New Delhi: The sky-high popularity of K-dramas is spurring more and more Indians — particularly in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal — to study Korean, according to a new report by language learning application Duolingo.
The report, released earlier this week, found that in 2022, the top five languages Indians were learning on Duolingo were English — still number one — Hindi, French, Korean, and Spanish.
It found that Korean learning in India rose substantially in 2022. The language has emerged as the fastest-growing one on the platform and currently stands at number four, surpassing Spanish.
Another figure that stands out is the number of Hindi learners — the language is number 2 among Duolingo users in India. This makes it the most studied languages worldwide, according to the report. With 8.4 million learners in 2022, it was the 10th most studied language on the platform, surpassing Portuguese.
But according to Bob Meese, Duolingo’s chief business officer, Hindi’s popularity among Indian learners should come as no surprise.
“In India, our most popular course is English for Hindi speakers. Then, our Hindi course for English speakers is the second most popular…It may seem surprising, but this happens throughout the world,” he told ThePrint. “This is just the nature of multicultural countries. For example, in the US, English is actually a quite popular language being learned. Duolingo also has more Swedish learners in Sweden.”
Carrie Wang, Asia head of the Duolingo English Test and the company’s regional business lead, pointed to India’s pluralism and how not everyone speaks Hindi. “So, we definitely see local users using our app to learn Hindi,” she told ThePrint.
The Nasdaq-listed Duolingo has about 60 million users globally and offers over 100 courses to learn 41 languages. The company refused to share the number of users it has in the country, but Wang said that going by the number of daily active users, India is one of its top five markets worldwide.
“The US is number one. India is the only Asian market that has made it into the top five. That really kind of signals how important India is for us,” she said.
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Why Indians study new languages — practical considerations
According to the report, while English and Hindi are the most popular languages across all states in India, Korean comes in at number 3 in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. Meanwhile, French takes the third position in Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
“The popularity of K-culture with younger audiences in India is one of the key drivers for the rapid growth of learners on Duolingo choosing Korean as their language of choice,” the report said.
There are also differences across states in how serious people are about studying languages — that is, the average time spent learning — the report said.
“Overall, Duolingo users in India spend 13 minutes each day on the app. When it comes to learning languages, the most serious state is Madhya Pradesh (where Korean is third), followed by Tamil Nadu (where French is third).”
When it comes to motivation, Indians are driven by the practical benefits that come from learning new languages and are less likely than other nationalities to study languages primarily for travel, the report said. In 2022, school (34 per cent) remained the top motivator followed by brain training (20 per cent), and work (14 per cent).
Indian learners are also younger than the global average, with more 75 per cent of them being under 30. This is followed by Mexico (66 per cent), Japan (65 per cent), the US (62 per cent), Brazil (60 per cent), and Germany (45 per cent).
The company also offers an English proficiency assessment called the Duolingo English Test (DET), which was launched in 2016 and is currently accepted by over 4,200 higher education programs worldwide as a proof of English proficiency.
“India is our largest market for the Duolingo English Test, with people taking the test from over 1,200 cities and towns over the last year,” Rogelio Alvarez, vice-president of business and general manager of the Duolingo English Test, told ThePrint.
“While DET test takers applied to universities in more than 76 countries, most students were looking to study in the US, the UK, and Canada. These markets together account for 75 per cent of DET test takers.”
He added that the company is in discussions with the governments of the UK and Canada for recognition of DET for study and work visas, while the Irish government already recognises the DET for its study visas.
(This is an updated version of the copy.)
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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