How to learn Korean with K-Dramas


Feel like learning Korean with K-Dramas? Whether you are new to Korean dramas or a seasoned ol’ watcher, this is the article for you.

I know a lot of people who have first come into contact with the Korean language and culture by watching Korean television or through the world of K-Pop and wish they could learn the language as well. The good news is, exposing yourself to a lot of K-Drama and other forms of Korean pop culture will no doubt give you some understanding of the language. If you’ve spent many years watching Korean television without actually studying, you have most likely developed some listening skills by now. The bad news is, you probably can’t speak, read or write very well. And when the conversations get even somewhat complicated, you’ll have to fall back on those subtitles.

But don’t feel too bad. Many foreigners consider listening to be the hardest part and guess what? That’s your forte! And while you don’t formally understand the technicalities of Korean grammar, you have a “feel” for it.

Please note
Even those who study Korean at a language school in Korea will find that it takes a really long time, many years, to actually master the language. So don’t feel too bad if you feel like you are not making any progress, because you are. You are just overwhelmed with everything you have yet to learn. With that said, it’s all about the time and effort you put into it.

The strategy

The main focus here is to be able to enjoy the dramas without feeling like you’re studying too much. Now of course, the more you actually do study, the faster you’ll learn but that’s completely up to you The goal is for the drama you’re watching to reinforce what you already know, as well as to get your brain used to hearing Korean. In other words, the primary goal of watching the show is NOT to teach you Korean. With that said, you will still learn a lot just by watching and there are indeed a lot of things you won’t learn from books so you will teach you Korean whether you want it or not!

So the strategy is to, yes, study. But don’t worry, You can do it at your own pace and you don’t have to do a lot of it. Just learning a few hundred words and some basic grammar will make everything so much more effecient.

First of all, learn hangeul

I can’t stress enough how much this will help you. It’s easy to learn and will allow you to do so many things, like write down words, look up words in dictionaries and of course read. If you are at all serious about learning Korean, learning Hangeul is essential, especially since the romanization of the Korean writing system is usually not a very accurate representation of how the words are pronounced.

Write down words you encounter a lot

Buy a notebook. You probably already have a pen and keep them next to you when you are watching. Then start taking notes! Some people might suggest that you write down EVERY word you hear that you don’t understand but not only is it ineffective, it also disengages you from the show and turns the whole experience in to a study session. Instead, unless you are a really advanced learner, you should write down the words you hear often. It’s an extremely effective way to expand your vocabulary and make the words stick. Why? Because you recognize that the word has popped up several times, which means that you basically know the word but not its meaning. And everytime that words pop up in the future, you’ll either already know it, or be able to recall the meaning with ease as you automatically rehearse it by just listening.

Learn basic grammar

You will have to step away from the dramas and into the books for a while. Basic grammar is important to know since you can learn one grammar pattern and it will probably be used hundreds (I’m guessing) of times in any particular episode.


An interesting concept and a very effective way of achieving fluency. Shadowing is basically repeating what you hear, either silently or out loud. It can be hard if you don’t know what they are saying, and if you don’t know any Korean, this can probably be a bit too much. But for any intermediate to advanced speaker who wants to improve speaking and listening fluency, as well as accent and pronounciation, try shadowing for a few months and you’ll be amazed by how much you will improve.

Use Korean subtitles

If you happen to have some Korean subtitles available and are comfortable enough with reading them, they can be very useful when your listening skills are quite good enough yet. Of course, if you’re a beginner or don’t feel comfortable enough using Korean subtitles, you should of course use English ones. But even so, they can still be useful since it’s often hard to write down the words just by ear unless you happen to know the spelling or have a really good ear.

Quick tip
Even if you are using Korean subtitles, try not to read them unless you really have to.

Watch without subtitles

If you feel like your Korean is good enough to understand enough of the content without the help of subtitles. Turn them off! Or at least switch to Korean ones. Those English subtitles are your comfort zone and you should try to step out of it. By not using subtitles, you force your brain to only focus on listening. It’s too tempting to read the subtitles if they are there but if you turn them off, you’re left with no choice but to listen. Sure, you might not understand everything. Maybe far from everything, but when you feel like you get too lost, you can always rewatch that sequence later with subtitles. Also, try to guess what they were saying before you turn them on!

Engage in forums and online communities

A lot of K-Drama fans are active in the online communities aside from just watching the dramas. Among those fans are not only fluent Korean speakers, but also native Korean speakers. And if you have any questions, a lot of them will be eager to help you out and explain. So why not register on a forum and start talking to other people with the same interest? On top of that, you get a better feel for the pop culture of Korea and also its terminology.

Learn how to type in Hangeul on your computer

It might feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t take that long to get accustomed to typing in Korean. You could buy stickers for your keyboard but they are not necessary. Instead, you can just simply print out a Korean keyboard layout and use for reference. That way, you won’t even have to look while you type. Being able to type in Korean is very helpful when making flashcards on your computer or when you want to search through online dictionaries.

Study on your own

Everytime you look through your notes, or feel like you’re not learning, find any word list appropriate to your level and write down and try to memorize those words. Or why not learn a new grammar pattern? Again, the more you study, the faster you will learn.

If you have any other suggestions or advice, why  not leave a comment below? Watching movies and television may be a good way to improve your Korean but the most important thing is, remember how much you love K-Drama and don’t become too frustrated due to lack of progress. Because that will take away the joy of watching it. It takes time, so let it.


 By: Kimchi Cloud