Did you know there’s something better to watch on YouTube than cats making hilarious faces?
It’s pretty amazing: YouTube has entire languages just waiting for you to learn! How amazing is that?
Wait, you mean you’re learning Korean and you haven’t used YouTube yet?
We’ll just have to remedy that.
In this post, we’ll teach you how to stop getting side-tracked by those cat videos and make the most out of Big Red so you can focus on your YouTube lessons. Then we’ll check out some cool channels every Korean learner should subscribe to.
Press Play, and let’s learn!
How to Effectively Use YouTube to Learn Korean
Stop getting distracted by other videos
YouTube is the motherload. Meaning, you can find virtually anything there. You can learn everything too—from DIY projects to cryptocurrency trading, to yes, even speaking Korean.
But this virtue quickly becomes its own vice. I know you’ve already had this happen: You set out to research something on YouTube. When the home page loads up, it offers you videos that have nothing to do with your research, but hey, the thumbnails and the titles are so tempting. So you tell yourself: “Maybe just one…”
Before long, you find yourself in the rabbit hole—because as soon as you finish that first “innocent” video, YouTube sends you another one, titillating your imagination. And you find yourself clicking video after video, giggling at epic fail compilations or “Dude Perfect” videos and it’s been two hours and you still haven’t seen anything remotely related to your true reason for getting online—learning Korean.
To prevent this from happening, here are two things you can do:
Bookmark the Korean channel you’re interested in.
If you’re working with several channels, which you should be, then have each of their homepages bookmarked.
Access YouTube from these bookmarks. Never go to any generic YouTube homepage. It’ll suck you in with the viral videos.
Follow the ultimate (and most counter-intuitive) trick to not getting distracted on YouTube.
This might sound weird but roll with me here.
When you find the urge to click on any video because of its title or the awesome thumbnail… click on it.
Yep, you read that right: Click on it! The trick is to open it in another window.
Then click on another. Then another. Then another. Until you have about ten windows and you’ve overwhelmed your download speed.
Then, as you patiently wait for those videos to download, take a deep breath (seriously, do it)… and slowly close the windows one by one. Pound that “x” mark and close those YouTube windows.
Sometimes you just need a few moments to get over the compulsion of clicking on clickbait. Open them all up, just to satisfy that urge, then close them one by one without watching. Don’t even scan the windows as you close them. (This is how you get into trouble in the first place.)
Find a great alternative for YouTube in FluentU.
Are you still struggling to remain on-task when you visit YouTube to learn Korean? Try FluentU instead.
FluentU is built specifically for language-learners, so there’s nothing irrelevant to get distracted by. In fact, the more you binge-watch here, the more you learn, since every video is an authentic glimpse into the language. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Look up any word as you’re watching thanks to the annotated subtitles, check out interactive video flashcards, add words to your vocabulary lists and get tested on words that you’re learning, based on what you still need to learn. FluentU is your go-to Korean-learning spot!
How to Make Full Use of YouTube’s Features
YouTube actually has features that make it a godsend for language learners. You might already know about all of these, but I encourage you to put them to good use in the name of Korean language learning:
Customize the closed captioning.
Admittedly, YouTube’s “auto-translate” feature is still on a level that makes native speakers laugh their tails off. But the really good language learning channels provide their own subtitles for their videos.
Did you know that you can customize how these subtitles look? That way, you’re not only able to follow your Korean lessons, you’ll also actually be able to read those subtitles.
You can change fonts. If you want cursive transcriptions, you can have that. Want to make the subtitles so big that they almost fill the screen? That’s possible. You can also change font colors and even background colors.
To make these changes, click on the “Settings” icon and choose “Subtitles.” Next, click “Options” and customize those transcriptions to your heart’s content.
Tinker with the video speed.
Is the person in the video talking so fast it makes her Korean sound like Mandarin? You can slow down the video a little so you can follow along easier. (Though keep in mind that slowing videos down does change the sound of the audio a bit.)
Better yet, listen to the pronunciations in different speeds. Start from the .25x, then move up to .5x, and finally, return to the “normal” video speed. This way, you have a better idea of how the Korean words are actually pronounced. (Sometimes starting from slower speeds will be eye-opening… to your ears.)
Video speed can be adjusted in the “Settings” section (the rotating gear icon) of the videos.
Save videos for later enjoyment
Find an interesting lesson but just don’t have the time to watch it at the moment? You can save these types of videos to your “Watch Later” playlist.
Locate the “Add to” option, which you can find beside the “Share” button. Give your playlist a name (if you still haven’t made a playlist), and voila: You can access the video at any time in the future.
You can find the videos you saved by clicking on the “three horizontal bars” icon found on the top left of your screen.
How to Learn from the “Comments” Section
The “Comments” section, used properly, can be every bit as educational as the videos themselves. Here are some of the things you can do to use this resource properly:
Not everything written in this space will be beneficial to you. Sometimes, people will just write “Cute!” instead of something insightful. But you’ll miss a lot if you skip the comments sections.
Sometimes the comments will even be more linguistically incisive than the video itself. This section is crowdsourced and Korean native speakers, eager to help, often share more about their language.
So take a peek at the comments and find those interactions that have educational value.
This section wasn’t meant to be watched only. Don’t be a lurker: get interactive. If you have questions, or if you need a clarification, leave a note in the comment section. Even if you don’t get a response from the video’s creator, other people might help you out with your question.
