Korean pop music (K-pop) is delightful, enormous and addictive.
And it’s a wonderful resource for learners of Korean.
However, K-pop can also be a rather overwhelming industry, with thousands of groups and solo artists vying for airtime in an utterly flooded market.
It can be difficult to know where to start if you want to learn Korean with K-pop, whether you’re new to its colors and choreography or a seasoned K-pop fan.
So why not start your K-pop learning journey with one artist?
And if you’re going to learn with just one artist, why not make it one of the most established and popular groups in K-pop history?
Why not learn with the universal stars themselves—the handsome, charismatic and unbelievably talented EXO?
Why Learn Korean with EXO?
There are so many reasons to learn a language through immersion, but it can be really difficult to find ways to immerse yourself in Korean if you don’t live in a place (or can’t travel) where it’s spoken widely. This is where pop culture can become an incredibly helpful resource—and EXO are currently, undeniably, the kings of Korean pop culture.
Spend a few hours walking around Seoul and you are all but guaranteed to overhear EXO’s catchy beats blaring out the doorway of more than a few shops and restaurants. EXO are absolutely ubiquitous in K-Pop and hallyu culture at this point, and are some of the most recognizable faces in South Korea. This makes EXO extremely fertile ground from which to grow your Korean competence, and luckily, their music is as diverse as it is addictive.
But it doesn’t end there: Once you’re hooked on EXO, your idols are available to you in an enormous range of different ways.
For example, on FluentU, you can learn with EXO on a Nature Republic commercial or with EXO member Baekhyun in a duet with singer Suzy.
How to Learn Korean with Universal Stars EXO!
Follow EXO on Social Media
If it’s reading that you want to improve, you can follow many EXO members on their official, personally-run social media profiles. Resist the temptation to hit Translate and test yourself to see how quickly you can read their tweets and Instagram captions, and how easily you can work out what they’re posting about.
To add to the challenge, write a comment or tweet a reply to your favorite idols—if you dare!
You can follow EXO on social media on the following accounts:
- Chanyeol’s Instagram: @real pcy
- Baekhyun’s Instagram: @baekhyunee exo and Twitter: B hundred Hyun
- Sehun’s Instagram: @oohsehun
- Lay’s Instagram: @zyxzjs
- Kai’s Instagram: @zkdlin
- Xiumin’s Instagram: @e xiu o
- EXO’s official accounts on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram : all @weareoneexo
Watch Movies, Variety Shows and Dramas Starring EXO Members
All the members of EXO have tried their hands at acting by now, though several members seem to have taken to it more than others. They’ve also appeared on variety shows to promote their albums, and as they grow older and more established in the industry, their confidence during variety shows has improved and they’ve become really funny and engaging.
Watching dramas, movies and variety shows is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in Korean.
“EXO Next Door” is an excellent option for learning Korean, as being a webseries, the episodes are very short (only around 10 minutes), so you can watch them many times over to work on your Korean listening skills.
You can find EXO members in many dramas and movies, but these are some of my favorites:
- The brand-new “Memories of the Alhambra” (featuring Chanyeol)
- “Rich Man” (starring Suho)
- “My Annoying Brother” (starring D.O.)
- “The Miracle We Met” (starring Kai)
- “Scarlet Heart Ryeo” (featuring Baekhyun)
- “Falling for Do Jeon” (starring Xiumin)
- And many more!
For variety show fans, EXO have been particularly memorable in episodes of “Knowing Brothers” and “JYP’s Party People,” but they’ve appeared on many others over the years.
Listen to EXO’s Music, of Course!
Being idols, EXO members are expected to participate in many different areas of pop culture—but they are, of course, K-pop artists above all else.
Music is such an excellent resource for language learners, for many different reasons.
Lyrics are full of interesting and useful vocabulary, and generally the language used in pop music is going to closely reflect language as it’s used currently by young native speakers. Learning lyrics can be tremendous fun, and a really excellent way to mine for new and relevant vocabulary.
Singing is a remarkably effective (and fun) way to learn a language. Putting new information to music is proven to help your brain to store it as a memory, and to retain it later. Singing is also a fantastic way to learn to get your tongue around difficult pronunciation. It’s far easier to pronounce those tricky vowel sounds while singing than simply by drilling. Singing along to faster songs will force you to increase your speed and fluency—and if you really want to step it up, try to wrap your tongue around some of Chanyeol and Sehun’s rapping!
