SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Korea Bizwire) — While Korean TV series, films and K-pop, like “Squid Game” (2021), “Parasite” (2019) and BTS, have made their presence felt in the world in recent years, demand for Korean language has exploded with many young people across the globe searching for language learning applications.
A recent CNN news report said Korean was the seventh most-studied language on learning app Duolingo, which has more than 500 million users internationally, in 2022 thanks to the “Korean wave.”
Among Asian languages, Korean placed second, just narrowly behind Japanese but outnumbering Chinese.
“People got interested in Korea, its tourism, food, music and language, while watching Korean content through Netflix or YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jang Ji-woong, CEO of the homegrown learning app Teuida, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
“In a survey, people said they want to learn Korean to take a trip to Korea and to understand Korean content more properly.”
He said Teuida has a different concept with a spotlight on speaking Korean through simulated conversations, while most popular learning apps, like Duolingo and Babbel, are focusing on vocabulary memorization or repetitive word-matching games to consequently help users read the foreign language-based texts.
Teuida users learn how to lead conversation in situations that they can face when visiting Korea or meeting Korean people.
“You need to experience as many as situations as possible where you actually have to speak Korean in order to become fluent in Korean,” he said.
“Teuida is the only learning app that helps people virtually experience Korean-speaking cases through real-life conversation videos.”
Jang said the app has special artificial intelligence (AI) technology that recognizes users’ pronunciation and intonation, and analyzes them to match suitable videos to give instant and interactive feedback to the users.
It has some 800 short lesson clips on frequently-used expressions led by Korean tutors and more than 200 real-life daily conversation videos written and filmed by Teuida.
The videos range from ordering a cup of coffee in a cafe in Seoul and taking a taxi to taking a trip to historical sites, including the southern historical city of Gyeongju, some 276 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
“If you speak a certain word improperly, our AI program shows you a video that instructs how to pronounce the word correctly,” said Jang.
“You learn grammar and expressions in Korean through lessons and practice them in real-life conversation videos that Teuida exclusively offers. Every person goes through a different process to master a useful expression.”
He said Teuida’s curriculum is targeting those who learn Korean for Level 2 of the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), a proficiency test for non-native speakers in South Korea.
“Our app teaches grammar for the first and second level in TOPIK, as people carry out simple conversations related to daily routines,” he said.
“Many people who learn Korean as a second language, they want to speak it for tourism or daily conversation with Korean friends. They hardly dare to speak as a native speaker.”
The app, which was launched in 2020, is available free of charge, with some mid-roll ads. An ads-free version, or a premium service, is offered at US$14.99 per month.
The paid subscribers can use an around-the-clock Q&A service, download scripts for conversations and receive statistics for their pronunciation.
Out of its 200,000 monthly active users, some 1.9 percent are premium service users, according to the company.
Teuida’s interactive simulated conversation tutoring, offered in English, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Vietnamese, has gained attention among young users.
It has posted a cumulative 2.05 million downloads as of December last year and placed third on the popular Korean learning app list on App Store.
Some 30 percent of its users are from North America, and they accounted for nearly 70 percent of the company’s total revenue of 420 million won ($334,950) last year, while 92 percent of its users are young people aged from 12 to 24.
Jang said his four-year-old company is now eying to enter the burgeoning global language education market worth 17 trillion won by expanding its service to Japanese and Spanish this year.
“The global language learning market will grow steadily despite the rapid development of interpreting apps,” he said.
“Learning a new language reflects a desire to communicate with people in the country that one wants to experience. Demand for learning new languages will not subside.”