For foreign residents, learning Korean is essential to successfully settling in Korea and gaining a better understanding of Korean culture. Fortunately, there are many organizations in Korea that provide opportunities for foreign residents to learn Korean free of charge. Multicultural family support centers, migrants’ centers and Korean language schools are a few of the leading organizations that offer Korean language education for foreign residents.
The multicultural family support centers also operate a Visiting Education Program, through which Korean language instructors are dispatched to the homes of immigrants married to Korean spouses.
With an increasing number of online Korean language education programs being provided, foreign residents can now easily learn Korean at home.
Hangeul can easily be adapted to suit a wide range of information and communication media, such as computers and mobile devices including cell phones. This was proved some 10 years ago, when Oxford University’s Center for Linguistics and Philology put the alphabetic system at the top of its list of various writing systems across the globe. It was evaluated in terms of functionality, originality, rationality, etc.
Currently, increasing numbers of foreigners are learning Korean. According to Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, a government-funded educational research institution in Samcheong-dong, downtown Seoul, the number of applicants (foreigners and ethnic Koreans living in foreign countries) for the biannual TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) test was about 2,600 (from four different countries in 14 regions) in 1997, which increased to 82,881 from 28 countries in 83 regions last year. This year, the figure went up to more than 160,000 (from 31 countries in 101 regions), nearly a 60 fold increase in 11 years.
In 1997, UNESCO designated Hangeul a world record heritage. 10 years later, The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a UN agency dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, added Korean to its list of official languages for the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) – a procedure adopted by approximately 90 countries (including the United States) to facilitate the filing of patent applications. Since the language first became an official language of an international treaty, its position as a global language has been all the more strengthened.
It should go without saying that learning Korean can make your stay in Korea much more convenient and rewarding. Granted, for speakers of Western languages like English, Korean is not an easy language to learn, but it's not impossible, either, especially if you put in the time and effort.