Be warned, however: Learning the lyrics to a song in another language is much harder than in your native language. It’s going to take more effort to learn the Korean lyrics than just playing the song over and over again in your car (believe me—I’ve tried!).
Search for any EXO song’s lyrics, and you’ll find them available in Hangul, Romanized Korean and English translation.
Learning lyrics with translation can help you learn in many ways, but if you want to know the lyrics well enough to sing along to these songs, I recommend not only reading the lyrics in Hangul, but writing them down, too.
11 Excellent EXO Songs for Learning Korean
EXO have a large and remarkably varied oeuvre. They’ve dabbled in many different sub-genres of pop music, so I would wager that there’s an EXO song to suit almost any taste. Here are some to try!
This release is a fuel-guzzling road trip tune that goes on quite a surprising musical journey itself. Despite the looping chorus lyric “don’t mess up my tempo,” the song’s tempo changes dramatically several times, making it an interesting song to attempt to sing along with.
As your K-pop addiction grows, it’s likely that you’ll hear the lyric “이건 충분히” repeated quite frequently in song lyrics. This useful little phrase from the chorus of “Tempo” translates in English to “this is enough (to be/to do).”
The slower tempo and punchy on-beat lyric pronunciation make parts of this song appropriate for beginner to low-intermediate Korean learners, but as the speed picks up and the rap verses get going, the challenge rating rises considerably!
Check out the lyrics in Hangul, Romanized Korean and English on Genius.
“Ko Ko Bop”
This summertime hit is an excellent option for practicing pronunciation at increasing speeds. The laid-back guitar riffing draws you in, and the catchy chorus is quite easy to pick up and learn.
However, like many of EXO’s songs, the introduction and first verse are deceptive: Out of nowhere, a racing EDM sample cuts off the guitar, and the lyric speed all but doubles. How much can you get through of the pre-chorus short rap “네가 알던 뻔한 모습의 나를 잊어 오늘” (meaning “forget everything you thought you knew of me before today”) before your tongue is completely twisted?
Say “맡기고” (“leave it (to me),” from the song’s chorus) and get repeating!
Here are the lyrics in Hangul, Romanization and English.
“Monster” has a more consistent slower lyric speed, making it an excellent option for beginner and low-intermediate Korean learners.
As with most K-pop tunes, there’s a rap verse that’s rather challenging compared to the rest of the song. The lyric speed builds throughout the verse, from quite slow and clear to absolutely breakneck.
Perhaps “Monster” doesn’t contain the most appropriate lyrics for you to drop into casual Korean conversation, but if you’ve ever wondered how to tell someone “I’m a part of your existence,” well, from “Monster” you can learn that it’s “난 네 존재의 일부.”
Find the lyrics here.
This modern classic has one of the most iconic choreographed dances in K-pop, and the boppy tune is excellent for learning and singing along.
Besides the repetition of one single onomatopoeia, “으르렁, 으르렁, 으르렁 hey” (growl, growl, growl, hey), the tempo speed and rather long verses make this song quite challenging to learn, and unlike with many of EXO’s newer songs, there are almost no English lyric hooks in “Growl.”
This is a great option for higher-level Korean learners who want to learn Korean with EXO.
Here are the lyrics!
While “Power” is set to a faster tempo, the lyric repetition and the frequent use of English make this a great option for lower-level learners who want to learn to listen and sing along to faster lyrics.
It may sound daunting the first time you listen, but this song is such an earworm that I’ve known people who have never learned Korean to pick up and sing along with the chorus without looking up the Romanized lyrics.
I love the lyrics in the bridge; they never fail to pump me back up again at the end of a long day:
지쳐 버리는 그날이 오면 기억해 babe
다시 일어날 수 있는 그 힘은
니 안에 있다는걸
They translate as:
On those days that exhaustion throws at you, remember babe,
The beautiful you and me
The strength you need to get up again
It’s there in you
Color Coded Lyrics makes learning this song even easier.
