It really is a blessing to be learning languages in 2020. There are interesting, entertaining videos in all sorts of languages on Youtube, and never has it been this easy to access native content in our target languages. The tricky part is finding them. This is doubly true for intermediate learners, who find themselves in a position where they’ve outgrown the boring textbook dialogues, but are not yet advanced enough to understand content targeted at native speakers without some help.
This is why all the channels I’m recommending today have Korean subtitles. I remember struggling a lot with listening comprehension when I first started watching Korean videos as an intermediate learner. I would watch a video not understanding 80% of what was being said, and then read the Korean subtitles and go, “Wait, that’s what they said?” It was mostly because I’d never heard those words being spoken before, so it was hard for me to identify them right away when someone said them, which is why Korean subtitles are important if you want to actually study what is being said.
So, without further ado, here are 8 Korean channels that I think would be great for an intermediate learner:
Den & Mandu
I actually only found them recently, but I wish I had their content when I was first starting out. They make really interesting videos on all sorts of topics, like from food and culture to current issues. The channel has a unique focus on cultural exchange as well, so they regularly feature foreigners who are living in Korea. Most of them speak Korean really well, too, which can be a source of encouragement for a fellow Korean learner.
And of course, all their videos come with bilingual subtitles. Just try not to look at the English ones – I’ve found that it’s actually not that difficult to ignore them, with some practice. I’ve also seen people who try to block it out by taping a strip of paper across their screen – whatever works for you!
If you’re interested in Korean makeup and fashion, Risabae’s a pretty good channel to follow as most of her videos are subbed in Korean (with the occasional English subtitles). You’ll get to learn a lot of everyday expressions from her vlogs, as well as makeup related vocabulary from her tutorials.
I don’t know about you, but I love watching cooking videos, even though I can’t put together a meal to save my life. There’s just something really satisfying about watching people turn raw ingredients into awesome-looking meals. The Korean celebrity chef, Park Jong Won, has a Youtube channel where he does cooking tutorials. The great thing about this channel is that all the videos are subbed only in Korean – the English subtitles are in the CC, which you can toggle on and off as needed!
His pronunciation might be a little different from what you’re used to if you’ve been listening to only perfectly enunciated textbook recordings, so it would take some time to get used to, but I think it’s good idea to expose yourself to as many accent variations as possible when you get to the intermediate level.
Unlike everything else on this list so far, I found Korean Englishman useful for a different reason. Rather than practicing my listening skills (they rarely speak Korean on this channel), I studied the Korean subtitles to figure out how I could say the same things that they were saying, but in Korean. I don’t do this anymore because you can find so much Korean content that comes with Korean subtitles these days, but back then, content like that was kind of rare, so I tried to make the most out of what I could find.
And of course, the content is just really fun to watch. They also have a side channel called Jolly, where they do videos on all kinds of topics, from reviewing snacks to making a Princess castle out of cardboard for Olly’s daughter, Juno. They’re really lovely people and the channel is just a joy to watch!
tvN D Story
tvN produces web series that are kind of like short, mini drama. Each episode is about 11-16 minutes long, and they’re subbed only in Korean, which makes them great for listening practice. Nowadays it’s pretty easy to find Korean subtitles for drama series on sites like Viki and Netflix. Back then, though, it was close to impossible, and finding the script for a drama series was akin to hitting the jackpot, so naturally, I was really excited when I found these web series. Once you watch enough of them, Youtube will start recommending you other channels that make the same thing too, so don’t worry about running out. Not all of them are equally interesting and well-made, but they do make for good listening practice and are generally easier to digest than a 1-hour long drama episode.
Dingo makes a variety of Korean content that are subbed in Korean. The topics vary wildly and cover pretty much everything under the sun – from fashion and reaction videos, to comedy skits and social experiments. Pick what you like!
They also have a channel where they post web series, like tvN, and a music channel that focuses on kpop – live performances, covers and interviews. I really like some of the interviews they did – the production value was high, the subtitling was accurate and they asked in-depth questions. It’s a great way to get Korean-subbed kpop content if the fandoms you’re in don’t have a dedicated vlive translation team.
If you’re looking for something a bit more serious, PRAN might be what you’re looking for. They aim to provide a sort of platform for people to come together and exchange their thoughts and perspectives on various issues. Through their videos, you’ll get to know more about Korean history, as well as gain a better understanding of its people. It truly is a gem, because intermediate learners generally don’t get access to content with this much depth and nuance, but the Korean subtitles made it possible.
This one is better suited for upper intermediate learners as it requires a bit of reverse engineering. It’s a channel that teaches English, and it’s targeted at Koreans, and as such, none of the videos are subbed. You will, however, get to see how to word complex sentences in Korean, as the creator regularly translates the English sentence examples he’s using into Korean for the benefit of his viewers. This is great if you’re looking to beef up your vocabulary and pick up more advanced grammar points to build your sentences with. As a lower advanced learner, I still watch his videos regularly as I really enjoy how he explains English grammar in Korean. It also gives me ideas on how to explain them to my Korean language exchange partners, who are learning English.
Now, I wasn’t going to cover educational channels (like Talk to Me in Korean) – the goal was to share Korean content that I found both entertaining and helpful to my studies when I was an intermediate learner. But there are two channels that I feel like I have to mention, simply because of how good they are, even though they’re mostly educational in nature:
While Billy does make videos on grammar, my favourite ones are where he shares lesser known facts about the Korean language, such as the origin of the word 며칠 (it’s not an abridged version of몇일) and the concept of bright and dark vowels.
Jeremy’s videos are a bit different from the regular Korean learning channels that you need. While he does cover grammar from time to time, his best videos are where he reflects, rather eloquently, on the process of learning Korean, and how it’s changed the way he perceives and reacts to things. He has a really unique way of looking at things and it really shows in the way he learns or explains Korean grammar, or just the Korean language in general.
That’s it for now! I hope you found this list helpful – the transition from content targeted at learners to those targeted at native speakers may be rough at first, and you might yourself struggling a lot at the start, but it does get better with time, and I promise it’ll be worth it.
Best of luck with your studies, and happy learning!