Thousands of fans, like myself, love interacting with BTS on social media and watching their videos, but don't speak the language. BTS is the biggest group in the world, plus the biggest group ever whose primary language is Korean. There's something melodic about Korean that just lends itself to being sung or rapped, and I wanted to be a part of that. That's why I took it upon myself seven months ago to memorize Hangul and learn to speak Korean so I can interact with BTS and fellow fans from around the world.
I sat down with the Founder/Director and Language Coach of the Chattanooga School of Language, Laurie Stevens, to talk about the impact BTS has had on people wanting to learn Korean, as well as the rise of foreign languages in general.
What motivated you to give the gift of learning a language to others?
The language school was created because I personally was touched by the power of language and culture and wanted to offer a similar experience to the people in my hometown. There is a distinct line in the sand of my life that represents the person I was before I learned the Spanish language and the person I became – personally and professionally – after I committed to learning and loving the Spanish language and culture.
What are the benefits of learning a new language?
Research shows numerous cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of learning a foreign language. Some of those benefits include higher academic achievement; increased cognitive development and abilities; and increased empathy toward others.
In today’s increasingly globalized economy, having at least two languages in one’s skill set will create a definite advantage for professionals in the business world. Major international corporations are recognizing the immense benefits of having multilingual and multicultural employees on their team. Effective communication across languages and cultures is an invaluable tool for relationship building and economic leverage.
In addition, over the past few years, more schools and parents are acknowledging the cognitive, social and emotional benefits of learning a foreign language for their children (our future leaders). From newly-arrived families, as well as families currently living in our community, we receive an expression of interest for language classes on a regular basis. More companies and governmental institutions are seeing the long-term value and business interest in investing in language learning and cultural competency training for their employees and management.
What do you see students struggle with most when learning a new language?
It’s very common for adult learners to fear making mistakes and sounding silly, so they inhibit their own progress. We have to throw away the idea that we have to be perfect. In order to progress in acquiring another language, we need to relax, enjoy the language, and speak when we are ready.
As a part of our philosophy, our language teachers often are referred to as language coaches. As coaches, we lead by example to encourage and support our students to help them reach their professional and personal language learning goals. We use a holistic approach to language education, using interactive, research-based methods that focus on language acquisition and cultural competency. In this type of environment, we want our students to feel comfortable and safe to make mistakes in order to truly enjoy and progress in the language.
Since the rise of the popular group BTS have you seen an increased interest in learning Korean?
We have! It's wonderful to see their success as young people and as a creative force in the world. I think that with the growth of their popularity, people have become more aware of their culture as well. Of what drives them and where they come from. I'm so grateful that we've had more interest from our community to learn the Korean language.
Besides Korean what other language(s) have been “on the rise”?
We start the school in 2011 with only three languages: Spanish, German and French. Seven years later, we now offer 17 different languages. This is due to the growing demand for language instruction in our community, country and world.Specifically in the past few years, we have seen an increase in students wanting to learn American Sign Language, Spanish, Japanese, German and French.
Language is not just a series of words. Language is culture. Culture is language. Just like with Korean, when people are interested in the culture, they want to be able to communicate in that language. You can’t have one without the other.Other reasons draw people to learn the language, including workplace demands, family ties and travel.
What tips do you have for a students to be as successful as possible when learning a new language?
Enjoy the process and don’t try to be perfect. You will never move forward without some falls first, but as long as you are driven by the passion for that language and culture, you will succeed and progress.
Are there languages that you do not currently offer that you hope to be able to offer in the future?
We have had several requests for Hebrew and some Indian languages.
Are people who don’t live in the area able to take a class at the chattanooga school of language?
Absolutely! We use an online platform that allows students to have class “live” with the teacher and other students. Please contact us for more information.
If you live in another city/state/country, that's fine! They provide online classes, including a FREE 10-minute trial with a language teacher so you can chat about your goals, current proficiency level and schedule directly with the teacher.
Find out more here: Online Classes available