[Discussion] Taeyang and Scary English


After being on an international fansite for a while, I realize that it is already a challenge for fans to understand each other in forums and fansites because of language differences and the different cultural contexts we all have.  Can you imagine how difficult it is for an artist having to do the same thing?

Putting aside the notion that appreciation for music is supposed to be universal, language is usually the first hurdle for artists trying to reach a global audience. The fact is, you win so many more listeners when you communicate in a language they understand. But even apart from song lyrics, since there are so many pitfalls in learning a new language, one is bound to make many mistakes even in simple conversation. Which is really tough when you have a whole world of people online who are so unforgiving of small errors and have high expectations of celebrities.

And then we have TY, who is trying his best to reach out to international fans  and is also practicing his english in the process.  Not just basic grammar and vocabulary, he’s trying to master the accent and colloquial english (slang) to speak as naturally as possible. And while he has come a long way, he is still  bound to make mistakes, or be misunderstood since he hasn’t mastered basics yet, much less the nuances of the language. While I love that he is brave enough to try and is excited about communicating, I sometimes think that he should slow down because not everyone out there is bound to understand him and might hold his errors against him and judge him for them. Then again, how else is he going to learn? And when is it going to be good enough?

So the question is: Is it better to go full speed ahead and speak and write the best you can (thinking practice makes perfect and fans appreciate the effort and make allowances) or practice in private (no talk, no mistakes. Like this particular one when you don’t get the use of a word quite right. ) There are always trade-offs in both scenarios.  Where lies the balance?

And to all our readers who had to learn english or are still learning it, how do you think he should approach english with the public? I’m taking it as a given that he has to learn it.

39 thoughts on “[Discussion] Taeyang and Scary English”

  1. i noticed he used slang words a lot, as a beginner, he should learn formal english before speaking informal english. that’s the safest way to avoid things like the writer said above “when you don’t get use of a word quite right”

  2. i think he needs to formally study English, not just learning by talking to his peers who knows to speak English.
    while the latter may teach you the conversational English, the slangs and the idioms, the former will make you learn more about grammar which is very important.
    we often see YB’s tweets with few but major grammatical errors.
    while it’s cute to fans, it may turn off potential fans or may be a cause for ridicule in the future.

    1. aww..ya. i would feel so bad if other uses his errors as a joke! I’m sure he’s working really hard at every moment he gets! 😀

  3. I must agree with those above, I think it would serve him well to cut down on the slang lol I think he should get the basics down (specifically grammar) before going the informal route or else if he’s put in a serious situation and starts sprouting some of the things he does on twitter people will just be like WTF is wrong with him xD

    As for how fast he should go in learning English, I think he should continue going full speed ahead…Being “timid” when learning a second language is a hindrance imo

    Practice and varied exposure to the language makes perfect and getting as much practice from lots of different sources is the way to go. Sure he’ll make mistakes, but then it’s up to those around him to correct him so he doesn’t make them twice. Only then will he learn the nuances of the language and when it is/isn’t appropriate to use certain phrases etc~

  4. I’d like him to go at full speed, everybody learn from their mistake and it’s ok for him to made some mistake, and with mistake ‘ll make him knows more English.

    I think I understand why he use slang words a lot (regard who he usually hang out with) as a English learner myself, I also like slang words and always try to use it even a bit.
    (I’m not sure about other people but most of English learners I know behave like this)
    For beginner or someone who didn’t had English as a nation language , can use slang like you really improve or say you can really use English, know how to talk in English.

    It’s like “wow! you know what they really use when they talk to each other, not just using something in that dialog from grammar books!”

    and also even though he may use slang words in wrong meaning , we still never know his true skill. Because people who learn English with book, tape or anything that are classroom materials will never learn how to use slang. I think I know how to use some slang when I talk with my friends and they us them (which I really don’t understand it at first).

    1. That’s so interesting! Did you mean that using slang makes one feel more confident of learning “real” english the way it is spoken by native english speakers? And people who use slang are thought to be better at english than those who speak formal english? To be honest, I never thought of it that way. I always used to think that slang came about because friends thought it was fun to teach you those words instead of the normal dictionary words.

      I tend to agree with those that say formal english is probably much safer and is less likely to get judged harshly by native english speakers though rather than slang. Depending on how generous the listener is, slang can come across as cute or unnatural (and sometimes absolutely cringe-worthy.) I don’t mind mistakes in grammar or pronunciation as much as slang, honestly.

      Another question though – was learning a particular accent a conscious thing you did while learning english? (Like trying to use an American, or British or Australian etc accent?) I’m just curious if one considers accents in learning English as a second language.

