Looking for a fun way to learn Korean and improve your singing skills at the same time?
Well, if you like Kpop, you’re in luck! One of the most effective ways to learn Korean is to study Kpop song lyrics.
The great thing about this study method is that song lyrics are easy to memorize. If you learn Korean with Kpop, then the new grammar or vocabulary that you pick up from the songs can help speed up your Korean learning and also make learning more fun.
Below, we’ll go over some of the lyrics for a few popular songs, and give you explanations about what they mean. Then you can use them in your day-to-day interactions in Korean, or sing along to the songs.
Let’s get started!
Hyuna – 빨개요 (Red)
Former Wondergirl and 4Minute singer HyunA’s song 빨개요 moves away from the sickly-sweet image of her that listeners of her previous hit song ‘bubblepop’ might’ve had. Although the lyrics 원승이 엉덩이는 빨개 (a monkey’s butt is red) are the most catchy of the song, you might find that particular phrase a little bit difficult to use in general conversation.
I also don’t recommend saying 혼내줄테니까 엉덩이 대 in public, either!
- 날 두고 떠나지마 – Don’t leave me / don’t go without me (1:41).
Many K-pop songs use contractions so that the lyrics fit into the song. For example 나는 becomes 난 and 나를 becomes 날. This is important to look out for as these contractions might not come up straight away in a dictionary.
두다 means to put something down or leave something in a place (for example 책을 책상에 두다 would mean to put a book on a desk).
떠나다 means to leave as in ‘to depart’ (출발하다 also has the same meaning and is often used in announcements at airports or train stations instead). So 두고 떠나다 means departing without taking the other thing with you.
–지마 is a shortened way of saying –지 마세요 which means ‘don’t’ in Korean and can be attached to the end of any verb. Often you will hear 가지마 (don’t go) in song lyrics instead of 두고 떠나지마.
- 나 지금 너무나 외롭단 말이야 – I’m so lonely right now (1:44).
말이야 comes from 말 meaning word or speech. A common expression using it is 무슨 말이야 meaning (very informally) ‘what did you say?’. This phrase can be heard often in Korean dramas whenever a character is surprised at the ridiculous situation that is unfolding. Used in this sentence, it is like Hyun-A is saying ‘What I’m saying is I’m so lonely right now.’
Sistar – Touch My Body
둘이 함께 보는 저 별들 – The stars we are looking at together (3:03)
둘 means ‘two’ and in this situation could be translated as ‘the two of us’.
‘A’하는 것 is a useful piece of grammar which means ‘the thing that does ‘A’. It is used a lot in Korean, for example ‘저는 운동하는 남자를 좋아해요’ (I like guys that exercise).
In this lyric ‘보는 별들’ means ‘the stars that are seen / we can see.
함께 is another word for ‘together’ (as opposed to the more common 같이).
The following lyric, ‘어느 누구보다 행복해’ could be translated as ‘I’m happier than anybody’. 보다 is another useful word. In Korean to say A is better than B you can say ‘B보다A(이/가) 더 좋다’. As you can see, the word order is different in Korean than in the related Korean expression. In this line, ‘A’ (제가) has been omitted to make the lyric fit into the song.
Another example of this piece of grammar being used with words omitted is the title of the Korean drama ‘꽃보다남자’, which translates to ‘boys over flowers’. Fans of this drama can use its title to help them remember this piece of grammar and the word order within it.
‘Touch my Body’ has lots of English in it and the words 우리 (we/us/our) and 지금 (now) come up a lot so it could be quite an easy choice to sing along to for some parts at least.
Exo – 늑대와 미녀 (Wolf)
The wolf (늑대) in this song title is a word often used as slang for a guy who hits on women.
- 큰일 났지 – he’s in big trouble (0:40)
큰일 means ‘problem’, ‘crisis’, or ‘trouble’. When it is used it is usually combined with the verb 나다 meaning ‘to come out’. This verb is also used with other words like 열 (fever) and 화 (anger) to make 열이 나다 and 화가 나다. Of course 났다 is the past tense version of 나다. Later in the song, this word comes up again in the line ‘널 못 끊겠어, 큰일 났어’ meaning ‘I can’t quit you, I’m in big trouble.
Miss A – I Caught Ya
- 넌 미안할 자격이 없어요 – You have no right to be sorry (0:25)
자격이 있다 is a useful phrase to learn, it means ‘I deserve’ and can be used in many situations such as at the end of a long day when you can say 맥주를 마실 자격이 있어요 (I deserve a beer).
The opposite of this is 자격이 없다 which means ‘don’t deserve’.
As mentioned before, Kpop lyrics often use Korean in a strange way, and this song is no different, using 요 when there is no need to be polite to a cheating boyfriend. It also sounds a bit strange when compared to some of the song’s other lyrics like 시끄러우니까 꺼져 줄래요 (shut up and get lost please).
4 Minute – 미쳐 (Crazy)
- 날 보고 미쳐 – Look at me and go crazy (0:54)
- C.R.A.Z.Y. 따라 해 – C.R.A.Z.Y. follow me
- C.R.A.Z.Y. 모두 다 미쳐 – C.R.A.Z.Y everybody go crazy
‘고’ is a way of linking to verbs together and means ‘and’ in English. It is used when the two activities are not directly related.
If they are directly related, then ‘서’ is used such as ‘친구를 만나서 놀았어요’ (I met my friends and played). In these particular lyrics either 서 or 고 would be acceptable.
미치다 (to be crazy) is a very popular word in Kpop lyrics. The rest of the chorus uses the expression 따라 해 which means ‘follow me’ or ‘repeat after me’, as if 4 Minute wants the crowd to shout out C.R.A.Z.Y. You can use this as it is or insert ‘말’ to say ‘따라 말 해’ which would have the same meaning.
Remember, when you learn Korean with Kpop, you need to be careful because, as with Korean dramas, the language used isn’t always the most natural way to say something.
Which songs do you think would be the most useful to use when learning Korean?
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