Yes, a TikTok reference, whether you may have guessed or not: even the TikTok star Addison Rae is cognizant of Korea, so much so that she classifies it as a whole independent continent, definitely not a part of Asia. Many say that K-Pop, K-Drama, or the President of South Korea were the major contributors to the amplification of South Korea’s international presence; what about the Korean language itself? Of course, our precious BTS and Mr. Yoon are the faces of our nation, but behind them stand Hangul – a language perhaps even more attractive than BTS. Korean is the 18th most popular language in the world with 75 million speakers. Facts and figures might not feel as close to home to some like me; South Korea has a population of 51 million, meaning that about ⅓ of Korean speakers reside elsewhere. The Korean language can be seen as a catalyst for Korea’s rapid rise to fame because of its simplicity. With only 24 letters in the Korean alphabet, the wide range of sounds and combinations they form constitute Hangul’s true beauty. Phrases such as 사랑해 (saranghae), meaning I love you, are short and straightforward to pronounce and can be written directly in English. To get a bit more linguistic, the Korean language doesn’t involve the greatest hardships that language learners face, like pronouncing the guttural sound of the French “R” and rolling the Spanish “R”. It isn’t wrong to say that Korean is the most accessible language to learn, as the global exposure of the language can be argued to be the highest above any other language. In every other news article, we encounter Mr. You-know-who shooting missiles at South Korea every second, in every other red carpet award, we see Korean actors receiving grand prizes and delivering speeches in Korean, and in every other TV show, we see our infamous K-Pop stars and international fans holding placards that reflect their burning love in Korean. South Korea’s soft power, the ability to influence others without coercion, is prodigious. The appeal of the language can be seen directly in the mega language learning platform, Duolingo. Let’s do a simple compare and contrast activity by creating a table indicating the popularity ranking of languages and the number of countries that officially speak them. 

Popularity ranking on DuolingoLanguageNumber of countries that officially speak the language

See the superiority? There’s more: South Korea is the smallest country on the list. As a closing remark, what more is there to say than 한국어 안 배우고 뭐하세요? What are you doing not learning Korean? ¿Qué haces sin aprender el Coreano? Qu’est-ce que tu fais sans apprendre le coréen? Was machst du, wenn du kein Koreanisch lernst?

Wendy Lee

Member of GaNaDa Society


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