      1. I’m not sure about other country but to me (in Thailand) most of us learn both American and British accent. It’s like, in high school we use British’s book but in university we use American’s book etc something like that.

        But I believe Asian people familiar with American’s more than British accent, cuz of Hollywood ;P.

        It’s very good if you know how to use proper English, like you can write that formal letter or something formal. But in learners’ eyes some of them prefer the other to believe they know how to use English like English speakers. and slang was believed to be daily use words.

        Some believe it sound cool and better than formal. also English speakers usually found it very interesting when they use slang.
        like “Wow! you even know that words!”

        It still better to know the proper words before slang of shorten words. But you cannot stop the learner (in any language) to try to use any slang they just learn. (laugh)

  5. You guys make an interesting topic to discuss !!!
    Honestly, I’m not good at English so it’s quite difficult for me to express myself clearly enough.
    Thanks to Taeyang, I’ve learnt a lot about English, such as visiting here and reading all the articles about him.
    I think we should deal with his mistakes which are quite unavoidable for any English learner. He may use some lang words because of the influence from his friends who he often hangs out with.
    The truth is not many Kpop singers (except for the ones used to live overseas) are confident in English and use it in public. That’s why I’m happy to see him speaking and tweeting in English as much as he can, maybe also that’s the way for him to get close to international fans 🙂

  6. I think that YB should go at a speed he is most comfortable with and learn formal English, most especially basic grammar and vocabulary. It’ll be better for him in the long run since he will be talking to different people from different levels/positions and places in the industry he is in.

    While it is true that an English learner will need to be familiar with the slang, it doesn’t mean that the learner should use it as often. Most of the times slang words or the street language is taught to learners to help them avoid the mistake of using something wrongly or being made to look like a fool. Personally, I find it a kind of a turn off to only hear “You know, Yo, it’s amazing,” and all the slang words because I believe the artist would need to sensibly express himself. I am not saying the artist learns the highfalutin words but more of being able to express himself more (like when an artist talks about his music, projects and plans) in words that will not be misinterpreted or used against him.

    All in all though I salute YB for his courage in taking those steps to learn/speak/write English or another language at that.

  7. I’m have to disagree. Maybe I’m wrong here but it seems he is doing fine with English so far. I do not see anything wrong with him using slang because he is young and slang is also universal. Long as he learn the basics , which he can do also through slang … he shall be fine. And he listens and watches American music and films. Plus has friends who speak English. Also if he leaves out a word, it should be easy to guess what he is trying to say. If you speak English.

    1. I agree with you. Last time I checked he’s not applying for a job as the dean of English at a college. He’s a pop singer. I don’t think using slang will do much harm. I think he may have the basics down, but keep in mind who he hangs around. He’s around English speakers who use slang. And if/when he ever does make that US debut, assuming he’ll be in the R&B/Pop category, it could help him in the long run. English is not his native language, so yes, he’s going to make mistakes. But he won’t become better at English if he doesn’t try.

  8. I don’t know, I think he’s doing alright.
    In my opinion, you should only talk about things that are within your vocabulary range, I’m not fluent in English because, just like him, it’s not my native language, and I understand all Koreans’ positions, because it’s a very different language when compared to English.
    So I think he’s doing fine, because he’s taking a bit of a risk, but not trying to do all too much at a time.
    That’s how I do it, too, so. 🙂

  9. I think Taeyang is doing pretty well with his English. I’m from the US, so obviously English is my native language. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for the foreigners here who are trying to learn English. I personally feel like it must be insanely difficult to learn our language. We use soooooo many slang words, we chop words in half, we abbreviate the heck out of everything…lol. So yeah, props to anyone who’s learning English. I didn’t realize how many unconventional habits there are in this language until I started to learn Spanish a few years ago. I noticed that (in my opinion) it was a lot more straight forward rules-wise than English. Anyway, I say good job Youngbae and he can only get better with time 😀

  10. Since US English is my native language, i never really notice all these so-called mistakes that would reflect poorly upon him. (thats just reaching for a story, but i guess its discussion none-the-less)

    Seriously though, I havent noticed many mistakes in his tweets/vids…like “tyfan” said perhaps its one of those things you as a native speaker automatically correct in your head while reading/listening and keep it pushin’. I doubt he hasnt studied formal English either(its a big assumption that he is jumping into slang without learning the language formally), but its twitter…he’d look more like a fool saying ” Look at my dog Boss with a towel placed upon his head (grey peu pon style). He kept it short, sweet, to-the-point, and relate-able.

    I hope he forges on with the English no matter if is slang, formal, or whatnot..i think he is doing great. His accent is near perfect too(i understand every word).

