Throwback to my K-pop listening days

Confession time. I tend to get defensive when people ask me if I’m learning Korean because of K-pop. That’s because 1) K-pop was never a motivation for me to learn the language; it was a side-effect, and the better I got at Korean, the less I started to like idol music anyway. And 2) the stereotype of a typical K-pop fan these days is less than flattering.

That said, yes, I too had a rich, happy K-pop phase. I used to be a huge DB5K fan and then Big Bang, and had my phases with SHINee, Infinite, B.A.P., and B2ST (which UM WHAT apparently a lot has happened with them since I last checked).

Anyway I found my interest in K-pop rekindled when a friend of mine told me about YGE’s official rhythm game BeatEVO YG. The app has been absolute shit since its recent Android update so I can’t in good conscience recommend it, but I got addicted anyway and am now super nostalgic for 2006-2010-era Big Bang. All of a sudden, I’m back to listening to 하루 하루, 거짓말, 마자막 인사, 나만 바라봐 on repeat.

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The lyrics to this song are so horrible and yet….

I think now, listening to those songs, a lot of the nostalgia I have has to do with how much those songs influenced my learning Korean. I really don’t think I give K-pop enough credit for the role it played in my early Korean learning days, but it was a critical source from which I absorbed tons of new grammar and vocabulary.

A few days ago, I was digging through some old notes from that “exponential” phase of my Korean learning days and found a three-ring binder full of K-pop lyrics and language notes.

I used to print out the lyrics to a song I liked and then painstakingly look up every single noun, verb, particle, connector, and sentence ending I didn’t know using either Talk To Me In Korean, Clare You & Eunsu Cho’s Online Intermediate College Korean, and/or Korean Wiki Project. I’d break up the lyrics into stanzas and under each stanza, type out all of my language notes, and then write up a rough translation of the lyrics in English. And then I’d compare it existing translations out there.

And then, I’d memorize.

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My language notes from Big Bang’s ‘Haru Haru.’

 

It wasn’t a perfect or even efficient method, and there were definitely pitfalls I had to watch out for. I risked learning grammar incorrectly, or learning weird slang words/expressions and skewing my developing vocabulary to words related to love and heartbreak. English translations that existed online were mostly terrible, so using those to help me grasp word usage and nuance was probably a bad idea. The potential to learn something wrong and then struggle to unlearn it later on was very, very high.

And yet.

This way of learning Korean through K-pop somehow made Korean feel like a more tangible and comprehensible language to me than reading about it in a textbook. Over the years, through reading a wide range of material and, yes, suffering through textbooks, I’ve managed to correct some of those things I learned incorrectly while gaining a deeper understanding of others I had oversimplified. But, for sure, if I hadn’t started out teaching myself like this, I don’t think I’d be at the level I am now.

I might be reluctant about admitting it these days, but I look back on my K-pop fandom days with a lot of fondness, both for how much I enjoyed the music itself and for how much it built my foundation for Korean. Those were good times.


Okay, so, a funny, unexpected side effect of playing so much BeatEVO YG — I’m really into Sechskies now???? Yep. The real reason I don’t listen to K-pop any more is actually just because my taste in idol music is stuck in the 90s-00s. 😂

“I remember” – Bang Yong-guk ft Yoseob

AKA The Song That (temporarily) Brought Me Back To K-Pop.

I haven’t cared much about K-pop (not even BIGBANG) since early this year.  In the past couple years, I’ve discovered a whole wonderful slew of indie/rock/hiphop music that I find I enjoy and appreciate much much more than the glitz of K-pop – and so I had all but cleansed myself of idol madness until I stumbled across this song.

…AMAZING.

And dare I say, this music video rivals my favorite K-pop music video of all time?

Okay, so I know I’m late to the party – this song released last year and I think at the time I had heard of the song but never bothered to give it a listen until a couple of days ago.  I do actually still keep an eye out for certain idol groups because, while I’m not into the fandom madness, there’s still a lot of great idol music out there.  So when my friend Holly told me about Yoseob’s solo mini-album, of course I wanted to listen to it (I like Yoseob and his album is pretty good!) and then by the magic of YouTube’s suggested videos I came across “I remember.”

The fierce red-head in the vid is B.A.P’s rapper Bang Yong-guk and the vocals are by B2ST’s Yoseob.  Bang Yong-guk… wow.  Just wow.  THAT VOICE.  I know zilch about B.A.P – I was really impressed by their debut but promptly forgot about them until now.  Listening to this song made me go and listen to some of their other stuff and I think they’re pretty great.  Am I sucked back into the K-pop mire?  No, but I like these young ‘uns, in a fond noona kind of way.  Haha.

G.O.D – 길

I really love listening to 유인나의 볼륨을 높여요, not only for the 사연s, but also for the music (go figure).  The nice thing about the podcast version of the show is that you only hear a 10-20 second clip of the song being played – in my opinion, plenty of time to decide whether I like it or not.  That’s how I found out about this song.

Okay, so I don’t know much about first-gen K-pop.  I’ve heard of H.O.T, Seo Taiji and Boys, and (recently) 젝스키스 because of 응답하라 1997 (Hakchan is my favorite character, but that’s a whoooole other post).  I knew of G.O.D, but only because of 최고의 사랑 and Yoon Kyesang.  This is my first time actually listening to them and I’ve been looping this song nonstop for the past couple days.

Man, the lyrics are so, so relevant to anyone in or around their college years.  I actually read a lot of recent fan comments talking about how they were in elementary school when the song first came out and they thought it was nice at the time, but now that they’re in college, it means so much more to them.  So I felt I had to share.

(This reminds me of the time Dia was fangirling over G.O.D.!  Hehe.)

Lyrics below the cut.

Continue reading “G.O.D – 길”

Learning Korean Through Translation

I’m a huge proponent of learning a language through translation.  In fact, most of the vocabulary and grammar structures I know now are thanks to my attempts to learn Korean by “translating” K-pop songs.  Not only did I learn new things, I also figured out what the song meant!  But, please note, these are all still amateur translations.  A successful translation captures both the meaning and style of a work and if you use translation as a means to learn a language, you can only hope to master one aspect at the beginner level (meaning).  Once you’ve mastered the language (if there is such a thing), you can learn to capture the style of the original work as well.

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Big Bang – 4th Mini Album

This post isn’t directly related to Korean learning but since other seasoned language learners have said that fangirling plays an important (and necessary) part of foreign language study, I have no qualms about dedicating this entire post to my biggest K-pop bias – Big Bang.  Specifically, Big Bang’s 4th EP, which released a few days ago.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for ANY album release – Korean or otherwise – and let me tell you, the EP is WELL worth all the excitement.

Continue reading “Big Bang – 4th Mini Album”