This bittersweet rock ballad from EXO’s fourth “winter special” album elicits the feeling of a warm cafe in the depths of winter, and the lyrics speak of going to the ends of the universe to find lost love. The slow, soaring tune and the pared-back, simple lyrics are excellent for learners just beginning to use music and lyrics to learn Korean.
The bittersweet, regretful vibe of the song comes from vocabulary such as “아픈” (painful), “힘든” (tiring/awkward/difficult), “후회” (regret) and “잊을 수 없을 것 같아 바람이 차가워지면” (when the cold wind blows I cannot forget you).
Genius has “Universe” lyrics in Hangul, Romanization and English.
“12월의 기적” (Miracles in December)
EXO’s “winter special” songs are excellent for learning Korean due to their slower pace, but unexpectedly, they can be more challenging to learn than the more poppy tunes because they don’t get stuck in your head quite so easily. It takes more effort on the part of the listener to learn these songs by heart.
The opening and closing lyrics to this song demonstrate some interesting and useful grammar:
보이지 않는 널 찾으려고 애쓰다
들리지 않는 널 들으려 애쓰다
“보이지 않는” and “들리지 않는” respectively mean “invisible” and “inaudible,” and the conjunctive phrase “으려 애쓰다” means “to try to do,” so these lyrics translate as:
I try to find you, whom I cannot see,
I listen for you, whom I cannot hear
“Miracles in December” contains no English lyrics at all, and repetition is minimal, so despite the wistful tempo, learning this song could pose a challenge for even quite experienced Korean learners.
The lyrics are available here.
“Call Me Baby”
“Call Me Baby” is an interesting learning option because EXO play it in two quite distinct styles: the official-release version of the song, which is an energetic pop tune with choreography reminiscent of “Growl,” and the way they performed it during their last stadium tour, as a pared-back ballad, sung in harmonies and accompanied by a single acoustic guitar.
I love the first two lines of the chorus:
빛나는 것들은 많아
그 안에 진짜를 봐 봐
They translate as:
Many things can shine,
But look for what’s real
The simpler version of the song is a great way to start learning the lyrics without being distracted by complex instrumentals, and then when you’re ready for a faster challenge, you can move on to the “boss level” that is the official music-video release.
Genius has the Hangul, Romanization and translation for “Call Me Baby” all together on one page. Just keep scrolling down!
“Love Me Right”
This rollicking track is deceptively difficult to learn, especially at the beginning—the instrumental track has a reasonably even tempo, but the lyrics give way almost immediately to a rap verse that’s so much faster than you would expect! And from then on, the vocals are just as fast, making them challenging to learn confidently despite the repetition and use of English.
There are some interesting and quite specific vocab words to be found in these lyrics, including “우주” (universe), “별빛” (starlight), “은하수 “ (Milky Way), “달빛” (moonlight) and “불꽃놀이” (fireworks).
Check out the lyrics here.
“花요일” (Blooming Days)
This lighthearted dance-pop track from subunit EXO-CBX (meaning this song was released and performed by only three members of EXO: Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin) has lyrics of sweet love confession that liken falling in love with a growing and blooming flower.
There’s some interesting vocabulary in the lyrics, such as “돋아나” (sprout), “어느새” (suddenly), “몸속 깊숙이” (“deep inside the body”) and “피어나” (blooms, from the verb “피다”), but the vocal line is relaxed and simple, with clear enunciation that makes it quite clear and easy to learn the lyrics if you listen carefully.
Find the lyrics here.
One more “winter special” song with lyrics full of wistful memories of love lost. I think a learner at any level could learn the lyrics to this song, with its slow melody and simple themes. There’s also an English version of this song, if you want to add it to your Christmas playlist!
Mine this song to pepper your speech with vocab for the season such as “천사” (angel), “추운 겨울 아침도” (on a cold winter’s morning, too), “믿을 수 없는 기적” (an unbelievable miracle), “선물” (presents) and the world’s most adorable Christmas-themed declaration of love:
어릴 적 꿈꾸던
Christmas tree 같은 사람이
Which translates to basically mean, “you are like the Christmas tree surrounded by presents that I dreamed of as a child.”
The lyrics are available on Color Coded Lyrics.
EXO are the quintessential idol group, with projects in all areas of pop culture and a song to suit every taste.
They’re talented, charismatic and versatile.
I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have teach me Korean. Can you?
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