    PS.. Even though he is from Korea, he still is a R&B/Hip Hop artist, these are his influences, so I expect he’ll communicate as such. Plus, ever hear Teddy, Masta Wu, Danny or any of the other Americanized YG folks around him talk? Errr slang…its universal!

  11. You guys always make interesting topic, this website is really good, not too over fangirling and yet composed of relevant and significant news. Really I hope every website about Bigbang would be like this one, I always appreciate to go here, it’s easy to read and really interesting !

    I do admit, it is better for Taeyang to take some formal lessons, it’s the best way for him to reach a fluent level of speaking. Using slang is not always appropriate or needed but I guess it’s because people he hang out with use it a lot and he then uses it maybe sometimes unconsciously. This happen to me all the time.

    Taeyang seems to really learn so he should know taking formal lessons is the best way to learn english. But at some point, you get the basis and then you have to learn it on your own which happened to me. I believe the other way around is not good. He has to learn the basis, vocabulary and grammar. Without there’s no way he can have an interview or a whole conversation fluently in english. And this is what happen at the EMAs red carpet. I also thought that maybe Tae practiced what he said after receiving the trophee, well it seemed like it to me at least lol. He still had some difficulties.

    Finally, I like the fact that Tae always want to learn other languages to sing or to communicate with his fans and generally to the world. He is the 1st one in BB to learn japanese and he did it quite early compared to other. He is now trying to learn English and he even try to speak it when he meets foreign fans.

  12. I’m all for YB going full steam ahead. There’s no better way to learn English, heck, any language, unless you use it, whether you’re using it right or using it wrong and getting corrected. While I am of the thought that he definitely needs more formal education in the English language first, I applaud him for his attempts.

    I grew up learning English and Vietnamese at the same time, so I’ve never had a problem with English. But I’ve witnessed my family, friends, neighbors, etc. try to learn English as their second, third, or whatever language. Native English speakers generally do not know how hard it is to learn English as a non-primary language. There are exceptions to every rule, words that you thought meant one thing are actually being used to represent another thing, the nuances of the language that you can’t learn from a textbook……it’s a freaking hard language to grasp. This doesn’t even include the slang that seems to re-develop itself every couple of years.

    And a textbook will only get you so far. While it’ll teach you the grammatically correct ways to speak, in all honesty, the majority of people DO NOT speak that way. As you get more comfortable with the language, you’re going to be bound to speak in a more abbreviated way, just because you ARE so comfortable with the language. That being said, because YB utilizes Twitter as one of his English outlets, this is definitely where the textbook help comes into play. I know it can’t be helped sometimes, but it makes me cringe when I see him type in English. Like I said, I applaud him for his efforts, but I wish he would have someone check his stuff before he tweets.

    But in regard to actually speaking English and learning conversational English, there is NO better way than to speak it. As I stated, a textbook will only help you so much. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. We all know YB hangs around with a lot of fluent English speakers, Teddy/Kush/Choice/other producers, Lydia, ML crew…..more so than any other BB member. And while he may have a accent (which is normally extremely hard to eliminate anyway), he is the member most comfortable in the language. Why? Because he doesn’t hesitate to use it. You won’t know where you go wrong until you try. So I love that YB still tries even though he’s not exactly fluent in English. But while he’s trying his best, he definitely needs to do better if he ever hopes to come into the American market.

    So long story short, thumbs up to YB for actually attempting to communicate in English, especially considering how it’s like his third language. I really want him to continue what he’s doing, just get a formal tutor that can teac him the technical, grammatical aspects of the language and he’ll be a-okay.

    1. This was too long. LOL I really don’t get this topic tho. Because he isn’t and will not be the only non-fluent person of English. The main point is he knows it and probably knows more English than we think. And besides when you look at him, to me for some reason, he gives a vibe of that he knows it already. International Fans should be grateful of him learning English and communicating with us and also working with people who are not of South Korea. I do not expect him to master it but we don’t know if he has but if not Its YB so he will.

      1. And again if he makes a mistake and you understand what he meant than it shouldn’t be a problem. If he makes a mistake via twitter , good thing would be to KINDLY correct him with a mention. Might help him later on.

      2. I know, my comment was EXTREMELY long. Hahaha
        But my comment wasn’t to put him down or anything. If anything, he should continue with what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Speaking in English, tweeting in English….I want that to continue. I just want him to get more help. Like I said, the best way to learn English is to use it on a daily basis until you’re comfortable with it. Which seems to be what he’s doing. But more formal education in the form of tutors and textbooks won’t hurt either.

