The Modern Language Association says the number of U.S. college students taking a Korean language class rose by almost 45 percent between 2009 and 2013. The group notes that the increase comes at a time when the number of college students taking foreign language classes has declined.
This is K-pop -- Korean popular music. Many people around the world like the sound of K-pop.
“They do a lot of dancing, yes. And it’s more upbeat.”
“I think it's fun. I’m a little surprised that it’s caught on to the rest of the world.”
People can listen to K-pop music, and watch K-pop videos and Korean dramas on websites like YouTube.
Persida Radu is learning Korean. Like many others, her interest in the language started with music.
“I actually first got into Korean pop and then the dramas they show, and then learning it.”
Rosemary Feal has worked as the executive director of the Modern Language Association since 2002. She says there is another reason for the popularity of Korean language studies. She notes that children of Korean immigrants want to speak to their parents and grandparents in Korean.
“We know there is a correlation between the immigration patterns and the new generations wanting to learn a family language.”
She is describing people like John Park. He is taking a special class for ethnic Koreans. The class is designed for those who may speak a little Korean, but not enough to talk with older family members who may not speak English.
“I don’t speak Korean too well, and of course I want to communicate with my parents, my grandparents, and so I took it to learn how to read and write more effectively.”
Sung-Ock Sohn teaches Korean classes at UCLA. She says another reason people want to learn the language is the growing economic power of South Korea.
Schaberg says the popularity of Korean language training is also affecting American culture. He says it shows that American culture is becoming more Asian, or at least opening up to more Asian influences.
Language researchers say the growing number of U.S. students taking Korean language classes shows no sign of ending anytime soon. That's because of the popularity of K-pop and the rising number of Korean-Americans seeking to re-connect with older family members.
This story was reported by Elizabeth Lee in Los Angeles and first published on VOA News.