More people learn Korean after “Squid Game” TV show

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A company offering online language learning services says more and more people are learning Korean after a popular Korean TV show launched on Netflix.

The language learning company, Duolingo, reported the sharp increase in the number of Korean learners.

In Britain, 76% more people than usual have registered to learn Korean. In the United States, the number has increased by 40% after the show started two weeks ago.

The nine-part show is another example of Korean popular culture that has found success in the West. It comes after the pop songs of the music group BTS and the international success of the cinema Parasite and Minari. Parasite won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2020.

Korean culture connects with English speakers. Recently, the Oxford English Dictionary added 26 new words from the Korean language, including “hallyu”, which means Korean vague. “Hallyu” is how people describe the success of Korean pop culture outside of Asia.

Sam Dalsimer is spokesperson for Duolingo. In an email to Reuters news agency, he said: “What happens in pop culture and the media often influences tendencies in language and language learning. Dalsimer noted that as Korean cinema, music and television gain popularity, more and more people will want to learn the language.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the dictionary additions and interest in the language. He called the Korean alphabet an example of South Korea’s “soft power”.

The Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchanges has stated that around 77 million people around the world speak Korean. Duolingo said that around 8 million people try to learn Korean through its service. It is right behind Hindi.

Foreign participants take part in a Korean speech competition organized by the Sejong Institute Foundation in Seoul, South Korea on October 8, 2021. (REUTERS / Dogyun Kim)

The King Sejong Institute in South Korea teaches the language around the world. The cultural institute is named after the South Korean king credited with inventing the Korean alphabet. Fourteen years ago, only 740 students in three countries were learning Korean through the organization. Today, he teaches 76,000 students in 82 countries.

Milica Martinovic is one of the institute’s students in Russia. She said that she had started to learn Korean to understand popular music and Korean TV shows.

Catarina Costa is a 24-year-old Portuguese woman. She lives in Toronto, Canada. She is studying Korean online through a website called TalkToMeInKorean.com.

When she started studying two years ago, many of her friends didn’t understand her interest. Now they do.

“People are fascinated when I say I’m learning Korean, ”Costa said.

Sun Hyun-woo launched TalkToMeInKorean. He said there are now 1.2 million people studying the language in 190 countries using his website.

He said that even before the success of BTS and Korean TV shows and movies, thousands of people wanted to learn the language, but they were doing it on their own.

“Now they are part of a ‘world phenomenon’; learning Korean has become a cooler hobby, ”he said.

I am Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learn English based on a Reuters report. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in this story

tendency – not. something that is currently popular or trendy

institute – not. an organization created for a particular purpose (such as research or education)

fascinate – v. get (someone) to be very interested in something or someone

phenomenon – not. an interesting event or event that can be observed and studied and that is not easy to explain or understand

costs – adj. often used to show approval in general; popular with young people


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