  13. English is my second langugage but i started learning it pretty early so i guess its not thaaaaat bad 🙂
    i really look up to YB! he speaks english so freely and doesnt seem to care what others are thinking about it. it really takes a lot of courage especially if you know that you dont speak it fluently. he should go ahead and keep talk/ tweet or do whatever in english so that he improves. its not a bad idea to actually start with the textbook basics and then learn ‘slang’ because it can be a bit confusing sometimes…
    and i admit that its a bit (only a tiny teeny bit) annoying to keep seeing mistakes pop up :/ though i do them pretty frequently myself xD

  14. What I gather from the comments so far is that most people feel he would benefit from more formal study of english grammar and that reactions to his use of slang is mixed (some think it’s fine, others would rather he cut down.) Everyone is happy that he is communicating with his fans in English though and are encouraging him to keep at it. Curious though, at his current level of ability, do you think he would be ready for international promotions in English speaking countries (North America, UK, Australia etc)?

    Personally I’m not a fan of the slang myself since I find it awkward. I’ll be honest – I kind of eye roll when he uses words like “swag” or “leggo” and from the semi-amusement of some other fans online, I think I am not alone. And am definitely not a fan of the occasional cussing during performances. Those are the kinds of things I wish he would dial back on and just use formal english. I don’t really care if his verb tenses are all mixed up as long as he stays away from such awkwardness like calling their apartment his “crib” (which he hasn’t yet used himself but was a term used on the official YG subtitles for 2ne1TV. I wonder who does the english editing for YG….) But I do understand where he is coming from and that his influences make him more prone to pick it up. At this point, I’m just hoping the slang is minimized in his future english song lyrics and that he is a bit more careful as he goes into international promotions.

    1. I find it funny when he uses “swag” and such as well, ha. However, I definitely do NOT think he is ready for an international release. Let me take that back…a United States release. I think he would have to wait until he is darn near perfectly fluent. The American audience is really harsh about speaking English correctly. Especially with non-American Asians, as they are sometimes stereotyped as not knowing the language well. It’s terrible that that stereotype exists, but to give himself the best chance at a successful debut, he should be aiming for perfection language-wise. (Of course this is Taeyang though, so he’ll be fine ;))

      1. I want to disagree. I don’t think he needs nearly perfect English for a US release. IMO it doesn’t make sense in spite of the occasional faux pas. I think the American public is more forgiving than we think especially to a person with this much talent and charisma. I mean, knowing that Korean is his native language I feel like I can forgive his errors when I read them. People will make fun, fine, but I think it’s part of the process.

        When it comes to lyrics though…I don’t really like the way YGE did the lyrics of Wedding Dress (English version) and I’ll Be There (English version). The lyrics and singing need to be pronounced well and somewhat relate-able in Westernized culture to be a hit, preferably written by a native English speaker. I’ll be honest, I rarely listen to the english versions of IBT and WD.

        1. I also think that to promote his music on radio and TV in the west that good conversational English will be a huge help.

        2. YB’s English in Connection>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>YB’s English in the WD/IBT remakes.
          And while I do think that he needs a lot more schooling and practice before he’s ready to cross into any other market, he wouldn’t necessarily have to be fluent in English. He already understands a whole lot, it’s just the getting his emotions and thoughts across that he mainly still has a problem with. But give the man a couple of years and I’m sure this will turn out to be a moot point.

    2. Like the majority of comments, I too would prefer YB to focus his studies mainly on formal english and pronunciations.

      With regards to the slang (although sometimes cringe-worthy), I don’t mind it as much. I think we sometimes forget that he’s a young adult, merely 23 years old. It doesn’t surprise me that he wants to learn slang and use it. Especially b/c of the genre and style of music he enjoys, and even more so b/c of his great interest in dance. It’s inevitable. Though I also do hope he doesn’t use any slang in his lyrics…especially if it doesn’t fit into the message.

      In terms of international promotions…I honestly have no idea. First, I don’t think the US and the UK can be viewed similarly. The UK has various boy and girl bands that are incredibly popular there, but are more or less unknown in the US (and they obviously have no trouble speaking english). American and European culture in general are miles apart, which is why I think kpop stars have had relative success in Europe, and are slow in breaking into the US. If YB were to promote solo (without the tag “member of BigBang”), I feel he would have a slightly better chance in the US, simply b/c he won’t have the ‘boy band’ label (though I’m clueless as to how great a chance).

      Personally, I’m content with YB starting slow, and doing small tours before starting full-fledged promotions (with interviews–if that is what he wants to do).

      1. He’ll never lose the tag of member of BigBang. Since kpop is already online global and most people know him as such. It will follow him for the majority of his career. Especially the start of it in other countries, even if big bang somehow breaks up or he ditches them etc.

