Do Koreans Speak English?

It’s a simple question. “Do Koreans speak English?”

Well… but the answer can be quite complicated.

Many Koreans do learn English for about 12 years in school and there is an English test in Korean college entrance exam, so YES, Koreans can read English, but many of them can still have a bit of hard time speaking English in daily lives.

One of the questions from the English section of the Korean College Entrance Exam

Korean Students’ English Level

The question on the previous slide shows how good Korean students have to be in English to solve the questions.

If students can read and understand that much English, you might think their English level would be high. And yes, some of the students do have a great English skill, but the majority feel less confident speaking English.

Why do they feel less confident?

‘Speaking’ is another matter.

Many Korean students learn English, but it’s usually focused on reading and listening. They learn how to solve problems for exams, not for daily circumstances.

They don’t actually get to practice their speaking skills that much. And because they learned English for tests, the knowledge they acquired can be easily forgotten.

Adult English Education in Korea

How do you know that a lot of Koreans feel less confident speaking English?

We can infer from the market size of adult English education. It’s growing rapidly, and a lot of adults feel that they need to learn English, especially SPEAKING.

They take English courses online and offline, register for 1:1 English telephone classes, or get an English tutor.

English Kindergarten

So today, parents try to teach their kids English in a way that they can actually speak English. Many parents with money want to send their children to an English kindergarten. There, children are exposed to an English-friendly environment where they can only speak English.

There’s an unusual phenomenon going on with English kindergartens.

The number of children is decreasing, but the number of English kindergartens is increasing every year.

And they are not cheap. Their monthly tuition is usually over a million won (≈768USD), and it can go up to more than 2 million won. Parents can’t even register for the famous ones.

So, Can Koreans Speak English?

Because of 12 years of English education, many Koreans can speak English at a basic level. And we’ll see how well the children who are currently in English kindergarten will be able to speak English in the future.

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