Increasing foreign interest in Korean language
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Increasing foreign interest in Korean language
  • Ko Min-seok
  • 승인 2011.10.03 20:45
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▲ Above is a graph indicating the purpose to why applicants take the TOPIK test.
The number of people interested in Korean language is expanding rapidly. According to the Korean Education Organization, the number of applicants seeking to take the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) has increased in recent years. While 2,274 people signed up for the first test in 1997, 44,477 people signed up in 2010; a 65.8 percent rise. Until last year, the test took place in 39 countries and 139 areas, but as of now in 49 countries and 161 different areas.
The TOPIK is an examination arranged by the National Institute for International Education. It intends to measure and evaluate Korean language skills of non-native Korean speakers and overseas Koreans, utilizing the results for in-Korea college applications and job-seeking purposes. The TOPIK evaluates applicants in four major areas: Vocabulary and Grammar, Writing, Listening, and Reading. There are four tests per year in Korea, and two per year in overseas areas.
 The number of countries interested in Korean language has also gone uphill. Available in 49 countries, the TOPIK is even approachable in Paraguay, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. This year, nine new locations have been added, including Ukraine, Brunei, and Turkmenistan.
Some officials regard this increase as a result of universities initiating an increase in foreign exchange students and globalizing the school curriculum.
“The Korean language is starting to gain notice from foreign students in various nations. With an increasing number of students showing interest in Korea and Korean universities, Korean language is becoming more popular,” said Ham Jeong-sik, the person in charge of the TOPIK test at the National Institute for International Education.
In the case of Taiwan, the institution uses money collected from the TOPIK application as a scholarship fund for those wanting to learn Korean. This year, 22 local university students and seven scholars majoring in Korean received the scholarship.
Through the heightened participation in the TOPIK, it is given that foreign students are interested in Korean language. The interest is also evident in the increasing number of foreign students participating in Korean language courses offered at universities. In the case of Yonsei University, the number of foreign students taking the Korean courses has increased from eight to 17 in the past year.
Beyond just being interested in university courses, some foreign students are also looking up to receiving a master and doctoral degree in Korean Language. In the past, foreign students only took courses provided by the school’s language center, but nowadays, students are requesting to receive an official degree in Korean. This goes to Chinese students, who want to teach Korean-related courses in their mother land due to a new regulation, which demands a master degree obtained in Korea.
Acknowledging the escalating interest of foreign students in Korean language, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) is in the process of developing a modified version of the test, naming it A-TOPIK.
“Our objective is to internationalize the Korean language and bring competent foreign students to Korean universities,” Ham said.
Intending to make the test more available and effective for foreign students, the MEST is thinking of transforming the test into a similar format as the Graduate Record Examination or the Test of English as a Foreign Language by 2012.


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