top of page

How did BTS’s RM learn English with American Hit Sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S: Effective or not? Let us find out!

BTS's RM, like everyone else, is a fan of 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S'. Unlike everyone, he actually chose to make complete use of this series. In this article we will breakdown how he learnt English through the American hit sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S and is it an effective approach to language learning.


Image Credits: Bighit Music

1.     Who are BTS?

BTS, the power these three letters hold is immense. The K-pop band has revolutionized the music industry by breaking language and xenophobic barriers. They have taken the world by storm. Nobody saw it coming: a 7-membered Korean band influencing on a global level, opening doors for Koreans and Asians. Their fans, ARMY, often credit them by quoting 'BTS paved the way'.


Image Credits: Bighit Music

It was not an overnight success; they have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this. Despite having only one member who can speak English, the band has successfully conquered the global music industry. They are two-time Grammy-nominated artists.

Back in the day, if you had said that huge stadiums like Wembley, SoFi, MetLife, and the Rose Bowl would be sold out and filled with people chanting Korean songs, nobody would have believed it. But BTS has made this a reality!

  2. Breakdown of RM’s method of learning English

This journey has been made smoother for them because of their leader, Kim Namjoon aka RM, knowing English. And the way he learned English is fascinating.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the hit American 90's sitcom, is the most iconic and timeless series ever created. It is the first TV show for almost all non-native English speakers. Despite airing in 1994, it still draws audiences and remains one of the most streamed TV series, surpassing current shows. It basically gives the insight of how life in America really is!

Friends tv show

Image Credits: Warner Bros.

The ARMYs always knew that BTS's RM learned English through 'F.R.I.E.N.D. S', as he answered a few questions on their fan signs, vlogs, summer greetings, Korean interview shows, and the Bangtan Bomb series on YouTube. However, he never explained exactly how until 'The Ellen Show' on November 27th, 2017.

He explained to Ellen,

"My English teacher was the sitcom Friends," he explained. "Back in the days, when I was like 15, 14, it was quite like a syndrome for all the Korean parents to make their kids watch Friends. I thought I was kind of like a victim at that time, but right now, I'm the lucky one, thanks to my mother. She bought me all 10 DVDs — all the seasons. So firstly, I watched them with the Korean subtitles, and then next time, I watched with the English subtitles, and then I just removed it."

That really sounds so much more exciting than learning in a classroom.

Later, in 2020 on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke he spoke further about his journey. He also said Chandler is his Favorite! During the segment, Jin mentioned in Korean that he had watched 'Friends' as well but couldn't speak English. Suga followed, saying he also enjoyed watching it, to which Jin added, "Me too, it was fun." Yoongi then humorously remarked that RM memorized it for study purposes, which caused Jin to giggle.

The language barrier provided plenty of laughs throughout the segment as the members struggled to immediately grasp some of James's jokes. When James joked that RM must have spent a few years saying phrases like "We were on a break" and "Could my English be any better?", the rest of the band pretended to laugh. Jin remarked, "I don't know what he said, but let's laugh."

BTS's RM's journey in learning English was so inspiring that it caught the attention of the whole world, leading to BTS being invited to the 25th anniversary reunion of 'F.R.I.E.N.D.S' where they discussed their favorite episodes followed by RM sharing his English learning experience.


3.How BTS’s RM improved over time and mastered TOEIC exam.

Movies and TV shows can greatly enhance your learning journey, but they should not replace traditional teaching methods entirely. BTS's RM's journey is truly inspiring, but it would be incorrect to overlook the minor grammatical mistakes he made in his earlier interviews. 10 seasons of 'Friends' taught him excellent conversational English, which proved sufficient for global interviews. RM from BTS did not stop there; he consistently worked on improving his English skills and has now mastered it!

At the age of 15, RM initially sat for the TEPS (Test of English Proficiency) and scored 797 out of 990, placing him in Class 2+. As per the test's grading system, his proficiency in listening was particularly strong, indicating an advanced level of communication skills.

Around the same time in 2010, RM also took the TOEIC exam. Despite achieving a nearly perfect score in listening, his overall score was 850 out of 990. It's remarkable to think he could surpass such an impressive score, but never underestimate RM who has an IQ of 148.

In July 2020, RM informed fans on Weverse (social media app in Korea) that he was taking the TOEIC again for the first time in a decade, simply "for fun." He posted a snapshot of one of the questions, which required him to analyze an English email.

Bts RM TOIEC exam

Photo by RM on Weverse

After all his preparation, finally after 10 years in 2020 RM has retaken the real test and achieved an even more impressive score than before. During a live broadcast, RM disclosed that his new TOEIC score is an outstanding 915 out of 990.

The average TOEIC score is around 675 for South Koreans and 500 for the whole world.

He really is an inspiring personality to all those who are in the process of their language learning journey.

4.Is this approach really effective and recommendable?

While RM's approach may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those without similar access or inclination toward media immersion, it exemplifies the potential of integrating popular culture into language education. As BTS continues to inspire global audiences, RM's journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of media in language acquisition.

Learning a language through TV shows requires a strategic approach. It's not merely about passive absorption—though that would be convenient! Conversely, meticulously studying every word and phrase for complete comprehension can be tedious and inefficient. It has worked for BTS’s RM but it does not guarantee it will work for everyone because not everyone has an IQ of 148. Selecting appropriate material is crucial. When picking a show for learning purposes, consider these tips:

Opt for a TV series rather than a movie because it allows you to better connect with the characters. Series typically unfold at a slower pace, which aids in gradually improving your understanding with each episode.

While sitcoms can be entertaining, their humor often relies on wordplay that may be challenging to grasp, leading to frustration and difficulty in translation.

Popular shows can serve as a useful reference, but prioritize enjoyment when making your selection. If you're not interested in the subject matter, staying engaged can become a struggle, potentially leading to giving up.

It can be tempting to press play and watch an entire episode in one go. However, we recommend starting by dividing the show into 10–15 minute segments. Watching the entire episode at once can lead to missing key plot points, resulting in confusion. On the other hand, analyzing line by line can make it difficult to grasp the overall context and hinder your understanding.

For each segment, follow this viewing format:

1st Viewing: Watch without subtitles. Focus on listening for familiar words and phrases. Initially, this phase may be challenging, but don't be discouraged—it will become easier with practice.

2nd Viewing: Turn on your target language subtitles. This will help you understand the main storyline. Note that while Netflix subtitles are generally accurate, there may be some deviations for flow and clarity.

3rd Viewing: Switch to English subtitles. Listen and read along to enhance your comprehension.

4th Viewing: Watch without subtitles again. You should notice significant improvement compared to your first viewing. This progress demonstrates your learning journey!

Some may find this approach helpful, while others might feel confused. Don't worry, because LearnningTree isn't just a traditional language learning course. We also specialize in helping you learn your target language through your favorite movies and TV shows which makes it more enjoyable! Check out the video below to learn more!

Everyone's experience with language learning is unique, and what one person finds easy, another may find challenging.


At LearnningTree, we embrace your vision and aspirations, empowering you to explore new horizons through our strategic language learning guidance. With diverse language learning certified courses, interactive learning and cultural insights, it enriches your linguistic development.




bottom of page