When I’m learning any language, music always plays a crucial role in how interested I’ll be and how far I’ll want to take that language. Are you the same? If I just described you too right there and you’re learning Korean, it’s probably important for you to find ways to use music to help you learn Korean.
In this post, let’s look at how and where to find music to help you with Korean and what to do with it once you’ve found it.
If you don’t have time to read right now, you can download your Using Music to Learn Korean Toolkit with clickable links by clicking the image below. Woop! Here’s to speedy living.
YouTube is always a great place to start a music hunt, even if all you’ve got to go with is “Korean music”. In fact, to show how useful it is, let’s do just that:
Ok, so already we’ve got Girls’ Generation, K. Will, 20 Kpop boy bands, and 2 playlists of 334 songs combined. Not bad for search number one. Let’s start with that Girls’ Generation video.
We’ve got loads more Girls’ Generation in the sidebar, some non-Korean songs that I’m obsessed with, a playlist of 50+ songs, and a new band 2NE1. This is going well. But let’s not get carried away. Let’s watch that first video we found before we lose ourselves…
Ok. That was fun. What next? How do we use this to help us learn Korean?
If your Korean is as young as mine, you’re probably going to want some lyrics with your hotpants and doves, otherwise it ain’t much good to nobody.
There are a few places I like to look for lyrics for new foreign music but the first stop to get there is normally Google. So, let’s do that.
Azlyrics has been my favourite lyrics website since…probably since I first got the Internet at home and I used it to look up S Club 7 and B*Witched lyrics. Although it’s very thorough, when it comes to international songs, sometimes it’s worth considering other sites too.
Hmm…what’s this second most popular result? Color Coded Lyrics? Awesome, that’s what that is.
This is a site that’s perfect if you’re learning an East Asian language (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and a little bit of Thai) and want to use a little music in your learning. They color code the lyrics by who’s singing, which is cool, but the really cool thing is that you get a romanisation, native, and English translation side by side, with the video ready to play above it. A little bit like this:
So now we can read along to the song and eventually start to read and sing along out loud. AND, as a bonus, because of the translation, we get to know what the heck is going on. Which is always nice.
If you’re not learning one of the languages available on Color Coded Lyrics but still want to get a translation of your song, check out Lyrics Translate.
But just listening through and reading the lyrics in Korean and English can be made even more worthwhile if we take it a step further.
The simplest thing I recommend, which was a long-standing activity with my face-to-face students is to print the lyrics, cut them into chunks and then listen to the song and re-order them as they should be.
The best thing you can do here is start with big chunks, and then as you attempt the activity and come back to it in the future, cut the chunks into smaller pieces for more of a challenge.
Alternatively, you can create your own cloze activities (that’s gap fill activities if you don’t speak teacher speak) by replacing words at random with a space before printing.
However, if the thought of creating your own resources is too time consuming, there’s a couple of great online options that can help you out here.
Head over to LyricsGap or LyricsTraining. Both are great resoruces for multiple language activities with plenty of songs to choose from.
Look how much we’re learning!
Ok. I realise the thought of a bustling bar with a karaoke machine in the corner may not be everyone’s idea of fun. But what about singing your heart out in front of your computer?
Shh, I won’t tell.
Karasongs is a super simple site that takes the distractions out of searching for karaoke versions of your new found favourite song on YouTube.
Type in the artist, song, or both and you’ll get a choice of videos to choose from. Take your pick and give your lungs a good workout.
I found our song The Boys. Woop!
This is a great stage because although you can of course (and probably will if you’ve got a catchy song) start singing along at any stage, to be focusing on reading the lyrics as well as you sing along, especially if you’ve already translated the lyrics is a whole new level.
If you’re feeling brave, you can always try recording your efforts as part of your process of documenting your learning. No one has to hear, I promise.
A more active alternative is to try the app Sing! by Smule. This is a lot of fun…dare I say it…I think it might be my new favourite addition to my studies!
4. Dissect it
Once you’re feeling like you’ve suitably exhausted every possible use for that song, go ahead and examine it some more. This time, close up.
What useful vocabulary do they use in the song? Anything worth learning? Add it to your vocab list.
Any interesting grammar structures? Expressions? Search online for explanations and further examples to give you some solid foundations in what you’ve just learnt from the song.
The great thing about doing this with something like music in a different language is that you’re much more likely to remember a word, or a grammar point than if you’ve just skim read it in a book because you’ve got an interesting memory and association attached to it.
This is why it’s worth taking things that final step further and breaking your song down in search of these things.
5. Just enjoy it!
Because, hey, we’re not adding something as enjoyable as music to our study time to keep things stale.
If you’re not enjoying it, mix things up.
Maybe the song isn’t your song. That’s cool. There’s plenty of music out there in different languages. Don’t feel pressured to stick to the status quo.
Just because it seems like everyone else learning Korean loves K-pop or everyone learning French loves Stromae, that doesn’t mean that you have to too. Music is personal, after all.
How do you use music in your language learning process? Share in the comments below!