Learning Korean and need a little help getting by? Then you need a great Korean translator app!
Everyone needs a little help sometimes when learning a new language. It can be difficult starting out if you haven’t met a community of language learners or a language exchange partner to help you make heads or tails of Korean.
And besides that, it’s always helpful to have an accurate Korean translator on hand when you’re studying on the go. Like when you’re watching a K-Drama on your commute, and want to look up the word for “love triangle” (it’s 삼각관계, samgag gwangye, by the way).
Having a good English to Korean translator app will help you look up words as you want to learn them and add them to your study list.
Different translators have different purposes, so it can be worth using more than one app. A Korean to English speech translator is handy when a language exchange hits a rough spot. Meanwhile, a text translator helps you when reading Korean articles online.
Korean translators apps all have their pros and cons. Choosing the right one for you is key.
What to Look for in a Korean Translator App
First, you’ll want to take the time to test a few and see if they meet your needs. Are you learning Korean to travel to Korea? Or are you trying to get a deeper knowledge of the language for reading books? Is your primary goal to consume Korean media, or talk to locals?
Every translator app is different, and they usually focus on one aspect over another. For instance, some translators may only give literal translations. Others may translate idioms and colloquial phrases accurately. This is important to note because you may want to say something that doesn’t have a natural translation in Korean. For example, of you look up “a piece of cake,” then a literal translation will pull up 케이크 조각 (keikeu jogag), which means “cake piece.” What you actually wanted to say was “it was easy,” and that’s 식은 죽 먹기 (sig-eun jug meoggi) which in Korean is the idiom “like eating cold porridge.”
You need to ask yourself: are you translating from speech or text most? Are you looking for something that needs some basic knowledge of Korean to make it useful? Or are you a beginner and need something that simplifies it – even helping you read Hangul, the Korean script?
Once you decide how you’ll be using the app, you can find one that meets your needs.
One Major Caveat: Avoid Translator App Dependence!
Sure, Korean translator apps can be super helpful if you use them right. But they can also be one of the reasons you don’t succeed in learning Korean.
It can be too easy to rely on translator apps, especially because of their convenience. At first, you’re only looking up words you don’t know to help you flesh out a sentence. But then you’re using it to check the accuracy of your whole sentence. And then you use it to help you create the whole sentence for you.
This “translator trap” is a major pitfall for language learners. It takes away the mental stimulation of trying to remember the language on your own. If you become this reliant on translators, then you may be better deleting them from your phone and sticking with a real-life dictionary — yes, I mean a physical book. If you really want to know something, you’ll have to put in the effort to flip through the book and find it. And it won’t always be handy. This will limit how much you look up, and push you to remember on your own and create sentences without help.
With that said, let’s look at some of the best Korean translator apps.
7 Best Korean Translator Apps
1. Naver Korean Dictionary
The golden Korean dictionary and translator. When you search for a translation, it pops up with tons of variations and sentences to help you learn its usage. And the homepage features daily Korean conversations to practice your listening skills, as well as idioms, grammar tips, and words-of-the-day. As far as a translator goes, Naver does the best job of combining translation and learning.
There’s also the original Naver app all in Korean, with a search function that allows you to find info Wikipedia-style. It’s language-immersive and includes news and stories in Korean. But, because it’s all in Korean, it’s best for advanced learners.
- Best for those who have at least a little knowledge of the language
- Better for in-depth knowledge and context of word usage
- Includes accurate sample sentences and alternate phrases with every translation
- Features daily tips, grammar, idioms, and more to boost your learning
- Includes audio for translations, as well as Korean conversations to practice listening skills
- Because only written out on dictionary pages, you must be able to read Hangul comfortably to benefit from it.
- While this translator has a ton to offer to aid learning, it also provides so many sample sentences, it may become easy to cheat your way through creating your own sentences
2. Papago Translate
Also created by Naver, this is the true translator versus a dictionary. Even though this is like a “lite” version of Naver, it has its differences… and they’re fantastic. For one, the interface is smooth and simple. You can quickly select your languages and input method: typing, microphone, conversation, or text recognition with your camera.
Plus, it includes a place for you to save your words to “Favorites” to create a word and phrase bank to practice. It saves your history, so you won’t forget what you looked up or part of your conversation. And, it has two features that will be amazing aids for beginners and travelers: a phrasebook and website translator.
One thing I was very impressed with was the Kids section. If you want to include your child in on your Korean studies, the app has cute, colorful picture cards on various topics in Korean and English.
- Best for beginners, travelers, and for quick, on-the-go translating help
- Simple, easy interface and kid-friendly
- Website translation and quick phrasebook, sorted by topic
- Saved words and history for easy review
- Includes Papago Mini, which hovers over your other apps for quicker translation on screen
- Like the Naver translator, it doesn’t include romanization, so knowing Hangul is a must
- It doesn’t provide sample sentences or context. You get the word-for-word translation
3. Google Translate
Of course, this had to be on the list. The most well-known translator app has come a long way in recent years. With verified translations and various ways to input, it’s a tried-and-true favorite.
But, Google Translate isn’t perfect. It’s multilingual, unlike some others that focus on excelling only at translating Korean. Asian languages often differ drastically in speech. Many phrases don’t translate well through Google because it wouldn’t be said that way in Korean at all. Without some basic knowledge of how the language functions grammatically, it’s easy to get a bad translation.
