K wave: Squid Game puts Korean top of language learners’ lists

K wave: Squid Game puts Korean top of language learners’ lists

The latest K wave crave has landed. See what makes the Squid Game survival thriller insane and why it’s inspiring so many people to learn Korean language.
October 18 2021 Korean TV shows

​​Squid Game. The two words leaving everybody’s lips. It’s bonkers. It’s bloody. It’s brilliant. It’s currently Netflix’s number 1 ranked show in over 90 countries and its ‘biggest ever series at launch.’

The world is already experiencing a huge K-wave (more on that later) and now Squid Game’s caused a tsunami. We genuinely can’t remember more hype around a series: It’s sparked thousands of memes and TikToks, fans are binge-watching (and re-watching) through the night, its cast and crew star in every press show and YouTube recommendation, and there’s even some controversy about dubbing.

We couldn’t help but get swept up in the action and so in this post we explore all the aspects that make this sensational survival thriller such a hit with Korean lovers and novices alike, and why it's making them determined to learn Korean.


What’s Squid Game about?

456 debt-ridden Koreans must compete in 6 children’s games to get their hands ₩45.6million prize reward: the equivalent of $38.6 million or £28.2 million. Lose? They’re ‘eliminated’, in the fullest sense. 

It’s awesome. But there’s also another reason we like it...


Squid Game is inspiring people to learn Korean

Since Squid Game’s September release, Memrise has seen a 94% jump in people starting to learn our Korean course in the UK.

You’ve realised Korean is the coolest language to learn  because it lets you ride the K-wave in style, understanding Squid Game and other Korean cultural exports more and more as you learn. Not to mention the starry-eyed prospect of going to South Korea itself! Have you ever tasted Korean Fried Chicken!? 

We’re guessing you want to know how to survive in Seoul or even within the Squid Game itself!? So don’t worry, we created a Squid Game Survival Kit to sort you out. P.S. If you’re new here, relax, the Memrise Korean course is all about the key survival phrases. 

Squid Game isn’t just responsible for this new love for learning Korean. It’s been building for a while. 


“The Korean Wave” is… EVERYWHERE

Since you’re reading this, you’re probably already swept up in The K Wave: this growing global obsession with South Korea culture and entertainment.

K-Pop bands like BTS and BLACKPINK, K-Dramas like Crash Landing on You, and Korean films like the Oscar-winning Parasite are attracting new fans by the second. Oh, and they can help you learn Korean. Just saying.


Squid Game’s subtitles are causing a stir...

Despite soaring success, Squid Game has received some backlash. Fluent Korean speakers are voicing their concerns that the English subtitles and English (Closed Caption) subtitles misrepresent characters and distort the meaning of the original Korean script. Oops.

For example, when searching for a game partner Han Mi-nyeo says:

"공부를 안해서 그렇지 머리는 장난아니라니까"

English subtitles: “I’m not a genius, but I can work it out.”

Korean meaning: "I never bothered to study but I'm unbelievably smart."

Watch this Tik Tok to discover why this is a bigger difference than it may seem, and see more examples...


This isn’t the only show that’s got the translations wrong...

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Chinese to English)

 “You get hurt, hurt ’em back. You get killed… walk it off” (advice from Captain America) was translated to  “Run fast if someone tries to kill you.”

Sudden Impact (English to Italian)

 The film’s most famous line: “Go ahead, make my day” was translated into Italian to mean “Go ahead, make me happy” which outraged dedicated fans who could speak Italian.

Leaving Las Vegas (English to Japanese)

 This title was translated into the Japanese for: ‘I'm Drunk And You're A Prostitute’. Yep, not great.


As language lovers, we recommend you stick to subtitles to improve your Korean listening skills and take in the wonderful Korean acting! It’s also incentivising to know that you can squeeze even more nuance out of an inevitable Squid Game rewatch when you learn Korean....


The English dictionary even has Korean words now

Yes, the influence of Korean language is spreading so strongly that the Oxford English Dictionary recently announced that over 20 Korean words have been added to their dictionary.

Including a few for the foodies...


  • bulgogi: a dish of thin slices of beef or pork which are marinated then grilled or stir-fried.
  • chimaek: Korean fried chicken and beer
  • dongchimi: a type of kimchi made with radish and typically also containing napa cabbage
  • japchae: a dish consisting of cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch
  • kimbap: a Korean dish consisting of cooked rice and other ingredients wrapped in a sheet of seaweed and cut into bite-sized slices.
  • kimchi: dish of spicy pickled cabbage


Plus a few for the Korean craze...

  • The Korean wave
  • K-drama 
  • K-pop

Our favourite is “mukbang”: meaning a Korean televised eating show, often talking to the audience through a camera.

We have something squid-iculously good coming

Given the insane success of Squid Game, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some of its iconic quotes added to the English dictionary or printed on billboards in a city near you: Like I’ll make sure that you win내가 무조건 이기게 해줄 테니까 (Ji-yeong) or We’ve already come too far to end this now.”  우리 되돌리기에 너무 멀리 왔어(Sang-woo)

What’s your favourite? Ours is “I’m not going to have as much fun watching as playing” 보는 것이 하는 것보다 더 재미있을 수가 없지 (Oh Li-Nam) because we believe it’s true!

So stay tuned for an invitation to something special (and Squid-like) coming on our social channels soon.

I want to learn some Korean