Most Important 2nd Languages For Koreans To Learn

Shahzad Masood

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second language

Learning a second language is not really easy! Studies have shown that bilingualism can significantly enhance cognitive function, open doors to career opportunities and boost personal development.

Research published in the Annals of Neurology found that bilingualism can delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline by as much as 4.3 years. Bilingual individuals consistently outperform their monolingual counterparts in tasks involving memory, attention switching, and problem-solving.

A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that employees who are fluent in two or more languages can command up to 20% higher salaries compared to their monolingual colleagues.

Bilingualism demonstrates not only strong communication skills but also cultural agility, critical thinking, and the ability to thrive in a globalized workplace.

Learning a second language unlocks a deeper understanding of another culture. Imagine navigating a bustling marketplace in Shanghai, confidently conversing with locals in Mandarin, or appreciating the nuances of a French film without subtitles.

A 2019 report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) highlighted the importance of cultural competency in a globalized world, where effective communication and collaboration across cultures are essential for success.

The process of language learning itself involves honest communication skills, patience, and discipline, all of which are valuable assets in any personal or professional endeavor.

In this article we will explore the most important languages for Koreans to learn.

Let’s dive in..

Most Important Second Languages For Koreans

#1. English (Global Language)

With over 1.5 billion speakers worldwide (according to World English Language Statistics), English dominates communication in business, academic exchange, and technological innovation. From international conferences to multinational corporations, English proficiency is a key differentiator for Koreans seeking to compete on a global stage.

English reigns supreme in the academic world. The vast majority of scientific journals, prestigious research papers, and international conferences conducted global research use English as the primary language of communication.

For Korean researchers and academics who want to contribute to and stay abreast of the latest advancements in their fields, fluency in English is essential.

The growing demand for English proficiency in Korea has led to a surge in innovative learning methods. Platforms like AmazingTalker offers “화상 영어” (hwaseong yeogeo – meaning “video conferencing English”) By connecting you with qualified English instructors remotely.

By learning English, Koreans gain access to a world of possibilities in business, academia, technology, and beyond.

#2. Chinese (Mandarin)

China is not just a geographical neighbor; it’s South Korea’s economic powerhouse partner. In 2023, bilateral trade between the two countries reached a staggering $350 billion USD (according to Korea Customs Service).

This economic relationship creates a significant demand for Koreans who can bridge the language gap and facilitate communication in business negotiations, trade deals, and joint ventures.

Fluency in Mandarin opens doors to lucrative career opportunities in this thriving economic partnership.

Mandarin isn’t just about economics; it’s about connecting with a vast population. With over 1.3 billion speakers worldwide (according to Ethnologue: Languages of the World), Mandarin is the most spoken language globally.

The growing importance of Mandarin has fueled a surge in Korean language learning programs focused on business applications.

Many universities and institutions offer specialized courses tailored to equip Koreans with the necessary vocabulary and communication skills to excel in the Korean-Chinese economic sphere.

#3. Japanese

Japanese offers a surprisingly smooth transition for Koreans looking to expand their language horizons.Both Korean and Japanese share grammatical structures and vocabulary due to historical and cultural influences.

Take, for instance, sentence structure – both languages typically follow Subject-Object-Verb order. Additionally, many words have similar roots, making them easier for Koreans to recognize and remember.

This inherent familiarity can give Koreans a head start in learning Japanese compared to languages from entirely different language families.

Beyond linguistic similarities, Korea and Japan are neighbors with a rich tapestry of cultural and economic ties. These countries have influenced each other’s art, cuisine, and social customs throughout history. These connections continue to fuel vibrant trade partnerships and cultural exchange programs.

Learning Japanese as a second language allows Koreans to delve deeper into this shared heritage, navigate business interactions with their neighbors, and appreciate Japanese culture on a whole new level. Fluency in Japanese allows them to network effectively, understand cultural nuances in business etiquette, and build stronger relationships with their Japanese counterparts.

The advantages of learning Japanese have led to a surge in “일본어 과외” (nihongeo gwaoe – meaning “Japanese private tutoring”) in Korea. These personalized learning sessions cater to Koreans who want to focus on specific aspects of Japanese, such as business communication or conversational fluency.

This targeted approach allows Koreans to tailor their learning journey to their goals and interests. Moreover, proficiency in Japanese can open doors to a wide array of job opportunities in both countries, particularly in multinational companies and industries such as technology, tourism, and entertainment.

Additionally, understanding Japanese as a second language can enhance travel experiences, allowing Koreans to navigate Japan more easily, engage with locals, and immerse themselves in the culture. It also supports academic pursuits, as many Korean students opt to study in Japan due to its renowned educational institutions.

#4. Spanish

Spanish is no longer just the language of flamenco and siestas. Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America are experiencing a surge in economic growth and cultural influence.

From vibrant music scenes to booming technology industries, these nations are becoming major players on the global stage.

By learning Spanish, Koreans can tap into this expanding market, build strong business partnerships, and navigate the cultural landscape of these dynamic countries. Fluency in Spanish allows them to connect with potential customers, understand local fashion trends, and create a deeper brand connection.

The story doesn’t stop in Latin America. The United States boasts a massive Spanish-speaking population, estimated at over 63 million according to the 2020 US Census.

This large and growing demographic presents exciting opportunities for Koreans who can communicate effectively in Spanish. Fluency opens doors to careers in tourism, healthcare, and education, all within the familiar territory of North America.


The choice of a second language is a personal journey. While English offers global reach, Chinese unlocks a massive market, Japanese provides linguistic and cultural bridges, and Spanish opens doors to a booming world, the ideal language depends on your individual aspirations.

Consider your career goals – do you dream of working with international corporations, forging partnerships in China, or connecting with the vibrant Latin American scene? Reflect on your personal interests – are you fascinated by Japanese pop culture, eager to explore the beauty of Spanish literature, or simply curious about different ways of communicating?

Ultimately, the most important language is the one that ignites your passion and aligns with your aspirations.

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