As the world becomes increasingly connected through technology and the internet, the demand for learning new languages has grown. Among the many languages being studied, Korean is rising quickly in popularity, surpassing traditional rivals such as Chinese.
According to Duolingo's annual report, Korean was the seventh most studied language on their app in 2022. It is particularly successful in parts of South and Southeast Asia, as it is the most studied foreign language in the Philippines, and it is not far from the first place in Thailand, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
Chinese, which has been considered the business language of the future for years, remains the second most spoken language in the world. However, it has been in eighth place on Duolingo for the past few years and is behind Korean in terms of the number of people learning it.
Korean is the second most studied Asian language on Duolingo, just behind Japanese. Duolingo, which has more than 500 million users internationally, ranks Korean ahead of Chinese, Russian, and Hindi, and behind Italian. English and Spanish still sit comfortably in the first two places.
The Korean Government's Role in Promoting the Language
This phenomenon has been aided by South Korea's own government, which has worked to spread the country's cultural influence through music and media since the 1990s.
Now, the Korean language could be the next export to go global. “Compared to the time I started my career, the perceptions of Korea as a nation, Korean culture and society, and the Korean language have gone through a significant, positive change,” said Joowon Suh, director of the Korean Language Program at Columbia University.
“Now it is perceived more modern, advanced, marketable, cooler, and hipper”. The Korean wave - the spread and popularization of Korean culture internationally - has played a significant role in this increase in interest.
The government's efforts to promote the country's cultural exports have in turn boosted its ability to pursue "national interests in the areas of diplomacy, investment, education, and trade," according to John Walsh, author of a book on the phenomenon.
As the world becomes more globalized and connected, the ability to speak multiple languages is becoming increasingly valuable. Korean, with its growing popularity and cultural influence, is positioning itself as a language worth learning.