drilled in your head.
When it comes to authentic videos—or videos of native speakers like interviews, vlogs, dramas and shows—a more purposeful kind of repetition is required.
You need to watch these types of videos with a different focus each time. So for example, maybe for a Korean children’s show, you first watch it for meaning and find out what the episode is about. Then the second time, you become more conscious of the verbs, or the sentence construction or a particular language skill, like pronunciation.
So really, it’s repetition, but with a different kind of focus each time. Meaning, you approach the same video from different angles and perspectives.
Dividing the video into sections or scenes would really make the repetition much easier. For example, if you watch a Korean movie as a whole, it would be very hard to maintain the same focus on some language aspect throughout the movie. You won’t be nearly as effective. It would be much better if you divide them into small scenes and do your repetition for each scene.
The wonderful thing about digital videos is that they don’t degrade with each press of the “replay” button. They don’t scratch or lose quality over time. So have at it! Overlearn your material.
Write a lot
Watching videos for the purpose of learning a language is not just for your eyes, it’s also for your hands. You may be tempted not to take down notes because I just said that the material doesn’t degrade over many repetitions.
But see, there’s something about scribbling words on a piece of paper (not typing on a laptop) that’s so visceral to your learning. You’re looking at the stuff you’ve written on paper and that simple act of writing educates your brain about the target language.
What sort of things do you write about?
Well, if you’ve watched a Korean language lesson video, you write down the grammar rules and principles (in your own words). You list some examples of correct and incorrect usage. You take notes on what the teacher highlights as important. For authentic videos, you write the interesting phrases and vocabulary that caught your ear in a Korean romantic comedy, for example.
This Korean word list shouldn’t be bare and should be fleshed out with research.
Because the truth is, when you’re watching for language education, and when you really mean it, soon you’ll find yourself researching the vocabulary, phrases, structures and idioms on your piece of paper. And this is really one of the hidden powers of watching Korean videos. They have this unique way of exposing you to the language. And they provide just enough knowledge gaps that compel you to research the words you have on your list. (Don’t be surprised if you find yourself referencing Korean blogs or books to research.)
There’s really more to videos than just watching them. Speaking of which, let’s go to the final important tip.
Apply what you’ve learned
Videos are really just the starting point of learning the language. You have to find ways to lock in those lessons and make sure that the time spent watching the video (over and over), writing copious notes, hanging onto the instructor’s every last word, is actually time well spent.
So try to integrate the videos, both instructional and authentic, into your daily affairs. For example, integrate Korean vocabulary to objects around the house by tagging them with Post-It notes. That way, you see the Korean labels every day on your cup, table, chair or books and become mildly immersive.
You can also convert the notes you’ve written previously into flashcards. That way, you can just flip or tap through them and review the vocabulary to stave off forgetting.
Another way to apply what you’ve learned from videos is by getting language exchange partners or native speakers who you can practice with. Since you’ve been watching videos beforehand, you’re not coming into the exchange empty-handed, making it a little easy on your partner. The experience has the benefit of being interactive and would lead to advantages like finally getting to ask a language question that’s bothering you.
The way you do this is by registering on the italki language exchange site and search for Koreans who also want to learn English (or your native language). You trade your native language for their Korean over Skype, and that’s why it’s called “language exchange.” You can also hire a private tutor for one-on-one Korean lessons on italki, so that’s always an option.
Videos are really a great tool for learning Korean, so next we’re going to checkout places online where you’ll find some of the best ones.
6 of the Best Sites for Learning Korean with Videos
You can look at Seemile as an online Korean language school. So if you’re into K-Pop, K-drama, dating a Korean guy or girl, doing some business with a Korean company or simply planning a visit or stay in Korea, Seemile can be your passport to learning the language.
They have a robust beginner section composed of about 20 videos that orient you on the basics of the language. They also have lessons in reading Korean, as well as some conversational videos that can help you talk to native speakers. Seemile provides a PDF copy of the lesson slides so you can review them at a moment’s notice. (They really do want to teach you over there!)
FluentU takes real-world videos—like interviews, music videos, commercials, vlogs and inspirational talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. This is where you’ll find that authentic content which native speakers watch on the regular, but neatly categorized by topic and level! Every word comes with a translation, image, audio and sample sentences, which conveniently pop up when you tap the word in the subtitles, instantly pausing the video.
Beyond the incredibly useful Watch Mode, the complete program also has multimedia flashcards, running vocabulary lists, structured playlists, downloadable PDFs transcripts and more. Perhaps its most unique feature is Learn Mode, which asks fun questions based on what you already know, to teach you the language from the videos.
If you prefer seeing a goofy Westerner teach you the basics of Korean, then Billy and his sidekick bear would love to have you in class. Well, it’s not so much a class as it is a series of skits and role plays plastered with some cools graphics in both Korean and English.
Billy is not a native Korean speaker, and can therefore relate to the different speed bumps and challenges in learning Korean. He’s made the lessons simple and practical, and incorporated some humor in his videos so students are not too hard on themselves when learning Korean. You should definitely check him out.
Meet Ms. Mina Oh. She’s about to teach you anything Korean—not just the written and spoken language, but also the touristy and travel-y things to do in Korea. She’ll even take you on a deep dive into Korean culture. By force of her personality, you won’t even notice you’re already learning a lot of Korean.
She has over 300 videos on YouTube, from how to pronounce the Korean alphabet to how to choose your Korean name. She’s fun, engaging and interesting. So if you need to take a break from hardcore language learning, you can simply catch her bite-sized videos and see how cool Korean really is.
Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK) is one of the most popular Korean language learning sites today. You immediately get the feeling that it’s run by dynamic, young native speaking teachers who definitely know what they are talking about. The site gets updated regularly and churns out an array of video materials. How do 900 videos sound to you? Their videos range from collections entitled “How Do You Say This In Korean?” to “TTMIK Talk” which features natural conversations of native speakers accompanied by helpful subtitles.
Beyond their robust video collections, TTMIK has plenty of materials like audio, PDFs and textbooks that cater to the whole range of Korean language learners from the absolute beginners to the advanced. Check them out, you’ll come away with a basketfull of free goodies.
Korean Class 101 is taught by real teachers who are motivated to let you speak the language from the very first lesson. It has videos that deal with pronunciation, conversation, vocabulary, as well as cultural insights. The videos have cool graphics—which provide eye catching visual support to the lessons. (Kudos to the graphics team for this one!) The teachers are highly interactive with their students (fans) and even have videos that specifically answer a student’s query.
InnovativeLanguage.com is the parent company of Korean Class 101. It provides materials for 34 different languages.
So what are you waiting for?! These Korean videos are all yours for the taking. I’m pretty sure they’ll make your Korean journey a little bit easier, and hey, a lot more fun. This is one of those times when watching the TV or some computer screen is actually a good thing!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.