There’s by no means been a greater time to be taught Korean.
It’s one of many fastest-growing languages on the planet, outpacing historically standard rivals like Chinese language in a number of markets – reflecting the worldwide phenomenon many name the “Korean wave.”
In 2022, Korean was the seventh most-studied language on the training app Duolingo, in keeping with the corporate’s annual language report. And it’s seeing specific success in elements of South and Southeast Asia, because the most-studied overseas language within the Philippines, and never far off the highest spot in Thailand, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Though Chinese language – which for years has been thought-about because the enterprise language of the longer term – stays the second most spoken language on the planet, thanks partially to the sheer measurement of China’s inhabitants, it has sat in eighth place on Duolingo for the final a number of years, lagging behind Korean.
Korean is the second most-studied Asian language on Duolingo, solely narrowly behind Japanese, in keeping with the language report. Duolingo, which has greater than 500 million customers internationally, ranks Korean forward of Chinese language, Russian and Hindi, and behind Italian. English and Spanish nonetheless sit comfortably within the high two spots.
This rise in curiosity, specialists and academics say, is because of the Korean wave, or “hallyu” – the proliferation of Korean tradition internationally.
The final twenty years have seen South Korean exports sweep the world, from Okay-pop and Korean TV dramas to magnificence merchandise, style and meals. The nation has turn out to be a global cultural juggernaut – a lot in order that the Oxford English Dictionary added greater than 20 phrases of Korean origin in 2021, saying in a press release, “We’re all driving the crest of the Korean wave.”
This phenomenon has been aided by South Korea’s personal authorities, which has labored to unfold the nation’s cultural affect by means of music and media because the Nineteen Nineties. Now, the Korean language may very well be the subsequent export to go world.
“In comparison with the time I began my profession, the perceptions of Korea as a nation, Korean tradition and society, and the Korean language have gone by means of a big, constructive change,” mentioned Joowon Suh, director of the Korean Language Program at Columbia College. “Now it’s perceived extra trendy, superior, marketable, cooler, and hipper.”
For many years, East Asian language research abroad have largely been restricted to Mandarin Chinese language and Japanese.
However that started to vary up to now decade after main hits by Korean artists and administrators, corresponding to Psy’s 2012 tune “Gangnam Model,” the 2019 thriller “Parasite,” the 2021 Netflix present “Squid Recreation,” and the emergence of BTS, undoubtedly the most important world stars of Okay-pop.
Figures present a surge in curiosity towards the language in the identical interval.
The variety of college students enrolled in Korean courses at greater schooling establishments in america leapt from 5,211 in 2002 to just about 14,000 in 2016, in keeping with information analyzed by the Trendy Language Affiliation.
This soar is hanging given Korean isn’t straightforward for non-native audio system to be taught. The US State Division lists Korean as a “super-hard language,” which means it’s “exceptionally tough” for English audio system and takes on common 88 weeks to realize skilled working proficiency.
Trendy Korean follows a phonetic alphabet known as Hangul, which means the syllables are usually pronounced as they’re written – not like non-phonetic languages corresponding to Chinese language, which makes use of symbols to symbolize particular meanings.
Suh, the Columbia teacher, mentioned she first started noticing an increase in curiosity round 2015 – however it has accelerated within the final three to 4 years. The variety of Columbia college students enrolling in Korean programs elevated by 50% from the 2017 to 2021 educational years, she mentioned.
Different standard languages have seen numbers both plateau or drop over the past decade. US college students enrolled in Chinese language courses, as an example, jumped considerably from 2002 to 2013, a interval marked by China’s huge financial development and world affect.
However enrollments in Chinese language had dipped by 2016, in keeping with the Trendy Language Affiliation – coinciding with the deterioration of US-China relations, and the worsening notion of China within the West on account of its alleged human rights abuses.
“College students’ curiosity in overseas language studying in US greater schooling tends to rely extra on the notion or popularity of a rustic when it comes to economic system and geopolitics, corresponding to China, Russia or Portugal,” mentioned Suh.
Equally, in the UK, the variety of greater schooling college students taking Korean programs tripled from 2012 to 2018, in keeping with the College Council of Trendy Languages – in comparison with only a 5% improve for Chinese language, and a decline in a number of European languages like French and German.
