Koreans Flock to Learn Vietnamese
A sudden frenzy for learning Vietnamese is sweeping the country, with more and more office workers studying the language of the fast-growing economy.
As many as eight private language institutes in a busy area near Gangnam Subway Station in southern Seoul have opened Vietnamese language classes.
One language-school staffer said, "We increased the number of classes from one to 11 only a month after we opened the Vietnamese course. We've also increased teachers from two to five."
Vietnam has become a land of opportunity since China's unofficial boycott of Korean goods and services last year. Exports to Vietnam increased a whopping 46.3 percent in 2017 from the previous year.
"Most students are learning Vietnamese to do business there," another language-school staffer said, and the majority of students are in their 30s and 40s.
A 41-year-old office worker said, "I'm taking advantage of my lunch break to learn Vietnamese, which is more popular than Chinese these days."
The Korean Wave in Vietnam is also contributing to the high popularity of Vietnamese here. A staffer of an institute said, "The Vietnamese people like Korean culture and want to know more about Korea," especially after Park Hang-seo, the Korean head coach of the Vietnam national soccer team, led the squad to the final of the Asian Football Confederation Championship in January.
Some 5,500 Korean businesses had made inroads into the Vietnamese market as of late last year. Park Jong-woon (54), who runs an engineering company in Seoul, opened an office in Vietnam in February and has been getting private Vietnamese lessons from a Vietnamese graduate student.
"Vietnam is suitable for business because there are fewer fears about tech leak-out than in China and it's politically stable."
Some companies run their own Vietnamese language classes. Food manufacturer CJ Cheiljedang gives its employees a beginner-level Vietnamese course two to three times a week as Korean foods get increasingly popular in Vietnam.
A growing number of people are also preparing to take Vietnamese proficiency certificates. About 800 Koreans applied for the oral proficiency interview in 2017, up about 15 percent from a year earlier. More than 80 percent of applicants are office workers in their 30s and 40s, unlike other foreign language tests, where most applicants are in their 20s.