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Do Koreans speak English?


Korea is a country located in East Asia with a population of over 51 million people. It is known for its rich culture, delicious food, and innovative technology. One of the questions that often comes up is whether Koreans speak English or not. In this article, we will explore this topic in depth.

History of English in Korea

English was first introduced to Korea during the late 19th century when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. After the Korean War, English became an important language for communication between South Korea and the United States. Since then, English has become a mandatory subject in Korean schools.

English Education in Korea

English education is taken very seriously in Korea. Students start learning English as early as elementary school and continue throughout their education. Many parents also send their children to private English academies to improve their language skills. As a result, many Koreans have a decent level of English proficiency.

English Proficiency Index

The English Proficiency Index (EPI) is a global ranking of countries by their English proficiency. According to the latest EPI report, Korea is ranked 6th out of 25 Asian countries. This means that Koreans have a higher level of English proficiency compared to their neighboring countries.

TOEFL Scores

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test used to measure non-native speakers’ ability to use and understand the English language. According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the TOEFL, Koreans have an average score of 82 out of 120.

English in the Workplace

Many companies in Korea require their employees to be proficient in English, especially in industries such as IT, finance, and tourism. This is because many international businesses operate in Korea, and English is the main language used for communication.

English in Everyday Life

English is not commonly spoken in everyday life in Korea, especially outside of major cities. However, signs and announcements in public transportation, tourist attractions, and airports are often written in both Korean and English.

Challenges with English Pronunciation

One of the challenges that Koreans face when speaking English is pronunciation. The sounds of the English language are different from Korean, making it difficult for Koreans to pronounce certain words correctly. This is especially true for vowel sounds.

The Role of K-Pop and K-Dramas

K-Pop and K-Dramas (Korean dramas) have become popular around the world, introducing Korean culture to a global audience. Many K-Pop songs and K-Dramas are in Korean, but some are also in English, which has helped Koreans improve their English skills.

Language Exchange Programs

Many Koreans participate in language exchange programs to improve their English skills. These programs allow Koreans to practice speaking with native English speakers while helping them learn about different cultures.

The Future of English in Korea

English will continue to be an important language for Koreans as they become more connected with the global community. The Korean government has also made it a priority to increase English proficiency levels among its citizens.


In conclusion, Koreans do speak English, and many have a decent level of proficiency. English education is taken seriously in Korea, and many companies require their employees to be proficient in the language. While there are challenges with pronunciation, Koreans continue to improve their English skills through various means such as language exchange programs and exposure to English media.

What percentage of Korea speaks English?

The majority of people (87%) choose to learn English as a second language, with Japanese (26.7%) and Chinese (19.6%) following closely behind. This data was reported on November 27, 2017.

Why do Koreans struggle to speak English?

The phonetics, grammar, and pronunciation of English and Korean are vastly different. Because English has sounds that do not exist in Korean, Korean learners of English may face many difficulties with pronunciation.

Can you live in Korea if you only speak English?

In short, it is possible for expats to live in Korea without knowing the language, but it comes with challenges that may leave one feeling helpless and frustrated.

Is Korea English friendly?

Although English is not widely spoken in South Korea, it is common to find locals who can speak it in popular tourist areas like Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, and Hongdae. However, it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone in South Korea speaks English.

Is Korean hard for English speakers?

For native English speakers, learning Korean can be difficult due to its unique writing system and sentence structure. However, with proper learning materials and methods, it can become easier and enjoyable.

Why do Koreans speak English with an American accent?

According to Jasper Kim, a lecturer at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, many South Koreans have a preference for the American accent due to the historical and cultural connections between the two countries. This preference also serves an academic purpose.

English Language Education and Testing

Korea is one of the countries that invests heavily in English language education and testing. The Korean government established the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) to oversee the English language education in the country. It also administers the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) for non-native speakers of Korean. This shows the importance of language proficiency in Korea and how it is a two-way street.

English as a Bridge Language

One of the reasons why English is essential in Korea is that it serves as a bridge language between Korea and other nations. Many international companies have established their presence in Korea, and Korean businesses have expanded globally. With English being the most widely spoken language around the world, it helps facilitate communication and understanding between Koreans and foreign nationals.

Globalization and English

Globalization has made English a vital tool for connecting people from different parts of the world, including Korea. The internet, social media, and other digital platforms have made it easier for people to communicate with others regardless of their location. English proficiency is necessary to participate in these global conversations, which can lead to new opportunities and experiences.

The Benefits of Being Multilingual

Being multilingual has many benefits, including cognitive development, cultural awareness, and better job opportunities. In addition to learning English, many Koreans also learn other languages such as Chinese or Japanese. This helps them broaden their horizons and engage with people from various cultures.

The Importance of Cultural Understanding

Language learning goes beyond just speaking words; it also involves understanding culture. Learning a new language opens doors to new cultures, traditions, and ways of thinking. It helps break down barriers between people from different backgrounds and promotes understanding and empathy.

Innovation in Language Learning

Innovations in technology have made language learning more accessible and interactive. Many language learning apps have emerged, making it possible for people to learn languages from the comfort of their homes. Virtual language exchange programs have also become popular, allowing people to practice their language skills with native speakers from around the world.


In conclusion, English is a vital language in Korea, and many Koreans have a decent level of proficiency. English education is taken seriously, and the Korean government has made it a priority to increase English proficiency levels among its citizens. Being multilingual has many benefits, and learning a new language opens doors to new cultures and opportunities. Innovations in language learning have made it easier for people to learn languages and connect with others from different parts of the world.

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