If you want to help a learner in need, then do so. Just remember the general rules when writing in public forums: be kind, generous and respectful.
You never know: the Korean native you’ve been corresponding with can become your language mentor. Or that fellow who helped you with a question might share more resources to benefit your Korean journey.
So engage. Make connections. Widen your network. See if you can get someone to add you as a friend on Facebook.
Write: “Hey, anybody up for language exchange?”
See what happens.
Learn Korean on YouTube with These 7 Enchanting Channels
Do you want an “unnie” or an “older sister?” One who doesn’t give you a hard time about your zits and doesn’t whine if you stay too long in the bathroom?
Korean Unnie is just that. She may not brush your hair at nights or let you win in a pillow fight, but she does the next best thing—take you by the hand and teach you Korean in a fun and easy way. (In fact, she even calls her fans “dongsaeng” or little brother/sister.)
She teaches the language in a unique way. Unnie might take you dining out with her, and while food is being prepared, she’ll pop in a few food vocabulary words, relevant expressions and cultural insights. So you now get to see the language as it’s used in a real setting.
Her fun and warm demeanor has even gotten the attention of not just fans: Even the Korean media has taken notice of her channel. She’s even been featured in Korea’s National News Channel.
So if I were you, I’d be already subscribing to this Korean Unnie.
Minji Kim is another one of those warm and friendly native speakers making waves on YouTube. She calls Seoul her home but has subscribers and fans all over the world closely following what this 24-year-old has to offer.
Which is a lot. For example, Minji can teach you “How to Conjugate Korean Verbs in Present Tense.”
Or, if you’re the touristy type excited about your Korean trip, she can give you “30 Useful Korean Words for Tourists.”
She uploads videos 11 pm on Mondays (“Korean Like a Native”), Wednesdays (“Korean Words Master”), Fridays (“Easy Korean Patterns”) and Sundays (“Explore Korean Culture”). Or at least, that’s the original plan. But if she does miss on some days, give her some slack, will you? Girl’s gotta eat.
In this one, you won’t be seeing any real people on the screen. Instead, you see two stick figures, both guys, talking to each other. (The two are voiced by the same person.) Through their interactions, you’ll be picking up Korean along the way.
In addition to the narration, subtitles in both English and Korean are provided so you can follow along. The channel is for intermediate Korean language learners, so if you want to get the most out of the lessons here, it would be better if you already have a little background in Korean. Absolute beginners would find this one quite challenging. (It’s assumed that you’re reasonably well-versed in Hangul.)
And hey, speaking of Hangul, if you want to advance in your written Korean, you will most definitely love this channel. You’ll learn to write verbs and their variations as well as some useful adjectives and common conjunctions. So check them out!
Our first three featured channels are hosted by native speakers. This one is by an English speaker—someone who’s been in your shoes and perfectly understands what you’re going through, who’s triumphed over the difficulties in pronunciation and all those cultural oddities that trip up the average Westerner.
That’s why he called this channel “Motivate Korean.” He understands that there will be challenges that’ll make you want to give up. But hopefully, with his help, he can steer you away from giving up and towards mastering Korean… with the right guide to lead you, of course.
So ever feel like giving up? Head on over to “Motivate Korean” to get an inspirational boost.
From the people who brought you the book series, “Korean From Zero!” comes this YouTube channel of the same name.
George and JiYoon banter, and out come some of the most insightful lessons in Korean.
George (Trombley) is a humble soul who never pretends to know everything Korean. As far as he’s concerned, he’s still learning the language. He’s written three books but he’s still learning, unafraid to ask questions of his co-host.
JiYoon is warm and friendly, and ever so ready to help George (and you!) untie linguistic knots.
And hey, if you or anybody you know is interested in learning Japanese, you’ll be glad to know that there’s also a “Japanese From Zero” YouTube channel that brings you that same flavor, in a different language.
Look away, Korean beginners. This one’s for the intermediate and advanced learners.
If you’re working on your TOPIK 2, then this channel is really up your alley. Miss Kim will teach you Korean idioms, proverbs and intermediate grammar to really bulk up your knowledge. But don’t worry: Like she said, she’s kind, and at times funny too!
Since this isn’t your typical beginner stuff, Ms. Kim talks in the target language. And don’t expect to get romanized Korean to help you. But remember the closed captioning (“CC”) feature that we talked about earlier? Yep, click that icon to see English subtitles for the lessons.
This channel will help you get the nuances of the language down, as well as those expressions and linguistic turns of phrases that pepper native speaker conversations.
Okay, Korean beginners, come back as we round up this list.
There’s just so much for you on this channel.
Want to learn Korean Grammar? Well, there are 40 lessons on the topic, ranging from saying “Hello” to forming your first Korean sentence. And continuing on the theme of “40,” there are also 40 “listen-and-repeat” exercises to get that tongue of yours Koreanized and 40 vocabulary-building mini-episodes that introduce you to new words.
As a beginner resource, the channel offers to teach you Hangul, the Korean writing system, in 30 minutes. There are also cartoon episodes for your viewing pleasure. So, if you love cartoons and want to train your ears by listening to the target language, these cartoons are the perfect place to start.
Take your pick from these seven channels… or just subscribe to all of them and be on the learning superhighway.
Just remember: YouTube can be a Korean learning powerhouse as long as you don’t get distracted by other videos, you’re able to maximize its features and you learn, even in the comments section.
I wish you the best of luck! Fighting!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.