Korean’s newfound reputation was no accident, with South Korean authorities leaping on the likelihood to advertise their language on the again of its extra profitable exports.
“It’s the Hallyu that has persuaded Asian nations on the societal stage that Korea is admittedly a part of the developed, western world,” mentioned John Walsh in his 2014 guide on the phenomenon. This shift in notion has in flip boosted the federal government’s means to pursue “nationwide pursuits within the areas of diplomacy, funding, schooling and commerce,” he wrote.
Over the past decade, the Ministry of Schooling has despatched Korean academics abroad, together with a number of dozen to Thailand in 2017 to show the language at center and excessive colleges.
In newer years, quite a few nations together with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have formally adopted Korean as a overseas language of their faculty curricula, below agreements signed with the Korean schooling ministry, in keeping with South Korean information company Yonhap.
In the meantime, the King Sejong Institute, a government-founded Korean-language model, has established 244 studying facilities worldwide, in keeping with its web site.
These efforts intention to “hold the curiosity of Korean language overseas, which has turn out to be extensively standard with the Korean Wave,” mentioned the schooling ministry in a 2017 press launch.
“In the long run, Korean language programs within the native faculty curriculum will function a step to foster Korean specialists, and thereby strengthening pleasant relationships between Korea and different nations,” it added.
Suh cautioned that the Korean wave runs the chance of oversimplifying nuances of Korean tradition and society, corresponding to regional variations or class conflicts, whereas glorifying “something (Korean) with out absolutely understanding its historical past.”
However, she added, this simplification may really profit the South Korean authorities because it expands its affect, as one thing “any rising tender energy may need to undergo.”
Specialists say college students come to the desk with numerous causes for pursuing the Korean language – although sure traits have emerged amongst regional and ethnic traces.
“The Korean wave is a vital issue for non-heritage college students,” mentioned Suh, referring to these with out Korean ethnicity or heritage who’re merely involved in Korean cultural merchandise like motion pictures and Okay-pop.
In the meantime, college students of Korean descent are inclined to take Korean courses for extra “integrative” causes, she mentioned – as an example, eager to stay in South Korea, to raised join with their communities and households, or to discover their very own Korean identities.
Jiyoung Lee, an adjunct teacher at New York College’s Division of East Asian Research, pointed to the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. These have facilitated worldwide cultural exchanges and “largely influenced” the variety of Korean learners, she mentioned.
However Lee, who beforehand taught Korean in Indonesia and South Korea, additionally observed variations amongst college students in numerous elements of the world.
US college students are inclined to be taught Korean “as a result of they’re extra involved in having fun with tradition … and need to discuss to their favourite singers or actors,” she mentioned.
In contrast, college students in Southeast Asia largely examine Korean to get a job in South Korea, or at a Korean firm of their dwelling nation, she mentioned, noting the variety of Korean manufacturers “establishing themselves not solely in Southeast Asia but in addition in numerous nations.”
As an example, the Korean leisure big SM Leisure is increasing into Southeast Asia with new Singapore headquarters. In the meantime, the Korean comfort retailer chain GS25 has greater than 180 retailers in Vietnam, and is ready to interrupt floor in Malaysia this 12 months, in keeping with Yonhap.
The growth of Korean enterprise and popular culture can also be pushing younger Southeast Asians to journey to South Korea. Southeast Asians make up greater than 40% of overseas college students in South Korea, and 30% of overseas residents within the nation general, in keeping with the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace.
Jeffrey Holliday, who teaches Korean linguistics at Korea College in Seoul (with courses taught in English), mentioned roughly 40% of his college students are alternate college students, largely coming from the US. These college students are usually undergraduates, solely in Seoul for a number of semesters, and almost all are avid followers of Korean popular culture corresponding to Okay-pop, he says.
In the meantime, his overseas graduate college students – who are usually learning there full-time and are searching for jobs in Korea – largely hail from China and Vietnam.
“To me it’s so stunning as a result of once I was in faculty (within the US) from 1999 to 2003 … there was no-one studying Korean who wasn’t a heritage speaker. I used to be the one one who wasn’t Korean American,” he mentioned.
“Whereas now, these college students come right here, they’re very centered, very decided – they actually need to be taught Korean and so they’re right here for that.”
Correction: A earlier model of this story misstated the inserting of Japanese on the Duolingo report. It’s the most studied Asian language on the platform.