Perfect Timing for Online Foreign Language Learning

02/04/2021 02:27 PM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Dr Kang Myoung Sook

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of education, with a distinctive rise in online learning. When teaching is conducted remotely on online platforms, this ubiquitous learning takes the opportunity of digital content, mobile and embedded computers and wireless of our everyday life (Ogata & Uosaki, 2012).

This indicates that opportunities for learning are given to anyone who is motivated to learn. One significant skill that one might want to improve is foreign language because it may create and expand opportunities of oneself in this highly competitive world. Nevertheless, many might not have the opportunity to learn due to time constraints and life commitment. Hence, online learning offers a catalyst that creates solutions and effective methods of educating language learners in leveraging the learning and teaching process.

Learning languages from countries that have strong economic growth is a good hedge. Besides being exposed to the culture and acquiring additional language skills, being able to speak the language fluently could give a better career prospect to a person. As Korea is already one of the strongest economies in Asia, learning the language might just be as important as learning Mandarin for business, if the trend continues.

Online classes are better for learning a new language: Case of Korean Language

Online language learning has its own advantages when compared to other forms of instruction. This includes the opportunity to repeat or replay the recording of native pronunciation, which may not be the case with a face-to-face class (Levis et al., 2016).

Online learning is also believed to be a flexible way of learning and it is able to cater to the needs of individual learners, which leads to a better and effective learning experience (Kulik & Fletcher, 2016).

Although online language learning may have some similar features of face-to-face class, in particular its interactive discourse features, previous studies report some disadvantages of online language learning. One of the drawbacks is teachers and learners may have difficulty to understand social cues like eye-gazing and gestures and other cues that are associated with face-to-face interaction (Bohannon et al., 2013). Instead, teachers and learners resort to using visual cues such as visual information to ensure understanding.

Nonetheless, with the advent of high quality and cutting-edge video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet, the problem with social cues can now be reduced as teachers can see the individual view of each learner in his or her class.

Apart from that, when considering other aspects of online teaching, teachers can opt to conduct synchronous learning (live online lecture) or asynchronous learning (non-live lecture) or even both.

Hottest language

Korean language is the hottest language among the foreign language learners in Malaysia. With a rise in K-Pop music and K-dramas, it’s no wonder that Korean language is gaining popularity.

Out of an estimate of seven thousand languages, the Korean language is said to be the seventeenth most spoken language globally. With such a high position, the Korean language has seen remarkable growth in the number of learners of the language beyond the Korean peninsula. Research has shown that these are not just casual learners. There has been an estimated eighty per cent increase in takers for the Korean proficiency tests, for non-native speakers, in a short span of two years.

The use of multimedia such as Korean drama and variety TV shows for instructional purposes is believed to help learners to engage in meaningful language learning experience and able to use the language in real-life context.

Brown (2013) provides a personal anecdote in which, in his experience as a Korean language learner himself, he never knew how to express anger in Korean language as his learning experience was a very textbook-based learning. This has motivated him to conduct a study on the use of multimedia in Korean language learning. The findings of his research points to the effectiveness of using drama clips in engaging learners in learning and increasing learners’ awareness on contextual and linguistic features in the target language.

For example, the Koreans use different honorifics according to their social relationship and hierarchies in which some Korean foreign language learners tend to either overuse the honorifics or tend to simplify them. This illustrates the importance of learning to use the target language in a ‘real-world’ context. Experiencing various Korean expressions through multimedia use is the effective way of learning a foreign language through online without stress from the study.


Dr Kang Myoung Sook is Senior Lecturer, Language Academy, at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. She, who is teaching Korean as a foreign language and translation as a profession, has lived in Malaysia for 12 years.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and AWS and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)