There’s by no means been a greater time to be taught Korean.
It’s one of many fastest-growing languages on the earth, outpacing historically in style 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 educational app Duolingo, based on the corporate’s annual language report. And it’s seeing explicit success in elements of South and Southeast Asia, because the most-studied international 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 of because the enterprise language of the long run – stays the second most spoken language on the earth, thanks partly to the sheer dimension 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, based on 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 prime two spots.
This rise in curiosity, consultants and academics say, is because of the Korean wave, or “hallyu” – the proliferation of Korean tradition internationally.
The final 20 years have seen South Korean exports sweep the world, from Okay-pop and Korean TV dramas to magnificence merchandise, trend and meals. The nation has turn into 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 using 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 way of music and media because the Nineteen Nineties. Now, the Korean language could possibly 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 way of a major, constructive change,” stated 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 alter prior to now decade after main hits by Korean artists and administrators, corresponding to Psy’s 2012 music “Gangnam Style,” the 2019 thriller “Parasite,” the 2021 Netflix present “Squid Sport,” and the emergence of BTS, undoubtedly the largest 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 lessons at greater schooling establishments in the USA leapt from 5,211 in 2002 to just about 14,000 in 2016, based on information analyzed by the Modern Language Association.
This leap is placing given Korean isn’t simple for non-native audio system to be taught. The US State Department lists Korean as a “super-hard language,” which means it’s “exceptionally tough” for English audio system and takes on common 88 weeks to attain skilled working proficiency.
Trendy Korean follows a phonetic alphabet known as Hangul, which means the syllables are typically 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, stated she first started noticing an increase in curiosity round 2015 – nevertheless 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 stated.
Different in style languages have seen numbers both plateau or drop during the last decade. US college students enrolled in Chinese language lessons, as an illustration, 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, based on the Trendy Language Affiliation – coinciding with the deterioration of US-China relations, and the worsening notion of China within the West attributable to its alleged human rights abuses.
“College students’ curiosity in international language studying in US greater schooling tends to rely extra on the notion or repute of a rustic when it comes to economic system and geopolitics, corresponding to China, Russia or Portugal,” stated Suh.
Equally, in the UK, the variety of greater schooling college students taking Korean programs tripled from 2012 to 2018, based on the University Council of Modern Languages – in comparison with only a 5% enhance for Chinese language, and a decline in a number of European languages like French and German.
Korean’s newfound recognition 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 degree that Korea is absolutely a part of the developed, western world,” stated John Walsh in his 2014 e-book on the phenomenon. This shift in notion has in flip boosted the federal government’s potential 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 several dozen to Thailand in 2017 to show the language at center and excessive faculties.
In more moderen years, quite a few nations together with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand have formally adopted Korean as a international language of their college curricula, below agreements signed with the Korean schooling ministry, based on South Korean news agency Yonhap.
In the meantime, the King Sejong Institute, a government-founded Korean-language model, has established 244 studying facilities worldwide, based on its web site.
These efforts intention to “preserve the curiosity of Korean language overseas, which has turn into extensively in style with the Korean Wave,” stated the schooling ministry in a 2017 press launch.
“In the long run, Korean language programs within the native college curriculum will function a step to foster Korean consultants, and thereby strengthening pleasant relationships between Korea and different nations,” it added.
Suh cautioned that the Korean wave runs the danger 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 might really profit the South Korean authorities because it expands its affect, as one thing “any rising delicate energy might need to undergo.”
Consultants say college students come to the desk with varied causes for pursuing the Korean language – although sure tendencies have emerged amongst regional and ethnic strains.
“The Korean wave is a crucial issue for non-heritage college students,” stated Suh, referring to these with out Korean ethnicity or heritage who’re merely taken with Korean cultural merchandise like motion pictures and Okay-pop.
In the meantime, college students of Korean descent are likely to take Korean lessons for extra “integrative” causes, she stated – as an illustration, eager to stay in South Korea, to higher 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 stated.
However Lee, who beforehand taught Korean in Indonesia and South Korea, additionally seen variations amongst college students in several elements of the world.
US college students are likely to be taught Korean “as a result of they’re extra taken with having fun with tradition … and need to discuss to their favourite singers or actors,” she stated.
In contrast, college students in Southeast Asia largely examine Korean to get a job in South Korea, or at a Korean firm of their house nation, she stated, noting the variety of Korean manufacturers “establishing themselves not solely in Southeast Asia but in addition in varied nations.”
As an illustration, the Korean leisure large SM Leisure is increasing into Southeast Asia with new Singapore headquarters. In the meantime, the Korean comfort retailer chain GS25 has greater than 180 shops in Vietnam, and is ready to interrupt floor in Malaysia this 12 months, according to Yonhap.
The growth of Korean enterprise and popular culture might also be pushing younger Southeast Asians to journey to South Korea. Southeast Asians make up greater than 40% of international college students in South Korea, and 30% of international residents within the nation total, based on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Jeffrey Holliday, who teaches Korean linguistics at Korea College in Seoul (with lessons taught in English), stated 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 just a few semesters, and almost all are avid followers of Korean popular culture corresponding to Okay-pop, he says.
In the meantime, his international graduate college students – who are usually learning there full-time and are in search of jobs in Korea – largely hail from China and Vietnam.
“To me it’s so stunning as a result of after I was in school (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 stated.
“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 putting of Japanese on the Duolingo report. It’s the most studied Asian language on the platform.