North Korea

Understanding Korean

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2011, 12:00am


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Popular Korean television dramas and K-pop music are motivating people in Hong Kong to discover more about Korean culture through learning the language. As Korean is not taught in local schools, increasing numbers of young people, in particular, are enrolling in Korean language classes offered by private language schools around the city.

'K-pop and the new generation of movie stars and all-round entertainers, such as Rain, are very popular in Hong Kong,' says Elizabeth Oong, student services manager at Q Language ( 'Even though there is a language barrier, many young Hong Kong people see through this and want to know more about this emerging culture. Subsequently, there is an increased desire to understand Korean.'

Students studying at Q Language include business people who want to improve their relationships with Korean clients and a many overseas Koreans who were born or grew up elsewhere and want to learn or improve their knowledge of the mother tongue of their family or ancestors, Oong says.

Q Language offers classes for students ranging from beginners to advanced students as well as courses that focus on professional business communication.

Beginners' classes cover the Korean alphabet called hangul, grammar structures and common language functions relating to everyday topics of conversation and cultural references that are important for successful communication with native-Korean speakers. Audio-visual materials are used to motivate students. For a 20-hour course the cost is HK$2,500 per person.

Students are encouraged to practise their language skills by regularly speaking with Korean people they may know, or through watching Korean movies on television and DVDs, and by listening to the latest Korean music.

'Korean people are very receptive to foreigners trying to use their language, so we encourage our students to speak Korean at any opportunity,' Oong says.

Those wanting more intensive study can enrol in the professional diploma programme in Korean Language offered by Daehan Korean Language Centre ( This involves a four-hour class, five days per week and can be completed within 12 months.

Writing, reading, speaking and listening are taught and students are usually able to achieve a TOPIK Level 6 standard (the highest level). The tuition cost is HK$75,200.

TOPIK is the recognised Test of Korean Proficiency offered to foreigners and administered by the Korean Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation.

Daehan also offers general language classes at primary, intermediate and advanced levels. There are 20 levels, and each comprises 12 hours of tuition, which can be taken over six or eight weeks. The cost is HK$990.