That said, if you have a basic understanding of Korean – enough to catch where grammar might be off, or when something may sound more natural – Google Translate can be a helpful resource.
- Quick, easy translating on-the-go
- Includes typing, writing, speech, conversation, text recognition, and voice input
- You can translate to and from many languages and see verified translations when using the webpage
- Best for beginners who have yet to learn to read Hangul as it provides the romanization
- Without some knowledge of the language, it’s easy to get an awkward translation
- There’s no context or sample sentences
- While it’s gotten better, slang and idioms aren’t always understood or translated well
4. GreenLife Korean English Translator
For Android only.
This app has a lot of unique advantages. Besides being able to translate via text, speech, or conversation, it also suggests changes to sentences that have errors. When you enter something for translation, it gives you various suggestions. And, it tells you what grammatical function a word has in a sentence.
Best yet, it has features that are great for aiding your learning. The app includes daily words, crosswords, a vocab building game, phrasebook, flashcards, and offline dictionary. You can email or text yourself translations to study later. Coolest of all, you can have it translate your texts into Korean or English with the Pro feature.
- Best for translating and on-the-go studies, beginners to upper-intermediate learners
- Includes romanization of the main translation and it offers several translations of single words with their grammatical function
- Cool features like SMS text translation and in-app learning games
- Android only
- Some features need the paid Pro version
- Ads can become distracting
- The interface is very plain and not as easy on the eyes
5. Daum Dictionary
This one requires knowledge of the language, but like Naver, it’s immersive. Many advanced learners use this to better learn the language from within the language.
The dictionary has a search feature where you can look up words and see their translation, with romanization. You can look it up from Korean-to-English, or only in Korean. Since you’re essentially looking it up backward, you’ll get a more accurate Korean translation. Why? Because you can tell when the English translation is wrong. That's also nice for double-checking the accuracy from other translators. Since some phrases don’t translate right because they're unique to their target language, having a translator or dictionary in your target language can come in handy to cross-verify.
- Best for upper-intermediate or advanced learners
- A good option for cross-checking translations
- Immersive in the language: you can bypass English altogether if you want, and look something up only in Korean
- If you don’t have a solid grasp on the language, you probably won’t be able to find your way around the app
- Since its primary function is as a dictionary, it doesn’t have a microphone option but it does have a camera option to look things up
6. Klays-Development Korean-English Translator
For Android only.
What makes this translator worthwhile? It gives you many different ways to say a word, including slang. Searching “Hello” in Korean pulls up several examples, including 여보세요 (yeoboseyo, “hello” when answering the phone) and the slang form, 여보 (yeobo). That’s a pretty nice feature. But if you don’t know that 여보세요 is only used to greet someone on the phone, you may not use it right since the app doesn’t give context.
- Best to search for casual speech translations, and upper-beginners who have a grasp of the language, culture, and grammar
- You can save your searches and “favorite” translations for later review
- Offers many different translations
- Android only
- Limited to text and speech inputs
- No context for translations, and since it includes slang or casual variations, it can lead to inaccurate usage
SayHi has a straightforward and clean interface, and only one real purpose: to translate via speech or conversation. When you speak into the microphone, it translates what you said into both English and Korean text. Both translations are clickable so you can hear how they sound. And the translations and speech-to-text seem pretty accurate. It saves your translations in an SMS text-like screen, bubbles and all, and it’s easy to look at.
- Best for when you’re only translating via speech, such as during a language exchange
- Easy, simple interface, no frills, but pleasant to look at
- Quick and accurate speech-to-text
- Not multitasking: there’s no option for inputting via typing or writing
- Korean translations are all in Hangul, with no romanization
Korean Translator Apps to Avoid
I’ve tried a bunch of different Korean translator apps or multilingual translators. The ones I listed above are definitely the best! I stumbled on a few duds though, too.
One recommended app from various sources was WayGo, a translator app that uses your camera in real time or through pictures to translate. I would skip over this one. It offers no real learning with its translations, you can only use it to translate through your camera. It would only be useful while traveling if you knew absolutely no Korean. Even then, I’d be wary: When I tried the app, every single translation was wrong. On top of that, you only get 10 free translations a day before you have to pay to upgrade.
Another app I stumbled upon was The Apps Castle Korean English Translator. Compared to the other apps above, it was so plain and full of ads. In fact, while I had it on my phone, it continually popped up full-screen ads… even when I wasn’t using the app. Definitely skip it.
iTranslate has a few nice features, like the ability to select from several different translator indexes (Google, Microsoft, etc) and a male or female voice. But, essentially, it’s Google Translate with very annoying, long ads.
I also tried Text Grabber, which is like WayGo. It’s also limited in how many free uses you get, and it doesn’t seem like it works much better. Google Translate does the same thing and has many other options for ways to translate.
Find Your Perfect Korean Translator Match!
There you have it, the best Korean translators, based on your Korean level and needs. Hopefully, that helps narrow down your search, and pinpoint which would be best for you. It’s helpful to know which ones you must know Hangul and which ones don’t. But it’s also nice to know that as you improve your Korean, you can move on to translators that will better benefit your studies.
What Korean resources do you use to help you translate or understand in a pinch? Did I miss a fabulous translator app on this list? Let me know in the comments!
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.