        1. I don’t want him to leave BB. Just identify himself as a solo artist when he’s going forth with his solo promos. I know a lot of people who have heard of/listened to Taeyang, but do not know BB, or did not know he belonged to a boy band. These are obv ppl who don’t follow kpop, but since YB already has an identity to casual listeners, I feel he should capitalize on that.

      2. hmm… about the boy band label. i dunno. I thought it was the groups that usually have more success than the solos because they appeal to a wider audience. IMO, BigBang’s success adds to Taeyang’s exposure. Trying to think… I don’t really mind Taeyang being in a K-pop boyband and I’m a dude. Maybe because Big Bang set themselves apart from traditional boybands. Looking at GD took some time to get used to though. I like BB’s music almost as much as I do YB’s music, so for me boyband or no boyband, once I hear the music it all goes out the window.

        1. The last thing I want YB to do is leave BigBang. However, I feel in North America there is def a stereotype that ppl have with boy bands, whether you’re a dude or girl (especially boy bands, not so much girl bands for some reason). And BB’s electro/dance music may add to that.

          If YB could label himself as a member of BB and still succeed in his solo endeavors, then ofc he should go for it. I would hate for BB to be forced to change who they are to enter a new music industry, and I def wouldn’t want YB to desert his home in BB.

          It would be wonderful if everyone only considered the music to determine if they like an artist(s), and I’m glad you have that mindset. But I think realistically, there are so many factors that fans are drawn to.
          Which is ultimately why I think he would have only a slightly better chance.
          I’m trying to think of a popular boy band in the US that’s currently promoting, but the only one that’s coming to mind are the Jonas Brothers; who have a very specific fanbase (and I believe the lead vocal recently branched out to perform solo).

          When you say BB set themselves apart from traditional boybands, are you referring to korean boybands or all boy bands? B/c there used to be numerous ‘western’ bands who were unique, talented, and noticeable who aren’t active anymore. At the end of the day, I feel there aren’t any boy bands for a reason. I’m not sure of the reasons, and why it has turned out that way, but that is just how the trends come and go, I guess.
          Though it would be awesome if BB were the ones to change that ^^

        2. I’m just referring to K-boybands. For me, BigBang is a different experience because their individual personalities are uniquely different and they aren’t overly chic and androgynous.

  15. from reading all the comment ,something got me curious.

    I understand that sang the lyric in the other language (such as English, Japanese, even Chinese and etc) would make artist got more fans.
    But as I am someone from a very small country, have to listen to many songs from other language and like it because melody and emotion in the artist voices first , even before understand or catch the lyric.
    I understand that English can be call as an international language, with many people use and understand it.
    I kind of not sure why they want artist sang songs in their language to like that artist?

    (I just think of YB’s wedding dress that Korean ver. looks more success than the English ver. and to tell you the truth, I like his voice when he sang in Korean more, something like the melody sound more emotional.)

    It maybe not a good question but i really didn’t mean something bad , just my curious.

    1. As someone who listens to music in a lot of different languages too, I don’t know why it matters either. (And since most of us are YB-fans who don’t speak Korean, I suppose a lot of us are mystified too.) But my guess is that knowing the meaning of the lyrics is a big part of enjoying what songs have to offer and it is a priority for others, particularly in genres like hip hop. Plus it helps a lot in singing along! Also, there are people who are just resistant to things different from what they are used to at first. It’s a pity though, since there is a lot of great music in the world and they could be missing out on a lot.

  16. Imho, English learned in a non English as a first language foreign country is one of the worst ways to learn it. I mean sure it allows you to write sum what grammatically correct for a test but once you get into a conversation with a native speaker they usually end up seeming like GD&Top speaking Japanese. It may be nerves and it also may be the fact that conversational English isn’t what’s on those test papers. Where just the tone n sound of the word and phrase makes it totally different just like other languages. So I’m all for openly using what you know and fail + learn from it to get better vs private learning where when you end up in a on the fly conversation your lost cause it wasn’t in the textbook.

    or somethin like that

    1. + in any language, the first terms you should learn are the Slangs/curses and their meanings.. Getting caught off guard with that stuff can lead to bad situations and one looking like a fool like this man explains here.

  17. In cases of typos or just verb agreement and stuff I can see the concern, but slang…really? Whatever. I can’t think of a case of him using slang wrong. I DEFINITELY don’t think he’s ever used the word swag wrong. I don’t think he’s ready for an american release, not because of his english but just period, it’s really difficult to break through the market, especially a market completely set against and racist against asian males.

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